If you caught today’s Terrible Podcast (if you haven’t, click here), Dave and I mentioned the lengthy injury list the Pittsburgh Steelers are dealing with over the summer. Nothing serious, at least we don’t believe so, but it rivals your mother’s shopping list.
That’s never a fun fact to talk about this time of year. But the upswing is the chance for young players and new faces to be thrust into roles they won’t have by the time camp and the regular season roles around.
We’ve already written extensively about Mike Hilton getting first team reps as the starting slot corner, thanks to William Gay getting rest. Daimion Stafford has quickly been used in a dime defense role, probably in part to Sean Davis on the mend from shoulder surgery. It’s unclear if it’ll stick but if Stafford is going to have a role on this defense, that would be the fit.
T.J. Watt has been given plenty of reps as first team ROLB due to James Harrison’s bruised birth certificate, hopefully accelerating his growth on defense. And to Watt’s credit, all indications are he’s excelling. That has a trickle-down effect, giving 7th rounder Keion Adams third team reps there behind Watt and Anthony Chickillo. That doesn’t lend itself for a lot of snaps but some, and infinitely more than if Adams was running 4th team.
On the offensive side of the ball, B.J. Finney has ostensibly soaked up more first team reps at LG in place of Ramon Foster. And when Finney went down in the last practice of OTAs, Kyle Friend pulled double-duty at second and third team center. That’s going to more than double the reps Friend is likely to see in camp, where the third team comes in for mop-up duty.
There are likely several more examples to offer. That’s not to say all those guys are going to have a major, or for some, any impact on the 2017 active roster, but it allows the coaching staff to get a longer look at some of these half-unknowns while the players reap the benefits and get better.
Because when camp hits, and certainly when the season starts, a lot of guys are watching. The bulk of the reps are reserved for the starters. There’s no time to give someone a “look,” when it’s not warranted.
It’s what Carnell Lake said about his defensive backs, logic which applies for any position.
“And then when the veterans come in they have to take a back seat. They don’t get many reps, and they kind of have to watch to get their experience.”
For now, it’s the time to be in the front seat. An important time of year, even if several starters are resting on the sideline.