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Report: Roethlisberger’s ankle sprain minor, will play Sunday

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Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger left Wednesday’s practice after hurting his ankle, but it doesn’t look like the injury will be more than a talking point for the announcers during Sunday’s game against the Bengals.

Ed Werder of ESPN reports that Roethlisberger suffered a minor sprained ankle and that he’ll be back at practice on Friday for the Steelers. Werder also reports that he will “definitely” play against Cincinnati.

That’s obviously good news for a Steelers team that has plenty of other injuries to deal with as they head into Week Seven. Roethlisberger has played with a variety of injuries over the years and shown little loss of personal effectiveness, but the bad wheel can make him more of a punching bag for the opposition pass rush. With a shaky offensive line in front of him, that will likely be Roethlisberger’s biggest concern.

At 2-3, this is a game the Steelers need if they are going to start asserting themselves into the race for playoff spots in the AFC. Roethlisberger’s presence should make it more likely that they get it.

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PFT preseason power rankings No. 4: Pittsburgh Steelers

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The Steelers have six Super Bowl trophies. They’d likely have more but for the team that has won five in the last 16 years. And in a year that the Patriots hope to match the Steelers at six, the Steelers may be the primary impediment to New England.

But here’s the problem. In an offseason that saw the Patriots mash the gas pedal in an effort to get even better, what have the Steelers really done to close the gap?

So while the Steelers remain among the best teams in the NFL, the question is whether they’re good enough to get to No. 7 before the Patriots get to No. 6. And then to No. 7.

Biggest positive change: The return of receiver Martavis Bryant from suspension makes a great passing game even better, with one major caveat. Bryant still hasn’t been fully reinstated, and until he is there’s a chance he won’t be. And he wouldn’t be the first player closing in on reinstatement after a substance-abuse policy who then stubs his toe to otherwise trip over a blunt. So the Steelers and Bryant have every reason to keep him on the straight and narrow as he closes in on returning to the field and further diversifying one of the best offenses in the NFL. Failure would mean that the passing game, while still potent, wouldn’t be nearly as good as it could be.

Biggest negative change: The passing of legendary Hall of Fame owner Dan Rooney in April marked not only the end of an era but also raised questions about whether the Steelers of the past 50 years could eventually revert to the bumbling also-rans of their first 40. Though Dan Rooney didn’t seek credit or the spotlight, he was the common thread for a team that consistently contended after going through multiple decades of persistent failures. There’s no reason to think Art Rooney II will have a hand any less steady than his father’s, but the future of one of the few remaining franchises run by the family that founded it presents real questions with the man who provided perhaps one of the best foundations any NFL team has ever had now gone.

Coaching thermometer: It’s been seven years since the team’s last Super Bowl appearance, and the locals tend to gripe about Mike Tomlin whenever things aren’t going as well as expected. With high expectations for 2017, a rough start will commence the annual grumbling about Tomlin’s future. Ownership has been immune to the ups and downs and highs and lows of a franchise that contends often enough to make it easy to patient, but with Art II now running the show it remains to be seen whether the trend of three coaches since 1969 will continue indefinitely.

We’d like to have a beer with . . . . Todd Haley. The former Chiefs coach has helped transform the Pittsburgh offense into a juggernaut. Though very good before Haley arrived, he has presided over an unlikely swinging of the pendulum that has given the team an offense that currently is much better than the defense. It sounds blasphemous, but it’s true, and Haley’s ability to work well with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and to get a diverse group of personalities to perform well together and not whine about getting more opportunity should have earned him consideration for a second chance to coach a team by now.

How they could prove use wrong: If Le’Veon Bell boycotts training camp and the preseason and he’s either not ready to contribute from Week One or the Steelers catch a wild hair and rescind the franchise tender (not likely), the passing game will face more pressure — and the running game will hinge on guys like rookie James Conner or veteran Knile Davis. And if the defense can’t effectively make the switch to playing more man-to-man coverage (a device aimed at slowing down the Patriots), the Steelers could plunge from Super Bowl contender to team scrambling to get to the postseason. Which they were a year ago, until a Christmas Day win over the Ravens kept them from spending January at home.

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Vikings sign a tackle to bring roster to 90 players

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The Vikings have brought their roster to the maximum of 90 players with training camp kicking off this week.

The team announced on Monday that they have signed tackle Arturo Uzdavinis to a contract. He will join the rest of the team at Minnesota State University in Mankato for practices.

