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Steelers News: Vince Williams the latest in a long line of tough LBs

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in the midst of training camp, and there is plenty of news to go around. Check out some of the best highlights from camp thus far.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in the heart of their 2017 training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA. While news comes flying at all different angles with contracts, arrivals and departures, it is easy to miss some great written pieces outside of BTSC.

This is where the ‘Black and Gold Links’ comes in. We compile some great articles for you to read, give you a small taste of the article, and a link so you can further read the great work by those who are there telling the tale in first-hand.

Without further ado, today’s black and gold links:

New Steelers starting linebacker Vince Williams follows James Harrison's lead — Ray Fittipaldo — Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

No one is more thankful James Harrison was coaxed out of retirement than Vince Williams. When Williams arrived as a rookie in 2013 his locker was next to Harrison’s old locker at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

When Harrison rejoined the team in September 2014 he took up residence next to Williams. There, in a small corner of the locker room that also includes Antonio Brown, Williams has learned more than he ever could have imagined about football and being a professional athlete.

“I actually thank God for it,” Williams said. “James has had a big influence on my life, whether it’s been communicating with him or just through osmosis, seeing him every day and being around that and being exposed to that.”

That is a 39-year old marvel, one of the most accomplished outside linebackers in team history. He became the franchise’s all-time sacks leader in 2016 and has 81½ entering his 15th NFL season. His place in Super Bowl lore is cemented with his 100-yard interception return against the Arizona Cardinals that turned Super Bowl XLIII in the Steelers’ favor just before halftime.

Williams doesn’t have to be told of Harrison’s accomplishments in the NFL. He has witnessed much of it firsthand the past three seasons, often playing next to him at inside linebacker.

But for Williams it’s not so much about the football as it is the approach to the grind that has allowed Harrison to play in the NFL for a decade and a half after going undrafted out of Kent State in 2002.

For the rest of the article, click the link above...

Steelers rookie QB Joshua Dobbs taking advantage of reps — Chris Adamski — Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

After walking off the field following Wednesday's Steelers practice, rookie Joshua Dobbs headed straight over to the bottom of the steps leading into the Steelers locker room to the area where fans line up 3-4 deep to get autographs.

Forty-five minutes later, the rookie quarterback was still signing autographs with a smile and cheerily chatting with fans.

Dobbs is only five camp practices into his NFL career, and he sits entrenched a No. 3 on the Steelers' depth chart. But the display showed that, at least in part, Dobbs understands and is willing to embrace all of the responsibility that comes with being a starting quarterback and potential face of an NFL franchise.

Fitting because on Wednesday Dobbs perhaps for the first time was given extensive snaps with the first-team offense in team drills. No. 2 quarterback Landry Jones was out again because of injury, and even starter Ben Roethlisberger removed his pads for the final 20 minutes of the session, creating even more high-profile reps for Dobbs on Chuck Noll Field.

“Every rep is a game rep,” Dobbs said in an interview just before he began his autograph-signing. “I have been able to get several more reps the last couple practices and I will continue to get more reps.

“Each rep is a learning opportunity – whether you make a great throw, or you mess up a read, you are able to learn from that opportunity and see how you grow and get better for the next rep.”

Wednesday, Dobbs showed some of the tools why the Steelers were happy to grab him in the fifth round of the draft. After Roethlisberger went 0 for 4 in the daily “Seven Shots” drill, Dobbs hit Xavier Grimble with a bullet of a pass in the back of the end zone for a “touchdown” on his first team rep of practice.

Late in the session, Dobbs again showed off his arm when he threw off his back foot while being pursued by the passrush. Falling back, Dobbs threw 25 yards downfield and hit Grimble in stride.

To read more of this article, click the link above.

A new chapter in Heinz Field's quest for not-terrible turf — Sean Gentille — Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Let’s say you got too drunk at a wedding. Time will pass and things will change, but to most witnesses, you’ll still be the drunk guy from the wedding. Some things, you can’t live down.

Punts, like that one during the infamous Steelers-Dolphins Monday night game in 2007, shouldn’t land in such a fashion. Football should be played on grass, not in the middle of a freshwater marsh.

That stuck with people; now, even 10 years later, if you were to poll random football fans on the Heinz Field playing surface, smart money would be on the phrase “mud punt” coming up a whole lot.

Not for nothing, the Steelers have changed things up since then — and they’ve done it again for the 2017 season. For the first time since the dreaded DD GrassMaster installation in 2003 (more on that later), there’s a full-on new playing surface at Heinz.

“Everything from the grass to the soil is gone,” Nick Sero, head of corporate communications at the stadium, said Friday.

After U2’s June 7 concert, the field underwent a complete, planned replacement. Typically, only the top layer of the surface would get swapped out. (Update: This sentence originally implied that the U2 concert tore up the surface and necessitated the new field. That was not the case.)

This time, though, the Steelers brought in a full, fresh system of Kentucky bluegrass from Tuckahoe, N.J., and laid it over a brand-new set of heating pipes. Bluegrass is better suited for cold climates than, say, Bermuda grass, and New Jersey soil’s larger proportion of sand allows for better drainage than clay-based Pennsylvania soil. Nothing new there.

The plan is to replace the sod between the 35-yard lines in October, then do a full top-layer replacement after the WPIAL championship games in late November, Sero said.

By that point, 16 football games (six Steelers, six Pitt, four WPIAL) will have been played on the surface. It’s the sort of heavy schedule that, two years after Heinz opened in 2001, prompted the Steelers to make the switch from fully natural grass to DD GrassMaster, which was grass-based but secured in part with artificial fibers.

Pound for pound, the GrassMaster surface may have held up better, but it couldn’t be patched in-season. After the 2007 WPIAL championships essentially destroyed it, the Steelers brought in a sheet of sod for the Dolphins game. It rained a lot. And ... it happened.

If the Mud Bowl was the low point, though, the slide had been on from the start of the GrassMaster era. In 2004, the NFLPA voted it the 27th-best in the league. In 2006, it was the second-worst grass field. In 2008, post-Mud Bowl, it took the top/bottom crown.

“That field is terrible,” former Jaguars RB Fred Taylor said in January 2008. “That’s a lawsuit pending. That’s ridiculous. But you are up there where it rains a lot and snows. That is just what happens and those are the elements. Maybe they should try to invest in FieldTurf next year or in the future.”

What the team actually did after the 2009 season: yank out the GrassMaster surface, then re-lay the sod they’d used for a patch-over during AFC championship. The rest of the soil wasn’t replaced then, though, and it hadn’t been until this summer.

Did the 2009 change make an immediate difference? Not particularly; the NFLPA still voted Heinz as the worst grass surface in 2010, and former Ravens WR Torrey Smith, like Taylor, called it “terrible” before the 2015 AFC wild-card game.

A Sports Illustrated ranking before the 2015 season put Heinz at No. 17 overall, though, and nothing publicly disastrous has happened for nearly a decade. The changes for 2017 seem like another step in the right direction. In this case, mediocre is good enough. We’ve seen the alternative.