Training Camp — Oh how sweet the sound!
Unless you’re a player who has to sweat their biscuits off in the late July/early August heat of Latrobe. Then again, they are getting paid for it. The goal of all 32 teams in training camp is to stay healthy while building the best possible opportunity to win a Lombardi trophy. Unless you’re the Cincinnati Bengals, then it’s both of these things plus not having too many guys get incarcerated (I’m joking...but I’m not joking).
But seriously, the Pittsburgh Steelers and every other team are all undefeated until the games count for real. Best-case scenario for the Steelers is, of course, to win it all for the first time in ten years. The worst-case scenario is to have key players get injured, underachieve and miss the playoffs altogether. But let’s break it down more.
Best Case: New offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner’s style plays to the strength of his players, thus putting up the points indicative of a unit that contains seven Pro Bowlers.
Worst Case: Todd Haley was more of an innovator than we thought and Fichtner’s offense fails to produce the points that his predecessor’s system did.
Best Case: Ben Roethlisberger, free of Todd Haley’s existence, thrives with his friend inserted as OC and plays with a renewed zest, a la his prime.
Worst Case: Roethlisberger’s age catches up to his arm, resulting in a loss of zip and increased interceptions. Even worse, Big Ben goes down to a season-ending injury and Landry Jones can’t produce points.
Best Case: Le’Veon Bell, hell-bent on getting paid, has a season for the ages and ends the season as the Super Bowl MVP.
Worst Case: Bell arriving to camp late again effects his early performance, causing the offense to sputter and the team to start losing.
Best Case: Antonio Brown pulls in 143 passes and sets the single-season mark for receptions, becomes the first WR to win the NFL MVP Award and hoists the Lombardi in February.
Worst Case: Simply put...the Madden Cover Curse derails AB’s season.
Best Case: Vance McDonald becomes a “Heath-like” safety valve for Big Ben and scores more than eight times in 2018.
Worst Case: Injuries again barely allow No. 89 to see the field and he, like Ladarius Green, becomes another failed TE acquisition post-Hines.
Best Case: JuJu Smith-Schuster improves upon his impressive rookie season and provides the Steelers with a two-headed receiving monster that defenses can’t stop.
Worst Case: JuJu believes his own hype and is merely pedestrian.
Best Case: Kevin Butler’s defense picks up where they started the season with Tyler Matakevich and Jon Bostic plugging Ryan Shazier’s absence better than expected.
Worst Case: Butler’s defense continues to surrender points and yards in droves, making them a non-factor in the playoffs.
Best Case: Newcomers Morgan Burnett, Terrell Edmunds and Marcus Allen significantly upgrade the team’s safety play along with returnee Sean Davis.
Worst Case: The safety position fails to improve and fans long for the return of Mike Mitchell.
Best Case: Artie Burns, realizing his potential as a shutdown corner, teams with a rejuvenated Joe Haden to form the finest set of corners in the league.
Worst Case: Burns continues to take bad penalties at bad times and his play is equal to that of his surname, while Haden’s best years seam to be further and further in the rear-view.
Best Case: Butler’s defensive schemes are innovative and the Steelers’ D performs at a Top-10 level.
Worst Case: Mike Tomlin takes over to make calls on the defense. Enough said.
Best Case: The rookie class shines as one of the best hauls in years.
Worst Case: The rookie class shines as one of the best hauls in years because of massive injuries to starters.
Best Case: Chris Boswell signs a deal to stay in a Pittsburgh uniform long-term.
Worst Case: Boswell gets paid and his accuracy declines or he ends up leaving.
Best Case: The Steelers finally find a suitable replacement to relieve Antonio Brown of punt-return duties.
Worst Case: Not satisfied with said replacement for No. 84, Brown resumes his PR duties and gets injured and his services become lost to the Steelers.
While these are extremes on each side of the coin, the hope is that the best-case scenarios become commonplace and that the worst-case scenarios are nothing more than Yinzer pessimism.