Its here, its finally here. NFL training camps kick off this week and fans and players alike are in full excitement mode. The Pittsburgh Steelers are no different in this sentiment, as they kick off training camp July, 25th at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA. In fact its the forty-ninth year at the training site. This year should hold some excitement and also a little doubt as the team is coming off back to back 8-8 seasons, which is a little different from the last decade or so. Questions are plenty with this team, will Mike Tomlin be coaching for his job? Can Ben Roethlisberger win again? Will the defense be back? These questions will be answered soon enough but we should look at whats in store.
To win games the Steelers were architects on the winning formula. Ground and pound running game, and a stout defense. They have been using it forever and it worked. Six Super Bowls to prove it. However, the last few seasons the running game was obviously down producing no 1000 yard rusher, and an aging defense proved to be futile in their play-off hopes. Now the excitement and optimism to this year should be plenty. The running game looks to have improved with the addition of Legarrette Blount who is coming off a 772 yard and 7 Td season, and with the starter Le'Von Bell hopefully staying healthy this year, there is no reason that the Steelers go without a 1000 yard rusher this year. With that said, it does hinge on the offensive line staying healthy as well, especially Maurkice Pouncey, who seems to have some bad luck of late. The offense has upgraded with Blount and new wide outs in Lance Moore who replaces Jericho Cotchery, and returning Pro- Bowler in Antonio Brown. I look for the offense, and Ben Roethlisberger to have a pretty big year. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley, and his Qb have said they are on the same page so we shall wait and see, but I feel it should bode true.
Now for the so called aging defense. I really hate that term, as most followers, and fans of the Steelers know they improved in that aspect. They lost the often injured Lamar Woodley, and safety Ryan Clark, but replaced them with younger and possibly better players. Safety Mike Mitchell comes over from Carolina to replace Clark, and from I have seen it should excite fans. He is younger, faster, and a hard nosed football player which will fit in nicely on the defense. First round draft pick linebacker Ryan Shazier is impressing coaches and fans alike, so there is no reason he cant be an improvement, and Lawrence Timmons who is coming off a great year is a solid choice. Troy Polamalu is coming off a good year in which he managed to stay healthy, should continue to be a menace to opposing offenses this year as well. Steve McLendon in the middle and hopefully Jarvis Jones on the outside should be key factors in this younger and reemerging defense, and I am also looking for draft pick Stephon Tuitt to even contribute. So, looking at all this it would be hard to say that the Steelers are an aging defense, so please look for another term.
With all these additions and returning players there is no reason the Steelers shouldn't be a force in the wide open AFC North. Mike Tomlin as to keep them balanced and have them play smart football, which was lacking the last two seasons. He needs to get back to the cliche "Steeler Football" and win games. The organization proves that they have loyalty, so if he can get his football team back, he will not have to worry about his job. This is all easier said than done, but if any team can prove people wrong it is the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers. Prediction for this year 10-6 and a playoff berth.