- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Three thoughts as training camps open around the NFL:
One thing I'm certain of: The Steelers offense is in much better hands with new coordinator Todd Haley. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger might not have been a fan of getting rid of Bruce Arians, but he will be happier with the results under Haley. There was really no excuse for the Steelers to rank 21st last season with a top-notch quarterback like Roethlisberger (albeit injured) and receivers like Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown.
Haley has shown the ability to adapt his offense to the personnel, whether it was throwing the ball over the field in Arizona or running it down a defense's throat in Kansas City. Haley's biggest contribution will be protecting Roethlisberger. In Haley's two seasons as offensive coordinator in Arizona (2007-08), the Cardinals ranked in the top 11 in fewest sacks allowed. They gave up a total of 52 sacks in those two years, which is 12 more than Roethlisberger got sacked all of last season. A healthier Roethlisberger will lead to a healthier Steelers offense.
One thing that might happen: A new long-term deal for Wallace. Of course, a holdout by Wallace could come before the Steelers and their speedy wide receiver reach an agreement. There has been speculation that Wallace, who has yet to sign his $2.7 million restricted free-agent tender, will not report to training camp until he gets his multi-year deal. Roethlisberger, however, has said that he expects Wallace to show up on time.
Recent reports indicate the sides have made progress in talks, which has triggered optimism that a deal will be struck before the regular season. It's in everyone's best interest to get Wallace into camp as soon as possible. He has received Haley's new playbook, but he still would benefit by suiting up and running the routes. Based on what the top receivers have received this season, Wallace should sign a deal that will pay him around $20 million in the first two years.
One thing we won't see: The annual teeth-gnashing over a marginal offensive line. The rest of the league gave the Steelers a big draft-day gift when David DeCastro fell to the Steelers at the 24th overall pick. DeCastro, who is considered one of the top guard prospects over the past decade, is a major upgrade over Ramon Foster. He's a Steve Hutchinson-plow guard who fits the Steelers' system perfectly.
There's a chance that another rookie could be starting on the offensive line. Second-round pick Mike Adams has to prove he's strong enough to hold down the left tackle job. If he struggles, recently re-signed Max Starks remains a trusted insurance policy there. Pittsburgh's line will also be improved because Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey is healthier and right tackle Marcus Gilbert is entering his second season.