2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Fresh faces, same expectations for Steelers

By WILL GRAVES - AP Sports Writer
    2013-07-23 11:28

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Mike Tomlin knows he can talk all he wants about progress and the overhauled roster and how much he likes what he's seen during the offseason.

Yet the Pittsburgh Steelers coach understands it means little if it doesn't translate onto the field.

``The reality is these types of processes are measured based on results,'' Tomlin said at the end of minicamp in June.

And the results were typically un-Steelerlike last fall for one of the NFL's most consistent franchises. A late-season swoon dropped Pittsburgh to 8-8 and a spot outside the playoffs looking in. It marked a decidedly ungraceful exit for some of the stars that led the team to three Super Bowl appearances in six years.

James Harrison, Casey Hampton, Mike Wallace, Max Starks, Rashard Mendenhall, Willie Colon and Keenan Lewis were either cut, not brought back or lured elsewhere in free agency. In their place are a bevy of rookies or reserves expected to take on larger roles.

How quickly youngsters like rookies Jarvis Jones and Le'Veon Bell assimilate will determine if the ``processes'' the Steelers have undergone the last few months will pay off with a return to the postseason.

Five things to look for at Steelers training camp:

1. THE BELL TOLLS: The Steelers didn't exactly shed any tears when enigmatic RB Mendenhall bolted for Arizona in free agency. Five seasons and just as many off-the-field issues had Pittsburgh all but pushing him out the door. Enter second-round pick Bell. Though the 21-year-old comes to camp in a three-way battle with Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer for the starting job, there's little doubt Bell will be given every opportunity to win it. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Bell offers size and versatility the other two lack. The Steelers haven't had a true every down back since Willie Parker left the team after the 2009 season. Running back by committee failed last season - the Steelers were 26th in yards rushing. Bell gives them their best chance at taking some of heat off quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

2. SPEED TO BURN: Mike Wallace and his speed ran off to Miami in the offseason. The Steelers hope they brought in a cheaper - but eventually no less effective - replacement in third-round pick Markus Wheaton. The rookie missed minicamp and organized team activities due to NCAA rules that prevented him from leaving school before graduation. Wheaton will have time to get his feet set behind veterans Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Plaxico Burress. But with Sanders in the final year of his deal and Burress looking for one last hurrah, Wheaton will be expected to contribute this season.

3. YOUNG GUNS: So long Starks. See you later Colon. The youth movement along the offensive line is complete after those two were allowed to leave through free agency. In their place are 20-somethings - Marcus Gilbert (25), Maurkice Pouncey (24), David DeCastro (23) and Mike Adams (23) - with 27-year-old Ramon Foster the ``old'' guy. Despite their youth, none of the starters made it through 2012 unscathed. Their health and the quickness with which they gel will be vital for a unit required to protect the health of Roethlisberger and open holes for Bell. Pouncey, a three-time Pro Bowler, is the unquestioned leader, but his image took a hit when he was pictured wearing a hat defending former college teammate Aaron Hernandez. Pouncey apologized but as one of the faces of the franchise, he'll need to let his play make the biggest impression this fall.

4. CAN JONES KEEP UP? The Steelers felt they got lucky when Jones bombed on his 40-yard dash during Pro Day. The shoddy 4.8-second time scared off some teams, but not Pittsburgh, which scooped him up with the 17th pick with the expectations he'll be the eventual successor to James Harrison at outside linebacker. Jones led the NCAA in sacks last fall (14 1/2) at Georgia and the Steelers believe he will give a jolt to a pass rush that got to the quarterback just 37 times in 2012, tied for 15th in the league.

5. HAPPILY EVER AFTER? Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley have enjoyed a year to work out the rough spots in their relationship. The quarterback even praised Haley for openness in accepting input from players during the offseason. The two will need to find a way to peacefully coexist if the Steelers want to minimize the off-the-field distractions. Without Wallace around to take the top off opposing defenses, the Steelers will need to find interesting ways to get players open. Haley likely can't do that without Roethlisberger's support, and vice versa.

---

Online: AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Pierre ThomasOct 30 07:22p

New Orleans Saints RBs Khiry Robinson (forearm) and Pierre Thomas (shoulder) are both inactive in Week 9 against the Carolina Panthers Thursday, Oct. 30.

David HawthorneOct 30 07:12p

The New Orleans Saints have declared LB Austin Johnson, LB David Hawthorne, C Jonathan Goodwin, RB Khiry Robinson, WR Nick Toon, RB Pierre Thomas, CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste inactive for Week 9.

Amini SilatoluOct 30 07:12p

The Carolina Panthers have declared OG Amini Silatolu, CB Bene Benwikere, OT Byron Bell, RB Fozzy Whittaker, WR Philly Brown, FS Thomas DeCoud, OG Trai Turner inactive for Week 9.

