Steelers looking to re-gain control of AFC North

BY Jeff Schneberk @Game7overtime

In getting ready for the start of the 2013 NFL season, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is not about to let any of his players ‘take it easy’ through the weeks of training camp.

In fact, his players have been beating the hell out of each other, he says.

The Steelers are taking this aggressive approach as training camp mode for a reason.

“We got a lot of young people, ones that we’re trying to sort out and we’re trying to get as many ways as we can to distinguish themselves,” Tomlin said after the team’s evening practice.

Tomlin insists that a level of physicality in the pre-season is an opportunity to certain players to distinguish themselves.

In a change of sport, numerous years ago, then- member of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Steve Thomas and Adam Mair) engaged in fighting during the training camp; supposedly to prove their worth in front of the new team and coach. Apparently the same is going on in at St. Vincent College and coach Tomlin says he is loving it!

Albeit the Steelers aren’t taking it as far as the Leafs did that year by fighting, Tomlin says that with the addition of a lot of young linebackers and safeties, it is simply the nature of the game.

During this particular practice, 3 tacklers ganged up to bring down RB Jonathan Dwyer, CB Josh Victorian gave a shot to the head of rookie WR Markus Wheaton and another CB, Curtis Brown absolutely laid out RB LaRod Stephens-Howling.

If this is a sign of things to come, the Pittsburgh Steelers should have no problem retaining their control over the AFC North. Of course they don’t have a whole lot of competition to worry about. Cleveland, Cincinnati make up part of the competition; all they really have to worry about are the Ravens, and if last year’s championship runs just happens to be a fluke, well then, by George, I like Pitt’s chances.

Tomlin also justified the intense play in scrimmage by reminding reporters that the NFL pre-season offers a very short period of time for a head coach and his staff members to evaluate off of the talent that came in on draft day in April, as well as mixing that talent with that which the team already has.

It was also a rough day for the men competing to become QB Ben Roethlisberger’s backup for the season.

Bruce Gradkowski was intercepted by CB Josh Victorian while Landry Jones was picked off by safety Shamarko Thomas across the middle of the field.

The team spent close to 20 minutes operating on special teams, which was a major weakness in the pre-season opener.

The most noticeable difference for the Steelers was on the depth chart as rookie Le’Veon Bell was listed as a co-starter with Isaac Redman at the running back position. Bell has now made the jump from 3rd team member to likely starter.

Bell was held out of the pre-season opener because of a knee injury, which put him behind both Redman and Jonathan Dwyer.

“The guys who are calling the shots (must be) confident in me!” says Bell to a reporter. “It’s good motivation. I’m going to keep striving to be the best I can be.”

Bell was the Steelers’ 2nd round pick. He was picked 48th overall. He admitted that he was a little shocked/upset that he didn’t go 1st round!

Cincinnati’s Giovani Bernard, who was the first running back drafted this year.

Maybe the new depth chart is the Steelers’ way of seeing if Bell can handle the pressure.

“I don’t look at it as pressure. I don’t get pressured by moving up spots,” Bell said. “I just know when my number is called, I’m going to do what I can.”

Bell said he’s ready for the Steelers’ second preseason game, which is Monday at Washington.

“This Monday, I can show people what I can do,” he said.

Pittsburgh is in Washington on Monday night for an 8pm matchup with the Redskins, after having lost by 5 to NYG last weekend. Other pre-season tilts have them squaring off with the new-look Chiefs and the Carolina Panthers.

Opening day this year has them hosting the Tennessee Titans on Sept. 8 at 1pm.

Follow me on twitter @Game7overtime

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