With the Pittsburgh Steelers’ training camp for the 2015 season now in swing, it’s time to get down to the business of football. The time for “football in shorts” or “football-like” events is over as teams all around the league embark on their own personal journey for the upcoming season.
Although for just about every team the time leading up to the regular season and reflect a period of optimism, it’s also a period of great uncertainty, which means that there are a lot of questions that need to be answered before we know who or what a team truly is. It’s a process that can last well into the regular season.
There is one question that I will be interested in monitoring throughout the course of the preseason, and that will be tracking the usage of the Steelers’ interior offensive linemen, both in terms of what positions they play, and with which groups.
Early training camp reports have painted a picture of Reese Dismukes struggling some running as the second-team center, particularly with his snaps. Though he continued in that capacity yesterday, I can’t help but wonder if this will change if he continues to struggle.
There’s also the fact that when Maurkice Pouncey gets back, Cody Wallace will revert from working with the first-team line back down to running as the second-team center. B.J. Finney was running with the third-team line at center aside from yesterday, when he sat out. Who will be the third-team center when everybody is healthy?
The fact of the matter is that most of the interior linemen that the Steelers brought in are position-flexible, which is typically a necessity for reserves. That is what made it surprising that Chris Hubbard made the team last year over Guy Whimper, because the team had pretty much only used him at left guard. Mike Tomlin was asked about Hubbard getting snaps at center after practice, however, and said that he has been getting work at center and guard for two or three years. Not that we have seen it.
I recall during his rookie season that there was some talk of stretching him out some and getting him some work at center, but this never developed—at least not during the preseason games. But he was working with the third-team line at center at yesterday’s practice with Pouncey and Finney down.
With Finney sitting, that also gave Miles Dieffenbach a chance to run at right guard with the second-team unit, which is what he had been doing with the third-team. He had a decent showing for himself, so I wonder if that might lead to more work with the second-team line. Perhaps the Finney-Dieffenbach combination could work with the second-team as a center-right guard combination.
A late addition, Collin Rahrig has a bit of a hill to climb because of the offseason work that he has missed, and has so far been reserved to working with the third-team offensive line. If the team wants to get another lineman extra reps, he could be the odd man out when Pouncey gets back and the depth chart gets shifted, as currently Finney has been running with both the second- and third-team lines, with Hubbard filling that role yesterday.
Of course, this is still very early in the proceedings. We have yet to even play one of five preseason games, so it shouldn’t be particularly surprising that we don’t see a ton of movement or mixing and matching with the line formations just yet. But changes will come in time, and we will be monitoring the developments.