Fourth & Goal: Key thoughts from the top

Mike Prisuta went to play with pucks but ended up talking to the top of the Steelers' food chain and came away with some optimistic comments before camp.

Just days before the opening of training camp, Heinz Field opened its doors to hockey via a pre-Winter Classic schedule of events that included Sidney Crosby trying to launch pucks through the uprights.

Crosby missed on his first four attempts, an understandable development given that he was shooting into the facility's dreaded "open end."

Also on hand were Art Rooney II and Kevin Colbert, both of whom seemed to have a more accurate bead on the state of the primary tenants on the North Shore.

Colbert offered up what might turn out to be the most significant development of the upcoming season when asked if he was concerned about Ben Roethlisberger's state of readiness once he's eventually reinstated from NFL suspension.

"None whatsoever," Colbert said. "Ben will be prepared. Ben is a super competitor that I think will come back with a real strong desire to prove that he's still a great quarterback."

That could mean more to the Steelers than anything this season.

Among the other nuggets gleaned once the microphone was finally relinquished by the promoters and politicians:

* Rooney II on his offseason "run the ball better" edict:

"I think anybody that watched our season last year can come to the conclusion that there were situations where we needed to be better at running the football. We all understand that. There's no disagreement within our organization about that. I think everybody understands we do need to be better. I have all the faith in our coaching staff that I can have that they'll figure out how to do it. It's not going to be up to me to figure out how to do it. I'm not going to be on the phone, no. That's not my job."

* Rooney II on lessened expectations of the Steelers in the wake of their tumultuous offseason:

"You know we've always done well as the underdog. I'm not sure why but it seems like in the years that people kind of underestimated us a little bit sometimes those have been some of our better years. So I don't mind that role if that's where we wind up."

* Rooney II on the Steelers' expectations of themselves:

"We certainly hope that we'll be in contention and that we don't need to worry about the wild card weekend (Heinz Field's first potential football date after the NHL's Winter Classic). Our goal is always to compete for a championship. We feel like we're gonna have a team that we're going to put on the field that can do that. There's no reason to lower our expectations at all for this season."

* Rooney II on the lack of a contract extension for linebacker LaMarr Woodley this offseason:

"Obviously LaMarr is a key guy for us and at the appropriate time we're going to look forward to getting an extension with him."

* Colbert on the sense of anticipation heading into the opening of training camp:

"We're very anxious to get this season underway. It seems like forever since we've played a game and we haven't had the best of offseasons. We're looking to start something positive."

* Colbert on the perceived lack of depth at running back behind Rashard Mendenhall:

"We have Mewelde Moore. We have Isaac Redman, and with Jonathan Dwyer in the mix as well we'll see if any of those guys are capable. Hopefully, they will be complementary guys to Rashard. But really, (a lack of) depth at running back is not unique just to us."

* NHL broadcaster Mike Emrick on what unique features Heinz Field might provide to the Winter Classic:

"Who knows if we'll be hearing ‘Renegade' by Styx during a hockey game? There may be double-yois. Perhaps a hockey goal will be reflected by the Heinz Ketchup bottles."

A "double-yoi" or two uttered by someone seems appropriate.

And the ketchup bottles doubling as goal lights really makes sense.

But "Renegade?"

Haven't we suffered enough?

See you at St. Vincent.


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