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    CBS Article About Rookies

    LATROBE, Pa. -- The demise of the Pittsburgh Steelers has been greatly exaggerated. Reinforcements are on the way via what could be a monumental 2013 draft class, and there is every reason to believe last year's .500 season will prove an anomaly, with this team returning to its norm of contending for a Super Bowl title.

    People are a little spoiled in these parts. Despite making the playoffs in four of the past five years and reaching the title game as recently as 2010, this offseason has been filled with debates about whether the Steelers are too old to contend and whether they just might be stuck as the third-best team in the tough AFC North for a while. What seems to be all too easily forgotten, however is just what a tremendous job general manager Kevin Colbert and this front office do year in and year out, how expertly they have drafted and evaluated talent over time and how this franchise has not had consecutive seasons of eight wins or less since 1998-99.

    "There's high expectations when you're a Pittsburgh Steeler," said defensive end Brett Keisel, entering his 12th season here. "That comes with the territory. We're used to being a tough team and last year was obviously very frustrating. But we're hoping to get back on top of things."

    STEELERS OBSERVATIONS
    Stronger relationship takes hold for Big Ben, OC Haley
    It says here they'll be back very soon.

    Despite its age, the Steelers' defense still ranked first in the NFL last year in terms of yards (sixth in scoring defense). The team was 6-3 and riding a four-game winning streak before Ben Roethlisberger, on his way to what may have been his best season, suffered shoulder and rib injuries that more or less prevented him from playing/being effective for the duration of the season. And, yes, they bid farewell to former starters like James Harrison, Casey Hampton, Mike Wallace and Rashard Mendenhall, but are well positioned to be both better -- and in many cases younger -- despite it.

    It takes a lot for a player to generate a stir in this franchise, one with six Lombardi trophies and a roster of players who routinely show up on All-Decade Teams and all-time top-100 lists. It takes even more when said players have yet to participate in anything more than a single preseason game, but this rookie class is already creating a pulse through this camp that this season won't be as disappointing as 2012.

    "We had to get younger, because that's how we try to build this thing -- through the draft," Colbert said. "So we had to make the most of the opportunity. When you're picking 17th or 18th, as we did through the draft, you have the chance to get some good players. It's just trying to do our job and finding the right guys."

    Specifically, linebacker Jarvis Jones (first round), running back Le'Veon Bell (second round) and receiver Markus Wheaton (third round) look like they will contribute immediately. They bring power and energy and speed to the team. Jones could be a disruptive edge presence, replacing Harrison opposite linebacker LaMarr Woodley. Bell should be a productive feature back. Wheaton's slot prowess allows Emmanuel Sanders to move back outside -- where he is more of a natural fit -- compensating for the loss of Wallace.

    "They've been impressive," Keisel said. "Wheaton's been impressive. JJ has been impressive and Le'Veon has been tough, too. And we said that in OTAs we've got to have some young guys step in and play football the way we play ball, and those guys have looked good."

    Jones is a top-10 talent, someone with the perfect attributes to fit Dick LeBeau's menacing 3-4 look. Many teams were scared off by a neck injury he suffered in college, but Steelers doctors were comfortable with him. At the combine, Colbert didn't even schedule a meeting, figuring there was no way the kid would be available when he picked. Then, when Jones ran a sluggish 4.9 40-yard dash at Georgia's pro day, Colbert immediately sought out Jones' agent, Joel Segal, knowing Jones had the ability to help create more sacks and turnovers, something lacking a year ago.

    "I said, Joel, we've got to get him in for a visit, I think we're going to have a chance," Colbert said. "The rest of his workout was exceptional, he just didn't run fast. So the medical part we were comfortable with, but when we brought him we did more work just to make sure, and came away with the same feeling that [his neck] was never an issue for us. We're just very fortunate he fell to us where he did."

    Bell was held out of the preseason opener while still recovering from a minor knee issue. He was elevated to the first team on the depth chart Wednesday, to the surprise of no one here who has watched him perform in OTAs or this camp. Pittsburgh couldn't keep a consistent running back in place a year ago, but coach Mike Tomlin has emphasized more zone techniques into the scheme. The Steelers averaged about five yards per carry against the Giants on Saturday despite not really even trying to throw the ball, and Bell has the combination of size and explosion to be dangerous.

