Getting ready for OTAs

It's about to begin again.

In honor of the occasion, in recognition of the first of the 10 OTAs the Steelers will conduct starting on Tuesday and leading up to Veteran Mandatory Minicamp June 14-16, here are 10 thoughts to ponder as the offseason eventually gives way to the preseason and, ultimately, the regular-season opener on Sept. 12 at Washington.

1 - Sammie Coates caught one pass as a rookie last season, for 11 yards. He'll have a chance to catch a great many more this season because opportunity is once again knocking at the wide receiver position. Coates proved he had been working and preparing the last time that happened, and responded with two receptions for 61 yards and also drew a pass interference penalty in the Steelers' playoff loss at Denver. Will Coates continue to work and prepare and be as ready as possible for whatever comes his way this time around?

2 - How much better off will the defense be in Keith Butler's second year as defensive coordinator? Although Butler was promoted from within, there were still some transition-related issues and some transition-related glitches that had to be endured. This time the defense will be picking up where it left off much more than it will be starting over, and that could/should prove significant.

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View photos of Pittsburgh Steelers 2016 3rd Round Draft Pick, DT Javon Hargrave.

3 -** Will third-round pick Javon Hargrave wind up being the most impactful rookie this season? The defensive lineman from South Carolina State has a leg up on the competition in that category in this respect - the more he's able to play, the better off Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt will be up front. Less may well prove to be more for those two, assuming the Steelers are able to come up with the help for them that they've been seeking. Fewer snaps, more of an impact, that's the plan. Hargrave can help make it happen.

4 - There are at least four players in line to play significant snaps in the secondary that weren't in such a position a year ago. Robert Golden gradually took on more of those as last season progressed. Senquez Golson is healthy again after a rookie season lost to injury. And the draft has delivered Artie Burns and Sean Davis. That's a lot of new toys for Butler to play with in the secondary. And that's intriguing for a defense that became increasingly more resourceful and more creative while coming up with different ways to get better as last season progressed. 

5 - Will center Maurkice Pouncey celebrate his returning to his standard All-Pro form? Pouncey earned second-team AP All-Pro recognition in 2010 and 2012 and was a first-team honoree in 2011 and 2014. It isn't all about compensating for deletions from the offense, not by a long shot.

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The best photos of Running Back Le'Veon Bell from the 2015 season thus far.

6 -** Will Le'Veon Bell play more than six games this season? If he does, it might soon become time to start contemplating whether Bell has a 1,000-1,000 season in him (1,000 yards rushing, 1,000 yards receiving). Marshall Faulk was among those who believed Bell had such capabilities prior to last season taking a couple of wrong turns.

7 - Seven Shots. Mike Tomlin maintains the drill that opened every practice starting with OTA No. 1 last season isn't two-point specific. But the offense-vs.-defense exercise in such a setting sure seemed to make the Steelers two-point capable on both sides of the ball. They set an NFL record last season with eight two-point conversions (on 11 attempts). What'll they do for an encore?

8 - The Steelers have won at least eight games in Tomlin's first nine seasons (that's zero losing seasons in case you're a little slow doing the math). The organization expects and demands more than just that. Still, that's not an achievement that should go unappreciated.

9 - Heath Miller averaged 9 yards per reception last season (8.9 officially, but we'll round up for our purposes here). Now comes free-agent addition Ladarius Green. Ben Roethlisberger has been told Green has more speed than any tight end Roethlisberger has ever seen. Butler won't be the only coordinator playing with new toys in 2016. Wonder what OC Todd Haley will be able to conjure up for a right end that can get deep down the seam?

10 - Will Alejandro Villanueva make more than 10 starts at left tackle? Nothing will be handed to him, but his 10 relief starts a season ago suggested the arrow is pointing up in terms of Villanueva being able to assume the position on a more permanent basis.


Don't miss SNR's live coverage of OTA's from the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex between 10a & noon on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday next week. Listen live on the Steelers Official Mobile App or on Steelers.com.

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