As we get ready for the 2012-2013 season, I’ll pass along to you brief news and notes from Latrobe.
Due to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement rules, the first three days of training camp amounted to walkthroughs because the team has a limited number of padded practices. Then, they had the day off Monday. Receivers’ routes were more like jogging without the jog. It is considerably less impactful than past seasons.
Everyone makes a big deal about what vehicles the players arrive to training camp driving. This year, Brett Keisel drove about 20 miles on a Kubota front-loading tractor down Route 30 to training camp. I’m guessing that he held up traffic a bit. And, of course, the beard is already in full effect.
Emmanuel Sanders is completely recovered from last year’s foot injury and will be serving as the “X” receiver at training camp in Mike Wallace’s absence.
James Harrison is currently on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list due to a knee “issue.” Rumor has it that his maniacal workout is the cause. So, are the Steelers just being careful, or is this more serious than just a precautionary measure?
Jason Worilds is not practicing due to a wrist injury. He is out for at least a couple weeks, perhaps more. He could have shown some progress and gotten some reps with the first team defense, given Harrison’s status. Chris Carter may get a chance to shine (albeit briefly) at OLB. Carter has made an impact early in camp. He dismantled a running play by powering Chris Scott (OL) into the backfield, which drew a response from everyone watching – Coach Tomlin even was impressed.
Shawn Spence, the 2012 third round draft choice at ILB, who was making a name for himself, unfortunately injured his shoulder on Friday. It isn’t expected to be serious. He is a bit undersized at 5’11″, 230 pounds. Spence has the makings of being a special teams demon, but in the future, he has the potential to be the solution for new age tight ends like Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham.
Mike Wallace continues his contract holdout, supposedly against the advice of his agent, Bus Cook. The Steelers cut off negotiations once camp opened last Wednesday. Wallace’s options limited because the Steelers have maintained a policy where they will not negotiate contracts unless a player reports to camp. The list of players who have attempted to hold out is long – including Hines Ward (2005), Gary Anderson (1994), Mike Merriweather (1988), and Franco Harris (1984). Wallace has two basic options – he can sign his restricted free agent tender (1 year, $2.742 million) or continue to hold out. If he signs his tender, this would open up the opportunity to sign a long-term deal. Kevin Colbert, Steelers General Manager, has reiterated time and time again that they desire to keep Wallace for years to come.
Two former Steeler stalwart offensive linemen, Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley (radio hosts of Tunch ‘n’ Wolf on Pittsburgh ESPN Radio 970 AM) project that the Steelers may open the regular season with Max Starks as their left tackle, as opposed to rookie Mike Adams. Their reasoning for projecting Starks as an opening day starter is:
(1) Starks’ experience
(2) Starks’ surprising recovery from ACL injury
(3) Adams has the ability to grow into the starting role at some point during his rookie year
According to Max Starks, Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley is melding philosophies from former offensive coordinators, Ken Whisenhunt and Bruce Arians. The nomenclature may have changed, but the playbook is not all that different from seasons past. There will be some cadence changes. The variety of plays is expected to change, including the frequency of three, five, and seven-step drops. Down and distance situational football will likely dictate what type of run/pass balance is achieved.
Due to last year’s difficulties along the offensive line, running backs and tight ends were expected to chip on their out into pass patterns. You can expect to see less of that this season.
Why is it that there are always issues passing the run test at the nose tackle position? Casey Hampton may be on the shelf recovering from his ACL tear, but rookie Alameda Ta’amu run was so bad that a few of the faster guys, Ike Taylor and Chris Rainey, ran alongside Ta’amu trying to encourage him to complete the run. But, Ta’amu is starting out in rough shape. Never mind the little joke the veteran players pulled on him – he was told to walk to Wal-Mart to get the guys some snacks, only a 1-mile walk in theory. But, Ta’amu noticed on his phone that it was more like 3 miles. To top it off, he hurt his foot and has been unable to practice since his pedestrian adventures.
Rashard Mendenhall has been doing some light workouts including lateral and backward movement. The feeling around Latrobe is that the coaching staff wants Mendenhall to take it easy, but Rashard feels as though he’s ahead of schedule in recovering from his ACL tear in January.
About the Author
Written by Rob Stroup
I grew up in western Pennsylvania, so I have followed the Pittsburgh sports teams (Steelers, Penguins, Pirates) since the womb. It has become a tradition to make the yearly trek to a Steelers and Penguins game each year despite the distance. I hope to make writing a profession because I thoroughly enjoy attempting to paint a picture with words.