Brandon BrownerOct 30 04:32p

New England Patriots DT Alan Branch (non-injury related) and DE Chandler Jones (hip) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. S Nate Ebner (finger), DL Dominique Easley (knee), OL Cameron [ More ]

Brandon ThompsonOct 30 04:22p

Cincinnati Bengals CB Darqueze Dennard (hamstring), LB Rey Maualuga (hamstring) and OG Kevin Zeitler (calf) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. DT Domata Peko (toe) and OT Andre Smith [ More ]

Dwight FreeneyOct 30 04:22p

San Diego Chargers LB Manti Te'o (foot), CB Jason Verrett (shoulder) and S Jahleel Addae (concussion) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. LB Jeremiah Attaochu (hamstring) was limited. CB [ More ]

Donald BrownOct 30 04:12p

San Diego Chargers RB Donald Brown (concussion) practiced fully Thursday, Oct. 30.

Terrell SuggsOct 30 04:02p

Baltimore Ravens WR Michael Campanaro (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (foot) and LB Terrell Suggs (neck) all did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. OG Marshal Yanda (knee) [ More ]

Brett KeiselOct 30 03:52p

Pittsburgh Steelers DE Brett Keisel (non-injury), SS Troy Polamalu (non-injury) and SS Ross Ventrone (hamstring) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. CB Ike Taylor (forearm) and FS [ More ]

Bruce CarterOct 30 03:22p

Dallas Cowboys LB Bruce Carter (finger) suffered a broken ring finger during practice Thursday, Oct. 30, but expects to play in Week 9. He will wear a splint on his finger for protection.

Cullen JenkinsOct 30 03:12p

New York Giants DT Cullen Jenkins (calf) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (back, hamstring) and P Steve Weatherford (ankle) were both limited in practice.

Brandon BoykinOct 30 03:12p

Philadelphia Eagles FS Nate Allen (hamstring) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. TE Brent Celek (back) and WR Brad Smith (groin) were both limited in practice. CB [ More ]

D'Qwell JacksonOct 30 03:12p

Indianapolis Colts LB D'Qwell Jackson (toe), DT Arthur Jones (ankle), LB Erik Walden (quadriceps) and LB Josh McNary (ankle) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. CB Vontae [ More ]

Rashad JenningsOct 30 02:42p

New York Giants RB Rashad Jennings (knee) said he is on track in terms of his rehab, but there is no timetable for his return. Jennings said he has [ More ]

Jordan CameronOct 30 02:32p

Cleveland Browns TE Jordan Cameron (concussion) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30.

Anthony CollinsOct 30 02:32p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers OT Oniel Cousins is working at left tackle with the first-team offense during practice Thursday, Oct. 30, because OT Anthony Collins (foot) is sitting out practice.

Doug MartinOct 30 02:22p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Doug Martin (ankle) is not participating in practice Thursday, Oct. 30.

Jason VerrettOct 30 01:52p

San Diego Chargers CB Jason Verrett (shoulder) is expected to miss two to three weeks with a torn labrum, according to two sources.

DeAngelo WilliamsOct 30 01:52p

Carolina Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (ankle) will start the team's Week 9 game against the New Orleans Saints Thursday, Oct. 30, according to head coach Ron Rivera.

R. Griffin IIIOct 30 01:42p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (ankle) received most of the work with the first-team offense during practice Thursday, Oct. 30, and will start in Week 9 if he [ More ]

Jaylen WatkinsOct 30 01:32p

Philadelphia Eagles SS Earl Wolff, FS Chris Maragos and CB Jaylen Watkins could be options to start at safety if FS Nate Allen (hamstring) is not able to play in Week 9.

Giovani BernardOct 30 01:22p

Cincinnati Bengals RB Giovani Bernard (hip, shoulder) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30.

Tony RomoOct 30 01:02p

Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo (back) didn't take part in the walk-through Thursday, Oct. 30, and will not practice with the team. However, head coach Jason Garrett remains hopeful [ More ]

Trent RichardsonOct 30 12:42p

Indianapolis Colts RB Trent Richardson (hamstring) is participating in practice Thursday, Oct. 30.

Reggie WayneOct 30 12:42p

Indianapolis Colts WR Reggie Wayne (elbow) is not participating in practice Thursday, Oct. 30.

Tony RomoOct 30 12:22p

Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo's (back) status is making head coach Jason Garrett feel optimistic about his availability for Week 9.

Dallas ThomasOct 30 11:43a

Miami Dolphins OG Dallas Thomas would be the most likely candidate to start at left guard if OG Daryn Colledge (illness) is not able to play in Week 9.

Rashad JenningsOct 30 11:12a

New York Giants RB Rashad Jennings (knee) has been ruled out for Week 9.

Phil BatesOct 30 10:52a

The Cleveland Browns signed free-agent WR Phil Bates (Seahawks) to the practice squad and released CB Marcus Cromartie Thursday, Oct. 30.

Charles SimsOct 30 10:13a

Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Charles Sims could have 10 or more touches in Week 9, in the opinion of beat writer Greg Auman.

Ryan MathewsOct 30 09:52a

San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee) is likely to sit out of the Week 9 game and return after the Week 10 bye.

Dennis PittaOct 30 09:52a

Baltimore Ravens TE Dennis Pitta (hip) may never be able to play football again after two surgeries on a fractured and dislocated hip in as many seasons.

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