||AFC CENTRAL NEWS
PITTSBURGH STEELERS TEAM PREVIEW
By Rachael Brandon, NFL.com
Kevin Colbert, a Pittsburgh native who replaced Tom Donahoe as director of
football operations. Colbert has big shoes to fill considering that
Donahoe was with the organization for 14 years. Colbert is in charge of
player acquisitions and transactions, including the draft, free-agent
signings and trades, and evaluating pro and college personnel.
Since accepting the job in February, Colbert has been busy. He oversaw the
draft of wide receiver Plaxico Burress and offensive lineman Marvel Smith,
brought in guards Rich Tylski and Tom Myslinski, and kept running back
Richard Huntley and wide receivers Will Blackwell and Courtney Hawkins.
NFL INSIDER POWER RATINGS
Ratings based on analysis of 1999 team and individual statistics,
offseason personnel moves and feedback from respected experts (from NFL
Insider's Season Preview issue) Rushing offense: 8.1 Passing offense: 7.0
Rushing defense: 7.1 Passing defense: 9.1 Special teams: 9.5 Coaching: 8.8
Intangibles: 6.8 TOTAL: 56.4 Scale of 1-10; Perfect score=70
ON THE COMEBACK TRAIL...
Jerome Bettis has been bothered off and on throughout training camp, first
by a sore hip and now by a bruised left knee. He has not practiced since
playing briefly in the preseason opener vs. the Dallas Cowboys.
Bettis, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first four
seasons with the Steelers, is expected to start practice next week, and
the Steelers need him. Backups Huntley and Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala are also
Burress came to Pittsburgh facing all the high expectations associated
with being a No. 8 overall pick. So far, he's delivered. He debuted with
four catches for 60 yards in the Steelers' preseason-opening 38-10 victory
over Dallas. The former Michigan State star has been compared to both
Keyshawn Johnson and Randy Moss.
"I've always been a confident guy in my talents and that's going to
continue to be there so I just want to do well and have an impact this
year and hopefully put up some numbers," Burress said upon joining the
Chad Scott didn't exactly have a bad year last year. He started 12 games
at cornerback, with 50 tackles and an interception. But he's had a great
camp, by all reports, and he's already thinking of spending some time in
Hawaii after the season. Helping initiate cornerback Hank Poteat at
practice one day, he let the rookie carry his shoulder pads off the field.
"Those pads will be in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl," Scott said, according to
the Tribune-Review. "You can carry them one time."
STEELERS AT A GLANCE
Head coach: Bill Cowher (eighth year with Pittsburgh) 1999 record: 6-10
(fourth in AFC Central) 1999 rankings: Offense - 22nd overall (304.6
yards/game), 10th run (124.4), 26th pass (180.2) Defense - 11th overall
(305.3 yards/game), 26th run (122.4) fourth pass (182.9)
KEY COMINGS DL Kimo von Oelhofen (Bengals) QB Kent Graham (Giants) DL
Chris Sullivan (Patriots) G Rich Tylski (Jaguars) G Tom Myslinski
(Cowboys) S Brent Alexander (Panthers) DE Gabe Northern (Bills) RB Pepe
KEY GOINGS OT Justin Strzelczyk DE Orpheus Roye (Browns) QB Mike Tomczak
(Lions) CB Chris Oldham (Saints) OL Brenden Stai (Chiefs) LB Carlos Emmons
(Eagles) S Travis Davis DT Nolan Harrison (Redskins) C Jim Sweeney
(retired) NT Joel Steed (retired)
TOP DRAFT CHOICES WR Plaxico Burress (1st round) OL Marvel Smith (2) DL
Kendrick Clancy (3) DB Hank Poteat (3)
The Steelers had 10 players with at least 100 yards receiving last season,
and five different players - including quarterback Kordell Stewart -
caught a touchdown pass. ... Talk about give and take: The Steelers
offense gained 4,874 yards last season, and gave up 4,884. That's a
difference of just .7 yards per game. Similarly, the Steelers scored 35
touchdowns and their opponents scored 36.
The Browns come to town on Oct. 22. Whether or not the Browns rivalry ever
will be what it once was, there's two reasons this game is big. It's the
Browns' final trip to Three Rivers Stadium, and the Browns earned one of
just two victories on the whole season here last year.
The final game at Three Rivers Stadium is Dec. 16 vs. the Redskins.
Regardless of the outcome, it will be an emotional day for the Steelers
and their fans.
TO BE ANSWERED...
Will Stewart regain past form?
Stewart took the league by storm in 1997, throwing for 3,020 yards and 21
touchdowns in his first extended action as a starting quarterback. Since
then, however, the former Colorado star has struggled, resulting in two
un-Steeler-like losing seasons. If Pittsburgh is to challenge for the AFC
Central crown, it will need some consistency from the quarterback
position. The Steelers are looking toward Stewart but could turn to former
Giants veteran Kent Graham, who was signed during the offseason.
Will Dermontti Dawson be at full strength this year?
The Steelers' All-Decade center isn't off to a great start in the new
century. Dawson missed most of last season with a hamstring injury, and he
has been severely limited throughout camp by the same injury. "Losing
Dermontti is like losing our entire line," wide receiver Troy Edwards told
the Tribune-Review. Dawson plans to play the season opener, but it's hard
to say what shape he'll be in.