Happy Sunday, Steelers’ Nation.
Shortly after this article goes up, I will – weather pending, fingers crossed – be boarding a flight to head down to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. I’ll be down there for the whole week, Sunday to Friday for the week of practice. Thank you all so very much again who donated to help pay for the cost of the trip. I hope our work returns the favor. Also have to thank our one sponsor, Touringplans.com for helping pay the way for meals. That way, I don’t have to munch on McChickens and can actually try some awesome Southern comfort food.
So what will I be doing down there? As I explained on The Terrible Podcast yesterday, there will be three main things.
1. Practice Reports: They will look a little different than what I did for training camp. I doubt I will be doing a play-by-play because it doesn’t have as much value as camp. The focus will lie solely on individual play and we’ll produce a winners/losers for each side along with some general observations. Practices are held Tuesday through Thursday. So don’t expect one on Monday. Weigh ins are Tuesday morning.
2. Podcasts: Like camp, the goal will be to do a short podcast after each night, an audio version giving the lowdown of what happened at practice. These will either go up at night or in the morning, depending on schedule. Never been to the Senior Bowl before so we’re playing some of it by ear.
3. Interviews. Tuesday night will be media night and a great opportunity to talk to the players. And maybe there will be times to talk briefly after practice. This will either be transcribed or if I am able to, an audio file, depending on quality.
Now that you know what I’ll be doing, let’s take a look at who I’ll be watching the closest when I get down there.
– Joshua Garnett/LG Stanford: 6’5 321. If you like powerful guards, you’ll fall head over heels for Garnett. Big, wide base creates a ton of strength in the run game. Strong hands who is able to lock out and stick in pass protection. Not the best athlete but good feet for his size and asked to pull a ton at Stanford. And you know that line is one made for players who have a nasty streak and Garnett certainly does. Want to see him in one-on-ones and how he can slide and mirror in pass protection.
– Henry Krieger Coble/TE Iowa: 6’4 250. Not the biggest threat vertically but he’s explosive out of his stance and creates excellent separation at the top of his break. Able to sink his hips and explode out. Like his ability to reach block the backside DE, sets his hips well in the run game, even if he isn’t the strongest player pound-for-pound. Asked to pass pro against DEs, something very similar to what the Steelers ask their tight ends to do. Could definitely see this guy in a Steelers’ uniform and of course, he would barely have to change jerseys.
– Kevin Peterson/CB Oklahoma St: 5’11 190. Lot of CBs in Mobile I really like. But Peterson is flying under the radar. Well-rounded CB who will come up and hit against the run, and does a great job of playing the pocket with the ball in the air. Let’s see how he handles bigger receivers. Laquon Treadwell beat him twice for scores earlier this year. Of course, Treadwell did that to everyone.
– Noah Spence/OLB Eastern Kentucky: 6’3 261. This could be a guy who winds up mocked to the Steelers at 25 when all is said and done. An Ohio State transfer, Spence fires off the ball and shows the flexibility to flatten and get upfield. Big tests are his ability to counter -which you see evidence of but maybe not enough – and ability to hold at the point of attack.
– Tyler Ervin/RB San Jose St: 5’10 177. He’s a little guy but he’s going to show everyone some toughness this week. Not afraid to bang the run up inside. Explosive, versatile, who will probably get endless comparisons to Dexter McCluster. But I think Ervin is a better runner, though any team who takes him will have to define a clear role, something the Steelers failed to do with Dri Archer.
– Darian Thompson/S Boise St: 6’2 212. I know Jeremy Cash is the guy on everyone’s mind, and trust me, we’ll keep a close eye on him too, but I really like Thompson. Complete safety whereas Cash is much more limited to the box. Thompson is a playmaker with 19 interceptions, a school record, who fills the alley admirably against the run Guy can do it all.
– DeAndre Houston-Carson/S William & Mary. 6’2 195. His special teams ability, blocking five kicks/punts the last two years, reminds me of a bigger Justin Bethel. His play on defense reminds me of Mike Mitchell. Physical, big hitter, but has to take better angles to the football and I don’t know a lot about him in coverage. Of course, he also attended Mike Tomlin’s alma matter.
– Leonte Carroo/WR Rutgers: 6’1 205. Not sure if he is as tall or listed but regardless, I love the guy. Advanced route runner who can separate with his feet and his eyes with plus hands. Quick to the tuck and a willing run blocker who was very productive.
– Paul McRoberts/WR Southeast Missouri: 6’3 197. Limited tape on this small school kid, a driving reason why I’m giddy to see him in person. Get to know him better. A former basketball player, the guy has vice-like hands and excellent body control. Needs to be more consistent timing his jumps and tracking the football vertically, and has to be able to win in more ways than just high-pointing the football. But the dude is a crazy athlete who can get up in the air with the best of them.