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Steelers don’t need Bell, Bryant to rout 49ers

When an NFL team wins as emphatically as the Pittsburgh Steelers did on Sunday, pundits often trot out an old sports cliche and say that the team is “sending a message.”

The Steelers sure did send a message by torching the San Francisco 49ers 43-18 at Heinz Field.

The recipients of this message aren’t necessarily the rest of the teams on the Steelers’ schedule. Rather, the Steelers served this notice to two of their own teammates.

At least it seemed that way.

Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant now know that their replacements can help this offense light up the scoreboard. The lesson here should be that if they let the team down again, life can go on without them.

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Steelers lose opener to Patriots, have only themselves to blame

So are we supposed to be encouraged by the fact that the Steelers only lost to the Patriots by seven points in Thursday night’s season opener?

Tom Brady is 4-0 against the Steelers at Gillette Stadium. The first three victories came by an average margin of 20 points.

Thursday’s 28-21 final score was deceptively close. Ben Roethlisberger threw a garbage-time touchdown pass to Antonio Brown with two seconds left.

Still, this was the most winnable of the Steelers’ four encounters against Brady in Foxboro.

Are the Patriots better than the Steelers? Yes. Not only can the Steelers not cover Rob Gronkowski, they couldn’t cover any of the Rob Gronkowski cardboard cutouts that adorn every Dunkin’ Donuts from New London to Bar Harbor.

But the Steelers could have overcome Gronkowski’s three touchdowns and Tom Brady’s 25-for-32 passing if it weren’t for their own incompetence.

The Patriots couldn’t stop the Steelers on the game’s opening drive.

But the Steelers sure could.

After Pittsburgh moved the ball 76 yards to the New England 24 on five plays, Todd Haley called a momentum-killing gadget play in which Brown was going to throw the ball. Brown couldn’t find a receiver and the Steelers lost eight yards on the play. Then came a holding penalty on Marcus Gilbert, and the Steelers eventually had to settle for a 44-yard field goal attempt that Josh Scobee missed.

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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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