The window is open

<b>LATROBE -</b> To a man, the Steelers talk about having a different feeling in training camp this year than they had last. <br><br> Most can't put a finger on it, but it's definitely there.

"It feels different. It's hard to explain," said defensive end Aaron Smith. "I think everyone a little more ... I don't know what to call it. Maybe some of the older guys are getting down to their last couple of years and they want to win the Super Bowl.

"We're a young team, but we are a veteran team. I think guys are starting to realize that we can do this. We have a window of opportunity with the players we have. We can win the championship. There is something, I don't what word would describe it, but there is something."

The word Smith is looking for could be hunger, or perhaps even desperation.

This is a veteran team, but not an old one. It has nine players in training camp who are 30 or older.

But punter Josh Miller is the oldest at 33. That's hardly over the hill at his position.

Coaches like to preach about every season being different and this one certainly promises to be for the Steelers.

Two years ago, they snuck up on everyone and rolled to a 13-3 record and into the AFC Championship game. Little was expected for that team heading into 2001 season and they overachieved. It was a young team that probably didn't recognize what it was accomplishing.

Last season, the Steelers were the chic pick to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. They were on everyone's radar. And yet the team struggled to a 10-5-1 finish, had to rally to win their first playoff game, and was ousted from the playoffs one round earlier than the previous year.

Now, it's anyone's guess which way this team will go. It's no secret head coach Bill Cowher likes to play up the underdog role. Was the pressure of being the favorite too much to handle last season?


But that shouldn't be as much of a problem this season. The Steelers are picked to win the AFC North and not much else by most prognosticators.

Cowher spent extra time following practice with the players Monday stressing the importance of recognizing the situation and realizing what's ahead of them.

"We talked about where we want to go and what kind of team we are," said Cowher. "And we talked about what it will take to get there. "We want to live up to our expectations."

And this team has high expectations for itself.

"We can win every game if we want to," said wide receiver Plaxico Burress. "It's all about us putting our mind to it. "If you look at every position, from offense to defense, I don't see a team that can put 11 better players on the football field on each side of the ball.

That is certainly something that is debatable.

But the confidence level that this team shows borders on arrogance.

They know they have what it takes to reach the Super Bowl. Now it's just a matter of doing it.

That window of opportunity only stays open for so long.

Dale Lolley

Steel City Insider Top Stories