Steelers’ Training Camp Recap: The Good And The Bad

To preface with the obvious, we are only four days into camp. It’s still a super tiny sample size, like judging Paul Walker’s acting career solely off of Tammy and the T-Rex. But we have learned some things, or at least, have an initial impression. So a quick look back at some of the players who have made positive marks on camp and ones that haven’t gotten off to an ideal start.

The Good

– In a phrase, Javon Hargrave has been “as advertised.” It has been difficult to see him in team sessions, the trench guys get so muddied up in it all, but the little I’ve seen there has been good. And he’s been downright dominate in one-on-ones, beating up on Chris Hubbard, B.J. Finney and on Monday, Cody Wallace. He flashes a quick first step and a couple different ways to win as a pass rusher (bull and dip/rip are his favorites). Hargrave has that built in leverage that makes him tough to get under and the 1% athleticism Keith Butler has raved about.

Sammie Coates had just one “eye popping” day but his entire camp has been solid. Overall, he’s caught the football cleanly and shown the ability to adjust to passes thrown outside the framework of his body. And that speed is legit. From the start to end of practice, a sign of better conditioning, he’s been dynamic.

Ricardo Mathews won’t get the love Hargrave does but he’s had a strong start to camp. Another guy who has shown the ability to win in OL/DL work while getting penetration in team drills, not allowing himself to get reached and busting up zone schemes.

Ryan Shazier has had a very Shazier like camp. When they’ve been allowed to hit, he’s been flying around in the backfield and destroying anyone carrying a football. It may have really just been that first day of pads, Sunday, that drew rave reviews, but it was impressive. Especially to those who saw backs on ‘backers, where he reportedly shined.

Anthony Chickillo is having a quietly good camp. I really liked what he’s done the last two days. He continues to show an array of pass rush moves and line up at both OLB spots. He seems to be doing everything right going into his second year.

B.J. Finney’s play has been fine, not great or terrible, but I really like to see him playing all over the interior line. By Day Three, he had already played at both guard spots and center. He may get taken out of the center rotation with Valerian Ume-Ezeoke but it’s still a promising sign to get the nod there. Odds are good he’ll see more time at the pivot at some point in the preseason.

Eli Rogers has been excellent. I’m not sure I can come up with one negative thing to say about him four days in (I’m sure Richard Mann would disagree). His eight catches in camp are already more than he had all of last camp, which yes, was cut pretty short. Ayers, though impressive in some one-on-one work, has yet to catch a pass in team drills.

He’s clearly been running ahead of Demarcus Ayers in every facet.

David Johnson isn’t going to woo anyone but he’s the person you settle down with when you reach your 30s and have bills to pay. His blocking was been excellent and he’s even made a nice catch, wrestling a pass away from Shazier. What you see is what you get but if he sees if field, you’ll get a positive impact.

The Bad

– I don’t mean to harp on it too much but to say anything other than that Artie Burns is having a rough start to camp would be viewing things with rose colored glasses. Again, it’s not time to freak out, if we frame this as a redshirt season, it’s Day 4 of 365, but his stiffness has been evident covering quicker receivers or coming out of his break. And I’m sure he’s finding out he’s no longer the fasted guy around. The fact the team seems intent on keeping William Gay outside helps speak to the realization that Burns needs some time.

Marcus Tucker’s catch percentage has been poor, just 25%, and two of those have been because of drops. At least one more came on a miscommunication. Reps aren’t going to be plentiful as a back-end receiver and he isn’t taking full advantage. I do like parts about his game. He’s just having some trouble putting it together.

– You can say similar about Canaan Severin. He hasn’t had a bunch of negative plays. He’s just been pretty invisible overall, not even seeing a target in team drills. If Shakim Phillips is close to a return, it’ll push Severin’s chances down even farther.

– Couple of guys who simply aren’t even getting the reps to make an impact. Al-Hajj Shabazz and Giorgio Newberry. Both have been 4th teamers. I hyped up Newberry a little bit but this has the making of another swing and miss by me. Matt Conrath was my sleeper before camp in 2015 and that clearly didn’t work out. They better show something quickly or they won’t make it past the cutdown to 75…or be on the street even sooner.

– Maybe I’m reading into it a bit much but Bruce Gradkowski has not seen a lot of reps. He did seem to get elevated a bit on Monday but according to my numbers, he’s last in pass attempts. Noticeably behind Dustin Vaughan. I still think his spot is safe, from Vaughan at least, but it’s something to monitor.

Somewhere Inbetween 

Xavier Grimble has flashed, and that’s what you want to see from the young guys, but he has been flighty. Good for at least a drop a day and he’s struggled to finish out practice, hinting issues with his conditioning. Things don’t get any easier and you know being in peak physical shape is the #1 thing Mike Tomlin looks for.

– The door has cracked open a little more with Senquez Golson’s injury for Montell Garner. He’s shown plus ball skills but part of that comes from him being over-aggressive on playing the ball, prone to looking for the ball early and giving up separation. I do like that he’s played inside and out but we’ve seen corners do the same and asked to turn in their playbook.

Jerald Hawkins had a strong day Monday but a lot of it did come against a fellow rookie, Travis Feeney. Sunday wasn’t as clean. Let’s see how he attacks this week.

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