USA Today Sports
Some of the position battles are fairly clear. Appropriately, there is just a scrum in the halfbacks room. The almost-certain-to-be-suspended Le’Veon Bell is the clear No. 1, DeAngelo Williams is the clear No. 2, and Fitzgerald Toussaint would seem to be the the heir apparent to the No. 3 spot. Behind him you have a couple of guys who weren’t even UDFAs, rookie mini-camp invitee Brandon Brown-Dukes and last week’s signing, Christian Powell. They are competing with Cameron Stingily and Daryl Richardson, both veterans of a sort.
Stingily hails from Romeoville, Illinois, which seems promising, and was signed as a UDFA after the 2015 draft. He impressed the coaching staff last year enough to get a contract, and then was yet another victim of the Hall of Fame turf. He blew out his knee and was waived/injured. After spending the last year working out as much as he could while working at a warehouse and in a landscaping business to support himself and his daughter, the Steelers invited him to rookie minicamp again this year.
He feels he came in with a much better understanding of what was expected, and in better shape. He lost about 20 pounds and is now about 6-1, 230. He also felt he has been able to react more quickly, as he understands more of the playbook and has a feel for what the pace is like. He’s a guy you want to root for.
As is Brandon Brown-Dukes, the minuscule back from Mercyhurst. Tomlin likes what he’s seen enough to stop calling him “Mercyhurst” and use his name. BD, as the linked article suggests he should be called (that just too much of a mouthful) has been impressing at camp, and tomorrow night gives us the first chance to see whether this can, in any way, carry over into live game action.
I’m not exactly a rookie at this—it certainly isn’t my first training camp rodeo—but the Steelers threw me a curve last Friday, as they didn’t have the traditional training camp roster lists available. I learned from that mistake and made my own, which I duly remembered to print and bring along. Not only did I sort it by number so it’s easier to find out who #whatever is, but I was able to put it into a large old lady font so I could read the information.
I also corrected my mistake from last Friday, in which I arrived too late to get a seat in the shade. I have a livid almost-sunburn to show for that on my shoulders. So today I arrived in time to get a shaded seat, and also remembered the damp towel, because training camp is grueling for all of us…
I was interested to see whether any rookie mistakes were being corrected by the young players. Here’s what I saw:
AP photo/Mel Evans
Ike Taylor recently joined Bob Labriola and Missi Matthews of to give his take on the upcoming Steelers team. He had lots of interesting things to say, and did so in his usual inimitable fashion. But before they talked to Ike they talked about him.
Labriola noted that Ike had lost some weight and was still clearly in great shape. This was no surprise to Labriola, who compared Ike’s workout schedule and general work ethic to Antonio Brown. High praise, indeed.
Furthermore, Labriola noted that Ike went 10 or 11 years without ever missing a practice. Mike Prisuta still regales whoever will listen with his tale about the time Taylor went through the morning practice and then drove into Pittsburgh to have his thumb operated on. You don’t accumulate a streak of 135 consecutive games without toughing out a lot of stuff.
Yesterday while checking out Twitter, which I do relatively seldom, I came across a couple of great tweets from Steeler dads, and decided to make a compendium to start the week out right. Enjoy!
Let’s start with one of the guys I would most like to hang out with, family style. His “Dad Do” ads for Pantene were classics, and you should definitely check them out if you haven’t seen them. I loved yesterday’s tweet:
This one, from a few days before, is also pretty wonderful:
Note that the scoreboard is marked “Steelers/Browns” and that the score is 1,000,000 for the Steelers and 0 for the Browns. If I were Hue Jackson I would be pretty worried, as in fact the Steelers play the Browns in Week 17 this year, and if that is actually the score (or the football equivalent—perhaps 52-3 or something similar) Jackson may find himself back on the market the next day, assuming the pattern holds true.
I’ll admit it—I’m a little under the weather. Or perhaps it is the weather that is a little over me. I’m in a very nice part of the world at the moment, but it isn’t very nice in this part of the world. I feel as if I’ve scarcely seen the sun for weeks, and when one has just survived another Pittsburgh winter one tends to feel entitled to some good weather.
And I’ll be honest—I’ve hit a bit of an off-season wall. There is plenty of stuff to write about, but my enthusiasm for figuring out what it might be and actually doing so is at a rather low ebb. Hence I found myself listlessly perusing the video section on Steelers.com, looking for some sort of inspiration. And boy did I find it.
Charles LeClaire photo: USA Today Sports
Perhaps the title should actually be “People Larger than Life,” because DeAngelo has certainly been making a lot of noise recently. Let me state up front how grateful I am to the Steelers for adding such a solid and yet interesting person to the roster. And that’s before you look at how well he played!
The first “noise” out of DeAngelo started two years ago, while he still played for Carolina. I’m talking, naturally, about off-field noise, because his play on the field speaks for itself, so much so that he was deemed by Pro Football Focus to be the fifth-best free agent signing in the league last season, Some national writers put him higher than that. The noise to which I refer is, of course, his campaign against breast cancer.
Jeremy Fowler, the ESPN Steelers guy, wrote one of the sort of filler pieces we’re all having to come up with right about now, unless we write about the Panthers or the Broncos. Titled Steelers and Bengals Call a Truce, Sort Of, it details a friendly competition between DeAngelo Williams and Tyler Eifert to get signatures from military personnel on a Pro Bowl helmet.
I’ve linked it, but you aren’t going to find out much more by clicking on the link. I told you we are all desperate at the moment. Fowler ends with the following statement:
The reality is NFL players don’t really hate each other off the field, even when the Bengals and Steelers are testing that theory on the field. They see each other at events and training facilities like this all the time.
Mike Tomlin has always made a big deal of the “next man up” attitude. I have always thought this was a necessary concept for the team, but not terribly rooted in reality for the fans. Injuries to good players are going to cost a team because backups are backups for a reason. They lack either the talent or the experience (or both) to be a starter. Or so I thought.
Perhaps more than any season in memory, the injury bug bit the Steelers. It bit hard and often. Yet somehow, someway players stepped in and performed at levels I did not think were possible.
Yet despite the injuries and because many fans are all in with “the standard is the standard,” Steeler Nation is rife with fans who proclaim, ANYTHING SHORT OF WINNING THE SUPER BOWL IS FAILURE.
These fans are long on bravado, short on discernment. This year, the team executed the next man up philosophy at a level I thought was impossible. To say the Steelers failed or that they accomplished nothing is ignorant. The fact that they went as far as they did was a triumph of good coaching and motivated players. The failure to win a Super Bowl does not equate to a failed season.