On Friday, the Pittsburgh Steelers will make a familiar voyage to St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania for the start of training camp. Through the heat and two-a-day practices, training camp is where the foundation for a Super Bowl team is set. In 2009, the Steelers will attempt to successfully defend their Lombardi trophy from a year ago and repeat as Super Bowl champions. The first step in achieving this goal is for the Steelers to have a productive camp.

Coming in to camp, the biggest obstacle for the Steelers will be preparing for the pressures that come with being the defending Super Bowl champions. Back in 2006, under head coach, Bill Cowher, the Steelers entered training camp coming off of their victory in Super Bowl XL. As camp began, the team seemed to possess a loose and laid back attitude. When the regular season started, the Steelers were not prepared for the opposition. Through their first eight games, the Steelers struggled to a 2-6 record and finished at a disappointing 8-8; the team would miss the playoffs.

In order for history not to repeat itself, the Steelers must realize that it is a brand new season and every team has a clean slate. Last year’s championship is no longer relevant. Head coach, Mike Tomlin, will have the daunting task of keeping this team focused and determined week after week throughout the season. So far, the players have been saying all the right things about how they are going to avoid the Super Bowl hangover, and that they’re hungry to defend their championship. That talk will have to translate on the field, if the Steelers hope to make believers out of everyone.

Training camp will give the Steelers’ coaching staff the opportunity to develop and work with the young talent that the team drafted back in April. Many people will have a keen eye on first round pick, Ziggy Hood. Hood signed with the team on July 25th. It will be interesting to see how much Hood progresses in camp and how quickly he grasps Dick LeBeau’s defense. Wide receiver, Mike Wallace, will be looking to make an impact during camp. Wallace will be competing for a position as a return man and will most likely be in a position battle with Limas Sweed for the third or fourth receiver spot. Another player to watch will be fifth round pick, Frank Summers. Summers is a big back and is most effective when running between tackles. Summers will be battling it out with veteran, Carey Davis, for the starting position at fullback.

During the offseason, the Steelers did a decent job at avoiding distractions. For one particular player, though, avoiding distractions this season may be nearly impossible. Ben Roethlisberger’s civil suit case could not have come at a more inconvenient time, with camp opening in a matter of days. If being a two-time Super Bowl champion and one of the highest paid players in the NFL isn’t pressure enough, the quarterback now is a defendant in a case that may not be resolved for months. How Roethlisberger copes with this issue could make all the difference on whether or not the Steelers have a championship season.

Michael C. Smith