It is July, which means football is right around the corner. July 27th the Pittsburgh Steelers report to Latrobe, PA for another training camp. Although we still have a few weeks of the “dog days” of the NFL offseason, it doesn’t mean there isn’t news to still be discussed.
We take you around the world wide web to give you your daily dose of black and gold, along with making BTSC your one-stop-shop for all things Steelers.
The Steelers are legitimate Super Bowl contenders...if they can find a way to get past the New England Patriots. The Pittsburgh secondary wasn't up to the task when those teams met in January's AFC Championship Game. Tom Brady picked apart the Steelers' zone coverage schemes on his way to 384 passing yards.
In response, Pittsburgh's defensive backs feel the need to be more aggressive this fall.
"Every team that's won Super Bowls the last couple of years has been able to play man," cornerback Artie Burns said, per ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler. "We want to be a team to play man, get the pressure on the quarterback and attack coverage downfield."
Butler has been tasked with transitioning the defense from Dick LeBeau's zone blitz-heavy scheme into head coach Mike Tomlin's vision, which isn't nearly as good at disguising coverages.
If the staff is comfortable leaving some of its defensive backs on an island, Butler can get even more aggressive with his blitz packages. But he must strike a balance between where the defense is now and where it should be trending.
It would be regarded as a surprise at this point if the Steelers and running back Le’Veon Bell negotiate a long-term contract before Monday’s deadline for signing franchise-tagged players to long-term deals. So what happens if there’s no deal done?
Bell hasn’t signed his $12.1 million franchise tender. So he’s not under contract. Which means he has no obligation to show up for training camp or the preseason. By rule, he can wait until just a matter of days before the start of the regular season to report, sign, and still receive the full $12.1 million.
By all appearances, Bell has recovered from offseason groin surgery. So there’s no reason for him not to show up. Other than to exert leverage over the team.
But with no chance for a multi-year deal after Monday, there’s really not much leverage to exert. Bell could, in theory, squeeze the Steelers to pay him more than $12.1 million for one year. He also could persuade them to commit to not use the franchise or transition tag on him again in 2018.
The former would be unprecedented; the latter has occurred from time to time. And if the Steelers are resisting the standard formula for turning a franchise tag into a long-term deal by saying they don’t want to guarantee his $12.1 million salary plus a 20-percent raise under the tag for 2018 by saying they don’t plan to tag him again, it’s not unreasonable for Bell to ask the team to reduce that to writing.
The only leverage the Steelers have is the power to remove the franchise tag and make Bell a free agent at a time when he’d be hard pressed to find the kind of money he wants and the right fit on the open market. There’s no reason to believe they would, but there was no reason to believe the Panthers would remove Josh Norman’s franchise tender last April.
Throughout my time covering the Pittsburgh Steelers, there have been some tremendous teams. For those who don’t know, I didn’t start covering the team until the 2014 season, so the Super Bowl 40, 43 and 45 participants were before my time writing about the black and gold.
Otherwise, in the last three seasons there have been teams which fans put Super Bowl aspirations on, but in reality there were gaping holes in the roster. Fans have slowly watched the team rebuild from 8-8 seasons, to barely making the playoffs, all the way to the 2016 AFC Championship game.
Even last year, there were some glaring weaknesses on the team’s roster as they fell one step away from the Super Bowl, but as the 2017 season is right around the corner, I feel it is clear this 2017 roster seems more capable than their previous versions of making a legitimate run to the Super Bowl — even with the New England Patriots still in the AFC and Tom Brady at the helm.
To simplify my thoughts, I broke it down into 5 reasons why I think the Steelers are better equipped to make a run this year, compared to previous seasons.
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