Uzdavinis spent time on the Lions’ roster this offseason and the Vikings will be his fifth club since entering the league as an undrafted free agent last year. He initially signed with the Texans and then spent time on the practice squads in Chicago and Jacksonville without seeing any regular season action.

He’ll be trying to earn a spot as a backup behind left tackle Riley Reiff and right tackle Mike Remmers, both of whom signed as free agents this offseason as part of the Vikings’ bid to improve their offensive line play.

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Packers shareholders meet on Monday

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If you own one or more shares of non-stock stock in the Green Bay Packers, today’s the one day per year that the investment becomes more tangible than the piece of paper framed in your den.

Today’s the day that you can show up at Lambeau Field for the annual meeting of shareholders. Via the Green Bay Press-Gazette, the meeting (which always precedes by a few days the start of training camp) is a little earlier than usual because the Packers start their preseason a little earlier than usual, with a preseason game on Thursday, August 10.

Via the Press-Gazette, the Packers have 363,948 shareholders. Only 8,000 to 12,000 attend, with the biggest crowd showing up in 1998, with 18,707.

CEO Mark Murphy, G.M. Ted Thompson, and others are expected to speak. One of the topics likely won’t be the PFT Live question of the day regarding who bears the blame for the team’s underachievement.

As Barstool Big Cat suggested on Monday’s PFT Live, maybe we should go off the board and blame the shareholders. If nothing else, that will give them something to discuss when they get together today at 11:00 a.m. CT to hear from some of the folks more directly responsible for the chronic inability of the team to parlay annual contention into a Super Bowl appearance.

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Steelers unveil uniform patch in honor of the late Dan Rooney

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Longtime Steelers chairman Dan Rooney died at the age of 84 in April and the team unveiled a patch that will be on all of their uniforms this season to commemorate what he meant to the organization.

The patch has Rooney’s initials “DMR” inside the three leaves of a black and gold shamrock, which combines Rooney’s devotion to the Steelers and his time as the United States ambassador to Ireland. Steelers president Art Rooney II says the patch “really called out parts of his life that were important to him.”

“It’s going to mean so much to wear it,” center Maurkice Pouncey said. “For me personally, I was really close to him. He was an excellent guy, a great person to be around. He knew everybody. He was really respected. I hope we can honor him as much as possible. It would mean a lot to all of us players and Steelers Nation.”

The Steelers also wore a jersey patch when Rooney’s father and team founder Art Rooney died in 1988 and they wore a helmet decal honoring longtime coach Chuck Noll when Noll died in 2014.

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DeAngelo Hall to open camp on the PUP list

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Washington is hoping safety DeAngelo Hall is back to help stabilize the secondary this year, but he won’t be ready when camp opens.

According to John Keim of ESPN.com, Hall and linebacker Harrison Bates are going to open camp on the physically unable to perform list.

Both players tore ACLs last year, with Hall’s in September and Bates in December, so it’s reasonable that they’re not full speed at the moment.

The 33-year-old Hall took a pay cut this offseason, which was expected considering his role. He’s transitioned from cornerback to safety, and they have some young players there to start. But they value his leadership and want to keep him around.

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Dalvin Cook: I cannot compare myself to Adrian Peterson at all

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The Vikings ended their working relationship with running back Adrian Peterson when they released the veteran early this offseason and part of the plan in the backfield with Peterson out of the picture is for second-round pick Dalvin Cook to have a big role in the offense.

The team is certainly bullish on Cook’s potential and Cook hopes to fulfill those expectations, but he doesn’t want to put himself in the shoes of his predecessor at this point.

“He is a future Hall of Famer,” Cook said, via Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. “This is my first year in the NFL. I am not as close to him, so I cannot compare myself to him at all because he is going to go down as one of the greatest backs in history probably. So I just have to go out there and work and I cannot have that in my head.”

There’s no arguing that Cook and Peterson are in very different places in their careers, but it seems likely that Peterson’s past work and what he does with the Saints in 2017 will be weighed against the numbers put up by Cook, Latavius Murray, Jerick McKinnon and anyone else who runs the ball in Minnesota this season.

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Stephen Jones: Dak Prescott is going to be better than last year

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Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was the breakout star of the NFL last season, but you ain’t seen nothing yet.

That’s the word from Cowboys Executive V.P. Stephen Jones, who said Prescott is committed to improving and will be better than he was as a rookie.

“He knows he’s got to take his game to another level,” Jones said. “The great ones get better each year. I think he expects that from himself, I know he puts in the work, I know he’s a leader, the team responds to him, the team wants to play hard for him. That’s rare. I think he’s going to answer the bell and I think he’s going to be better than he was last year.”

