Training Camp — Oh how sweet the sound!
Unless you’re a player who has to sweat their cocktail onions 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 Cleveland Browns or the Cincinnati Bengals, then it’s both of these things plus not having your franchise quarterback alienate the entire roster with his mouth or having too many guys get incarcerated respectively. (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 eleven years. The worst-case scenario is to have key players get injured, underachieve and miss the playoffs altogether.
But first, here are a couple of best case/worst case scenarios from last year.
Best Case: Chris Boswell signs a deal to stay in a Pittsburgh uniform long-term.
Worst Case: Boswell gets paid and his accuracy declines.
Wow. Not we saw both ends of that one.
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.
Looks like our protected worst case wasn’t quite worst case enough.
Now let’s break it down for 2019.
Worst Case: We realize that Munchak knew the right time to leave, as age sets in and a top unit in the league slips to middle-of-the-pack status.
Best Case: Ben Roethlisberger, free of Antonio Brown’s me-first attitude, finds multiple playmakers among his receivers and thrives with less drama.
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 Mason Rudolph/Joshua Dobbs can’t produce points.
Best Case: James Conner, the lead dog in a potent and talented stable of Running Backs, brings balance to the offense and plays at an All-Pro level.
Worst Case: Mike Tomlin runs the wheels off of Conner and the team loses him down the stretch to injury.
Best Case: JuJu Smith-Schuster hauls 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: JuJu gets no help from his fellow receivers, absorbs way to much attention from defenders and can’t carry the load as WR1.
Best Case: Vance McDonald becomes a “Heath-like” safety valve for Big Ben and scores more than eight times in 2019.
Worst Case: Injuries again barely allow No. 89 to see the field and the lack of depth at the position cripples the offense.
Best Case: Dionte Johnson catches 25 balls as a rookie and gets comfortable in the system to propel him into 2020 as a valuable WR option.
Worst Case: The rookie sees too much playing time due to the fact that injuries or mediocrity fall upon the Steelers receiving corps. Plus, too much pressure to be the next AB becomes crippling.
Best Case: Devin Bush is definitely as-advertised and brings balance to the force as Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Worst Case: Bush can’t live up to the massive hype.
Best Case: The bringing-in of talented rookies and free agents transforms this unit into a nasty and formidable defense to face.
Worst Case: Keith Butler’s defense continues to surrender points and yards in droves, making them a non-factor in the playoff race. The safety position fails to improve and fans long for the return of Mike Mitchell, of all people.
Best Case: Steven Nelson, 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: Nelson is merely pedestrian, while Haden’s best years seem to be further and further in the rear-view mirror. This leads to Artie Burns starting again, and looking even worse than last year.
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: Danny Smith Jr. wins the Pennsylvania Lottery and enjoys a long and happy life in retirement.
Worst Case: The unit continues to get worse with poor coverage, paltry returns and even more penalties that nullify positive returns.
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.