In less than two weeks, we’ll be at training camp, watching the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 90 man roster roll through 14 practices and four games. There will be so much to learn, tons of things going on, so I want to lay out some of my expectations and hopes for each player before things start up and, frankly, all this speculation becomes irrelevant.
Moving onto the defensive ends now.
Cam Heyward – It’s not like Heyward has much to show, a bonafide superstar even if the league is lagging behind in recognizing him as such. The ultimate goal of one-on-ones is to win but I really want to see him challenge the young linemen he’ll face – Jerald Hawkins, B.J. Finney. Don’t just run them over every time. Mix up your moves just to see how they respond. It’ll make them better. And the young group of defensive linemen will surely take notice. If not, Heyward will have to serve as a vocal leader and lead his men.
Stephon Tuitt – Tuitt is generally in the same boat as Heyward and I didn’t even do a “One Step To Take” series on him because I struggled to find something useful to say. Like Heyward, he’ll have to lead by example and show the remarkable hustle he shows on a play-to-play basis. That sends a message to the young players to follow their lead. Because if you don’t give fanatical effort for John Mitchell, you won’t sniff the field.
L.T. Walton – Young guy with a ton to prove. What I wrote before still applies now. Stay upright and stay square. Can’t get knocked off your feet, can’t get turned, lose your power, lose your vision. I liked his effort last year in limited snaps and he showed baseline versatility (playing each side, playing in left and right-handed stance) but there’s a long ways to go. He was just one reason why the Steelers weren’t comfortable in subbing out Heyward and Tuitt last year.
Ricardo Mathews – I’m partly trying to figure out where he’s going to play. I’ve been assuming all along he will see more reps as an end, playing the 4i or 5T, than he did in San Diego, where he primarily played the one and the three. He was also used primarily as a pass rusher with the Chargers so I’m excited to see him be asked to two-gap and anchor. Never got a super great feel for it on the tape I watched after he was signed.
Caushaud Lyons – He’s been talked about here and there by fans and some in the media, a semi-sleeper during the lazy offseason days. But there’s been no buzz by the team in the chances to do so, most notably, in Heyward’s comments about the youth movement. Lyons name was absent. So for our purposes, the fans looking from afar, it’d be nice to see him make some noise on that first day in pads, day three.
We have seven defensive ends with basically six spots. So someone is largely going to be the odd man out in camp.
Giorgio Newberry – An interesting UDFA among a pretty weak class. Thought he moved pretty decent as an athlete, he dabbled as a tight end in college, so he’ll have to show those lateral movement skills. Like I’ve said for other young players, he’ll have to be well conditioned and ready to play at a high level for the reps he gets. 3rd team won’t offer a substantial amount of playing time and we’ve seen guys fall out of favor pretty quickly (remember Brian Arnfelt?).
He needs to win with his first step and to vary his moves outside of his bull rush. Find a counter. Can’t go the same well each time or you’re easy to prepare for, even if you have a slight talent advantage.
Johnny Maxey – Arguably one of the least known players on the roster. A UDFA from Mars Hill, he’s obviously making a huge competition jump. Sink or swim, we’ll find out if he has the overall talent to look like he belongs. And the obvious, giving great effort to the ball. That is all reflected of conditioning.