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.
The next position we’ll examine is the interior offensive line. Depending on how you count it, the team kept five such players in 2014 with Wesley Johnson acting as a swing man.
The locks for the roster are: Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster, David DeCastro, and Cody Wallace. There was some surprising recent debate over the hold Wallace had on his roster spot but I can’t possibly imagine a scenario where he’s booted off the roster. Given the fact the team is likely only to keep seven active on Sundays, Wallace becomes the top backup at center and left guard. With a minuscule $1.25 million cap hit, the needle wouldn’t be moved much if he were cut.
Often forgotten about on the roster, Chris Hubbard is the incumbent. He made the roster out of camp last year, spending the entire season with the team and even grabbed a cup of coffee against the Carolina Panthers. The horde of several new UDFA are shiny new toys but Hubbard is what the team knows, giving him an initial, albeit slight, advantage.
The leaders in the clubhouse at the onset of camp appear to be B.J. Finney and Miles Dieffenbach. Not only in what the tape says but their price tags, those two receiving the highest signing bonuses of all the Steelers’ UDFAs. I’m still shocked Finney wasn’t drafted while Dieffenbach would’ve almost been assured of a selection had he not torn an ACL, causing him to miss a large chunk of his senior year.
Finney is far from the cookie cutter mold, a soft, pudgy looking player. But he has tremendous upper body strength while keeping his lower half active. Starting experience, 52 games, and leadership, a three-time captain, are as good as it gets. Versatility, a sought after trait under Mike Tomlin, is another ability he brings with past work at center, guard, and even right tackle.
Reese Dismukes and Collin Rahrig round out the rest of the group. Dismukes has a decorated career, a 50 game starter versus SEC competition. I don’t pay much attention to the “locker room issue” fluff. Who knows what is fact from fiction and I don’t pretend I have the knowledge to comment on such an issue. What I do know is that he’s undersized, light, and a poor athlete without the strength I see in a player like Finney. If anything, Rahrig, brought into the fold after Micah Hatchie tore his Achilles, is the better player. He has his own strength and size limitations but shows an impressive burst off the snap while bringing extensive experience at all three interior positions.