Pittsburgh Steelers: Recapping the Latest Buzz Heading into Training Camp
Whether it’s Antonio Brown picking up an unlikely training partner or Ike Taylor waiting nearly four months to reveal his anger, some talking points have arisen in recent weeks.
Read on to find out about those developments and more!
Ike Taylor Angry?
Many were surprised when it came out on The Jim Rome Show that veteran corner Ike Taylor was “pissed off” about having to take a $4.25 million pay cut for 2014. Of course, the loss of several million dollars is enough to upset anybody, but with Taylor it’s still a peculiar case.
“I’m pissed off about it, still am pissed off about it and I’m going to be pissed off until the end of the season about it,” Taylor said. “Did it hurt me? Hell yeah.”
What’s perplexing about this sentiment is it came out more than three months after Taylor agreed to the deal. At the time he tweeted positively about the opportunity to retire a Steeler. What changed?
The answer to that question will likely remain a mystery. Taylor’s words have now put the onus on him to let that anger translate to his play on the field and recover from a lackluster ’13.
Troy Polamalu Training His Replacement
Ryan Clark’s offseason departure led some to believe that ’13 draftee Shamarko Thomas was in line to replace the vet. That was until the free-agent pickup of Mike Mitchell locked Clark’s old spot up for the foreseeable future.
What that means is Thomas is seen as the heir to Troy Polamalu’s throne. Among the greatest defensive backs to ever suit up in Pittsburgh, Polamalu will leave some awfully big shoes to fill. That doesn’t mean he won’t help to fill them.
Per ESPN.com’s Scott Brown (who heard it from Ike Taylor), Polamalu invited Thomas to train with him in California. Taylor explained on his radio show what he said to Thomas about the tremendous opportunity.
“I was telling Shamarko before he went out there, ‘Shamarko, that’s something huge because the dude don’t ever do that. As far as learning tendencies and the defense, just the way of life, or just learning how to be a good person, you’re walking with Jesus on earth right there,’ ” Taylor said on his weekly radio show.
Whatever knowledge Thomas can gain from one of the league’s all-time best will undoubtedly prove to be to his benefit when it comes time to take the reins.
Antonio Brown Trains with 'The Great One'
Antonio Brown and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson training together, per SB Nation's Jeff Hartman, may not hold much weight as it pertains to next season, but as an avid fan of both pro wrestling and Steelers football, I’d be remiss not to mention it.
At first glance, Johnson and Brown seem like polar opposites. Brown gives up seven inches and more than 70 pounds to Johnson’s billed measurements of 6’5” and 260 pounds. Johnson’s long been considered a big-time star while Brown’s just recently come into his own.
The two do have a few similarities, though.
Both men are notoriously hardworking and among the best in their respective fields. Brown may not need the physique of an action figure, nor does Johnson need to perfect his route-running ability, but the desire to better oneself was likely a driving factor in these two linking up.
Brown won’t leave this experience with 30-inch arms, but he will get to learn from someone who knows what it takes to stay on top. Nobody’s questioning Brown’s motivation in that regard, but still, a little extra help never hurts.
Big Ben Ranked 7th Among QBs
Ben Roethlisberger’s place in the NFL’s quarterback hierarchy has been discussed at length since he was drafted in 2004.
As one of just three active quarterbacks with multiple Super Bowl wins, many feel he deserves a spot in the top three. Of course, most levelheaded football fans would agree that Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers, in whatever order, are the unquestioned top four.
Still, it came as a surprise when ESPN's Mike Sando (subscription required) had No. 7 ranked seventh among quarterbacks after polling several NFL coaches, executives and talent evaluators. The aforementioned top four did finish ahead of Roethlisberger, as did Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers.
Luck certainly has the potential to top such a list in the future, but it’s tough to notch him ahead of a guy who’s already in the top 20 for all-time wins by a starting quarterback. And while Rivers’ stats compare favorably to Roethlisberger’s, he’s failed to earn even a conference championship victory, something Roethlisberger boasts three of.
It’s doubtful that NFL players place much stock in these sorts of lists, but if Roethlisberger takes any added motivation from this, it could help to end Pittsburgh’s playoff drought in ’14.
Steelers Ranked 7th Moving Forward
While being ranked seventh seemed like a slight for Ben Roethlisberger, it seems much more positive when being applied to his team.
In ESPN’s Future Power Rankings (subscription required), teams are ranked by how they’re expected to perform over the next three seasons. The Steelers were recently considered by many to be an old team, but wholesale changes this offseason have clearly swayed the opinions of many.
As explained in the linked article, teams were ranked by the following five criteria: “Roster (excluding quarterback), QB, Draft, Front Office and Coaching.”
What does this actually mean for Pittsburgh moving forward? Very little.
It’s clear that the roster changes made via the draft and free agency have made a positive impression on several analysts. That being said, it won’t mean squat until the men who don the uniforms translate that optimism onto the field of play.