The Pittsburgh Steelers wrapped up their first week of OTA practices on Thursday and while we probably didn’t learn a lot of new information about the 2015 team over the course of the last three days as it relates to individual performances and play on the field, there were a few things that I took away from the first football in shorts sessions.
There Will Be No Brown Outs – As expected, the media questioned wide receiver Antonio Brown about his offseason intentions as it relates to him possibly being a training camp holdout later this summer because of him potentially being unhappy with his current contract. While I do believe that Brown currently thinks he is now severely underpaid, and why wouldn’t he, he did handle the questions as well as he possibly could and additionally put any fears of him possibly being a holdout to rest.
The Butler Isn’t Likely To Change Much – It will be quite a while before we know for sure what kind of changes will take place scheme-wise this year in the Steelers defense, but to hear most of the veteran players talk this past week, new defensive coordinator Keith Butler isn’t likely to make any major changes in his first season. With that said, I believe that Butler will be more aggressive than his predecessor Dick LeBeau, and by that I mean we could see more blitzing than we have in previous years, especially on early downs, in addition to a little more risk-taking in an effort to cause confusion and matchup problems. The overall defensive preface isn’t likely to change, however. You know … stop the run, tackle the catch, and don’t give up the big play.
Tomlin Might Be Two-Stepping More – While I don’t think he likes the new extra-point rule, I do believe that head coach Mike Tomlin will embrace it and learn to adapt to it quickly. According to a few reports this past week, Tomlin surprised a lot of people by kicking off the first OTA practice by having the offense work on two-point conversions. Tomlin might just throw away “the chart” this season and go for two when most of us, including the opposition, least expect it. If anything, he might be able to force a few extra timeouts in 2015 to help offset the ones he’s sure to waste during the season. What kind of odds can I get on the offense going for two after their first touchdown in the season-opener against the New England Patriots?
Groin Pains And Growing Pains – Safety Mike Mitchell isn’t very good with the media and I do believe that he is very misunderstood player. He means to say one thing but the words come out of his mouth all wrong. I can relate to him. With that said, I do believe that Mitchell really was hurting last year and that the two groin injuries really hampered his overall play. Additionally, I think Mitchell really had growing pains during his first year in the Steelers defense and that he really wasn’t comfortable with his role until the last quarter of the season. While he would be crucified if he ever said it, I think Mitchell really didn’t enjoy playing alongside Troy Polamalu because he never completely knew where he would be on the field. Now that Polamalu is retired and Mitchell is healthy and has a full season in Pittsburgh under his belt, I firmly expect him to play much better in 2015 alongside either Shamarko Thomas or Will Allen. If I were Mitchell, I would memorize a ton of clichés to feed the media this year until things improve.
Daddy Deebo – The decision to re-sign linebacker James Harrison was a good one and it will remain that way even if he only plays 100 snaps and fails to record a single sack in 2015. Harrison has the respect of that entire linebacker group and that’s because he leads by example instead of using words. It’s almost like they’re afraid to let him down and that they all are striving for his approval. It looks like most of the young linebackers will again be following Harrison back to Arizona after the OTA sessions and mandatory minicamp are over and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. I like the fact that Harrison was also running behind Jarvis Jones this past week. We’ll find out just how bad Jones wants to be starter this offseason as a result of that as Harrison will do everything he can to be the starter in Week 1. Harrison’s demeanor and tone during his interview was fantastic.