By Eric Arbore
The Pittsburgh Steelers arrived at Saint Vincent College Wednesday in style. From Escalades to a tractor, the players checked into the residence halls (except for Mike Wallace that is) and started the 47th training camp at the college.
When the players take the field for the first practice on Friday, here are a few issues that the team will need to address before opening the season.
1. Oh Captain, My Captain- In the offseason, the Steelers unloaded or lost several key veterans including Aaron Smith, James Farrior, Chris Hoke and Hines Ward. While Farrior captained the defense, Ward has been an important leader on offense for the past decade. Where will the leadership come from now? “It’s going to be different,” Brett Keisel said of the losses. “There’s a heck of an opportunity for some of these young guys to step into those roles.” While Ben Roethlisberger will take an even larger leadership role on offense, I think Lawrence Timmons will take a step toward captaining the defense. His talent has shown brighter and brighter in the past few years. Troy Polamalu and Keisel will still be the ranking veterans, but the Steelers will need Timmons to reach his full potential in order to succeed.
2. Wallace, Wallace, wherefore art thou Wallace?- As expected, Mike Wallace was a no show for training camp while he holds out for a long term deal with the team. The Steelers don’t respond to hold outs. “It’s unfortunate for him that he’s not here,” said head coach Mike Tomlin of his star wideout’s absence. “We’ll focus our energies on readying the people that are here. When he shows up, he’ll show up.” The Steelers need Mike Wallace. He is one of the fastest players in the NFL and one of its most dangerous deep threats. Without him drawing double coverage, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders would not have had as much open space. He’ll receive a long term deal the Steeler way, during the season. Now it’s up to him to show up and be a team player.
3. ______ and Ike- Ike Taylor is the unquestioned top cornerback on the team. After that, however, the depth chart is a bit crowded. William Gay had a great 2011 campaign and was rewarded for it… by the Arizona Cardinals. Now Keenan Lewis, Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen must battle it out for the second cornerback spot. Lewis is the veteran of the group, but Brown and Allen have a lot of potential. “We’ve got some battles. We’ve got some things that are undecided,” Tomlin remarked. “It’s always a story of team building in the National Football League.” One of these young talents will need to stand out from the others to earn the second starting position.
4. Will the kids be alright?- The offensive line will most likely feature rookies David DeCastro and Mike Adams. “I’m excited to see these young guys,” said Keisel. “You really don’t know what they’re capable of until they put the pads on and you’re going at full speed.” They both will need to prove themselves in order to earn starting jobs. Once that happens, the line will need to gel in order to give Roethlisberger the best protection he has had since his rookie season.
5. Carpe Diem- Now is the time for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The window is closing for this squad. Two Super Bowls are great accomplishments, but one or two more would be better. This training camp is important for both rookies and veterans. “We’re going to put these guys into unique and interesting situations to challenge them and get to know them,” said Tomlin. “That’s what July and August are about.” Baltimore may take a step back without Terrell Suggs for much of the season, and the Bengals could experience a sophomore slump with quarterback Andy Dalton. Pittsburgh can make another run, and it all starts with the preparations made in training camp.
Eric Arbore is a Senior Communication Major from Derry, PA.