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Mike Prisuta's Sports Page

With pads on it's a whole new ballgame

 
Posted July 28th, 2014 @ 9:28am

 

LATROBE _ Already the Steelers are dealing with a couple of annoying injuries at St. Vincent College, a hamstring for Le’Veon Bell and a groin for Mike Mitchell.

But already we’re seeing they’re better equipped to deal with such things.

Bell is backed up this season by Monster Truck LeGarrette Blount, and the running back position should also be bolstered by the addition of Dri Archer, the rookie with the beep-beep speed.

Although Bell left practice early on Sunday, Mike Tomlin wasn’t sure how much “if any” time Bell would miss. So there’s no reason to jump to the panic-stricken conclusion that Bell is destined to open this season banged up and unavailable, as he did last season.

But even assuming the worst-case scenario, the Steelers won’t be handing the ball to Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer and Felix Jones while Bell mends.

Mitchell’s situation, while not initially perceived as serious, is a little more concerning because he has “no idea” when he’ll be able to take the field, and because the Steelers are eager to incorporate their free-agent safety into the secondary while the team is practicing in pads.

But in Mitchell’s absence the Steelers can turn to Will Allen and/or Shamarko Thomas.

And neither one of those guys are Ryan Clark.

-The shoulder pads come on today and the hitting commences.

“I’m always excited about who ascends in those situations and who shrinks in those situations,” Tomlin said.

The smart money is on a ’Backs-on-’Backers drill to liven things up this afternoon.

And if it works out that way it’ll be interesting to see how Blount performs.

He’ll be a load to tackle, that’s a given. But the word on Blount in some corners of the NFL is that he’s never been particularly interested in or adept at pass protection.

He needs to show up as a load when an imaginary quarterback has the ball.

-Today’s first day in pads will also be a big day for No. 1 pick Ryan Shazier.

He’s done nothing but impress since he was drafted. But as the intensity and the physicality and the competition ratchet up along with the heat index, Shazier is eventually going to have to deal with an unfamiliar development.

Failure.

How well Shazier is able to handle that will have a profound effect on his transition into the NFL.

“I can remember maybe one or two times I got beat in college my last year, I vividly remember them,” former No. 1 pick David DeCastro recalled. “In the NFL it’s not if it’s going to happen, it’s when. It’s just a whole different ballgame and you have to be more, not physically, but mentally prepared for how to deal with it. Bad things, tough things are going to happen to you on the field and you have to learn how to deal with it. If you can be a resilient and consistent player, that’s the key.

“It’s tough to learn after you’re used to kickin’ butt in college the whole time and then all of a sudden the playing field is completely level.”

Shazier has been nothing but confident throughout his brief Steelers tenure and justifiably so.

Still, he’ll have a lot more to prove starting this afternoon.

“Confidence goes out the window once practice (in pads) starts,” former No. 1 pick Cam Heyward maintained. “I hope he keeps it but if that’s all he’s got we’re in for a rude awakening.

“But I expect him to do well.” 

 

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