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Bell’s standoff, Ben’s age among key preseason storylines for Steelers

With the Pittsburgh Steelers reporting to training camp on Wednesday, one has to wonder what will be the most compelling storylines of the 2018 season.

The storyline that came to the forefront last week was that Le’Veon Bell was not going to accept the Steelers five-year offer totaling $70 million. This was not a surprise to Steelers followers as Bell wanted more than that amount and he also wanted a significant amount fully guaranteed, even if he was unable to play all five years.

Since the Steelers did not meet his salary demands, Bell announced that he will not be attending training camp or playing in any of the preseason games. Instead, he will show up in time for the first game of the regular season. This sounds like a repeat of 2017.

The second storyline of the week involved former linebacker James Harrison, who was released late in the 2017 season and then signed with the New England Patriots. Harrison compared Steelers coach Mike Tomlin to Patriots coach Bill Belichick while appearing on Fox’s “Undisputed.”

Harrison said, “Tomlin is a good coach. He is a player’s coach. But, he needs to be a little more disciplined. Belichick is more regimented and disciplined. Everyone is on the same page. With Belichick, it’s not going to be someone doing his own thing.”

To those who follow the Steelers, this wasn’t exactly a major revelation. Belichick runs a tight ship and Tomlin runs a rather loose ship. More telling, would have been if Harrison would have compared Pittsburgh outside linebacker coach Joey Porter to New England linebacker coach Brian Flores. Knowing of Harrison’s contempt for Porter, this would have been entertaining.

Storylines

Here are some storylines that will surely arise during the coming weeks and months:

“Antonio Brown throws another temper tantrum” — Brown consistently erupts on the sideline when he thinks he isn’t getting enough passes thrown his direction. Brown may well be the most talented wide receiver in pro football and wants the ball on seemingly every play. It’s great to have a player who believes in himself and then can back it up. However, it’s important to spread the ball around to try and prevent double, and sometimes, triple coverage.

Watching Brown when he comes to the sideline is sometimes more entertaining than the game itself.

“Has Ben Roethlisberger lost it?” — This usually accompanied by, “Is this Ben’s last year?” These storylines will surely surface when Roethlisberger has a bad game and the Steelers lose.

Roethlisberger is definitely not the quarterback he was four or five years ago, but he is still one of the top passers in the league.

“Should Landry Jones be traded or released?” — Jones will not be traded or released. Jones provides an insurance policy if Roethlisberger should go down with an injury. Josh Dobbs, who is entering his second year, and rookie Mason Rudolph are far from being ready to run the offense on a regular, long-term basis.

More than likely, Dobbs will be traded toward the end of the preseason for either a 2019 draft pick or a veteran who can provide depth at another position, most likely the offensive line or linebacker. The Steelers are woefully thin at these positions.

“If Bell would have been in training camp, the Steelers wouldn’t have lost that game.” — This will assuredly surface if the Steelers lose a game in September. This could be a very warranted statement. Bell was not in game shape in 2017 until at least Week Three due to not going to training camp.

High hopes

With Bell likely heading for the door after this season and Roethlisberger getting closer to the end of his career, Steelers fans realize that the window for getting to the Super Bowl is getting smaller and smaller.

The perpetual rally cry for the Dodgers when they were based in Brooklyn was, “Wait ‘Till Next Year!” Steelers fans understand “Next Year” may be too late. To quote Hall of Fame coach George Allen, “The future is now.”

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