The first season following Dan Rooney’s death
It’s hard to find someone who will say a cross word about Dan Rooney, the long-time Steelers owner, and ambassador to Ireland under President Barack Obama. Rooney had worked for the Steelers in some capacity since he was a little kid going to work with his dad, Art Rooney. His presence was missed in Latrobe this summer, and players and coaches are playing this season for him. “It’s been tough not seeing his cart, seeing him walking around,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told reporters. “For me, 14 years of seeing him here, someone who means a lot. I know he means a lot to everyone, but a little something special to me, because I know on draft day, he went in and said, ‘Listen, we are taking him.’ It’s not the same, but he will always be here with us.”
Will this season be Ben Roethlisberger’s last?
After he agreed to come back for the 2017 season, Roethlisberger’s future plans are still very much up in the air. He said as much to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this past spring, and later told reporters something similar early in camp. “I’m giving everything I have right now at the training camp to this season, to the first game. I commit myself 110 percent, and I will do that throughout the season. But I’m not going to look past — let alone the season — but look past today. I think we all are blessed to be here for this day. We wake up today, and tomorrow is not promised to any of us. So we should enjoy this moment right here, right now.”
Le’Veon Bell’s season after a lengthy holdout
Bell is mystically good. He finds holes to run through that water couldn’t traverse. But, unhappy with the Steelers’ five-year, $60 million contract offer, Bell has decided to hold out until, allegedly, Sept. 1. What effect zero football activities will have on Bell ahead of the Sept. 10 season-opener is unknown at this point. He has a history of injuries and now has the super-popular rookie James Conner waiting in the wings. One thing is for sure, though: Head coach Mike Tomlin is tired of answering questions about his tailback’s status. “When he gets here, I’ll address the circumstances that we’re dealing with regarding him,” Tomlin said Aug. 23. “But until that time, I’ll just continue to focus on the guys that are here and working.”
A break-out year for Artie Burns?
More than a few times during training camp, the second-year cornerback could be heard cursing during practice. He was also seen a few times slapping at his helmet and ripping off his chinstrap in frustration. These were all good signs. Why? These moments of frustration occurred because Burns spent most of August guarding Antonio Brown, easily one of the league’s best receivers. Not many corners get the opportunity to hone their skills with the best player in the game. Even better news, Burns was able to have some success against Brown. Expect Burns to have a big year in 2017, because if you can stop Brown, even occasionally, you’re in pretty good shape with the rest of the league.
Will Martavis Bryant screw up again?
Bryant is the tall, big-play receiver that Ben Roethlisberger likes. The problem is, he hasn’t played much since 2014 due to multiple violations of the league’s substance-abuse policies. He missed the first four games of the 2015 season and the entire 2016 season. He’s a gifted player, but that means little if he’s not on the field.