If you’re reading this, then you must be a big fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers like me, so I don’t need to tell you about this week’s Steelers news. The Steelers are playing the Kansas City Chiefs, who are looking to improve on their 3-2 record after starting the season with three straight losses. The Steelers have won four straight games and five of their last six games overall, meaning they will head into this Sunday’s matchup as heavy favorites. Here are some other NFL headlines making news right now... [insert list of NFL headlines]
The Steelers made Antonio Brown one of football’s highest-paid wide receivers for a reason. He was their most productive pass catcher (by far) in 2014, and now that he’s under contract, there’s no doubt Pittsburgh will continue to lean on him. Ben Roethlisberger said as much last week at mini-camp: If we run all our [route] concepts through AB, it makes my job a lot easier. . . . A lot of guys come up to me and say, ‘Hey Ben, can you give me some more stuff to do?’ because they like catching passes from him.
We’ve got a lot of work to do...: Head coach Mike Tomlin was all business on Friday, emphasizing that it’s too early in training camp to talk about specific position battles or roster decisions. While it can be annoying to hear Coach T repeat himself in his press conferences, we don’t blame him for being mum – he doesn’t want to tip off other teams and put his players at a disadvantage. In short, we appreciate his tactful way of saying I can’t talk about that right now. The Steelers are focusing on getting better every day and will tackle 2013 when they get there.
Mason Rudolph 2018 NFL Draft prospect
Once Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger announced his intentions to return for 2018, speculation about who will be protecting his blindside for years to come began. In an effort to follow that line of thinking, we look at Mason Rudolph as a potential first-round selection at No. 28 overall in 2018. The Oklahoma State product fits what new offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner wants out of his left tackle – long arms and strength in pass protection, with enough mobility to create running lanes on the back side of outside zone plays. Rudolph was asked to do a lot at Oklahoma State in both run blocking and pass protection, but struggled with consistency throughout 2016.
Ryan Shazier injury recovery
Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier underwent spinal stabilization surgery Tuesday, putting his 2018 season in jeopardy. Shazier was injured making a tackle on Monday Night Football against Cincinnati in Week 13, though he did initially walk off of the field under his own power. It's still unclear how much time Shazier will miss—or if he'll play at all in 2018—but there is an encouraging bit of news: The team announced Wednesday that he's begun regaining feeling in his legs. So while it seems unlikely that he'll play again next season, there is reason to be hopeful about a return for 2019. In addition to losing their star player, Pittsburgh also has concerns at wide receiver after Antonio Brown requested a trade last week. There are few teams who could afford him (New England might be one), but if he were dealt, JuJu Smith-Schuster would become Pittsburgh's No. 1 target by default and James Washington could also see more opportunities downfield. Regardless of what happens with Brown, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger needs better protection after being sacked 41 times in just 12 games (including playoffs). Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak will reportedly step down after Pittsburgh’s loss to Jacksonville in January’s AFC Championship Game.
Steelers trade Martavis Bryant
There’s a lot of Steelers news to discuss today. Earlier today, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Steelers have been trying to trade wide receiver Martavis Bryant for at least a year. The team has reportedly shopped Bryant multiple times but have always found no takers, because he comes with off-the-field baggage. In 2016, Bryant was suspended for one year due to violating NFL substance abuse policy twice in less than 12 months. He was reinstated on April 25, 2017. Last season, Bryant caught 50 passes for 603 yards and three touchdowns in just 10 games played. He missed four games due to injury and another four games due to suspension. This offseason, Bryant requested a trade from Pittsburgh after they drafted James Washington in round two of the 2018 NFL Draft. Washington is expected to play alongside Antonio Brown as his number two target behind JuJu Smith-Schuster (Pittsburgh’s second round pick from 2017). As it stands now, Steelers fans should expect Bryant to be traded before training camp begins on July 25th or shortly thereafter. If you want more Steelers news and rumors follow me @TheRealHalupka on Twitter! I post daily about everything going on with the Steelers!
Markus Wheaton 2017 free agent possibility
The Steelers 2017 free agency is pretty much wrapped up. And it wasn’t a big one. The Steelers lost RB Le’Veon Bell and backup QB Landry Jones to free agency while they signed OT Chris Hubbard, WRs Justin Hunter and Darrius Heyward-Bey as well as CB Coty Sensabaugh. But still, one name that has been floating around for a few weeks now is Steelers 2015 3rd round pick WR Markus Wheaton. The Florida State alum is coming off his best year of his young career; he finished 2016 with 55 receptions, 749 yards and 6 touchdowns in just 11 games played. With Martavis Bryant returning from his year long suspension will Wheaton still be wearing black & gold in 2017?
Last week's preseason game was Steelers news for about a minute in the national spotlight. Today, I've got some Steelers news. About Antonio Brown...but maybe not what you want to hear. Don't worry though! For every bad piece of Steelers news, there's 10 more pieces of good Steelers news right around the corner. Here are 5 positive Steelers notes to help make your day better: 1) Le'Veon Bell still hasn't reported to training camp. Why? And how much do his teammates hate him? Maybe that should be hate as in love? Ha ha! Sorry it's still preseason, but you get my point: This is Steelers news at its finest.