By Rachel Jones | Photographs by Michael Fornataro


Last year’s Steelers season did a number on stress levels across the city. A year that brought a disassembled defense, an injury-plagued offense, and a post-season that ended up being such a tease. (Remember? The team needed to beat the Cleveland Browns and have the New York Jets lose to the Buffalo Bills in order to gain a Wild Card spot, which miraculously happened. They squeaked by the Cincinnati Bengals in the Wild Card game but lost the Division Championship to the Denver Broncos.) 

But we didn’t see the 2015 Steelers at Saint Vincent College for training camp this August. We were introduced to the 2016 Steelers, a squad that took the year to rebuild and lay solid groundwork, a foundation to serve as a springboard this season, launching the team into higher rankings this time.

The first game on September 12 against the Washington Redskins will be a welcomed fresh start. The newly repaired defense will be lead by its backbone, defensive end Cam Heyward, and the volatile offense will show off its depth and range of talent, from Sammie Coates, who joined the Steelers in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft, to Antonio Brown, who has the third-longest active streak among wide receivers with 36 regular season games in a row.

“I know what we’re capable of,” Heyward says. “I think I’m just trying to stress it to myself and my teammates that we have a great opportunity that doesn’t come around that often — that you have such a good team — and take advantage of it.”

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A left knee injury sidelined Big Ben for four games last year. Healed and hungry, he’s ready to regain his spot as one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL.

A left knee injury sidelined Big Ben for four games last year. Healed and hungry, he’s ready to regain his spot as one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL.

 

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“We’ve got a great offense. We’ve got a great group of wide receivers, we’ve probably got one of the best wide receivers in the nation. We’ve got a great group of guys, and it’s going to be fun to watch us to do work.”
— Wide Receiver Sammie Coates

Mike Tomlin prepares for his 10th season as head coach.

Mike Tomlin prepares for his 10th season as head coach.

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“I’m ready to play football. My head is in the right place, I’m healthy, and I’m going to continue to work. The option and all that stuff is out the door — it’s time to play football.” — Linebacker Jarvis Jones

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“Personally, I want to be somebody who disrupts. So when I’m at the line of scrimmage, or any other time, I want to be someone who gets my hands on receivers, works my feet, and disrupts time as much as possible.”
— Cornerback Ross Cockrell

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Wide Receiver Antonio Brown added to his collection of amazing accolades last season, setting franchise records for most receptions (136) and receiving yards (1,834) in a single season.

Linebacker Ryan Shazier adds potency to the Steelers’ defense.

Linebacker Ryan Shazier adds potency to the Steelers’ defense.

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“For me, it’s all about going out and trying to make the best day. Trying to keep the minimal mistakes out of the way, and just get better.”
— Linebacker Jarvis Jones

With the end of the 2015 season also came the final bow for one of the most consistent pillars on the field: Heath Miller. Penn State alum Jesse James steps up to fill Miller’s void at tight end, where he dabbled for four games last season.

With the end of the 2015 season also came the final bow for one of the most consistent pillars on the field: Heath Miller. Penn State alum Jesse James steps up to fill Miller’s void at tight end, where he dabbled for four games last season.

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 “For me, I just go in. I have my mindset of what I need to do each and every day, and I go out there and try to execute that.”
— Wide Receiver Darius Heyward-Bey

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“We want to be a defense that’s aggressive. I think that’s kind of how Pittsburgh defense has been ever since I’ve known them as the Steel Curtain.”
— Cornerback Ross Cockrell


 SEASON SCHEDULE

September 12 @ Redskins

September 18 vs Bengals

September 25 @ Eagles

October 2 vs Chiefs

October 9 vs Jets

October 16 @ Dolphins 

October 23 vs Patriots 

BYE

November 6 @ Ravens 

November 13 vs Cowboys

November 20 @ Browns

November 24 @ Colts 

December 4 vs Giants

December 11 @ Bills 

December 18 @ Bengals

December 25 vs Ravens

January 1 vs Browns

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