Steelers Beat Writer

Dale Lolley is a contributor to the Observer-Reporter and has been covering the Pittsburgh Steelers since 1993.

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The Steelers made it through their 10 OTA practices without a major injury, incident or distraction.

Considering everything that’s happened with this team the past couple of years, that’s a major accomplishment.

It’s amazing what taking a couple of players – albeit highly talented ones – out of the equation can mean to a team.

But thus far, it does appear to be addition by subtraction. At least off the field.

With Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown gone, the questions about contracts and off-field issues have been few and far between.

That’s not to say the Steelers won’t miss the production those two put forth – though they did manage without Bell last season. Both are generational talents.

This team, however, has seemed to rally around the fact those two are no longer here and people are discounting it because of it.

The reality is, the Steelers made the playoffs four times with both of those guys in the fold and won three playoff games. In the overall scheme of things, that’s not bad. In the Steelers’ scheme of things, that’s not good enough.

This group has been working hard to have a better off-field chemistry. Ben Roethlisberger took the skill position players to his vacation home in Georgia. Mike Tomlin skipped an OTA session to take the team to Top Golf.

On the final day of their OTA sessions Thursday, Cam Heyward invited the whole team to his house for a cookout (I’d hate to see the bill for 90-plus steaks and burgers).

The team will get together next Tuesday for its mandatory minicamp. Then, they’ll break until they return for training camp in late July.

You can bet Tomlin, for one, will be more than happy if things stay as quiet as they have been.

  • Corey Dickerson was activated Saturday by the Pirates, which should be good news, right? After all, the Pirates haven’t had their starting three outfielders in the same lineup all season, as both Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte also have missed time.

At this point, however, how do the Pirates put those three in the outfield together on a regular basis considering the way Bryan Reynolds has been playing?

Reynolds took a .349 batting average into Friday night’s game. He’s hit five homers and has 18 RBI in just under 150 plate appearances.

Trouble is, the Pirates also have Cabrera hanging around, as well. That gives them five legitimate outfielders, which should be a nice problem to have. But Dickerson won a Gold Glove in left field last season while batting .300. Polanco hit 23 homers and drove in 81 runs last season. And Marte is arguably the team’s best player – though Josh Bell has certainly laid claim to that this year.

But Reynolds needs to continue to play if he is going to continue to develop.

At the very least, Reynolds’ play has shown the .302 average he posted in Class AA last season and the .367 he had in 13 Class AAA games this season were no fluke.

And you can bet that when the trade deadline comes along, the Pirates will be moving an outfielder or two. It doesn’t necessarily mean ownership is cheap. It just makes sense to get a good young outfielder such as Reynolds in the lineup.

  • It will be interesting to see if rookie Devin Bush opens minicamp as the starter at inside linebacker for the Steelers.

Bush, the team’s top draft pick, has been sharing first-team snaps with free agent signing Mark Barron.

If you recall, when Ryan Shazier stepped onto the field for the first time at minicamp in 2014, he was out there with the starting unit.

Bush and Shazier have become fast friends. The two can often be seen chatting in between snaps and on and off the practice field.

And Bush, like Shazier before him, is the real deal.

Barron is a more established player than the player Shazier pushed aside in 2014 – Vince Williams in his second NFL season. But the guess here is that Bush is in the starting lineup sooner rather than later.

  • Le’Veon Bell had more than $500,000 in jewelry stolen from his home recently.

I wonder what Steve Blass thinks of that.

Blass got himself into some hot water last week by commenting on how much jewelry the Braves’ Ronal Acuna Jr. was wearing during a game.

“A young player, just doing all that stuff, and all the jewelry, and all the stuff, back in the day, I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, but …” Blass said when pitcher Steven Brault buzzed Acuna with an inside pitch.

Acuna is Venezuelan.

Some in the national media pounced on Blass’ statements to say he’s a racist.

That’s silly. Blass was simply saying that when he pitched in the 1960s and ‘70s, a player being that flamboyant could expect to be thrown at from time to time. And that was most certainly the case.

Anyone ever hear of Bob Gibson? Gibson would throw at opposing players for even looking him in the eye.

And Gibson, one of the best pitchers of his or any generation, was black.

Have we gone that far over the PC edge that a broadcaster isn’t allowed to comment about how things were when they played? If so, then perhaps there should be no color commentary during games at all. Just silence.

Dale Lolley covers the Steelers for and writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.

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