    "Do you play fantasy football?" one member of the staff here asked me. "Because if you do, you'd better take this kid by the late rounds."

    At Tomlin's request, Bell dropped down to about 230 pounds, 20 pounds lighter than at times at Michigan State. Since Bell was a junior in 2012, the Steelers hadn't had a scout focus on him, so Colbert dispatched a set of eyes to track him in the Spartans' bowl game. They met with Bell at the combine and his pro day, spent time with Bell's mother and were as comfortable with the young man's makeup as they were his running ability.

    "If he had a 1-yard hole, he could get 5 yards," Colbert said, "which is going to be the case a lot of times in the NFL."

    Bell said: "I feel like in whatever role I'm given, I'll be able to succeed."

    Bell figures to play this week against Washington and as long as he stays healthy, the Steelers should have no problem reigniting their ground game.

    "Until these guys do it in a game -- running backs especially -- you feel a quiet enthusiasm," said offensive coordinator Todd Haley, now more comfortable in his second year at the helm. "But he's showing all good signs -- everything you want to see except for getting hurt, which is part of it too."

    Wheaton missed all of the offseason, save for minicamp, due to a ridiculous NCAA rule preventing him from joining the Steelers until after college graduation (his school, Oregon State, is on the quarter system), but is pushing Jerricho Cotchery as the Steelers' No. 3 receiver in the slot. He has track speed and good hands and has been humble and eager -- anything but a diva (I wouldn't be surprised if the Steelers shopped Cotchery should Wheaton keep this up).

    Asked where he preferred playing, slot or outside, Wheaton said, quietly and sincerely: "Just on the field."

    To that end, he has also already fit in on some special teams units and is slated for a shot as a return man in Monday night's game at Washington.

    "For a guy who missed the entire offseason except for the minicamp to never once feel like he was behind was amazing," Haley said, "especially playing inside. He's a smart guy, the kind of guy you like to have around. He has a great mentor in Jerricho, and he's doing a great job for us, and he showed up in the game, which was another great sign. So we're excited."

    The Steelers also feel as if 2012 draft picks David DeCastro (guard) and Mike Adams (tackle), who barely played as rookies, are ready to solidify their perpetually shifting offensive line. Same goes for Marcus Gilbert, a third-year tackle who missed much of last season to injury as well. Adams is working now on the left side with Gilbert on the right, and All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey already anchors the unit.

    Defensively, they are old at safety, where you can usually survive it, and inside linebacker, where experience can be key in relaying information. Otherwise the transition is already afoot on that side of the ball, too. And on offense, only two starters are beyond their mid-20s.

    "On offense, save for Ben and Health Miller, both at the 31 mark, everyone is under 27," Colbert said. "So if that line can come together, I think we'll be OK. The good news is they're young; the bad news is they're young, and they have to come together. So we'll see where that goes."

    There's at least a decent chance it goes right back to the top of the AFC North.

    http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/blog/ja...ound-from-2012
    "If I could start my life all over again, I would be a professional football player, and you damn well better believe I would be a Pittsburgh Steeler." -Jack Lambert

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    On another note... The idea of DeCastro pulling behind Adams in the run game <3

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    The thought that Wheaton has looked good enough in camp to even mention the idea of shopping Cotch is exciting.

    Also, you know it is a promising draft class when an article about it does not even mention the draftee many here are most excited about, Shamarko.
    "If I could start my life all over again, I would be a professional football player, and you damn well better believe I would be a Pittsburgh Steeler." -Jack Lambert

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    Another from CBS. One note, it appears that Suisham made a 60 yard field goal in practice today. I have never known him to have that kind of leg.

    LATROBE, Pa. -- A few weeks back, a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers organization was walking through the dorms here at St. Vincent College when he noticed a sight that was unfathomable a year ago. Ben Roethlisberger, the franchise quarterback, had strolled over to the room of offensive coordinator Todd Haley, plopped down next to the coach and was drinking a cold one with him, shooting the bull and watching "Shark Week."

    A year ago, it wasn't uncommon for Roethlisberger to be remote or distant to Haley, then in his first year on the job and facing a difficult challenge with Big Ben's long-time coordinator, Bruce Arians, let go much to the quarterback's dismay. Even witnessing sustained eye contact between the coach and the passer would have been a noteworthy development in 2012, with many in the organization quietly worried these two might never click.

