Steelers know fast start could be key to upcoming season
The Steelers return to practice Monday — Labor Day isn't celebrated at 3400 S. Water St. — as the calendar clicks to a new month and the NFL officially shifts into a new regular season.
This time, the Steelers want this to be a September to remember, not one to regret.
A year ago, they carried a winless preseason all the way through a winless first month of the season, and they never caught up. An 0-4 start has a way of ruining a season.
“We had a whole offseason to think about that,” defensive end Cam Heyward said.
With the Steelers' opener against the Browns on Sunday at Heinz Field now less than a week away and another AFC North game against Baltimore to follow four days after that, Heyward said a slow start isn't an option.
“We have to understand that Cleveland wants to come in here and beat us,” defensive end Cam Heyward said, referring to the necessity of shifting from preseason to regular-season mode in a hurry. “We've got to understand that we've got to win these games now because you can fall behind really quick.”
Consider this: By Sept. 11, the Steelers will have played one-third of their division schedule.
“If you can get these two wins — when we get those two wins — it's something we can build on,” left guard Ramon Foster said.
Last year, they didn't get their second win until Oct. 20.
Blame injuries (Maurkice Pouncey, Le'Veon Bell, Larry Foote), blame the carryover of a lethargic preseason, blame the disappearance of the running game and big-play defense. Whatever it was, it led to the Steelers' worst start in 45 years.
“We don't know what happened, we don't know what the biggest factor was ... but we have to understand these games are vital,” Heyward said. “That's the big lesson we learned last year: It's not like we can turn it on (when we want) and be right in the playoff race.”
Last year, they didn't get going until a running game that averaged only 58 yards per game in September got going after Bell's three-game absence with a Lisfranc injury.
They believe they've upgraded that run game by adding LeGarrette Blount to back up a healthy Bell and drafting Dri Archer, who can make plays as a runner or receiver.
“We think we've got some dynamic backs, and the guys up front (the offensive linemen) have been around each other for three years now,” Foster said, “so it's time for us to make something happen in that area.”
But they were ineffective running the ball during the second half of the preseason, after Bell and Blount were charged with marijuana possession Aug. 20. Between them, they received only 21 carries against the Philadelphia Eagles and Carolina Panthers.
“But I thought we ran the ball well any time we wanted to run the ball and had an opportunity to,” Foster said. “I'm excited about it.”
The September schedule includes two home games against four-win teams (Cleveland, Tampa Bay) but more difficult road games at Baltimore (8-8 last season) and Carolina (12-4, the NFC South champion).
“We think we're a young team on the rise. We've got a lot of young guys who are hungry,” cornerback Ike Taylor said. “I see the talent, but we've got to exercise that on the field. We can't keep talking about how much talent we've got, we've got to go out there and show it.”
Foster knows what that requires.
“A fast start is definitely what we need,” he said. “And a fast, hard finish.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers unfazed by Brady suspension saga
- Steelers’ Wheaton adjusting his game moving to slot receiver
- Steelers RB Archer trying to catch up after tough rookie season
- Inside the Steelers: Ventrone suffers right ankle injury
- Steelers LB Timmons has grown into leadership role on defense
- Steelers notebook: Backup QB Gradkowski remains out with shoulder issue
- Butler, Steelers defense take on new challenges
- Steelers extend GM Colbert’s contract through 2018 draft
- Steelers notebook: 5 players start training camp on injured list
- Rossi: St. Vincent a football sanctuary during Steelers training camp