PITTSBURGH – The expectations remain the same, but the faces? Well, they’re quite a bit different than they were a couple of years ago.
The Steelers had 20 new players on their roster in 2013 and could equal that total again this season as they continue to make over a team that was one of the oldest in the NFL.
Forget about old, slow and done, as NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp said of the Steelers’ defense a few years ago. Now, it’s young and fast, with the results of that infusion of youth and speed yet to be seen.
Despite all the youth, there are still a few older players. Safety Troy Polamalu and cornerback Ike Taylor, both 12-year veterans, are the elder statesmen on the team.
“There are a whole lot of new faces,” said Taylor. “That’s a good and bad thing. It’s a good thing that I am still here. I’ll give a shout out to everybody who left. But football is football. Football, you have to understand as a player, is a business. You never know when your time comes. Just for the moment, you have to enjoy it.”
Polamalu and Taylor both joined the Steelers in the 2003 draft. At that time, the older players in the locker room were guys such as running back Jerome Bettis and guard Alan Faneca.
“It’s strange to be the oldest and most experienced guy on the squad,” said Polamalu. “I never thought that would happen. Jerome Bettis was here, it seems like yesterday. I looked at him as one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game. And he’s old. And I hope one day I can get old and play, and here I am. I guess I am old, too.”
Goodwin gaining Tomlin’s attention
As coach Mike Tomlin walked through the locker room Wednesday, he noticed a reporter talking to California University rookie wide receiver C.J. Goodwin.
“You’re talking to C.J.,” Tomlin asked in a kidding manner. “C.J.?”
Given that Goodwin has only been with the Steelers for a few weeks, having signed as an undrafted rookie earlier this month, that Tomlin even knows his name is a positive sign.
“I guess so,” said Goodwin, who played one season of college football at Fairmont State before transferring to California last year. “That’s a blessing that he even knows my name.”
Perhaps Tomlin has learned Goodwin’s name so quickly because he has stood out during practices. Goodwin has made a number of acrobatic, leaping catches, showing off his excellent speed and 40-inch vertical leap.
“Hopefully,” Goodwin said when asked if he thought he was impressing the coaches. “I just know that I have to give it my all in practice. Every day could be my last.”
Odds and end zones
The Steelers signed second-round defensive end Stephon Tuitt to a four-year contract Wednesday. All nine Steelers draft picks are under contract. … With the signing of Tuitt, the Steelers have about $6 million in remaining salary cap space. ... The Steelers released cornerback Deion Blue and signed former Ohio State running back Jordan Hall. Hall played high school football for Jeannette. … Rookie receiver Martavis Bryant returned to practice after sitting out Tuesday with an illness. ... The Steelers wrap up minicamp today and will be off until training camp opens July 25 at Saint Vincent College.