The Pittsburgh Steelers were done in by injuries and an aging roster in 2012. The offense came apart when Ben Roethlisberger went down with a late-season injury, and the team lost five of its last seven games to miss the playoffs for only the fourth time in the past 12 years.
The Steelers responded by shedding cap space and adding younger, cheaper talent to the roster. Many of their key players from the 2008 and 2010 Super Bowl runs are now gone, but they still have Big Ben at the helm and a top-flight defense. How does the new roster look heading into training camp? Let's check it out.
A bunch of longtime fan favorites are no longer with the team. Receiver Mike Wallace took a big paycheck in Miami, while linebackers James Harrison and Casey Hampton, running back Rashard Mendenhall, and offensive linemen Max Starks and Willie Colon are also gone.
In their place are a number of rookies expected to contribute early. The team stayed quiet in free agency -- its most significant move was matching the one-year offer sheet from the Patriots to keep Emmanuel Sanders. Instead of spending big on the open market, the team turned to the draft to restock its roster. Linebacker Jarvis Jones and running back Le'Veon Bell are expected to fill the shoes left behind by Harrison and Mendenhall, respectively.
Training camp schedule and location
For the 48th year in a row, the Steelers will hold training camp at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. Sixteen practices will be open to the public, starting on July 27. All practices will be held from 3-5 p.m., with the exception of the two night practice sessions on Aug. 2 and 14. The team's final practice is on Aug. 17, before the second preseason game.
Parking and admission are both free, as usual. Here's the complete schedule, courtesy of SB Nation's Steelers blog, Behind the Steel Curtain:
|Friday, July 26||Players report|
|Saturday, July 27||First practice (helmets and shorts), 3:00 p.m.|
|Sunday, July 28||Practice (helmets and shorts), 3:00 p.m.|
|Monday, July 29||First practice in pads, 3:00 p.m.|
|Tuesday, July 30||Players off|
|Wednesday, July 31||Practice, 3:00 p.m.|
|Thursday, August 1||Practice, 3:00 p.m.|
|Friday, August 2||Night practice at Latrobe Stadium, 7:00 p.m.|
|Saturday, August 3||Practice, 3:00 p.m.|
|Sunday, August 4||Practice, 3:00 p.m.|
|Monday, August 5||Practice, 3:00 p.m.|
|Tuesday, August 6||Players off|
|Wednesday, August 7||Practice, 3:00 p.m.|
|Thursday, August 8||Practice, 3:00 p.m.|
|Friday, August 9||Campus closed|
|Saturday, August 10||Preseason game, Pittsburgh vs. N.Y. Giants (7:30 p.m.)|
|Sunday, August 11||Players off|
|Monday, August 12||Practice, 3:00 p.m.|
|Tuesday, August 13||Players off|
|Wednesday, August 14||Evening practice at SVC, 5:30 p.m.|
|Thursday, August 15||Practice, 3:00 p.m.|
|Friday, August 16||Practice, 3:00 p.m.|
|Saturday, August 17||Practice, 3:00 p.m.|
|Sunday, August 18||Break camp|
|Monday, August 19||Preseason game, Pittsburgh @ Washington (8:00 p.m.)|
|Saturday, August 24||Preseason game, Pittsburgh vs. Kansas City (7:30 p.m.)|
|Thursday, August 29||Preseason game, Pittsburgh @ Carolina (7:30 p.m.)|
Running back -- The Steelers' running game was a mess last year. Mendenhall missed 10 games with injuries, while Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman failed to impress. If the rookie Bell stands out in camp, he could have the starting job sewn up fairly early, although the team also brought in LaRod Stephens-Howling for competition.
Tight end -- Heath Miller tore his ACL, MCL and PCL in late December, throwing this position into doubt. He won't be ready for camp and may end up hitting the PUP for the regular season. That leaves it down to Matt Spaeth, a blocking tight end with just 49 receptions in six seasons. David Paulson may assume pass-catching duties while Miller is out, with David Johnson and Jamie McCoy the only other tight ends on the depth chart.
Outside linebacker -- The Steelers don't typically hand starting jobs to young players -- they haven't had a rookie start on defense since 2001. Jones could change that this year. The 17th overall pick's experience in the 3-4 defense should give him an advantage over Jason Worilds. Worilds had five sacks while filling in for an injured Harrison last year.
Quarterback -- Big Ben's job isn't in jeopardy, but he is 31 years old and has taken a lot of abuse over the years -- he hasn't played 16 games since 2008. To that end, the team needs a reliable backup who can step in on a dime. Charlie Batch served that role for many years, but he and Byron Leftwich are both gone. The team signed Bruce Gradkowski and drafted Landry Jones to battle it out for the spot. If Jones shows something in camp and preseason, the team may think about grooming him as Ben's eventual successor.