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Minicamp analysis: Steelers still have questions on defense

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The Sports Xchange

PITTSBURGH — There is nothing new for the Pittsburgh Steelers after the close of minicamp Thursday brought an end to their spring practices.

The Steelers still know they have a dynamic offense and they still have many questions about a defense that has sagged for several seasons.

They won’t really know if that defense will be any better in 2015 than it was last season, when they managed a 25-year low of 33 sacks and only 11 interceptions.

“Some of the things you can glean in this setting are unchanging, regardless of circumstances,” head coach Mike Tomlin said of the spring practices. “Some things are just exclusive with football and pads. So we reserve perception on those things. With other things, experience tells me it’s unchanging.”

Tomlin had both his offense and defense work on red-zone and goal-line drills because both units were not particularly adept in that area last season. But he won’t know much about first-round pick Bud Dupree, for example, until he sees him rush the quarterback from his left outside linebacker spot in real time.

The Steelers also won’t know whether cornerback Cortez Allen, benched for poor play in the middle of last season despite signing a big contract before it began, has regained the confidence the coaching staff believed he lost along the way. Or whether rookie Senquez Golson, their second-round pick from Mississippi, can make hay quickly and maybe even push Allen.

“This is an instructional camp,” Tomlin said. “We just teach. They’re learning and they’re working.”

The Steelers were fortunate that they escaped the spring without a major injury or even many minor ones. They still have not heard anything about running back Le’Veon Bell’s appeal to the NFL of his three-game suspension, but they feel good about signing veteran DeAngelo Williams and how quickly he seems to have picked up their offense.

“I liked the overall enthusiasm,” said Tomlin, who had near-perfect attendance all spring, unlike past years when the team was loaded with players over 30. “Guys are making some plays. Guys are making some mistakes. But that’s part of the process and we respect the process.”

The Steelers report to training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe — their 50th at the small school an hour from Pittsburgh — on July 25. They will have an extra week at camp, putting in four full weeks for the first time in many years. They play in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game against Minnesota on Aug. 9.

Tomlin’s message to his team as he sent them off this week: “I want them to get in the very best physical condition possible.”


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