Notable Stories from Steelers’ Camp
No Surprise: No Bell
The Steelers kicked off their training camp, but franchise tagged RB Le’Veon Bell was not present. As expected, he remains a holdout as he is wanting to be compensated according to what he feels he deserves. By not signing the franchise tag, he avoids financial penalties, but misses valuable time. Bell contributes in both the running game and from a receiver position. Bell’s mastery of the route tree is more advanced than other backs catching screens or short route dink-and-dunks, which may give him leverage in his deal. Bell Received praise from teammates who expressed how valuable he is. Maurkice Pouncey went as far as to offer a year of his contract to help pay Bell. Antonio Brown’s statement on Bell’s absence was more of a reminder to Bell on what the team goal is for the season.
Vintage Brown’s Classic Royce Delivery
Antonio Brown arrived in trademark fashion. The choice of Rolls Royce this season was a 1930s classic convertible. Brown – who inked his payday early this season – showed off his expensive taste. He finished the 2016 season 2nd in receptions, 5th in total receiving yards, and had a three-way tie for second with 12 touchdown receptions. His production proved he was worth every cent. Bell, on the other hand, is just wanting to get paid some of that “Antonio Brown money“, then maybe he’ll show up in his high-end vehicle of choice to camp.
Deebo Coming in Hot
One of the most feared linebackers in the NFL – James Harrison – also showed up in style. A much bigger style. He arrived in a Fire Truck. If you follow Harrison’s freakish training videos on Instagram, the thought of Harrison pushing the Fire Truck down the pavement – as opposed to being inside the Fire Truck – may have crossed your mind. The fear-brewing linebacker has been working his aging body at a relentless pace. Offensive linemen and skill players, take notice. Deebo’s coming to snatch some chains this fall.
From Undrafted to Offensive Line Staple
The Steelers announced they’ve extended Offensive Tackle Alejandro Villanueva for 4 years. Villanueva has had a storied NFL Career. He proved to be a reliable piece in the trenches as he started all 16 regular season games for Pittsburgh. He’s come a long way after going undrafted out of Army in 2010. He played his first snap as a starter in the league in the middle of the 2015 season. Prior to that, he put his life on the line for his country – serving three tours in Afghanistan. Well deserved contract.
Cancer-Crusher Conner Will Get More Reps
With the timetable of Bell’s absence unknown, another NFL player with an inspiring story will get more snaps at the running back position. Rookie RB James Conner – the hometown kid who beat cancer – will make the most of the reps he receives. He has a chance to be a welcomed surprise this season. Conner brings a mental toughness to the backfield – a toughness he backs ups with his punishing running style that I believe will translate well into the NFL. Playing at the professional level in Pittsburgh with a new lease on life on the game he loves most will make Conner fun to watch.
Bryant Still Not Fully Reinstated
Martavis Bryant was also not available at the start of camp. He has not been fully reinstated and is in the beginning phase of the process, which allows him to participate in ‘off-field team activities at training camp”. However, until he is fully reinstated into the NFL, he will have to watch practices – and possibly games – from the sideline. If a reinstatement does not take place until sometime during the season, Bryant could miss time and valuable reps to rebuild rapport with Big Ben.
Sammie Coates was not available due to having his knee scoped for a second time. If all goes well, should be participating in a few weeks. He may be placed on the PUP. Coates needs to have a productive camp. With rookie Juju Smith-Schuster turning heads, the little production Coates has had for the Steelers over the past few seasons could make him expendable.
Tomlin Extension Close
Head Coach Mike Tomlin echoed that he would also have liked to have Bell present, but understood the situation. He did state that he’s been in communication with Bell, but kept details private. Tomlin also has pending contract extension on the horizon His new deal is expected to be finalized soon.
Crank Up the Watt-age
Rookie – and JJ’s little brother – TJ Watt is looking to show why he was worthy of a first round selection. TJ Watt has already had positive reviews so far. His competitive nature has led to one camp-fight – and that was without pads. Expect Watt to fit right in with the Steelers’ mentality. His preparation and training is already raising some eyebrows. With Deebo mentoring him – as well as influence from brother JJ – there may be two brothers terrorizing offenses.
Preparing for Life After Big Ben?
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger flirted with retirement prior to the offseason. It’s understandable considering the beating his body has taken over the years. He’ll suit up this season, but will it be his last? My guess is, it will depend on how the season ends and how much damage his body endures throughout. The Steelers drafted Tennessee standout, Joshua Dobbs, in the 2017 draft. With Landry Jones not quite fitting the starter mold, look for Dobbs to get plenty of snaps in the preseason in order to evaluate if he can be the heir apperant to Roethlisberger.
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Stats referenced at NFL.com