As the days continue to tick away before the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2015 training camp opens in Latrobe at the end of the month, we continue to preview some of the major storylines to look out for as the weeks progress.
One of the more exciting aspects of training camp is always keeping an eye on the roster battles, and the Steelers appear to have a deeper 90-man roster than has been the case in recent years. As a result, there are several spots in particular at which the coaching staff figures to have a difficult decision to make when the roster cuts must be made.
One of the deepest spots on the roster at the moment, in terms of both quality and quantity, is the outside linebacker position, where the Steelers are currently eight players deep. With only four of them guaranteed to make the roster (they carried only three to start the 2014 season), that leaves a lot of competition for a merely hypothetical fifth spot.
What follows rests on the assumption, naturally, that injuries will not be a factor, and that the following players are virtual locks to make the roster: Jarvis Jones, James Harrison, Arthur Moats, and Bud Dupree. Nothing is guaranteed to the other four.
Those four include Howard Jones, a first-year undrafted free agent who spent all of 2014 on the practice squad; Anthony Chickillo, a rookie sixth-round draft pick who played end in a 3-4 in college; Shawn Lemon, a 26-year-old first-year player who became a standout in the CFL last year; and Shayon Green, a first-year player out of Miami who has the physical attributes, but also an injury history that has clouded his journey to the NFL.
Right off the bat, any advantage that exists amongst this group has to be awarded to Howard Jones, for two reasons. He has a year in the system already, lasting the length of the 2014 season on the practice squad, and he already showed that he is capable of contributing on special teams last year, including a propensity to be active when the ball is loose. Jones came in somewhat undersized, and it showed, but is said to have added bulk over the offseason.
Chickillo will be interesting to watch as he tries to convert from end to outside linebacker, even if he seems to have the right attitude for it. What he might be lacking is simply the requisite pass-rushing skill set, but we have yet to see him try that at the NFL level. He has dropped his weight since he final collegiate game and figures to be around 260 or somewhere slightly below as he learns a new position.
Lemon was an early signing this offseason after leading the CFL with 13 sacks and eight forced fumbles. It took him a few years for everything to finally click north of the border, but he is hoping that the things that he learned there will be translatable to the NFL game. His previous success in a professional setting is not to be discounted.
Green has by far the steepest hill to climb if he wants to make this roster. he’s 6’3”, 262 pounds, as listed as the team’s website, throwing up 34 reps and posting a 4.62 40 time at his Pro Day last year.
During his collegiate career, Green tore the ACL in his right knee twice, in addition to suffering a torn meniscus in the same knee. Needless to say, that is a major medical red flag. The concern, despite his Pro Day numbers, is that he’ll never be able to get full value out of his natural skill set because of his injuries.