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Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger get started breaking in new offensive line as camp begins

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Ben Roethlisberger is used to being greeted by new faces when coaching camp begins. Happens yearly, not simply to the Pittsburgh Steelers however each staff in the NFL.

Never since his rookie season, nonetheless, has Roethlisberger encountered so many newcomers lining up in entrance of him on the offensive line.

When the Steelers carried out their first exercise Thursday at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, Maurkice Pouncey was nowhere to be discovered. Neither was Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro or Matt Feiler — a quartet of gamers who mixed for 31 years of expertise with the Steelers.

Lining up in entrance of Roethlisberger on Thursday was a rookie middle, a proper guard who nonetheless was a free agent a month in the past and a proper sort out who spent all however one recreation final yr on injured reserve. The left sort out who took restricted snaps Thursday performed on the precise facet final yr, and the anticipated starter at left guard stood and watched due to a minor harm.

Not precisely the mannequin of stability Roethlisberger was used to taking part in behind for a lot of the previous decade.

“It’s tough (losing) all those guys,” Roethlisberger mentioned, rattling off the names of the departed veterans. “It’s not easy, but we’ve got guys who are willing, capable and excited to fill the roles and be the best they can be.”

A retooled offensive line was anticipated after the Steelers completed final in dashing in 2020 and Roethlisberger had so little go safety that he had the quickest launch time of any NFL quarterback. And the Steelers acted rapidly to change place coaches, selling Adrian Klemm to switch Shaun Sarrett.

Still, no one might have anticipated the Steelers to primarily subject new starters in any respect 5 positions in 2021, a circumstance that was solidified after June minicamp when DeCastro was launched and Trai Turner was signed to take his place at proper guard.

“I’ve been blessed to have some older guys, and guys who have been here numerous years,” Roethlisberger mentioned. “To not have that is definitely different, but it’s just Day 1.”

Chuks Okorafor will begin at left sort out after manning proper sort out for 15 begins final season following Zach Banner’s ACL tear in the season opener. Second-year guard Kevin Dotson is anticipated to take over for Feiler at left guard. At middle, the Steelers may have a three-way competitors to switch Pouncey, who retired in February.

Will this group be higher?

“We don’t have the bar set real high,” coach Mike Tomlin mentioned. “We were last in the league in rushing. We have nowhere to go but up from certain aspects. It’s not something we fear.”

According to NFL Network analysis, solely three groups in the previous 30 years opened the season primarily with new starters in any respect 5 offensive line place. And change wasn’t precisely a foul factor for these groups. The 2004 Chargers went 12-4 and the 2015 Chiefs completed 11-5. Even the 2014 Dolphins had been 8-8.

“We’ve got capable guys,” Tomlin mentioned. “There’s an expectation here that those guys are going to deliver. I’m not going to be surprised when they do. As a matter of fact, we expect them to. You can write a rags-to-riches tale … like we’re starting at ground zero or in the basement, but we don’t see it that way.”

Tomlin is giving rookie third-round draft choose Kendrick Green the primary crack at incomes Pouncey’s outdated job. Green labored with the first-team offense Thursday. Even although Tomlin cautioned it was simply to get Green ready to start out in the Hall of Fame Game in two weeks, it may very well be an indication of issues to come back.

“He’s got a passion for the game, a passion to be the starting center,” Roethlisberger mentioned. “He is aware of the roles and footwear he’s filling. He stayed right here through the break (since minicamp) and labored and met with coaches. I checked in on him. He’s taking this private.

“He wants to be the best. He doesn’t want there to be a dropoff, and that’s a good attitude to take.”

In addition to coping with new linemen in new positions, Roethlisberger needed to proceed greedy the new verbiage in first-year offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s playbook. It’s the largest change in terminology for Roethlisberger in his 18-year profession, and he mentioned his daughter has made flashcards to assist him bear in mind performs.

“It was as much of a mental offseason as it was physical in terms of learning new things,” Roethlisberger mentioned. “You talk about percentage of ‘new,’ with run-game formations. It’s a high percentage of ‘new.’”

And after the primary exercise was over, Roethlisberger wasn’t precisely brimming with confidence in his information of the terminology.

“Not even close,” he mentioned. “If you see, I was looking at the wristband quite a bit. We all are. We’re all trying to pick it up and figure it out. New isn’t always bad. It’s just new.”

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review employees author. You can contact Joe by electronic mail at [email protected] or by way of Twitter .

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