The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Pro

July 26, 2013

Steelers ready to put talk behind them as camp begins

LATROBE — Maurkice Pouncey is eager to talk about something other than his questionable choices in headwear.

Like his job, mostly.

The Pittsburgh Steelers center began training camp by apologizing again on Friday for being pictured wearing a baseball cap earlier this month supporting former college teammate Aaron Hernandez. Pouncey and twin brother Mike – who played with Hernandez at Florida – wore hats that read “Free Hernandez” during their co-birthday party in Miami. Hernandez is currently in jail in Massachusetts facing a murder charge in the death of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd. He has pleaded not guilty.

No matter the context of the picture, Pouncey understands it was a poor choice.

“I know I took a lot of heat for it and I probably should have,” Pouncey said.

The incident was enough for Pouncey to have a brief chat with coach Mike Tomlin about the situation. While Tomlin declined to get into details about the discussion, Pouncey left little doubt that he will be focused on becoming the unquestioned leader on one of the NFL’s youngest offensive lines and not any push to clear Hernandez’s name.

“I understand it was a serious situation,” he said. “I apologize if I offended anybody. You know what? I’m here to play football.”

So are the four players he hopes to line up alongside of this season. The Steelers slumped to 8-8 last year thanks in part to a steady stream of injuries to the line and in the backfield. Pittsburgh finished in the bottom 10 in the league in rushing yards, yards per carry and rushing touchdowns last season while missing the playoffs for the second time since Tomlin took over in 2007.

“Not making the playoffs is unacceptable here, everybody knows that,” Pouncey said.

It’s one of the main reasons most of the line’s young guns – Pouncey, tackles Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams and guard David DeCastro – spent a lengthy portion of the offseason working out together. The quartet, none of whom are older than 25, understand the ability for the Steelers to bounce back relies largely on their ability to stay on the field.

Adams included. The second-round pick in the 2012 draft saw his career jeopardized by a late-night attack outside a Pittsburgh restaurant on June 1. He was stabbed in the forearm and abdomen during the attempted robbery and spent six weeks recovering.

Yet Adams was on the field at St. Vincent College on Friday running alongside his teammates during a conditioning test. He passed with ease and is expected to begin camp as the starting right tackle.

“That’s where I’m at right now,” he said.

It’s also what the Steelers had in mind when they cut veteran Willie Colon in March in a cost-cutting move and let Max Starks walk during free agency. Now the “old guy” on the line is 27-year-old Ramon Foster, who made the team five years ago as an undrafted free agent but has finally worked his way into a starting role.

Not that Foster is ready to say that he’s arrived.

“It’s one of those things you can’t relax on,” Foster said. “In my position, it’s one of those things where I’ve got to keep the chip on my shoulder.”

Foster will be the only starter not taken in the first two rounds of the draft. The four guys who will surround him have been tasked with keeping quarterback Ben Roethlisberger upright. That was an issue at times last season, as Roethlisberger missed three games with a rib injury that sent the Steelers spiraling to a 2-5 finish.

Though the ribs are no longer a problem, Roethlisberger continues to have what Tomlin called “discomfort” in his right knee. He underwent what the team termed a “minor” procedure on the knee on June 5 and Tomlin declined to describe the discomfort as a setback.

Roethlisberger will practice when the team holds its first session of training camp today. He’ll do it behind a center only too happy to trade a baseball cap for a helmet and a more vocal role in the meeting room and on the field.

“I think I’m going to do a good job of it,” Pouncey said. “I think the torch has been passed to me (from the) older guys here helping me along my way and we’ll see how things turn out this year.”

Notes: Tight ends Heath Miller and David Johnson (knee), linebacker Sean Spence (knee) and nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu will begin camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list. ... Gilbert passed the conditioning test Friday but spent several minutes on the ground after completing the exercise. He was carted off the field but was sitting upright. ... Tomlin has opened his own Twitter account, @CoachTomlin. Tomlin said he is venturing into the social media platform because “I spend a lot of time talking to our guys about what to do, what not to do. It might be time for me to show them.” ... Defensive end Brett Keisel arrived in camp with a mini-Earth mover. The 12-year veteran also donned a hard hat because the Steelers are “under construction.”

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Pro
  • Penguins 0419 Blue Jackets outlast Pens in double-OT

    Matt Calvert banged home a rebound 1:10 into the second overtime and the Columbus Blue Jackets earned the first playoff victory in franchise history with a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.
    Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury stuffed the initial shot by Cam Atkinson but Calvert stood all alone at the left post and wristed a shot into the open net to even the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at one game each.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0419 Brewers rally to clip Pirates

    Ryan Braun hit two homers, including a two-run shot with two outs in the ninth inning that sent the Milwaukee Brewers over the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 Saturday night.
    Braun has five home runs this season after being suspended for the last 65 games of 2013 following Major League Baseball’s investigation into the Biogenesis drug scandal.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Area runners gearing for Boston Marathon

    The time was 12:15 p.m. It was Monday April 19, 1897.  Tom Burke had drawn a line across the dirt road with his foot. Eighteen men gathered near Metcalf’s Mill in Ashland, Massachusetts.

    April 19, 2014

  • Pirates 0418 Brewers ward off late Pirates rally bid

    Kyle Lohse pitched effectively into the seventh inning, Carlos Gomez homered and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 Friday night.
    Lohse (3-1) improved to 11-2 in his career against the Pirates, allowing one earned run in a win against them for the second time in six days.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Drama lacking sans Tiger

    If professional golf saw its future at Augusta National last weekend, the sight had to be worse than choking on a 5-foot putt.
    The course was there in all its splendor.

    April 18, 2014

  • Penguins 0418 Penguins are wary of spunky Blue Jackets

    Sidney Crosby is used to the attention. It comes with the territory when you’re the best hockey player in the world.
    Still, the Pittsburgh Penguins star knows the spotlight becomes more acute in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0417 Pirates power past Brewers

    Andrew McCutchen hit his first homer of the season and drove in three runs, Pedro Alvarez had a three-run shot and pinch-hitter Josh Harrison broke a tie with a long ball in the seventh inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates handed the Milwaukee Brewers their first road loss, 11-2 on Thursday night.
    Harrison’s two-run drive down the left field line off Rob Wooten (0-1) was the second of his career as a pinch hitter.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0417 Jackets preparing for Game 2

    The Columbus Blue Jackets don’t feel they’re doomed after blowing a two-goal lead in a Game 1 loss of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
    “It’s not about missed chances, or feeling sorry about it,” goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky said at Thursday’s optional workout, 13 hours after falling 4-3 in Pittsburgh.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • racin 0416 Jennerstown Speedway gearing for May open

    Jennerstown Speedway released a very ambitious schedule on its website and continues to prepare for its 2014 reopening.
    The track is set to hold a practice day for drivers as well as an open house and media day on April 26.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • Pirates 0416 Dominant Cueto drops Pirates in matinee

    That playoff loss in Pittsburgh last year? Johnny Cueto never thought about it much. So getting a chance to shut out the Pirates in a rematch wasn’t any more special.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

Poll

Would you like to see the Johnstown Community Corrections Center remain open after its lease runs out on Oct. 11, 2015?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads