The Pittsburgh Steelers finish out there time at Latrobe Saturday with a closed practice session, so now with training camp virtually behind us, we will take a look back at the 9 key training camp battles I highlighted just before training camp got underway.
Max Starks Versus Mike Adams – This one has yet to be decided, but Starks looks to be winning and Friday was just his first practice in pads since being removed from the PUP list. Adams first start last Thursday night against the Philadelphia Eagles included 2.5 sacks allowed and one sprained knee. Starks will not play Sunday night against the Indianapolis Colts, but Adams might be able to go after returning to practice this week. Should Adams indeed play, he will not start and needs a much better showing this time out, even if it is likely to be against the Colts second team.
Keenan Lewis Versus Cortez Allen – While Allen has had a solid camp thus far, Lewis remains the starter opposite Ike Taylor through one preseason game. Last week against the Eagles Allen was relegated mostly to the nickel role with both the first and second team units. Lewis showed he will fight through injuries to keep his starting job as he did not miss a practice after injuring his shoulder a few practices before the game. For now, it looks like Lewis is the starter and Allen is the nickel.
Jonathan Dwyer Versus John Clay – This one took care of itself after Clay tore his quad this past week and was placed on injured reserve after being waved injured. Dwyer was way ahead in the battle though and he looked good in the game against the Eagles. Even though he suffered a sprained shoulder in the game, Dwyer looks like he will possibly start Sunday night against the Colts with Isaac Redman most likely to be sidelined with a groin and hip injury.
Baron Batch Versus Knee – Batch is winning this battle. Against the Eagles it looked as if the knee had the upper hand as Batch seemed to be tentative, but as the game wore on, Batch ran harder and had a nice jump cut that showed he had caught and passed the knee. While this battle will go on for several more weeks, the only way the knee can win is with a knock out.
Al Woods Versus Corbin Bryant – This is another battle that has several more rounds to go in it, but the interception that Woods made against the Eagles certainly gave him the lead. Woods fought through his block to get himself in position to make the play and had a nifty big man return as well. Both players played 30 plus snaps in the game and rotated sides and I expect we will see the same course of action going forward. A key part of this battle is the fact that Bryant has practice squad eligibility, while Woods does not. For Bryant to even have a chance right now he needs a strong showing the rest of the way to force the Steelers to keep him for fear that he would not clear waivers and make it to the practice squad.
Brandon Johnson Versus Chris Carter & Stevenson Sylvester – Carter is in the clear right now as both James Harrison and Jason Worilds remain on the PUP list. In their absence Carter is the starting right outside linebacker and there is no way that he doesn\’t make the roster now. The remaining battlers, Johnson and Sylvester, appear to be deadlocked right now and both are getting snaps at left outside linebacker and inside at the BUCK position. There is an outside chance that both could make the roster depending on what ultimately happens with Harrison and Worilds. For now we will call this battle a draw with several rounds yet to go.
Terrence Frederick Versus Terry Carter – Much like the battle between Dwyer and Clay, this one was settled by an injury as Carter tore his hamstring and was waived injured. Against the Eagles, Frederick saw nearly all of his snaps at the nickel spot after Allen was done for the night. While Frederick is still not a lock to make the roster, he appears to be inside the bubble right now. The only way he doesn’t make in my opinion is if he has a monumental collapse. He can better secure his spot by showing up on special teams over the course of the remaining preseason games.
Will Allen Versus Rest Of The Field – The only competition at this point for Allen is his cap hit and undrafted free agent Robert Golden. Working in the favor of Allen is the fact that Ryan Clark will sit out the week 1 game against the Denver Broncos due to his sickle cell trait. While it was a bit ticky-tack, his personal foul penalty against the Eagles likely got him a conversation with head coach Mike Tomlin. Allen is a big special teams contributor and will be hard to knock of the roster for that reason alone. Can Golden catch him? Time will tell.
David Johnson Versus Will Johnson – While the battle lived up to its hype heading into the Eagles game, Will won it after David tore up his knee in the game. David has since been waived injured and placed on injured reserve. Since that time the Steelers have moved Jamie McCoy back to fullback to challenge him and signed veteran Justin Peelle to push the tight end and fullback bodies. Baring injury, it is hard seeing him not make the roster at this point.