Continuing to grow: The Steelers offensive line has undergone a lot of changes over the past 12 months, from a new coach in Pat Meyer, to free agent signings in Mason Cole and James Daniels, and position changes as well.
There were some ups and downs during the preseason and Coach Mike Tomlin expects there to be more growing pains as they move into the regular season, beginning Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, but he also expects collective growth.
"It is a collective body of work," said Tomlin. "There's a cohesion component of it as well. There are a lot of reasons why units, particularly a unit such as the offensive line, develop at different rates and sometimes experience the growing pains associated with that. I'm not expecting that to cease instantly as we push into the regular season. They'll be continually growing as a collective, but they better make enough plays to be successful along the way and I'm just acknowledging that truth or reality as well."
Don't change anything: The Steelers announced their team captains on Monday, all of them voted on by their teammates.
Among those chosen were Cameron Heyward and T.J. Watt on defense, Najee Harris and Mitch Trubisky on offense, and Miles Killebew on special teams.
For each of them it's an opportunity to continue to do what they have been doing all along, which is leading in their own way, whether that's by example, vocally, or even both.
And as they do it, they will be setting the tone for everyone in the locker room, something that is invaluable.
"I had a cool conversation with Najee," said Tomlin. "He was excited about being a first-time captain. He said what does this mean to me? I said it means absolutely nothing. It means conduct yourself in the way that you've conducted yourself because your teammates think that's admirable.
"They don't have to try too hard. It'll come to them. They should let it come to them. They should do the things that made them attractive to their teammates in the selection process."
Protect the rock: The Steelers lost both games to the Bengals in 2021, dropping a game at home on Sept. 26, 24-10, and losing on the road on Nov. 28, 41-10.
Before Tomlin broke down the individuals on offense, defense and special teams for the Bengals, he was adamant about the importance of protecting the ball.
In the two losses, the Steelers had five turnovers, in addition to recovering two of their own fumbles.
Tomlin is well aware they can't be careless with the ball this week if they want to come out of Paycor Stadium with a win.
"Before I get into individuals and the splash playmakers and so forth, I'll say this," started Tomlin. "We've got to take care of the football. They dominated the control of both games over a year ago because we didn't give ourselves a chance. Possession of the ball is a major component of being competitive that allows situations to unfold and allows weighty plays and moments to develop. Very rarely did they get an opportunity to develop last year in the contests against the Bengals because we just didn't do a good enough job taking care of the football. That's a big component of preparation for us, but it would be regardless of who we're playing. I thought I'd be remiss if I didn't mention those things."
Above the neck: The Steelers cornerback room has a group of veterans who have been there, done that. The combination of Cameron Sutton, Ahkello Witherspoon and Levi Wallace give the defense a group that not only is brimming in football smarts, but also communicate in a manner that can do nothing but benefit all 11 on the field.
"I love their above the neck game," said Tomlin. "I love the fluidity of their communication. They're engaged. I think that helps them grow as a collective. I like what I've seen from that group. And I think it's probably teed up because they're all such good vocal communicators, talking about Ahkello, Levi and Cam Sutton specifically."
He said it: Tomlin on starting inside linebacker Miles Jack, who was signed as an unrestricted free agent this offseason:
"He's a linebacker. He's a linebacker at all times…24 hours a day. I've enjoyed getting to know him. He's highly competitive. He's extremely critical of himself. He's a good teammate. He loves football. He likes to laugh. It's been a good get to know process with him and I'm excited about walking this journey with him."
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