Mark Kaboly :
Mark Kaboly has been covering the Steelers full-time since 2002, first for the McKeesport Daily News and now for the Tribune-Review. He has covered three Super Bowls and even an NFC championship game
First, what have been some of your most fun experiences covering the team, and what’s made them so?
I would say covering the Super Bowl because it is so different from the day-to-day grind of covering a team. Other than that, there’s not much joy in covering a professional team. I guess I am so jaded now that I view it strictly as a job
Early indications are that the running backs and offensive linemen are starting to buy in to Haley’s new playbook. Is that because this is a running-oriented playbook – or has this spread to the quarterbacks and receivers as well?
I’ve noticed that this is going to be a very balanced and diverse playbook. Haley is going to use different personnel in different situations. I would absolutely not say that it is a run-first playbook. But I will say that there will be a lot of tight end and backs-out-of-the-backfield stuff.
Some of the fan consternation on the supposed new power running-game focus has been due to quotes from Ben Roethlisberger. Do you think people take his words too seriously – i.e. – does he like to play with the media more than many recognize?
When you are the quarterback of the Steelers, every word you say will be dissected. And that’s the crux of it all. He’s not playing with the media. He truly believes what he says. It is a way he feels comfortable moving forward. Sort of a built-in excuse and that’s fine.
As for the power running game, don’t buy it. There will be aspects of a power run game but don’t believe this is going to be Ground Chuck revisited.
How is the health of James Harrison – is there still concern about his back?
Harrison hasn’t practiced in weeks and it hasn’t been his back but his knee. He has had fluid on his knee, but I don’t believe it is very serious. However, that back will definitely be something to monitor during training camp.
Every year LB Timmons seems to be on the verge of breaking out, but ultimately settles in to “very good”. What’s holding him back from being a star at the position?
Last year it was because he was moved to outside linebacker — a position that he is not suited for. If he has an entire year to stay inside like they expect this year, look for him to have a monster year and make a lot of splash plays.
The Steelers seem to be acting very aggressively – perhaps “un-Steelers-like” – in paving the way for rookie Adams at left tackle. What are your thoughts on their approach?
I don’t like it. I think they should’ve moved Colon to LG next year. It would’ve been a safer move. You would then have Colon at RT, Gilbert at LT and have Foster and DeCastro inside with Pouncey. Making that move now leaves the left side vulnerable if Adams fails. I guess they can always call Max Starks if Adams flames out, but who knows if he is ready to go as well.
Albeit no one’s in pads yet, but what rookies and young players have really flashed so far in camp, and how so? Any examples?
CB Terry Carter out of LA Tech had a wonderful day on Wednesday making a pair of picks and a nice breakup down field. Chris Rainey is fast and is a player and rookie TE David Paulson looks like a kid who might be able to contribute down the road.
Some are lamenting the “loss of leadership” on this team with the departed of Farrior, Ward and Smith. How much will those losses truly affect this team in terms of leadership?
I have never been a firm believer of “leadership” effecting the outcome of games. Those guys will be missed on the field but I don’t buy their loss meaning anything in the locker room.
How keen is the coaching staff on OLB Worilds – can he step up and be an effective starter if Woodley or Harrison get injured again? What does he need to improve on most?
He needs to stay healthy, for one. If he can stay healthy, he showed flashes that he can be a legit player. However, it is an issue heading into camp. The OLB position is very thin and you don’t want to resort to move Timmons back outside. That wouldn’t be good.
Can Spence be a starter on this defense given his size? Or is he purely a sub-package contributor?
He is like 220 pounds which is far off from what Farrior played at the past few years. He will be a special teams guy at first, but could follow the way Timmons came about — third downs at first.
Your quick thoughts on some of the training camp battles:
Fifth receiver between Toney Clemons and Tyler Beiler should be good. For me, I think Foster and DeCastro are going to be in for a slobber knocker, but I am in the minority.
How do you think the starting cornerback spot opposite Taylor shakes out?
Keenan Lewis. Period. Unless he craps the bed real bad, he’s your guy.
Does the final running back slot go to the winner of Clay versus Batch, or does this team keep both, along with Mendenhall, Redman and Dwyer?
Clay and Batch could be practice squad guys if Chris Rainey pans out like they are expecting. It’s almost certain they will keep Mendy, Red, Dwyer, Rainey and either Batch/Clay to start the season
How do the Steelers keep three NT’s in Hampton, McLendon and Ta’amu – all three are high-quality players?
When one is 34, you have to keep the young guys. They will put Hampton on the PUP list early on to buy some time But don’t sleep on McLendon. He is a player.