The Pittsburgh Steelers have recently concluded their offseason schedule, complete with nine OTA practices and the three-day minicamp, and are currently off for about five weeks before they re-emerge in Latrobe for the start of training camp.
Not much is expected to happen between now and then as far as new goes regarding the team. Ideally, the players will simply be focused on getting in the best possible shape heading for the long haul that begins with training camp and concludes, hopefully, with a deep postseason run.
That means that the roster heading into camp should just about be set, so now during the dead time it’s worth taking a dip back into the positional depth charts to see where we stand following the offseason reports, continuing with the defensive ends.
Cameron Heyward: Heyward is about the closest thing as there is to a proven commodity on this defense. Many feel that he is on the cusp of a Pro Bowl nomination, even considering how difficult it is for 3-4 ends to receive such recognition. But if given the opportunity to make more plays this season, it has to be considered doable.
Stephon Tuitt: So much of the success or failure of this defense may well be tied to the rapid growth of Tuitt, who is expected to start in his second season after starting the last four games of his rookie year. While it’s difficult to even find any hesitance about his ability to deliver over a 16-game season, the fact is that it needs to be seen first.
Cam Thomas: A primary starter at the position for the bulk of last season, he remains listed at this spot in the pecking order for now, but there is a very real possibility that he fails to make the team at all. He already lost his starting job to Tuitt by the end of the year.
Clifton Geathers: Regarded as an injury replacement and a fill-in, Geathers was re-signed at the request of his position coach, and has slimmed down, again, upon request, to a playing weight reminiscent of his entrance into the league. He is the second-tallest player on the team at 6’8” and has long arms, yet he hasn’t been able to stick during his journeyman career.
L.T. Walton: The rookie Walton has the length to play outside and the size to play inside. I think his ability to make the team as a rookie may be dependent upon his ability to demonstrate that versatility.
Matt Conrath: A former seventh-round pick from a 4-3 team, the 6’7” Conrath has ample time to display his craft and move his way up the depth chart during the preseason.
Ethan Hemer: An undrafted rookie last season, Hemer was signed to the practice squad after the Steelers lost another defensive end. He figures to have long odds this year to make the team.
Joe Kruger: Kruger has been a bit of a journeyman himself in his brief career, but to his credit, he has bulked up since entering the league. Still, he will have a hard time working his way up the depth chart, though he did spend time on the practice squad last season.
Niko Davis: The undrafted rookie might have an interesting story to tell, but so do dozens of other rookies who never make an NFL roster every year.