The Pittsburgh Steelers 2014 training camp gets underway on Friday with the first practice scheduled for Saturday. Here are five main story lines related to the team that will be worth monitoring over the course of the next few days and weeks.
Pouncey Meets The Press
Should a player have to talk about an alleged incident that he supposedly started when no charges have been filed against him? Probably not, but I fully expect that Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey will be asked by the local media early on in training camp about what did or didn’t take place at the Cameo nightclub a few weeks ago. The sooner that Pouncey answers whatever questions are thrown his way concerning the alleged assault accusations and supposed subsequent forthcoming lawsuit, the quicker he can move past it.
Fast Tracking Fast Shazier
Rookie first round draft pick Ryan Shazier was inserted as the starter alongside Lawrence Timmons on day one and while the progress reports during the offseason have been good, you know that he still has a lot to learn. Shazier’s fast-tracking will continue during training camp and he’s sure to make a lot of mistakes. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however, as it’s better for those mistakes to happen now so that he can learn from them. Barring something totally unforeseen, Shazier will become the first Steelers defensive rookie to open a season as a starter since Kendrell Bell last accomplished the feat in 2001.
Extensions On Tap?
The Steelers have a history of not negotiating contracts once the regular season gets underway, so if any extensions are to be given to players entering the final year of their current contracts, such actions will take place during training camp. Cornerback Cortez Allen is the likeliest candidate to get an extension over the course of the coming weeks and there has been some speculation that tackle Marcus Gilbert could see his contract extended as well. Outside linebacker Jason Worilds is also a candidate for an extension, but the general consensus seems to be that he will be allowed to play out his one-year transition tag tender that he signed prior to the start of the free agency signing period. While 2014 isn’t the final year of his current contract, all eyes will be on the situation with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as well.
Physicality Of Camp
Last year, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin put the team through a very physical training camp and it included quite a few live tackling sessions early on. The reason behind that was due to the team making a movement to youth on the defensive side of the football. The youth movement will continue on this year and it will be interesting to see if Tomlin takes the same approach as he did last year or if he decides to take his foot off of the gas a little bit.
Old Men On Speed Dial
Defensive end Brett Keisel and outside linebacker James Harrison still want to play, but both remain unsigned as camp opens. At this point, both would more than likely be willing to take the minimum, but as of right now there’s been no indication that either will be signed. The Steelers don’t need to be in a hurry, however, as they can use training camp to fully evaluate the rest of the talent on their roster. Also, should an injury take place at one of the two positions, they can easily add either player as both should be in shape and ready to go at a moment’s notice.