While breaking down the winners and losers from each day of practice during the first two weeks of Pittsburgh Steelers training camp is fun, the reality is that consistency is maybe the most important attribute for each player on the roster bubble to exhibit. Just about everyone at camp flashes at one time or another, but can players begin to stack strong performances on top of each other? Can they show improvement in their positional drills each day, then carry that over into team sessions? Will mental mistakes be eliminated as they grow more comfortable within the structure of the offense or defense?
Those are some of the questions that this comprehensive, two-week stock report will attempt to address, showing you which players have consistently raised their value throughout the first two week of camp. This report by no means makes any definitive statements about each player, as there is still plenty of time and opportunity for those who are struggling to right their path. For those excelling, now is not the time to slump. The most important barometer for those on the roster bubble are preseason games, which begin in earnest tomorrow at 8 pm against the Minnesota Vikings.
Your two-week stock report…
1. LB Shayon Green
I still think Green is a bit of a long shot to make the active roster, but you wouldn’t know it by the performances he’s put in during the second week of practice. Green has had impressive enough showings to warrant plenty of first team reps with Jarvis Jones sitting out of live team sessions, and the Miami product has made the most of them. He isn’t the greatest athlete in space, but Green has a great motor and a violent punch at the point of attack. He’s shown the ability to get off blocks, set the edge, and make stops in pursuit from his outside linebacker position. Green might be a bit limited as a pass rusher, but he’s shown bend and physicality off the edge in one-on-ones. Definitely a player to watch in the preseason.
2. DE Ethan Hemer
Hemer’s second year at Steelers training camp has seen clear improvement, both in his hand usage, his pass-rushing repertoire, and his strength at the line of scrimmage. I’ve been impressed with his array of rush moves in one-on-ones, showing the ability to swim over blockers or dip under them. With Clifton Geathers on injured reserve, a huge opportunity for Hemer to make the active roster has opened up. It should be a fun battle between he and L.T. Walton for the sixth defensive lineman spot the rest of the way.
3. TE Jesse James
It has been an up-and-down camp for James, who has shown improvement in his routes and understanding of the offense, but is still largely inconsistent in his all-around game. That said, his stock is on the rise due to the situations developing around him within the tight end position group. Michael Egnew’s release and Rob Blanchflower’s injury (and subsequent release), have opened the door for James to lock on to the third string tight end spot without much competition. The big tight end has shown soft hands in the red zone, as six of his eight catches during padded practices have gone for touchdowns (per Alex Kozora). That’s the area his 6’7, 261-pound frame can make an early impact.
4. CB B.W. Webb
I went into camp very curious to see who would win the Steelers’ third-string cornerback jobs behind William Gay, Cortez Allen, Antwon Blake, and now Brandon Boykin. Doran Grant was obviously a lock for one spot, but with Senquez Golson shoulder injury, the door was open for a sixth cornerback to prove himself to the coaches. While Kevin Fogg has had some strong moments, Webb has quietly had a really nice camp. He can play in the slot or outside if need be, and doesn’t mind getting physical with receivers at the line of scrimmage. In fact, he ran Darrius Heyward-Bey out of bounds on one play with excellent body positioning and hand usage. Given his special teams prowess and knowledge of the Steelers defense, I like Webb’s chances to make the active roster moving forward.
5. OT Alejandro Villanueva
Every practice Mike Adams misses, Villanueva becomes more of a sure thing for the 53-man roster. The 6’9 behemoth has had some issues, but generally shows exceptional power and the ability to engulf defenders with his length and tenacious style of play. He gets doubled over at times lunging for targets, but he’s shown improvement in his pass sets and footwork. Villanueva is the type of high-character, hard worker that the Steelers would love to roster, so provided his preseason performances are strong, expect to see him survive final roster cuts.
6. DE Stephon Tuitt
Improved hand usage, a strong motor, and being in fantastic shape are just a few of the signs that Tuitt is ready for a monster season. He’s whipped David DeCastro consistently in one-on-ones, showing an array of moves and startling quickness for a man his size. When he’s healthy and in shape, Tuitt can be a monster.
7. OT Kelvin Beachum
You look at Beachum next to Villanueva, and it is almost funny to think the stumpy left tackle was one of the top players at his position in the NFL last year. Yet Beachum continues to dominate with excellent technique and footwork to compensate for his lack of physical tools. He’s schooled some younger players during team sessions, but is undoubtedly one of the vocal presences on the team that everyone respects. Beachum’s value to the Steelers is off-the-charts, in large part because they have no one close to his ability behind him on the depth chart. Keeping him healthy should be a major priority.
8. S Ian Wild
Wild hails from Mercyhurst College, a DII school with scarcely more than 3,000 kids in attendance. A lacrosse and football star there, the unassuming Wild was probably one of the longest of long shots to make the roster entering camp, yet all he’s done is make plays and stick his nose into the middle of every pile. He’s far more athletic than I thought he would be for a converted linebacker, and has shown some great instincts in coverage. Fearless as a blitzer too. A practice squad spot could be in store for Wild, especially given the injuries at safety.