    Alas, so much has changed.

    Roethlisberger has regularly sought Haley for chalk talks or explanation. Their body language has changed dramatically. Haley, who deferred to Roethlisberger when necessary last year, seems to have slowly built up his trust, and the improved dynamic between the team's offensive leaders has people in the organization breathing a collective sigh of relief.

    "It's night and day, which I would expect," Haley said. "It's like any relationship, it takes time. You're not going to instantly jive, and especially in his case. He had been in one situation for a very long time and it's hard to have somebody new in the mix, and that's not always comfortable. But I thought he handled it well last year, made progress and this year we're having some fun. And that's where you start to really get good."

    Despite the tension last season, Roethlisberger thrived in Haley's offense. He would occasionally make remarks that didn't exactly exude joy in what he was asked to do, and there was a passive-aggressive dance going on in meeting rooms, but before Roethlisberger's injury he was enjoying his best season and was a legit MVP candidate. He wasn't freelancing as much, and thus taking less abuse in the pocket; his decision-making was improved and his accuracy was stellar.

    The Steelers were 6-3 before Roethlisberger suffered his shoulder and rib injuries. He was sixth in the NFL, completing 66 percent of his passes; was fifth in the league with a 100 passer rating (Tom Brady was at 100.1 by contrast) and Roethlisberger's 17-4 TD-INT ratio was Brady-esque (18-3). And this was without a semblance of stability at running back, with Mike Wallace regularly dropping deep balls and before the Haley-Roethlisberger relationship had blossomed.

    Roethlisberger has been more vocal with teammates as well, and his leadership style has evolved some too. In the past, despite his stature in the game, Roethlisberger's deep respect for veterans Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich resulted in him sometimes deferring to them. Now that he is the elder statesman and is even more integrated in the group, players have noticed.

    Haley also has a better feel for Roethlisberger's preferences and they are working in tandem to improve the offense.

    "We focus on what he does best," Haley said, "and let's scrap the stuff he doesn't like or that doesn't play to his strengths. So I think we've made a lot of progress on offense. ... It's just a totally different feel."

    More observations
    •This very well could be Troy Polamalu's last season here. Would not surprise me a bit. The speed, quick first step and ability to cover ground just aren't there anymore, and free safety Ryan Clark is getting up there, too. Polamalu's contract puts him among the top safeties in the game, but injuries have prevented him from playing to that level for a while now. The Steelers have had to make these tough calls in the past, and have succeeded consistently by not letting sentiment cloud their football judgment.

    This situation isn't all that different from James Harrison and Casey Hampton a year ago, and many other great Steelers before that.

    •Ziggy Hood remains the starter opposite Brett Keisel at defensive end but I can't help but wonder if Cameron Heyward displaces him at some point. Hood, a first-round pick in 2009, doesn't always seem like a natural fit in a 3-4, and Heyward, a first-round pick in 2011, probably could play either side.

    •With Cortez Allen banged up right now, the Steelers could be vulnerable at corner. GM Kevin Colbert feels good that top cover guy Ike Taylor, though 33, "has the physique, athleticism and speed of a 26-year-old." Teams will surely try to spread them out again to create better matchups in this secondary. We'll see how they hold up in the slot.

    •I could see the Steelers looking at tight ends should any of note be cut elsewhere. Heath Miller, who shined in Haley's offense last year, is on the PUP list, as is David Johnson. "We're kind of walking a tightrope there," Haley said, though David Paulson, a seventh-round pick in 2012, is opening some eyes.

    •Defensive end Al Woods, whose wife is expecting a baby, could be in a battle to make the team. "This is Al's fourth year, and it's one of those things where your back is kind of against the wall in this business," Keisel said. "And you've got to make plays to keep your job. Al is at that crossroad and he needs to just keep doing what he's doing. That's what I told him."

