Steelers Training Camp Report—Day 1
Obviously this isn't one of my patented Training Camp Diaries, because the first open practice isn't for five more hours as I write this. (But who's counting?) This is just a quick note on some things which caught my attention in the swirl of reporting around the beginning of camp, in sort of a live-post format. Please excuse any wonkiness, as I've been having a lot of problems with WordPress recently…
The most interesting part about it is that those who aren't there threaten to overshadow those who are.Mind you, James Harrison and Antonio Brown require some serious effort to be overshadowed. Antonio, as you can see at the top, arrived in a chaffeured 1931 Rolls Royce, creating some serious envy in my usually level-headed husband. Harrison wasn't to be outdone. Unfortunately you can't embed Steelers.com videos, but I urge you to click the link below and see how he arrived at camp.
Three men who aren't at camp, for very different reasons, are also garnering attention. The first one, obviously, is Le'Veon Bell, who won't appear at camp (if at all) until he signs his franchise tag.
This has generated a fair bit of public discussion among his teammates, first and foremost Antonio Brown, who has waged something of a twitter campaign to try to persuade Bell to show up to camp. He has the right to do so, as he never held out despite his unhappiness with his lack of a new contract in 2015 and 2016. Maurkice Pouncey offered to share some of his salary, which is ironic considering Pouncey is making $7.5 million this year and the tag Bell is refusing to sign is for $12.1 million. A number of other players expressed their hopes that Bell would appear at camp, although they all prefaced their remarks with something to the effect that "this is a business."
But perhaps the most important person to be annoyed is his head coach:
“There is no question we are a group that values the team-building process,” Tomlin said Thursday. “And doing it in this setting, so yes, there is value, and yes, there are consequences for not being here. That’s the reality of it.”
What are those consequences?
"They're untold as we sit here," Tomlin said.
Although this sounds rather like bluster on Tomlin's part, since the team actually can't take any action whatsoever, I think his ultimate meaning is that the team suffers as a whole, and that's the consequences he fears. He doesn't know what they are until the play of the offensive unit during the early part of the season indicates whether there were, in fact, consequences from Bell holding out or not.
I am on record as saying that it actually makes a lot of sense for Bell not to come to camp—certainly from his own perspective, as he is making a very high-stakes gamble on his own durability. And the latest reports are that he turned down a 5-year, $60 million contract. I guess if I were a backup offensive lineman making, say, $540,000 this year (which is in fact what B.J. Finney is making) it would be hard to see what Bell's problem is.
And speaking of underpaid linemen, before I go on to the guys who aren't in camp, I'm happy to note that Al Villanueva is, and he also has a shiny new contract. Not a huge one—he's still in the bottom half of the league in terms of salary for a starting left tackle—but enough to keep the wolf from the door for a few years.
Specifically, it is a four-year deal for $24 million. Which means he will make almost precisely 10 times as much this year as he would have made on HIS franchise tag (an exclusive right tag.) As one of the guys blocking for Bell, he may also be wondering what Bell's problem is. Note that Villanueva never signed the tag and thus had to sign a waiver to show up to OTAs, which he did.
But to return to the subject at hand, another guy who won't be participating, at least for the moment, is Martavis Bryant. This is, however, not his fault, or at least not in the immediate sense—it's just that the league has not fully reinstated him. So, like Bell's situation, it isn't ideal, but it does give some guys further down the depth chart an opportunity for more playing time.
One of those guys won't be Sammie Coates, though, because this poor kid can't catch a break. He had to have a knee scope and is on the PUP list for now.
But the one whose absence will perhaps be felt the most keenly is Dan Rooney, who will be commemorated this season by a special uniform patch. In a moving article by Kevin Gorman, he noted:
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said the team's intentions are to honor The Ambassador with how they proceed professionally and personally. The key is for the Steelers to play — and play to win…“I think about him quite a bit,” Tomlin said. “Obviously, an important event such as today, reporting up here, you can't help but think about him and the level of excitement that he would have. I'm sure that he's watching us.”
*You can watch the PG video here: