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 next time we see the Steelers, they’ll be checking into Saint Vincent College for training camp. And, if the past couple of months shows anything, the next time we hear anything from the Steelers, it will be around the same time.

This time has been used for rebuilding the team bond, rebranding the image and exorcising the demons of the past.

The Steelers have been trying hard to rebuild the team chemistry, something that was once unquestioned, but became so when Antonio Brown went off the rails.

Have the issues been fixed?

We won’t know for sure for a while, but it certainly appears that way.

“You really can’t judge chemistry or culture until you’re faced with adversity,” head coach Mike Tomlin said Thursday after the Steelers wrapped up minicamp. “This time of year, all 32 teams are undefeated, unscored upon. There’s some good teaching and learning. The journey itself is the indicator of that and some of the adversity the journey provides. A training camp setting, that is physically and mentally challenging, that will be the first real adversity this group sees.”

It will be the first adversity the group sees because everyone is under contract. Everyone is on board with what the coaching staff is teaching. Everybody has bought into a team-first mentality.

“Throughout these OTAs and everything, we’ve been working to build a chemistry, get a feel for each other and become more team oriented,” cornerback Mike Hilton said “I feel like we’ve made some progress with that these last couple of weeks. We’ve got a month off to get ready and then the real deal is coming.”

The real deal is coming indeed. But there won’t a Le’Veon Bell holdout to serve as a distraction. And Mr. Big Chest is now in Oakland.

That’s a good start.

  • Speaking of Mr. Big Chest, AKA Brown, am I the only person who can’t wait to see HBO’s “Hard Knocks” this summer?

The Raiders were chosen as the team the camera crews will follow in training camp this year. Considering Brown often has his own camera crews – or at least a photographer – following him around on a daily basis, it won’t be anything new for him.

But given the shots he has continued to take at the Steelers, he won’t shy away from doing so in that forum, either.

  • There’s no truth to the rumor the Pirates have been scouting the local Pony leagues looking for pitchers. They’ve limited themselves to the higher levels of ball.

Seriously, is it any wonder this team has struggled this season? Three-fifths of the starting rotation is currently on the Injured List. And Chris Archer has spent time there, too.

There’s not a team in the majors that could withstand that.

  • That said, management hasn’t exactly gone to great lengths to provide this team with viable options to replace those injured pitchers.

The Pirates didn’t need to go out and spend $13 million on Dallas Kuechel. After all, Kuechel is not the pitcher he was a few years ago.

But there has to be somebody – anybody – available.

Going into Friday night’s game in Miami, in their past 26 innings pitched, the Pirates’ starters had allowed 27 runs on 42 hits in 26 innings with 18 walks, 27 strikeouts and eight home runs given up.

  • The next big move for the Steelers should be a contract extension for Tomlin.

Some might scoff at the idea, but if Art Rooney II didn’t think Tomlin was the man to lead the Steelers, he should have replaced him at the end of last season. And since that didn’t happen, we can assume Rooney still has complete faith in Tomlin.

Tomlin’s contract is up after the 2020 season. And the Steelers have typically given their head coach a new deal with two years remaining on his current deal to avoid the distraction of that issue.

The last time they didn’t? That was in 2005, when Bill Cowher was allowed to go into a lame duck season in 2006.

The 2005 season was certainly a success, as the Steelers won their first Super Bowl since 1980. The 2006 season, however, became Cowher’s last, as the Steelers struggled through a post-Super Bowl malaise that wasn’t helped by the fact everyone on the team knew it was Cowher’s final year.

  • Good for Fort Cherry graduate and McDonald native Marvin Lewis for taking a position as a special advisor at Arizona State.

Lewis is too good of a football coach to be away from the game. And since Phoenix is where Lewis has “retired” to, it just makes sense for the Sun Devils to make use of him.

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

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