The Pittsburgh Steelers have left St. Vincent College as quickly as the arrived. With their final practice wrapping up on Tuesday, the team will now jettison back to their UPMC Rooney Practice facility for the remainder of the preseason. When looking back at the questions surrounding the team headed into training camp, you can't help but wonder if those questions were answered in the month the players were away at camp?
The fact of the matter is the team has more questions now, than they did before camp.
One of the main talking points headed into the preseason were the contract situations of a few key members of the team. Le'Veon Bell enters his final year of his rookie contract, David DeCastro is in the 5th year of his original NFL deal and Antonio Brown is severely underpaid for his current production on the field and looking for a long-term contract.
Most writers had their selections for who would get paid first, but with Bell's off-the-field issues, the team staying with their company slogan of not giving new contracts to those who have more than one year left on their current deal, and DeCastro still patiently waiting, the question isn't who's contract will be re-done this preseason, but will there be any new contracts this preseason?
More questions, no answers.
The team knew they would be without stud wide receiver Martavis Bryant for the entire 2016 season, but what they didn't expect was Le'Veon Bell to possibly be sitting out the first four games due to missing a drug test of his own. An appeal is scheduled, and many within the organization think the team has a chance to have it overturned, but this throws an entirely new wrinkle into the team's plans for the 2016 season.
The team now focuses on DeAngelo Williams, and his health, for possibly the first quarter of the season, but who will be behind him when he needs a break? People assume Fitzgerald Toussaint, but he has some competition in Daryl Richardson to take some carries away.
Either way, the league has yet to hear Bell's appeal, and the Steelers sit wondering, and waiting, if they will have their All-Pro running back on the field in Week 1.
Again, more questions, no answers.
All of the off the field issues aside, there were some real camp battles about to ensue at training camp this year. The battle at left tackle between Alejandro Villanueva and Ryan Harris might have been the most talked about competition, but battles at wide receiver, cornerback, running back and tight end were also must-watch items for those attending practices in Latrobe, PA.
Villanueva certainly left a lot to be desired after the first preseason game, Sammie Coates didn't put his best foot forward Friday night and with Ladarius Green still on the PUP list and Senquez Golson headed for the injured reserve list, those positional battles are a complete mess.
More questions, no answers.
If that weren't enough to make even the most devout Steelers fan frustrated, there have been new issues which have popped up while the team has been at camp. Who could forget the reports of Ladarius Green suffering from headaches and contemplating retirement? Or, the freshest tidbit being James Harrison, and others, being threatened of the suspension by the league if he chooses not to interview with the NFL prior to a specific August 25th deadline?
Yeah, more questions, no answers.
So without trying to be a Debbie Downer throughout this article, this type of stuff is happening at all 32 NFL training camps as we speak. Some position battles don't get settled until the first week of the regular season. Some contracts don't become finalized until the team is boarding a plane for Week 1, this happened to Troy Polamalu. Sometimes appeals work and they get reduced, this happened to Le'Veon Bell's 3-game suspension being reduced to 2-games in 2015. And sometimes injuries work themselves out and a player ends up being a contributing member to a truly special team.
There are certainly more questions as the team breaks their 51st camp at St. Vincent College, but the answers will come. The answers might not be what fans want to hear, but they will be answers nonetheless. Fingers crossed for the chips to fall into place for the 2016 Steelers, who have already faced adversity in this young season, to grow from it and make this a truly special year.