Jones said that while Prescott has enjoyed some of the fame and fortune of stardom, he hasn’t changed his approach to the game.

“I’m just amazed with how he handles himself,” Jones said. “Football is first. he’s got an insatiable appetite to want to get better.”

The Cowboys are putting pressure on Prescott to be the face of their franchise, and they think he’s up to the task.

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David Bruton retires after eight seasons

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Safety David Bruton’s 2016 season came to an end after four games because of a concussion and those four contests will be the final ones of his NFL career.

Bruton was released by the Redskins in December and had a workout with the Ravens, but said his heart wasn’t in it after suffering six concussions and dealing with other injuries over the course of his career. That meant it was time to follow a new path and the former Bronco has enrolled at the University of Colorado-Denver to pursue a future as a physical therapist.

“I’m burnt-out, definitely worry about my health,” Bruton said, via ESPN.com. “Another season was cut short by a concussion [in 2016] — that’s six. I’m a guy who likes to use his brain. Especially back in school, I need as many brain cells as possible with all these science classes. It came down to health, and I’ve definitely had my time in the league. I’m ready to move on.”

Bruton was a fourth-round pick by the Broncos in 2009 and spent seven years with the team as a core member of their special teams units. He was part of their Super Bowl team after the 2015 season, but did not play in the win over the Panthers due to a fractured fibula.

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Mike Glennon trying to stay in the moment

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In May, Bears quarterback Mike Glennon was asked about the team trading up to draft Mitchell Trubisky with the second overall pick of the draft and Glennon said that “this year is my year” and that he isn’t worrying about anything beyond the 2017 season.

Not worrying isn’t exactly the same as not thinking, however. Glennon signed a three-year contract in Chicago this offseason, but the presence of a highly drafted rookie at the same position is a hard thing to ignore no matter how hard you might try.

“I’m sure my mind will wander; that’s just being a human,” Glennon told the Chicago Sun-Times. “But whenever I feel that, I’m going to try to bring myself back down to the present. The biggest thing is just staying in the moment. When you worry about the future, it creates unnecessary stress. And a lot of those thoughts will be negative rather than positive.”

Glennon’s time in Chicago may have an expiration date, but he also has an opportunity to play and show he’s capable of leading an NFL offense. If he does, his future in the league will look pretty bright even if the uniform he’ll be wearing is uncertain.

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Monday morning one-liners

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What will the Bills do with DT Adolphus Washington?

Dolphins WR DeVante Parker enters the 2017 season with high expectations.

A look at the Patriots’ backfield options.

A Jets-eye view of the AFC East.

The Ravens are looking for a few good options on offense.

Which Bengals are in line for extensions?

Breaking down the Browns’ wide receivers.

A review of the football camps run by several Steelers players this offseason.

It’s shaping up to be a pivotal year for Texans WR Jaelen Strong.

Frank Gore is back for another year atop the Colts running back depth chart.

The Jaguars have questions along their offensive line.

What can the Titans expect from their defensive linemen?

The Broncos quarterback competition is heating up again.

Five things to keep an eye on as the Chiefs start training camp.

John Pagano’s impact on the Raiders defense is something to watch as the 2017 season unfolds.

Should the Chargers consider bringing back WR Vincent Jackson?

The Cowboys believe QB Dak Prescott is committed to raising his game.

Will Giants coach Ben McAdoo back up S Landon Collinsbig talk?

Everything to look forward to during Eagles training camp.

A projected 53-man roster for the Redskins.

Checking out the Bears’ inside linebacker options.

Who will step forward in the Lions backfield?

Breaking down the Packers’ outside linebackers.

The Vikings hope their rookies can hit the ground running this year.

Will Falcons QB Matt Ryan repeat last year’s success?

Tracking expectations for Panthers QB Cam Newton.

Running through the top Saints position battles.

There will be new murals of Buccaneers players at Raymond James Stadium this year.

The Cardinals are looking for a No. 2 cornerback.

Sean McVay is embarking on his first season as the Rams head coach.

The 49ers could use Carlos Hyde and Joe Williams as a 1-2 punch out of the backfield.

S Earl Thomas‘ return to health is expected to lift the Seahawks defense.

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Mike Zimmer expects Teddy Bridgewater to start camp on PUP list

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The Vikings have been encouraged by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s return from last year’s traumatic knee injury. But they know he’s not quite ready for a full workload as camp opens.

According to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said he expected Bridgewater would open camp on the physically unable to perform list.

“I think so, but again I haven’t seen him,” Zimmer said.

