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2015 Pittsburgh Steelers: 7 Burning Questions Heading Into Training Camp

This is the year.

The year the Pittsburgh Steelers win their seventh Super Bowl?

Well, not necessarily. Even though the Lombardi Trophy is always the standard in Pittsburgh and certainly not out of the realm of possibility this season, another bragging right is within more immediate reach.

This could be the year the Steelers offense is the best in the NFL.

The Steelers were .3 yards, about a foot, behind the New Orleans Saints last season for the league lead in yards per game with 411.1. Ben Roethlisberger tied Drew Brees atop with NFL with 4,952 passing yards, and he directs an offense that returns every starter from last season.

This offense is capable of carrying the team from a wild-card flop to a much deeper January run this year.

The defense, on the other hand, could be the reason the Steelers are cleaning out their lockers the day after the regular season ends.

It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that the defense is the subject of most of the burning questions the Steelers face as they open their 50th training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe.

If they can answer enough of these questions in the affirmative, then this might really be the year.

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2015 Pittsburgh Steelers 53-Man Roster Projection

It’s been a few years since Pittsburgh Steelers fans have had a reason to be this optimistic about the season.

The Steelers reached the playoffs for the first time in three years in 2014, falling to the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC wild-card game at Heinz Field.

The two previous times Ben Roethlisberger lost a home playoff game, the Steelers won the Super Bowl the following year.

Just sayin’.

More concrete evidence that the Steelers can return to the playoffs and advance further than they did last year is their offense, which has the potential to be the best in the league. The defense is another story, but if it can at least be serviceable it will be an improvement over last season.

It also will help if the Steelers can win a game for the first time without Le’Veon Bell, who is suspended for the first three games. If they can’t, they’ll start the season 0-3 and will be booking tee times in January.

Bell, by the way, will not take up a spot on the 53-man roster while he’s suspended.

Here’s how the Steelers’ 53-man roster figures to look based on organized team activities and minicamp, The picture will clarify at training camp, which begins July 25 at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

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2015 Pittsburgh Steelers: Top 10 Draft Picks and Undrafted Free Agents

The NFL draft has become must-see TV for NFL fans. Their teams spend months scouting, studying film and interviewing players, and then hope the players they covet are available when it’s their turn to pick. Just like an actual game, the process can be an emotional roller coaster.

All that drama doesn’t end when Mr. Irrelevant’s name is called on Saturday evening. That’s when teams race to get in touch with undrafted players. That’s how James Harrison’s career began in 2002. Current Pittsburgh Steelers Ramon Foster, Steve McLendon, Will Johnson and Antwon Blake also went undrafted.

That means that in addition to their eight picks in the 2015 NFL draft, the Steelers are likely to find contributors among the 12 undrafted free agents they signed after the draft.

Here are the top 10 among this group of 20 rookies. The rankings are based on projections, with value also factoring in. If an undrafted player’s career projection is similar to an early-rounder’s projection, the undrafted player will rank higher because the Steelers will get more value.

Scouting reports from NFL.com and NFL Draft Scout were used unless otherwise noted.

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Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 Mock Draft 4.0: A Final Look at All 7 Rounds

Considering the retirements of Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor this spring, it would be both fitting and wise for the Pittsburgh Steelers to take defensive players with their first three picks in the NFL draft.

They haven’t done that since the year they drafted both of those decorated defensive backs.

The 2015 NFL draft begins with the first round on Thursday night and continues with the second and third rounds Friday night. The last time the Steelers used their first three choices on defensive players was 2003, when they traded up in the first round to take Polamalu, selected linebacker Alonzo Jackson in the second round and Taylor in the fourth round. They traded their third-round pick in the Polamalu deal.

The Steelers went 11-5 and made the playoffs in 2014 despite ranking 27th against the pass and allowing 15 pass plays of 40 yards or more, second only to the Eagles. Part of the problem was a meager pass rush that produced just 33 sacks, second fewest in franchise history since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978.

They need to take significant steps toward fixing those problems by this weekend, and maybe swing a trade or two to increase the value of their early-round picks.

Here is our final 2015 Pittsburgh Steelers mock draft. Will it include a trade?

NFL Draft Scout and NFL.com are used for scouting information unless otherwise noted.

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Troy Polamalu Changed Pittsburgh Steelers History

When Chuck Noll released a player, he told him that it was time to get on with his life’s work.

No one had to say that to Troy Polamalu, because the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t have to go through the pain of releasing him.

Ten days shy of his 34th birthday, Polamalu told Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider that he’s retiring after a 12-year career.

While it wouldn’t be surprising to see Polamalu do significant work in his post-football life and maybe even make the world a better place, he’s already done quite a bit of work that merits a look back.

Polamalu won two championship rings, made eight Pro Bowls, was a four-time first team All-Pro and the 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

But those are just lines on a resume.

What Polamalu really will be remembered for is the way he played the game. It was a thrill to watch him dart around the field like a pinball and return interceptions with his hair flowing out of the back of his helmet like the tail of a comet.

No one should expect what happened in the 1970s to ever happen again. But as the Steelers went to three Super Bowls in a six-year period, winning two of them, Polamalu blended the spirit of Franco Harris and Mean Joe Greene.