    •The Steelers conducted an evening practice on Family Night at camp, with many players having their wives and families on hand. With camp dragging on, that kept spirits high and adds life to the mundane practices, with crowds able to flock more to the evening sessions as well. "You don't want to get pancaked with your wife over there watching," Keisel said.

    http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/blog/ja...hip-takes-hold
    "If I could start my life all over again, I would be a professional football player, and you damn well better believe I would be a Pittsburgh Steeler." -Jack Lambert

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    CBS Article About Rookies

    Wheaton makes me excited!
    "Happy Happy Happy"

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    They should really work AL Woods in at NT rather than DE even though hes athletic enough to play DE

    Decastro had a hell of a preseason debut

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    Quote Originally Posted by K Train View Post
    They should really work AL Woods in at NT rather than DE even though hes athletic enough to play DE

    Decastro had a hell of a preseason debut
    they are so deep at NT though...

    my hope is that Heyward takes Hoods starting job, and Al Woods becomes a the primary base formation backup at BOTH DE spots AND with the ability to play some NT

    I'd also like to see Hood and Woods as the interior DL in the Nickel as well.


    Base
    LDE - Heyward (Woods, Hood)
    NT - McClendon (Fangupo or Taamu - only one makes the team)
    RDE - Keisel (Woods, Hood)

    Nickel
    LDE - Woodley (Heyward)
    DT - Woods (McClendon)
    DT - Hood - (Taamu or Fangupo - only one makes the team)
    RDE - Keisel - (Worrilds)
    (Jones playing ILB in Nickel with Timmons)
    Banana Fett !?!? Where???

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    Quote Originally Posted by NeilPatrickBanana View Post
    they are so deep at NT though...

    my hope is that Heyward takes Hoods starting job, and Al Woods becomes a the primary base formation backup at BOTH DE spots AND with the ability to play some NT

    I'd also like to see Hood and Woods as the interior DL in the Nickel as well.


    Base
    LDE - Heyward (Woods, Hood)
    NT - McClendon (Fangupo or Taamu - only one makes the team)
    RDE - Keisel (Woods, Hood)

    Nickel
    LDE - Woodley (Heyward)
    DT - Woods (McClendon)
    DT - Hood - (Taamu or Fangupo - only one makes the team)
    RDE - Keisel - (Worrilds)
    (Jones playing ILB in Nickel with Timmons)
    From Jerry Micco's chat:

    Ken:
    Is Cam Heyward near bust status if Al Woods is a better option? And seems like Ziggy Hood has been labeled as such here unfairly. He started on an AFC Championship team and he's better than average. Is he on the the Steelers re-sign list?

    Jerry Micco:
    My understanding is Heyward is having a very good camp, and Hood is having a good camp, too. Doesn't mean a guy like Al Woods won't see playing time. If he continues to get better, he'll pressure the starters and get his chances. Good to have some depth at that position.



    Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/...#ixzz2c2nov7Mu
    "If I could start my life all over again, I would be a professional football player, and you damn well better believe I would be a Pittsburgh Steeler." -Jack Lambert

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    K Train's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TarlsQtr View Post
    From Jerry Micco's chat:

    Ken:
    Is Cam Heyward near bust status if Al Woods is a better option? And seems like Ziggy Hood has been labeled as such here unfairly. He started on an AFC Championship team and he's better than average. Is he on the the Steelers re-sign list?

    Jerry Micco:
    My understanding is Heyward is having a very good camp, and Hood is having a good camp, too. Doesn't mean a guy like Al Woods won't see playing time. If he continues to get better, he'll pressure the starters and get his chances. Good to have some depth at that position.



    Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/...#ixzz2c2nov7Mu
    Anyone who watches heyward will see hes not a bust, hes a very good player but he has had trouble cracking the lineup. Hood is about as close to bust as you can get while still holding on to a label as an average player. It would be awesome if they could get a healthy rotation of the 4 of them and keep them fresh

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    Quote Originally Posted by K Train View Post
    Anyone who watches heyward will see hes not a bust, hes a very good player but he has had trouble cracking the lineup. Hood is about as close to bust as you can get while still holding on to a label as an average player. It would be awesome if they could get a healthy rotation of the 4 of them and keep them fresh
    something i've never liked about lebeau/mitchell... they never use a rotation system... they only spell their DL when they are gased. I love what they do in NY... I really want a rotation system that keeps guys incredibly fresh and presents a bigger challenge to olines as they have to continuously adjust to different strengths

    you can get total snap count information... but what ive really been trying to get it is snap count by formation. My guess is that our starters play 90&#37; of the base formation snap counts... I'd prefer that to be in the 60-70% range...
    Banana Fett !?!? Where???

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