Summer has officially begun, and with it ends the springtime phase of the NFL year. The last of the minicamps for teams around the league ended on Thursday. Thursday also marked the end of the NBA year as the Miami Heat wrapped up its second championship. If you live in the Northeast you don't have to be told that its summer you just needed to step outside. So, in honor of the season we will begin with...
Steelers.com published the training camp schedule this week. There will be fifteen sessions that are open to the public all at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. with the one exception of a Friday evening session at Latrobe Stadium. It is important to note that though the players officially report to camp on Wednesday, July 25th, the first public session will not be until Friday, July 27th, and that will be a helmet and shorts practice, after that practices will be in pads.
The camp schedule encompasses weekday sessions and three weekends and culminates on Friday August 17th. There are some things about camp that I try not to take for granted. Pittsburgh is the only team in its division and among a dwindling number of teams league wide that still conducts training camp at a location other than their year round training facility. Parking and admission to the practices is free. Living as I do in Redskin Country, I appreciate that the Rooneys continue to refrain from sticking their hands in our pockets just to witness practice. And since, like many of us in Steeler Nation, I reside in enemy territory, it's really nice to be at the home base, so to speak, surrounded by fellow patriots, friends and Steelers family watching our guys go through their paces.
If you haven't done so it is an experience that I highly recommend. The setting is attractive and peaceful (Saint Vincent is also a monastery), the mood is both upbeat and mellow, if that makes any sense, and the price is right. If you can avoid the occasional thunderstorm then it makes for a great afternoon. (All public sessions commence at 3pm).
As was reported in this space last week, the June 15th deadline for WR Mike Wallace to sign his tender came and went with nothing being signed and no punitive action taken by the Steelers front office. There was a minor disturbance in the Force when Antonio Brown indicated that he would handle his upcoming contract process differently. First round draft choice David DeCastro has also not signed as of yet, there is no concern that this is a problem, just the process playing out.
Ron Cook of the Post-Gazette has pointed out that it will certainly be helpful and comforting to get both Wallace and DeCastro signed, but the most important contract issue the Steelers face this summer is that of Head Coach Mike Tomlin. Next year is the option year on Tomlin's contract and team president Art Rooney II indicated earlier in the spring that the organization intended to sign Mike to a new contract. The coming weeks would be the best time to accomplish this, but according to Cook the sticking point may well be money.
Tomlin has earned the right to be in the conversation as one of the top coaches in the league. He currently makes considerably less than Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin. There is no indication that the conversation on this matter has commenced or if the issues raised are actually a point of contention at this time. But the main point of the article, the importance and priority of keeping Tomlin with the Black and Gold is well taken.
Steelers.com also reported a couple of news items related to Tomlin, but not team related. Kiya Tomlin, Mike's better half is a board member of Pittsburgh Promise an organization that provides college scholarships for students who attend the Pittsburgh Public Schools. The organization sponsored a dance-a-thon that was attended by the coach and several of his players.
Coach Tomlin will also be hosting a tailgating party in Virginia that benefits the Hampton Roads Youth Foundation.
It's going to be great. I know this style of offense. I have asked some of the other players if they like it and they do. They think it's better than the one they used to have here
That was Rainey's response to what he thought of Todd Haley's new offensive system in a piece that appears in Steelers.com.
Rainey also responds to questions about his draft day experience, his feelings about the atmosphere of the Steelers organization and the importance of special teams play.
Moore rejoined former Steelers OC Bruce Arians as he signed to play with the Indianapolis Colts. His veteran presence should be quite an asset for a team that is starting a rookie quarterback and in a serious rebuilding phase.
Moore made some major contributions during the Steelers' championship run in 2008, but it is fair to say that he was underappreciated during his tenure with Pittsburgh. He and Tomlin were with the Minnesota Vikings at the same time, and I believe that he has represented and displayed many of the characteristics that Tomlin values in his players. I don't believe that there was a place for him on the current Steelers roster unless one or more of the highly touted young runners were unavailable or performed in a disappointing manner.
Nonetheless, Moore will be missed by many and will probably make for a number of great trivia questions in a decade or so.
This year's undrafted free agent sensation?
So far, that would be CB Terry Carter from Louisiana Tech. Carter had three interceptions during the last full day session of minicamp and now has the attention of the defensive coaches.
The Louisiana connection has also been noted. Ike Taylor and Keenan Lewis are Louisiana natives and Tech is Terry Bradshaw's alma mater. Remember the old days when the problem was a lack of quality cornerbacks on the roster? Lewis, Allen, Brown, Frederick, Carter; what a traffic jam.
Baron Batch (cont.)
A trait that Baron Batch shares with Isaac Redman is that he has become an object of our seemingly endless fascination without having accomplished much as of yet on the field. While Redman has played the role of superhero/demigod in the collective imagination, Batch seems to be carving out a niche for himself as poet warrior (I was about to say intellectual sage, but that would be Myron Rolle).
Batch was the subject of a piece in the Post-Gazette that actually featured some of his artwork. Batch also discussed the emotional and psychological hurdles that he has had to address in relation to the rehabilitation process he has been undergoing to come back from a knee injury suffered in last year's training camp. If he has accomplished anything, Batch has provided fans with a great deal of insight into the journey that is undertaken in the quest to achieve success in the NFL. We root for him if for no other reason than what we might learn from his experience of actually playing in the league.
Dan Rooney was in the news once again this week. In an interview with BBC, the United States Ambassador to Ireland expressed the hope that the Steelers might play a regular season game in Dublin in the near future. Besides the logistical concerns (each team would be transporting about 150 team personnel across the Atlantic in the middle of the season) there is also the concern of whom would be the home team in such a match up. If it were the Steelers it would mean forfeiting one of their home dates at Heinz Field. Stay tuned.
It has been quietly noted that James Harrison was kept out of workouts during both OTAs and the mandatory minicamp. The reason given was that he has been experiencing fluid on the knee. Harrison has been wrestling with injury concerns for over a year now with the most serious issue being his back. There is some concern about the current state of his health, but I would argue that there is nothing to prove by having him go through these workouts. Now if there are problems at training camp, then there might be reason for concern.
And speaking of outside linebackers...
The former OLB for the Steelers made the news for the wrong reasons this week as he is beginning to serve a week of jail time in the Westmoreland County lockup for a DUI conviction that he received in Arizona. While the conviction occurred in the southwest, Haggans has chosen to serve his time in Western Pennsylvania. He will spend two days in jail and then the rest of his sentence on work release.
Nice profile of our ‘new' left guard by Theresa Varley on Steelers.com. Colon provides details of his injury struggles over the last two years and how he coped with being away from the game for so long.
Perhaps the biggest football news of the week was the announced retirement of LaDanian Tomlinson. He did one of those one day contract deals and retired as a San Diego Charger. It is believed that he will be a lock for the Hall Of Fame when he becomes eligible in 2017.
Bounty Gate continues as the suspended players went to NFL headquarters in New York to appeal to Roger Goodell. The league also released to journalists information that was used to decide the punishment for these players.
In spite winning and being named MVP of the Super Bowl for the second time, Eli Manning ranks third in terms of media attention in the Big Apple. The current obsession is with Jets' quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow.
In AFC North news, Ravens offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie has attracted a good deal of attention because he was held out of team workouts in order for him to work on conditioning and weight issues. McKinnie vows to report to training camp at 345 pounds. In a bit of a role reversal, the Baltimore media seems to be somewhat concerned about O line issues with the Ravens.
The problem is Cleveland is at quarterback. It appears that the Browns may be looking to unload Colt McCoy. Steelers fans would hate to see him go.