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Steelers setting tone to squash all 'preseason accolades,' find edge

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin plans to set a tough mentality in training camp. Jason Bridge/USA TODAY Sports

LATROBE, Pa. -- They sense it, and they sense that you sense it.

And they want it to stop, starting this weekend at training camp at Saint Vincent College.

The Pittsburgh Steelers don't want to be your overlooked Super Bowl contender or your AFC favorite or your trendy pick for the league's best offense -- even if the team's head coach fueled that last one.

Maybe there was a time to celebrate that, but late July is the time for tone-setting, which means the Steelers won't overvalue the impressive offense, just as it won't downplay the retooled defense.

If the Steelers expect last year's 8-2 finish to the regular season to carry over organically, they could find themselves back in the 8-8 quicksand from the previous two seasons.

"I think everybody's giving us a lot of accolades during the offseason," offensive guard Ramon Foster said. "You have to answer for that and show it. ... We can't have glitches of greatness and then [not] pan out against a team that's not playing up to our level. We have to set the tone each and every week."

Mike Tomlin has no problems with that. The Steelers coach, fresh off receiving a two-year contract extension, said at his Saturday news conference that he "looooves training camp," and hopes the extra week of preseason work for all NFL teams this year is "an advantage if we make it one."

How's this for an edge from the head coach? Tomlin said he's not relinquishing any first-team tailback reps to DeAngelo Williams despite Le'Veon Bell's looming three-game suspension, and he's been challenging Williams in ways that he admits are uncomfortable for a 10-year veteran. He's not disclosing those challenges, but the message is clear.

Nothing's conceded. That means no excuses for a defense replacing 30-plus years of defensive experience among Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor and coordinator Dick LeBeau.

"I don’t grade on a curve," Tomlin said. "I don’t take present circumstances into the equation. They understand we expect those guys to play dominant defense, regardless of who we are.”

The Steelers defense finished in the league's bottom third in several defensive categories and still won 11 games, largely because of 8,000-plus combined yards from Ben Roethlisberger, Bell and Antonio Brown.

The offense is prepared for similar firepower, just in case.

"We have to take it further," Brown said. "The pressure’s on to make the necessary plays.”