9. OLB Anthony Chickillo
Going from a 285-pound four-technique to a 250-pound stand-up outside linebacker in just a couple months is an impressive feat, but one that Chickillo seems to have accomplished seamlessly. The decreased weight has resulted in a more explosive first step that has given the second and third string offensive tackles for Pittsburgh fits in pass protection. I like Chickillo’s bend and ability to dip the edge and flatten quickly to the quarterback, and he’s shown the headiness to attempt to counter back inside when his first step doesn’t win. I’m excited to watch him in preseason action, hopefully working against better quality right tackles too.
10. LB Terence Garvin
I had very little doubt that Garvin would again secure the #5 inside linebacker spot, but I didn’t see this impressive of a camp coming from the undersized defender. Garvin has been flying around the field making stops, showing off his physicality and picture-perfect tackling form. The violent collision between he and 260-pound Roosevelt Nix in the hole during one team period may have been the highlight of camp so far. I love the energy and strong play that Garvin brings to the Steelers off the bench and in special teams situations. He’s not going anywhere.
1. LB Jordan Zumwalt
It pains me to list him here, as I was definitely a fan of Zumwalt’s coming out of UCLA last year, but the inside linebacker clearly doesn’t have the desired level of athleticism to thrive in the NFL. Zumwalt has difficulty getting off of blocks and with his minimal range sideline-to-sideline, isn’t going to make up for that with great run-and-chase abilities. Even if his limitations weren’t so apparent, there is no space for him on the roster with Garvin nailing down the last inside linebacker spot.
2. RB Cameron Stingily
Stingily tries hard, but is a poor athlete who lacks fluidity and burst with the ball in his hands. He’s not a natural receiver out of the backfield, while his main competitor for a roster spot, Jawon Chisholm, has proven his pass-catching skills. Even with his stocky frame, Stingily isn’t exactly a tackle-breaker, and he doesn’t have great vision at the line of scrimmage. His days are numbered in Pittsburgh.
3. QB Tajh Boyd
I don’t really think Boyd has been awful, but he’s clearly lost reps to Tyler Murphy, and is well behind Landry Jones in the competition for the third-string quarterback job. He needs some strong preseason performances to elevate his stock. Boyd needs to hit the gimme throws with good mechanics, as we all know how pretty his deep ball can be at times. It isn’t too late for the Clemson product to prove his worth in preseason action when the lights are on, especially if Jones struggles with extensive reps.
4. WR Darrius Heyward-Bey
I won’t belabor the point here, especially as DHB’s spot on the roster likely isn’t in jeopardy, but he might have the worst hands in the league. On top of that he’s been consistently blown up as a blocker, allowing a couple tackle-for-losses due to poor execution in the run game. I know he has special teams value, but what happens if there is an injury to one of the top three receivers and Sammie Coates isn’t ready? You really trust DHB out there as your #3 receiver? I absolutely don’t.
5. DE Matt Conrath
Conrath has really struggled to make an impact in camp, despite the fact that there are two defensive line spots up for grabs on the active roster. The lanky defensive end doesn’t have much pop at the point of attack, and his pass-rushing repertoire is hopelessly limited. Even newly-signed Joe Okafor got snaps over Conrath in practice yesterday. He needs a strong preseason to avoid being an early cut.
6. C Reese Dismukes
What a nightmare camp it has been for Dismukes, from his six bad snaps in one practice, to being consistently run over by little Mike Thornton in one-on-ones. There have been very few bright spots for the Auburn product, especially now that Maurkice Pouncey has returned from the PUP list and Cody Wallace has bumped Dismukes down to the third team. B.J. Finney has been receiving more reps at center as well, all but spelling the end for Dismukes time in Pittsburgh.
7. WR Sammie Coates
Coates has been a bit of a roller coaster ride so far in camp, even running behind Kenzel Doe in warm-ups yesterday. The coaching staff has been tough on him, and rightfully so, but I want to see more competitive fire from the big receiver. Even after a nice catch over Fogg yesterday, Coates walked back to the huddle with his head down. Need to see him compete as a blocker and when he isn’t the primary receiver. Coates hands have also been inconsistent, and he doesn’t show the upper body flexibility or smoothness in his routes that I hoped he would. I said this last year about Bryant and was wrong, but I think Coates is going to be very much a work in progress this season.
8. S Ross Ventrone
Ventrone was injured during the team’s second practice, and hasn’t participated since. The missed reps have resulted in other safeties being able to show off their skills in Ventrone’s place, which is never a good sign when your main role is on special teams. Good chance the Steelers eventually see Ventrone as replaceable if other safeties continue to impress. Given the fact that he’s a vested veteran, the team could save money by cutting him loose before Week 1.
9. FB Roosevelt Nix
Nix has actually improved as camp has gone on, but he’s a much worse athlete than Will Johnson without the hands or the versatility. He’s got zero chance to make the Steelers roster, but I respect his effort to undergo a position change from defensive lineman to fullback. He doesn’t mind the physicality of the game, that is for sure.
10. DL Niko Davis
Again, Davis is a guy who has worked hard, but I don’t see a future for him here in Pittsburgh. While very active as a pass rusher, he’s also incredibly raw and a little undersized for a 3-4 defensive end. His reps have been limited and his impact just as minimal. He and Nix are two of the least likely players to survive the first round of cuts on September 1st.