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Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 Mock Draft 3.0: Post-Free Agency Analysis for All 7 Rounds

Unlike last year, March was quiet on the free-agent front for the Pittsburgh Steelers. But enough happened to affect their board for the 2015 NFL draft.

The most stunning news of the month came when Jason Worilds retired. James Harrison and Arthur Moats will be back, and the Steelers are waiting for Jarvis Jones to break out. Outside linebackers should be on their draft radar.

Cornerback was the Steelers’ most glaring need, and it became even more of a need when Brice McCain signed with the Miami Dolphins. McCain tied for the team lead last season with three interceptions. Not taking a cornerback on one of the first two days of the draft would be almost as inexcusable as Pete Carroll’s play-calling in the final minute of Super Bowl XLIX.

The best news of March came when the Steelers signed running back DeAngelo Williams from the Carolina Panthers. Williams, who will turn 32 on April 25, has 6,846 career rushing yards and has averaged 4.8 yards per rush in his career. The Steelers don’t necessarily have to dip into the draft for someone to start in place of Le’Veon Bell if Bell is suspended for his pot arrest.

In addition to those developments, compensatory picks have been handed out, and the Steelers were awarded one at the end of the sixth round. Barring trades, the Steelers will have eight picks this year after having nine picks in each of the last three years.

Scouting reports from NFL Draft Scout and NFL.com were used in this mock draft. Selections in our previous mock drafts are listed with the 1.0 pick first followed by the 2.0 pick.

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Top 10 Quarterbacks in Pittsburgh Steelers History

Now that Ben Roethlisberger has signed a five-year contract that likely will keep him a Pittsburgh Steeler for the rest of his career, what better time to rank the top 10 quarterbacks in Pittsburgh Steelers history?

This doesn’t mean the Steelers have had 10 good quarterbacks in their 82-year history. There might be if they had been a little more patient with some of them, but Johnny Unitas and Len Dawson will not appear on this list because they went on to become great quarterbacks with other teams.

Still, we’re including 10 quarterbacks here because some at least provided Steelers fans with a few pleasant memories. Also, the longer this article is, the more the suspense builds.

Everyone knows the top two on this list, but who’s No. 1? It’s become one of the more riveting modern-day sports debates.

So resist the temptation to scroll down to the bottom. It will be worth it to wade through the riff-raff and wait for the big revelation.

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Steelers Linebacker Jason Worilds Gets On With His Life

There was a lot of hand-wringing this winter over Jason Worilds.

It became increasingly clear that the Pittsburgh Steelers weren’t going to re-sign the outside linebacker. Would it be a mistake to let him go?

Turns out that it would have been a huge mistake for the Steelers, or any other team, to sign Worilds. They would have thrown a lot of money at a guy who no longer has a desire to play football.

While the Steelers and their fans held their breath hoping that Troy Polamalu would retire so the team wouldn’t have to release him, it was the 27-year-old Worilds who announced his retirement in the middle of the night.

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Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 Mock Draft 2.0: Post-Combine Analysis for All 7 Rounds

Now that the NFL Scouting Combine is shown on the NFL Network, it’s become a must-see for Pittsburgh Steelers fans suffering the interminable wait until the next meaningful Steelers game.

The sight of Steelers scout Mark Gorscak directing the 40-yard dash is the only Steelers fix we’ll get until Roger Goodell announces the team’s first-round draft pick on April 30.

This year’s combine was held Feb.17-23. Like every year in Indianapolis, the combine numbers turned the big board into a game of Chutes and Ladders with the draft stock of so many players rising and falling.

Here is our latest Steelers mock draft based on the reshaped board.

NFL.com was used for players’ heights, weights, combine results and scouting reports. CBSSports.com also was used for scouting reports.

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Le’Veon Bell Suspension Could Have Silver Lining for Steelers

It’s looking more and more like we can just chalk up an 0-2 start for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2015.

Unless the Steelers figure out a way to win without Le’Veon Bell, that is.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Bell likely will be suspended for the first two games of the season under the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Bell was arrested last year for marijuana possession and driving under the influence.

Since the Steelers chose Bell with the 48th pick of the 2013 NFL draft, they’re 0-4 without him. He was voted by his teammates as the Steelers’ most valuable player in 2014.

Bell’s value was painfully apparent when a hyperextended knee kept him out of the AFC wild-card game against the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field. The Ravens won a playoff game at Pittsburgh for the first time, beating the Steelers 30-17. Bell also missed the first three games of 2013 with a foot injury, and those were the first three of four straight losses to start the season.

The Steelers need a Bell suspension like the Heinz Field turf needs a monster truck rally.They have the NFL’s toughest schedule in 2015, according to CBSSports.com. It includes road games against both Super Bowl XLIX participants, the Patriots and Seahawks.

As the Super Bowl champions, the Patriots will host the 2015 season opener on Thursday, Sept. 10. The tradition of the defending champs opening the season at home on a Thursday night began with the Patriots in 2004, and the Steelers are prime candidates to be the guests on Sept. 10 when the Patriots unfurl their championship banner at Gillette Stadium.

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