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Prisuta: Camp Preview Scribbles

All eyes will be on the quarterbacks when training camp commences, but there will be more to keep an eye on than completions, interceptions and order of repetitions at football's most important position.

Following is a quick, initial glance at what else will be on my radar at Saint Vincent College:

SECOND-YEAR BUMP: Head coach Mike Tomlin has often said it's reasonable to expect a player to improve more from his first season to his second than at any other time of his career.

The Steelers have some players they'd like to see take such a significant step after enduring the anticipated ups and downs as rookies.

For my money, offensive tackle Dan Moore Jr., defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk, defensive back Tre Norwood and punter Pressley Harvin III fall into that category.

But what if the theory also applies to those who made significant splashes as rookies?

Running back Najee Harris and tight end Pat Freiermuth were both outstanding a season ago.

If both of those players make significant strides this season, there will be a whole lot less talk about all the star power being amassed on the defensive side of the ball.

How good/great can Harris and Freiermuth become?

RB2: Are the Steelers adequately stocked at running back behind Harris?

The stats and the allocation of playing time from 2021 would suggest they are not, but that might not be the case.

Benny Snell Jr. has started games and he's finished games. And Anthony McFarland Jr. has a physical skill set that suggests he's the type of player offensive coordinator Matt Canada covets.

Can one of both earn not just roster spots but also complementary roles in the offense?

And, more significantly, will they?

THE FLORES EFFECT: Former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has joined the staff, officially as a senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach but in practicality, as Tomlin has maintained, as a "football coach."

What will the defense look like with Flores helping to formulate the defensive plan?

Keith Butler coordinated Tomlin's defenses from 2015 through last season. And while the Steelers seemingly trended toward becoming more opponent specific and as a result less predictable in recent seasons, there was still a familiarity attached to how they went about their defensive business.

Now, Teryl Austin has been promoted from senior defensive assistant/secondary and replaced Butler as the defensive coordinator and Flores has been brought aboard as a defensive staff reinforcement.

An opportunity to alter the approach and perhaps the identity of a defense that disappointed a season ago is seemingly at hand.

Flores' Dolphins unleashed an all-out assault on the pocket in a 22-10 victory over Lamar Jackson and the Ravens last Nov. 11 in Miami, repeatedly relying upon "Cover 0" blitzes to stuff the run as well as the pass. The plan turned out to be as effective as it was aggressive.

What will they/he think of next?

WE'RE TALKIN' 'BOUT PRACTICE: Injury and lack of availability were problems on defense last season.

But so was the way the defense went about it's business.

"Last year we were getting beat on our own mistakes," free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick maintained during an interview with after signing his contract extension in mid-June. "We were doing things that we normally didn't do, lack of details, and I think that came from just a lack of preparation. We didn't take our preparation as serious as we should.

"This year, even where we're at now is light years ahead of where we were this time last year, just in a sense of the seriousness in which we're approaching the details of the game. Now that we're aware of how much we lacked it, we're also aware of how much we need to focus on it. Having last year, a year like we did where we weren't at our best, helped us out and revealed what we need to focus on and I think that's what we're doing.

"Some things in the day-to-day are going to change, or have changed in a good way. Being more detail oriented, so that means when we're on the field doing walk-through it's not so lackadaisical anymore. We're all locked in, dialed in, everybody's pointing, everybody's communicating, and if something's out of line it's getting corrected. It's not just kind of getting pushed to the side or saved for later. At that moment it's getting addressed and it's getting pointed out."

Training camp will test their resolve in that regard.

It's a time when the players have traditionally kept it light at times to combat the grind.

They'll take turns throwing footballs at goalposts or into garbage cans. They'll see how many balls they can catch in succession from a Jugs machine without dropping any of the ones they've previously caught. They'll interact with fans during practice. They'll exchange good-natured (and sometimes not-so-good-natured) trash talk during competition periods.

It's OK, even advisable to have some fun.

But the work still has to get done.

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