Listen, I know I’m being a hypocrite here. I’ve written and tweeted as much about Le’Veon Bell as your Yinzer Uncle has (except he’s yelling at the TV screen). But I wrote my last article on Bell at 8:30. And this is 9:30 so…time to turn over a new leaf.
Bell won’t on the field Week One. So let’s focus on the 53 who will be instead.
Drama, sadly, has followed this team for too long now. Martavis Bryant’s saga. James Harrison’s departure. Mike Tomlin’s tripping Jacoby Jones. And now this. Another year, another saga.
If the Steelers want to win a Super Bowl, it’s coming on the field. Not on Twitter. Not in the media scrum. Between the lines.
And that’s what I’m excited about. There’s a football game, a pretty important one, three days from now. And 15 more guaranteed after that. So let’s talk about that.
I can’t wait to see James Conner carry the workload. To truly test how much progress he’s made. As a runner, receiver, in pass protection. How will Jaylen Samuels get involved? Probably more receiver than runner. And what’s the plan for Stevan Ridley? Maybe the true backup runner to Conner, spelling him for 5-7 carries a game.
I can’t wait to see the offensive line. Marcus Gilbert healthy, available. How Alejandro Villanueva matches up versus Myles Garrett, especially given Villanueva’s shaky starts to begin the year. There are fewer better tests than going up against him.
I can’t wait to see JuJu Smith-Schuster take big steps forward, not only in snap count, where he’ll be an every down player, but in his own personal development. Seeing James Washington on the field and if he can be the vertical threat to not only replace Martavis Bryant but be a better version of him. And, obviously, Antonio Brown, proving again why he’s the best in the world.
I can’t wait to see Vance McDonald healthy. And how new offensive coordinator Randy Ficthner, calling his first game, puts his own stamp on the offense compared to Todd Haley.
I can’t wait to see the tandem of Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt tear it up like we know they’re capable of. For Javon Hargrave to continue to elevate his game and if he’s active, Daniel McCullers to show the improvement he’s made over the last several months.
I can’t wait to figure out if this is Bud Dupree’s big year or if the team will look for his replacement in the offseason. T.J. Watt brimming with potential and the beginning of a 10+ sack quest. And if any of the backups, whenever Ola Adeniyi returns, maybe if Keion Adams gets a call up, can show similar play from the preseason into the regular season.
I can’t wait to see how the Steelers solve the inside linebacker situation. Who the signal caller, wearing that green dot is – either Jon Bostic or Vince Williams. How Keith Butler gets Matthew Thomas involved, you know that he will, and how he performs.
I can’t wait to see this new look secondary. How well they communicate. If Artie Burns and Sean Davis can take the leap you know they need to in order to have confidence in them going forward. Mike Hilton creating chaos off the edge and Joe Haden with a year under his belt. What the addition of Morgan Burnett means for the team; hopefully that creates a better tackling secondary. And Sean Davis’ transition to free safety will be interesting to watch. Or how their dime defense will look, something I still haven’t seen them run yet, in practice nor in game.
I can’t wait to see Chris Boswell boot 50 yarders and Jordan Berry to nail pinpoint, coffin corner punts. Heck, I can’t wait to see Kameron Canaday long snap. That’s how desperate I am for some football.
No matter what, it’s going to be a fun 2018 season.