We are just five days away from the season opener against the New England Patriots, who are celebrating Tom Brady's successful appeal against the NFL that resulted in the nullification of his four-game suspension. If you just got back from hiking the entire Appalachian trail, are a fan of another team just scoping out your opponents, or just aren't that interested in preseason drama, BTSC has you covered with our recap of the Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 preseason.
Conditioning was a huge theme of the Pittsburgh Steelers training camp at Saint Vincent's, the 50th year the team did their preseason training in at the Latrobe college. Early on in training camp, numerous Steelers fell to a spate of frustrating injuries, most of which proved to be minor.
James Harrison and other veterans were held out of many workouts, while newer players and rookies had a chance to learn schemes and adjust to football in pads, Steelers style.
Injuries were one of the biggest themes of the off season with offensive lineman Mike Adams recovering from back surgery and second-round pick CB Senquez Golson arriving at camp with a shoulder injury that would also require surgery and end his season before it even started. Backup QB Bruce Gradkowski started the season on PUP and later was moved to IR after a severe finger injury during a preseason game.
The biggest injury was to center Maurkice Pouncey who broke his leg during the second preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. Also improbably tragic, kicker Shaun Suisham tore his ACL on an unnecessary tackle in the Hall of Fame game and his replacement Garrett Hartley saw his season end with an in-game hamstring injury.
Minor injuries also proved frustrating for the Steelers. safety Mike Mitchell, who was plagued with a nagging groin injury last season, was frequently sidelined. Likewise, LB Lawrence Timmons has been suffering from turf toe, the same injury that ended Jack Lambert's career.
Personnel changes were another theme of this off season. After all, personnel changes and injuries travel together. Garrett Hartley was brought in to replace Shaun Suisham, and then, via a trade with the Jaguars, the Steelers added kicker Josh Scobee to the roster.
When Maurkice Pouncey was sidelined, the Steelers brought in a familiar face in offensive lineman Doug Legursky, known for his aggressiveness and versatility. Legursky, along with center Cody Wallace will be called upon to fill in for Pouncey. For now, Pouncey is still on the roster, so Legursky was cut to get the team to the final 53. Once Pouncey goes on IR, however, Legursky could be re-signed to fill in as he has in the past for the Black and Gold.
One of the surprise additions of the preseason was cornerback Brandon Boykin, whom Eagles head coach Chip Kelly deemed too short for anything but the slot. A disgruntled Boykin found refuge with the Black and Gold, providing an unanticipated dose of talent and skill for the Steelers secondary.
The most dramatic personnel change of the season involved an injury to Bruce Gradkowski and the addition of controversial quarterback Michael Vick as the Steelers new No. 2 quarterback. Nearly as controversial as Michael Vick was the Steelers decision to continue to keep Landry Jones on the roster despite many poor performances.
The Steelers played five games this preseason, facing off against the Minnesota Vikings in the Hall of Fame Game after Jerome Bettis' momentous induction ceremony the day prior.
The Steelers only won one of their preseason games, the face-off against the Green Bay Packers, a Pyrrhic victory since that was the game we lost Maurkice Pouncey to a serious injury. The losses came to Minnesota, Jacksonville, Buffalo, and Carolina. While these were just preseason games, they provided endless frustration for fans concerned with both the defense and lackluster performance by special teams.
When the starting offense was on the field, Big Ben and his arsenal of reliable-when-the-aren't-suspended weapons played astoundingly well and provided hope that the Black and Gold could dominate in the AFC North despite some adjustments on defense, which include an adjustment to the much-maligned Cover 2. (And, speaking of suspensions, RB Le'Veon Bell will be out for two games, and in more recent news, we learned WR Martavis Bryant will be out for four games.)
Some rookies failed to impress at all. Others, like Bud Dupree and Jesse James, got off to a slow, worrisome start, but were able to show constant improvement throughout training camp and the preseason. In the end LB Anthony Chickillo, WR Sammie Coates, LB Bud Dupree, CB Doran Grant, TE Jesse James, and WR Tyler Murphy, and DE L.T. Walton earned spots on the final roster.