No Doubt Steelers Still Have a Window

SCI.net publisher Jim Wexell with his final notebook from the Steelers' spring workouts. Some confusion and frustration remains, but so does the Super Bowl opportunity.

From the notebook of a sportswriter who wonders if there really is such a thing as a good minicamp:

* No major injuries. No third day of work for those on the field (as well as those of us off it). And no major injuries.

* Oh, did I say that already?

* Well, that's as good as minicamp gets.

* In trying to keep an interview date, Maurkice Pouncey spotted me out of the corner of his eye and motioned to meet over at his locker. In making my cutback move, I slammed into a player who was limping badly across the room, and then I stepped squarely on his foot – a foot wrapped with ice, swollen and sore after suffering some type of Achilles' tendon injury out on the field. If he was anyone other than unknown first-year wide receiver Juamorris Stewart, I might've made the news.

* Don't make the news.

* I asked Pouncey if I should tweet about my run-in with Stewart. Pouncey just smiled. He got it.

* That was one sign of progress, at least for Pouncey, but what about the offense as a whole?

* Well, even in the final week of spring workouts Ben Roethlisberger was telling stories of badly bungled audibles, and was still spiking balls with the dual look of confusion and frustration. But when put under the gun in the hurry-up Roethlisberger responded with decisiveness and touchdowns.

* He may know what he's doing, but he's doing it full speed.

* I can't count the number of times I saw a new running play that reminded me of an old running play which Mike Mularkey and/or Ken Whisenhunt had used at one point or another during their time here as coordinators.

* This spring reminded me of how few running plays this offense used last season.

* The appearance of first-round pick David DeCastro pushed Chris Scott to left guard on the second team and seventh-round pick Kelvin Beachum off the two-deep depth chart. The appearance of second-round pick Mike Adams pushed Jonathan Scott over to right tackle on the second team and Kyle Jolly off the two-deep depth chart.

* Both Beachum and Jolly will re-appear once the Scotts are gone.

* DeCastro doesn't seem to like reporters. That impressed me.

* Adams seems much softer, both physically and in dealing with us. That did not impress me, although tackles seem to be softer than guards as a general rule of thumb.

* Then again, there's nothing at all soft about Marcus Gilbert. He might be the scariest dude on the team – if it's not DeCastro. That might say it all about the new and emerging offensive line.

* Running backs coach Kirby Wilson is loved by all and he was an inspiration on the field while still recovering from that horrific house fire earlier this year.

* Out of his cart for one scrimmage session, Wilson began shouting with that distinct shrill voice of his to "Stop the play! Stop the blanket-blank play!" And then he threw his papers on the ground and yelled at Baron Batch to get off the field.

* A few days later, Roethlisberger said, "It puts a smile on my face when, after a play, somewhere way behind me, I hear Kirby yelling at someone. To me, that's great."

* And so the next day, a reporter caught the gregarious Wilson on the sideline and asked him whom he was going to yell at today. "Probably 22," Kirby said of Chris Rainey. "Until he gets it, I've got to ride him."

* Not that Rainey's having trouble "getting it," but he is a rookie. Kirby's pre-practice intention says much about his and the rest of the team's expectations for the lightning-quick scatback.

* By the end of minicamp, third-round rookie Sean Spence was making all of the defensive calls on the second team. So much for being too small for the buck position.

* Standing back with three punt returners during a special-teams period, Mike Tomlin shouted over to one of the visiting coaches taking in the practice along the sideline. Tomlin yelled, "Coach, I'm not wasting my time with this one, am I?" Pitt coach Paul Chryst looked at his former return star at Wisconsin, first-year Steelers wide receiver David Gilreath, and said, "I don't think so, coach. Now don't screw it up, Gil."

* I talked to Gilreath later, but I cannot, nor will not, confirm that he had asked me to take out Juamorris Stewart for him.

* If DeCastro and Adams move into the starting lineup, Pouncey will have the most tenure at his position along the offensive line. It seemed like only yesterday that Pouncey was the Rookie of the Year. Hey, it was.

* I looked up one time to see Rainey getting the ball on a draw play and the hole up the middle was so vast that he didn't need his 4.3 speed to go 80. I don't know what happened along the line, but I do know DeCastro was playing right guard at the time.

* "We've got a window!" was the rallying cry of a team that was trying to squeeze in an outside practice between rolling thunderstorms the other day.

* Of course, "We've got a window!" should be the rallying cry of a team that's trying to squeeze in another Super Bowl title with a group of veterans who still have great ability and a rookie class that's clearly uncommon.


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