Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Movin' on the Team That Convenes at Saint Vincent College This Week Will Look Markedly Different from the One That Walked off the Field in Denver in January. Better? Worse? Still the Same Ol' Contender? We Begin to Find out Wednesday

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Movin' on the Team That Convenes at Saint Vincent College This Week Will Look Markedly Different from the One That Walked off the Field in Denver in January. Better? Worse? Still the Same Ol' Contender? We Begin to Find out Wednesday

Article excerpt

So, the Steelers have a new offense, a new line, and a new running back. They purged themselves of longtime stars Hines Ward, James Farrior, Aaron Smith and several other mortal players.

The question in this year of transition, their most significant since Mike Tomlin became their coach in 2007, then becomes, will they regress, improve or stay on the road competitively they've followed for most of this century as annual division and Super Bowl contenders?

The team gathers at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe Wednesday to begin finding answers to those questions and more, including the most immediate: Will Mike Wallace show up? * CONTINUES * PAGE D-5

Their Pro Bowl wide receiver skipped all of their spring activities because he has not signed his $2.742 million one-year contract offered to him as a restricted free agent. He wants a multiple-year deal for much more money and the Steelers want to give him one. The two sides just have not been able to settle on compensation and unless they do, or until he signs the one-year deal, he cannot participate.

Beyond Wallace, the Steelers have other issues to begin solving in Tomlin's sixth training camp. They must show a mastery of Todd Haley's offense and that it can be effective. They must find a new left cornerback. They must determine if their top two rookies, guard David DeCastro (still unsigned) and tackle Mike Adams, can handle starting in that revamped offensive line. They must sort out their running backs behind Isaac Redman as Rashard Mendenhall's ACL continues to heal.

But the Steelers, who made the 2011 playoffs as a wild-card team after tying AFC North Division champ Baltimore with a 12-4 record, still have plenty going for them.

They return the No. 1 defense against points, total yards and passing yards. That defense lost Farrior, Smith and starting cornerback William Gay, but Farrior split time with renewed starter Larry Foote, Smith again missed most of the season with an injury, and the Steelers believe they have young cornerbacks good enough for improvement at the position on the left side.

They also don't expect to lose LaMarr Woodley for half the season. Woodley was making his case for NFL defensive player of the year with nine sacks in the first eight games when a hamstring issue practically wiped out the second half of the season for him. They also lost James Harrison for five games with an eye injury and one- game suspension. Harrison tied Woodley for the team lead with nine sacks.

Another former multi-Pro Bowler, nose tackle Casey Hampton, could open the season on the physically unable to perform list as he recuperates from January ACL surgery. The Steelers, though, do not expect him to take long to return to the lineup. In the meantime, they drafted Alameda Ta'amu at the position and believe Steve McLendon can handle it as well. …

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