Tag:Training Camp
Posted on: August 4, 2009 8:09 am
Edited on: August 4, 2009 8:10 am

Look Ma...See How Good My Hands Are Now

Last season we watched a rookie make rookie mistakes.  None more apparent then a missed catch while he was looking up to catch himself on the jumbotron.  If training camp is any type of a barometer, Steelers wide receiver Limas Sweed is on his way to atoning for his rookie mistakes. 

Sweed, a second round draft pick in the 2008 draft, considered one of the top wide receivers in the draft, was speculated to have been picked up because Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, had a tall wide-out on his wish list for that draft.  One of the top concerns going into last season, was Sweed’s seemingly reluctance to block.  That was dispelled in the AFC Championship game against the Baltimore Ravens.  Now the questions going into this season is, will the second year Steelers wide receiver be ready to assume the part of the third wideout slot, left open by Nate Washington, who was signed to the Tennessee Titans through free agency.  If training camp is an indication, then it looks like he’s on his way to being ready. 

Gary Dulac, in today’s edition of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports that Limas Sweed looks much more confident going into this season, knowing his routes and making catches with much more ease then he did last year.  Of course, it’s too early to tell, since there’s no opposing team to chase him down and there’s no jumbotron for him to catch a glimpse of himself.  Still, if his coaches are correct, and Sweed continues to look for ways to improve, it’s extremely possible that he’ll find himself in that third wideout slot at the start of the season. 

And although that slot is his to lose, don’t think he doesn’t have competition.  Rookie wide receiver Mike Wallace and former Detroit Lions wide receiver Shaun McDonald are also salivating at that open third wide out slot.  Wallace, picked up in the third round of the 2009 draft, was speculated to have been picked up to answer the need on punt and kickoff return.  McDonald was a late free-agency pickup.  Add Martin Nance and Dallas Baker to the mix, both who spent last year on the Steelers practice squad, and there’s definitely competition.  And both Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and head coach Mike Tomlin would tell you that the slot is anyone’s to win.  Still, if Sweed continues to shine like he’s doing in camp, then expect to see him running the routes as the third wide-out this season.

And if one thinks that training camp is a cakewalk when it comes to facing defenders, ask both Mike Wallace and rookie running back Frank Summers about their welcome to the NFL and the Pittsburgh Steelers offense.  Guess it’s a good thing that the coach has them practicing in pads. 

Source:  Steelers receiver finding his Sweed spot early in camp , Gary Dulac, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, August 4th, 2009

Posted on: July 30, 2009 12:37 pm
Edited on: August 2, 2009 6:51 pm

There's Work to Be Done

After each Superbowl win, former Steelers head coach, Chuck Noll, would appear in front of the cameras, and in response to certain questions, seemed not to capture the elation of the win, but would remark that there was still a lot of work to do.  That mentality in coaching led to four super bowl titles, two of them being back to back wins.  In essence, it was as if he was saying, this game is played now we have to start preparing for the next. 

It was almost a déjà vu at the end of last season, as current head coach of the Steelers, seemed to allow himself only a minimal amount of celebrating after the Steelers win in Superbowl 43.  While sportscasters, analyst and experts were touting how this might have been the most exciting win, Mike Tomlin seemed to keep himself well grounded and some might say, stoic, in the aftermath.  Indeed, it seemed that many outside of the Pittsburgh area may have missed and failed to see a similar mindset that Mike Tomlin seemed to have adopted from Chuck Noll in regards to what was next.  Basically, Tomlin would tell reporters, there was work to be done.  This comment was a momentary blurb in print, to be replaced with the next days news, and eventually find itself completely off the radar. 

A lot has happened since that comment was made.  Dan Rooney would move to Ireland to become the US Ambassador there, his son, Art Rooney II taking over the reigns.  A new draft class would be presented and selected, attrition and additions would occur through free agency and team members would participate in OTA’s, community events and mini-camps.  Fans will continue to anticipate opening day of regular season with echo’s of Bocephus in their minds answering the question “Are you ready for some football?”  Most would probably tell you they’ve secretly been ready for it since May.

Around the league teams have been gearing up and have begun their preparations for the upcoming season.  Training camps began and analysts are now reporting how well so and so looks in camp.  For the Pittsburgh Steelers, their down time is about to come to an end.

On the afternoon of Friday, July 31st, the players and staff of the Steelers will report to St. Vincent’s College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania to prepare in earnest for the work that they have to do. 

No doubt there are a lot of burning questions going into this camp.  How big of a distraction with the lawsuit against Ben Roethlisberger turn out to be?  Will OLB Lawrence Timmons prove to be worth what he was paid as a first round draft pick in 2007, now that he has an opportunity to start as a replacement to Larry Foote?  What on earth will kicker Jeff Reed show up in this year to make teammates chuckle?  The answers will be revealed in time, until then all eyes will be on the team and individual performance during training camp. 

There’s a lot of history in Latrobe itself.  It’s believed that the first professional football game was played there, as well as it being the originator of the banana split,  however, the small city itself gained it’s nationwide acclaim, in part, due to being the place where the Steelers hold their training camp.  Each year, Steelers faithful plan for their annual pilgrimage to the small campus to watch the players practice on a field, now named for the former Steelers coach, Chuck Noll.  Many come to get a glimpse of or perhaps get a coveted autograph of their favorite players and watch to see how the rookies and the new acquisitions might do come regular season.  It is here where we’ll start to speculate who will eventually make the team and/or perhaps start the season.  For the players, it will be about who gets a job. 

For the well known veterans like James Farrior, James Harrison, Hines Ward and others, their role will probably be more in a mentor status to the newer players.  For the most part, barring unforeseeable circumstances, these will be individuals whose slots are predetermined long before the season began.  For others, it’s not just going to be about securing themselves a job but transitioning themselves into the cohesive unit that has made the Steelers a formidable force in the NFL for decades. 

Somehow though, the anticipation of this years camp seems to be a little different then previous years. This time not only is there the realization that the Steelers have a major bulls eye on their back for being the reigning SB champs, but there’s also seems to be a genuine hunger from the personnel to actually win the back to back SB’s, something that was missing after they won SB XL. 

Don Banks of Sports Illustrated reminded his readers that the year after SB XL, the Steelers, when faced with a distraction went 8-8.  I would argue that this is different.  That year, the star quarterback was rehabbing from injuries sustained in an accident and then recouping from an operation, not to mention the Steelers had recently said goodbye to the heart of the Steelers team when Jerome Bettis retired.  Add a coach that seemed to have lost his passion for the game that year and it was not going to be pretty. 

No, despite the legal distraction, there still seems to be a sense of energy and belief that this team will not allow it to effect them and will fare quite well going into the stretch.  But then again, despite all the speculation, faith and hope, only time will tell. 

For now, the Steelers and their fans look towards this weekend, a gateway to the inevitable, the start of football season.  For Mike Tomlin, there’s work to be done and it starts in earnest here. 

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com