10 Observations From The Pittsburgh Steelers First OTA Practices Of 2012

It might have been just Pittsburgh Steelers football in shorts, but it was football nonetheless as the Black and Gold hit the field for their first OTA session of the 2012 season this past week. While these OTA sessions are not filled with huge earth shattering revelations, there were a 10 things that came out of it that warrant notation and I have listed them below. Make sure to add yours in the comments below.

No Real Tackle Clarity – Rookie Mike Adams will miss all three OTA sessions, but should be able to participate in the mini-camp due to Ohio State rules. In the mean time we were treated to Jonathan Scott and Trai Essex this week at left tackle. Essex seems convinced that he has as good of shot at the position as any of the three and Marcus Gilbert let it be known that he should not be ruled out as a possibility on the left side either. Gilbert worked at right tackle this week, but we are unlikely to get any true clarity on the tackle spots until the team arrives at Latrobe for training camp. Like it or not, Adams needs these OTA sessions and is already behind the eight ball by not being able to participate until mini-camp.

Baron Batch Healthy – The Steelers 7th round draft pick and training camp phenom from last year, Baron Batch, is now back on the field after suffering a torn ligament in his knee just prior to the start of the 2011 preseason. Batch was noted as looking strong, quick and determined this week as he looks to grab the spot that Mewelde Moore had for the last several seasons. In college Batch showed that he is willing and able to pick up the blitz and is a reliable pass option out of the backfield as well. He can also run between the tackles, so his prospects are good to be the Steelers third down and change of pace back this season if he can pick up where he left off in camp last year prior to suffering his knee injury.

Wallace Talked To TomlinMike Tomlin revealed on Tuesday that unsigned restricted free agent wide receiver Mike Wallace was in town last week and the two had good conversation. It was also revealed that Wallace also has his playbook in addition by Antonio Brown. Tomlin said in regard to Wallace, “It\’ll be over, (just) a little bit of short-term misery.” While I caution everyone not to read too much into that quote as far as what Tomlin means by short-term, he did give the appearance that a Wallace arrival seems destined to be in the future. Will it be by mini-camp or will it be by training camp is all that is left to be seen.

Worilds Injured Again – It is not a big deal that Jason Worilds was not running around in shorts this past week as he certainly should have a good grasp of the details as he heads into his third season. The perplexing part is that he was not able to take part because of some sort of hand, wrist or arm injury. We still do not know exactly what the nature of the injury is or how it occurred, but Worilds always seems to be banged up in some shape or form. It likely isn\’t anything serious and hopefully he will be able to participate in some of the OTA sessions over the course of the next several weeks. Overreaction observation? Yes, most certainly, but a lot is expected out of the former second round pick this year, even if it ends up mostly being on special teams and backing up both LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison on the outside.

Johnson Versus Johnson Battle On Tap – I wrote more in depth about this earlier in the week and mentioned prior to the OTA that David Johnson is really only a fullback that has been playing tight end in the past. Word this week came out that David is now only attending the running back meetings along with Will Johnson, a former WVU player that went undrafted in 2011 and turned heads at the Mountaineers pro day back in March. It seems very possible that these two could be battling at Latrobe for one roster spot and it is not out of the question that another player might be added into the mix by the time late July rolls around. David has the experience, but Will offers more upside if he can prove able in the blocking department.

Cornerback Pecking Order As Expected – We had a pretty good idea what the cornerback pecking order would be heading into the OTA, but now we have confirmation as Keenan Lewis worked opposite Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen served as the first team nickelback. We did not hear the name of Curtis Brown thrown around too much over the course of the three days, but there is not too much to read into that. Allen has the on the field experience already, but could still very well be overtaken by Brown for the sub-package job. Lewis is confident and cocky and that is what you want to hear out of a player looking to make his mark in the league this year. Any backsliding by Lewis moving forward though could open the door for Allen outside. The depth chart other than Taylor is anything but settled, but we needed a starting point and we got one.

Rosetta Stone Offense Installation Begins – The new offense of Todd Haley started to be introduced this week and there were no reports of anyone taking their football and going home and no animated shouting matches between Haley or any of the quarterbacks were reported. While Ben Roethlisberger was not seen doing cartwheels down the field in celebration of the changes, you just have to accept that some of his comments are just Ben being Ben. It is not uncommon for people to fear change and the attitude that the veteran signal caller has had since Bruce Arians was jettisoned is acceptable in my eyes. Things always seem to work themselves out over time and Roethlisberger made it clear the day prior to the start of the OTA that he and Haley are fine with each other. I noted in an earlier post this week some of the characteristics that that Rosetta Stone offense seem to incorporate and many of the players seem both happy and excited with the what has been installed thus far.

Foote & Polamalu Leadership EmergingLarry Foote sounded and acted like the new leader of the defense this week in his talks with the media that we have seen as he looks to fill the giant shoes of James Farrior. We had good word prior to the OTA session that Troy Polamalu would be present this week and he indeed was. Polamalu is not the most vocal of players on defense, but he knows his actions speak louder than any words he can say. He knows that his teammates need him present and that is why he was in attendance and will continue to be for the remainder of the off-season program.

Rainey Is Fast – We have talked about the Steelers 5th round pick, Chris Rainey, quite a bit here since he was drafted and how Haley might go about using him this year, assuming he makes the 53 man roster. It was noted by both players and media alike this past week how fast he was on the field in shorts. This is not a huge revelation, but more an affirmation of what we already knew coming into this week, but it is exciting to keep hearing and thinking about all of the possible ways that he could contribute on offense and special teams.

No Serious Injuries – This should probably be number one on the list and it can\’t be understated enough. The best news of the week is that there were no serious injuries reported while running around in shorts.

The Steelers have their second OTA session of the off-season next week and it again will start on Tuesday and end on Thursday.

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