The Pittsburgh Steelers will begin their 2016 OTA practices on Tuesday and while we aren’t likely to learn a lot about the players during the annual “football in shorts” sessions, there are four second-year participants who we will be monitoring very closely over the course of the next several weeks as it relates to their overall developments.
Senquez Golson – Golson had his entire rookie season wiped out by a shoulder injury that he just so happened to suffer during last year’s OTA practices. The Steelers are expecting big things in 2016 out of their former second-round draft pick and it will be interesting to hear this week if Golson is mostly asked to line-up inside as the team’s nickel cornerback or if he’s given a chance to man one of the two outside cornerback positions during practices.
Sammie Coates – With wide receiver Martavis Bryant suspended for the entire 2016 season, the Steelers will really need Coates to pick up right where he left off last season as far as his developments goes. Coates should be in much better shape this year and will be expected to push veteran wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey on the team’s depth chart over the course of the summer. Coates barely saw the field last year but that figures to change this year. The team needs him to catch at least 30 passes in 2016 with the possibility of him pushing starter Markus Wheaton for even more playing time later on in the season.
Doran Grant – Even though there has been some talk about Grant moving to safety this upcoming season, we have yet to have evidence that such a move is forthcoming. Now that the Steelers have spent two early-round selections on cornerback Artie Burns and safety Sean Davis, it will be interesting to see where this leaves Grant, who the team drafted last year in the fourth-round out of Ohio State. While Grant started his 2015 rookie season on the Steelers practice squad, he ended the year on the team’s 53-man roster and played all of one defensive snap in the few games that he dressed for.
B.J. Finney – The Steelers thought enough of Finney to pay him a full salary for most of his rookie season even though he was only a member of their practice squad. With one full season now under his belt, Finney is expected to compete for a roster spot this year as a swing interior offensive lineman. The fact that the former undrafted free agent can play both center and guard makes him very appealing to the Steelers, who really don’t have much depth right now behind starting guards David DeCastro and Ramon Foster. Finney is expected to have a great set of OTA practices this year and follow those up with an even stronger training camp and preseason.
Eli Rogers – The former undrafted free agent out of Louisville should be healthy enough to participate in OTAs this year on his way to battling several other wide receivers for a roster spot this summer. Not only will Rogers need to show that he can play wide receiver in the league this offseason, he just might have to win the punt returner job this summer as well if he’s going to make the team’s final 53-man roster. While Rogers is technically in his second year, he has yet to play in an NFL preseason game due to him suffering a foot injury during the early stages of last year’s training camp. Needless to say, the battle between Rogers and rookie draft pick Demarcus Ayers figures to be a fun one to watch once the team arrives at Latrobe for training camp this year as both players possess similar skill sets.