Bridgewater suffered a torn ACL and a dislocated knee in practice last August. He’s done some work with teammates during spring drills, and recently posted a workout photo without a knee brace.

He’s expected into camp Wednesday, at which point Zimmer can make a more detailed assessment, but Bridgewater not being ready at this point was fairly #asexpected.

Players can be activated from the PUP at any point during camp. If they stay on the list through the start of the regular season, it would rule him out for at least the first six weeks.

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Browns may make Duke Johnson their No. 1 slot receiver

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Cleveland’s Duke Johnson is a running back, but he’s had more receiving yards than rushing yards in each of his first two NFL seasons. In his third season, he may not be a running back at all.

Johnson is the leading candidate to be the Browns’ No. 1 slot receiver, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.

Last year Andrew Hawkins was the No. 1 slot receiver in Cleveland, but he left for New England in free agency.

As one of the few bright spots in Cleveland’s offense last season, Johnson caught 53 passes for 514 yards and ran 73 times for 358 yards.

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Jerrell Freeman saves fellow airline passenger with Heimlich

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It’s a good thing Jerrell Freeman decided to have one last cheat meal before training camp.

The Bears linebacker made a last-minute call for some brisket at the airport in Austin Sunday, when he encountered a man who was choking, and saved him with the Heimlich maneuver.

According to Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune, Freeman said the man initially just looked disoriented, before he realize how serious the situation was.

“Like he had forgotten something and was about to go running for it,” Freeman said. “But then he went around the table and started to look a little frantic. I’m thinking, ‘Man, this is odd. Maybe one of his kids walked off and he can’t find his kid or something?’”

Instead, the man was choking on his own brisket, and an older woman initially tried to perform the Heimlich herself, before yielding to an NFL linebacker who could put a little more force behind the move. Freeman said he’s never performed the move previously, but was taught by his mother, a nurse, how to do it.

“I grabbed him and tried to squeeze the life out of him,” Freeman said. “You’ve got to push in and up. So I did that and he started throwing up what he was choking on. I asked him if he was all right and he shook his head like ‘No!’

“I grabbed him again and hit him again with it. And when I put him down the second time, his eyes got big. He was like, ‘Oh, my god! I think you just saved my life, man!’ It was crazy.”

The choking victim, a man named Marcus Ryan, eventually introduced himself and mentioned his ribs were a little sore, when he realized an NFL player had dislodged his food in a rather forceful way.

Then both men were able to enjoy their brisket, chewing carefully.

“Crazy,” Freeman said. “Hey, I guess that was some good brisket. He wasn’t about to let that go to waste. You can’t get between a man and his brisket. I get it.”

Fortunately, Freeman was at the right place at the right time to help the victim, and the Bears can only hope he has the same kind of impact for them.

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Antonio Brown talked to Le’Veon Bell, declares: “We need him”

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While some close to Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell are pointing out that he may not show up for training camp without a new contract, others are making sure the Steelers know how important he is to the process.

According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com, Steelers star wide receiver Antonio Brown said he spoke to Bell on the phone for two hours Saturday night, and though the conversation was “top secret,” Brown emphasized how necessary Bell was to their offense.

We need him. I need him,” Brown said. “If we’re going to do what we desire to do, we need every guy a part of the organization in a helmet to be there committed to the cause. He’s a special piece. Obviously, we know what he brings to the team, his dimension playing football, but he’s a special individual. I pray that we have him there.”

Bell hasn’t signed his $12.12 million franchise tender, which means he’s not subject to fines if he doesn’t show up for camp.

That’s not the only open question surrounding Brown. His receiving partner Martavis Bryant is back, after missing 20 games the last two seasons because of drug-related suspensions. Brown said that Bryant was “hopefully” their missing piece.

“I just encourage him, support him, push him to be the best,” Brown said.

He’s also pushing the Steelers, in his own way, to pay Bell and keep him happy.

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Who’s most responsible for Packers underachieving with Aaron Rodgers?

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PFT Live returns at 6:00 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Radio (7:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN), and with camps opening throughout the week we have a question regarding a team that last won a Super Bowl seven seasons ago.

Who’s the most responsible for the Packers underachieving with quarterback Aaron Rodgers?

It’s a poll question this time around, with several choices below (including the opportunity to say they haven’t underachieved at all). It’s a topic Chicago-centric Barstool Big Cat will surely enjoy when he joins the show for the final two hours, although he probably wishes the Bears had underachieved as much as the Packers have over the past seven years.

Make your pick in the poll, make your case in the comments, and join us for our first show back in one month and one day.

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