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5 ways Steelers can beat Patriots in 2015 season opener

Don’t count the Pittsburgh Steelers among those who were disappointed at Judge Richard M. Berman’s decision to lift Tom Brady’s suspension.

The Steelers wanted Brady all along in the 2015 season opener, even though they’ve never beaten Brady at Gillette Stadium.

“Our best against their best,” Cameron Heyward, one of the few Steelers defenders with a discernible pulse, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “So let’s join the party.”

Heyward’s idea of a party must be a root canal or a rectal exam, because the Steelers’ last visit to Gillette Stadium felt like one of those prodecures.

The Patriots pounded the Steelers 55-31, gashing the Steelers defense for 610 yards. It was a Steelers record for yards allowed and points allowed in a single game.

The Steelers defense might be even worse this season. So how do the Steelers beat the defending champions, with Brady amped up to prove that he can win with properly inflated footballs?

They’ll have to check off at least one of the boxes on the following list.

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Signing Michael Vick is the right move for Steelers

If it weren’t for Michael Vick’s past, his signing Tuesday by the Pittsburgh Steelers would be nothing more than six-point agate type in the newspaper.

Vick is, after all, a 35-year-old quarterback whose 52.9 completion percentage last season was the lowest in the NFL among quarterbacks who threw at least 100 passes. He’s a backup near the end of his career.

But because Vick once ran a heinous dogfighting ring, this isn’t just any transaction. It’s something that has to be talked about.

Many Steelers fans are in an uproar over their team signing a man who used to kill dogs for fun.

Vick did, however, spend nearly two years in prison for his crime. Everyone has a right to make a living once they’ve served their time. Vick makes his living playing quarterback. He did that for the Philadelphia Eagles from 2009 to 2013 and the New York Jets last season.

Now Vick’s redemption tour takes him to Pittsburgh. The Steelers need a backup quarterback after placing Bruce Gradkowski on injured reserve with a hand injury.

Vick as a Steeler isn’t an easy concept to stomach. But do we know for a fact that he’s the worst human being ever to wear a Steelers uniform?

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Packers vs. Steelers: 5 Takeaways from Pittsburgh’s 24-19 Preseason Win

The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t have to worry about a winless preseason.

But they do have to worry about Maurkice Pouncey.

The Steelers’ All-Pro center was injured in the first quarter of Sunday’s 24-19 victory over the Green Bay Packers at Heinz Field.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pouncey broke a bone in his ankle and will have surgery today. He could go on the injured reserve/designated to return list, which means he’d be out for at least the first six weeks of the season.

It’s already been a costly preseason for the Steelers, who lost kicker Shaun Suisham for the season with a torn ACL in the NFL Hall of Fame Game.

Without a definitive diagnosis, it’s too early to analyze Pouncey’s injury and its impact on the Steelers. We’ll know more in the coming days.

Based on what we do know from Sunday’s game, here are five takeaways.

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Steelers vs. Jaguars: 6 Takeaways from Pittsburgh’s Second Preseason Game

The Pittsburgh Steelers fell to 0-2 in the 2015 preseason with Friday night’s 23-21 loss at Jacksonville.

They won where it really counts, however, because they came out of the game with no significant injuries.

The first-team offense needed just six plays to move the ball 80 yards on the game’s opening possession. Ben Roethlisberger’s 44-yard pass to Martavis Bryant, and his two-point conversion pass to Markus Wheaton, gave the Steelers an 8-0 lead.

Most of the skill-position players on offense were done for the night after that first series. There’s not much to worry about there. Barring a rash of injuries on that side of the ball, the Steelers will be able to put points on the board this season.

It’s the other areas that require deeper scrutiny.

Here are six observations – the good, the bad and the ugly – from the game.

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Pittsburgh Steelers: 3 Thumbs-Up, 3 Thumbs-Down Performances in 2015 Preseason Opener

The Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the Minnesota Vikings 14-3 Sunday night in the NFL Hall of Fame Game.

Ultimately, no one will remember the score of the 2015 preseason opener. The game is meaningless in the standings, but for players who are fighting for a roster spot, the game meant everything.

Here are three Steelers players who helped themselves and three who didn’t on Sunday night in Canton, Ohio.

THUMBS UP: Ryan Shazier

Not that Ryan Shazier is in danger of being cut, but the Steelers’ 2014 first-round draft pick still has plenty to prove after an injury-riddled rookie season.

The inside linebacker led the Steelers with five total tackles, including four solo tackles. He showed his speed in snuffing out a reverse to Mike Wallace in the first quarter. The former Steeler lost a yard on the play.

Shazier also was involved in stopping the Vikings on fourth-and-1 to end their first possession. He put a nice hit on Matt Asiata after the Vikings’ running back caught a pass for five yards. The Vikings eventually missed a field goal on that series.

Playing into the second quarter, Shazier showed signs that he might not be a bust after all.

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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 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 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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