The Steelers named their team captains for 2010 and there is a new name on that list. For the first time, tight end Heath Miller is one of the offensive captains.
"He really exemplifies what we hold dear and what we think is important in terms of how he approaches his job and what he does on the field in terms of producing for his teammates," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "He's a standout guy as are the others, great representatives for us in that regard, awesome job by the team making those selections with their voting."
Miller, who is in his sixth season, is a quiet leader whose actions definitely speak louder than his words.
"I think it's definitely a compliment from your teammates," said Miller. I feel honored to be a captain of this team and I take pride in it. I'll be the same guy I always have been, go about my business and lead by example. We have leaders on this team who are more vocal and if something needs to be said odds are they will probably do the saying. I will pretty much stay the course."
Joining Miller as the other team captains are wide receiver Hines Ward on offense, linebacker James Farrior on defense and linebacker Keyaron Fox on special teams.
This is the sixth straight year that Ward has been voted a captain by his teammates and he doesn't take it for granted.
"It's not just what you do on the field, it's what you do off the field," said Ward. "It's a big honor. It shows you are respected by your peers. A lot of guys look to the captains when things are rough or bad. They look to us to lead them and get them back on the right track."
Farrior is another who has been a constant on the captain list. The 14-year veteran is a captain for the seventh straight year, coming off a season where he led the defense with 126 tackles.
"It means a lot to me," said Farrior. "It's something I cherish. It means I have respect in the locker room and it gives me a good feeling to know everyone looks up to me and respects me and it means I have to lead everyone in the right way."
And that includes some of the team's young linebackers, including rookie inside linebacker Stevenson Sylvester.
"I tell the outside guys to do what James (Harrison) and LaMarr (Woodley) do," said Farrior. "The young guy in the inside has been doing a great job and I tell him to keep doing what he is doing and learn the defense and understand their role and that's mostly to play special teams right now."
This is the second year that Fox is one of the special team's captains and he understands respect from your teammates is something you have to earn through your actions 365 days a year.
"This means my peers respect me and my game play and leadership through our offseason enough to put me in a position to lead through this season," said Fox. "It shows consistency. That's what a lot of coaches, fans, players look for. I am glad I can uphold that honor."
Fox has set his sights on getting the special teams unit ready for the season and he is hoping he can help to inspire better play from the unit this year.
"Being the captain I want to go out there and set the tone early," said Fox. "I was very disappointed at last year's performance by special teams. We worked hard this offseason to correct that problem. This year there is a lot more focus on being disciplined and taking care of your assignment." * * *
Maurkice Pouncey will make his first NFL regular season start on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons at Heinz Field and in doing so will become the first rookie to start his first NFL game under Tomlin
Pouncey got the official word in a team meeting on Friday, the day before the team released veteran center Justin Hartwig.
"I was told Friday in the meeting," said Pouncey. "There was a smile on my face. There was nothing else I could say in front of everybody else. I just smiled.
"It's a great honor and I have a lot of work to do and I am looking forward to a great season.I have to make sure I know everything and make sure guys know what they need to do on every play."
Pouncey is getting some tips about playing center for the Steelers from someone who knows what he is talking about, former center Dermontti Dawson.
"I was texting Dermontti yesterday," said Pouncey, who hasn't met him yet. "He was congratulating me. I have a lot to live up to."
Another rookie is expected to get some work on Sunday with Antonio Brown a strong contender to return both punts and kickoffs, but there are some veterans ready to do the job if need be as well.
"Antonio Brown is a candidate for both, and he's supported by two savvy veterans – Antwaan Randle El in the punt return category and Mewelde Moore in the kickoff return category," said Tomlin. "If we choose to play him, he'll be the return man. If not, those two guys will handle it.
"We're going to continue to drive the competition element of this thing with our young people. We're a relatively healthy football team, so we have some great decisions to make in terms of who's active. We're going to provide ourselves with a bunch of flexibility in terms of making those decisions. Really, we're going to keep our thumb on our young guys and keep pressing them forward and improving as the regular season begins. That's a message I definitely want to send to our young guys – that they better be better players in November and December than they are as we sit in at the beginning of September. The only way that you do that is you continue to provide a competitive environment for them and pit one against another, and some of the position flexibility of some of the others allows us to continue to do that, not only at wide receiver, but the linebacker position and others."