The Pittsburgh Steelers will report to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe on Thursday for their 2017 training camp and below are the annual storylines, or points of interest, to follow closely over the course of the next few hours and weeks. In essence, most all of these storylines below are annual points of interest with only the names changing. A few others, however, are related to just this year.
Who isn’t present for the start of camp? – On the surface, the only two players who might not show up on Thursday for the start of training camp are running back Le’Veon Bell and tackle Alejandro Villanueva as the other 88 players on the team’s 90-man roster are currently under contract and thus have no reason not to report on time. Of those two players, Bell is the most likely to not report on Thursday and if that happens, we might not see him at all while the team is at Saint Vincent College.
Ben on his relationship with Bryant – At some point in the next few days, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will address the media and at that time we can expect him to be asked about his relationship with wide receiver Martavis Bryant and if the two will have a sit-down during camp in order to discuss their differences with one another.
Tomlin and Colbert extensions? – Speculation is ramping up that both head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert will be given contract extensions in the coming days. Past history indicates that now is the time for both to happen. Tomlin currently has two years left on his deal while Colbert is currently signed through the 2018 draft.
Active PUP List Announced – After the team holds their annual conditioning test on Thursday, Tomlin will likely hold his first training camp press conference during which he’ll likely announce the players who will begin their time in Latrobe on the team’s Active PUP list. Early reports indicate that wide receiver Sammie Coates will be on the list following him having his knee scoped. Will safety Sean Davis (shoulder) and defensive end Stephon Tuitt (hand/finger) also be on Tomlin’s list? We’ll find out very soon.
Player extensions? – Between now and the start of the regular season, the Steelers figure to sign at least one player to a new contract and that’s likely to be Tuitt, who is now in the final year of his rookie contract. There’s also a chance that Villanueva also signs a new deal in the coming weeks, but if that ultimately happens, one would think he’d first be required to sign his one-year exclusive rights tender he received a few months ago.
Draft pick development – As is usually the case once training camp gets underway, all eyes will be on the Steelers draft picks and their development while at Latrobe. For obvious reasons, the team’s first two selections this year, outside linebacker T.J. Watt and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, will really be under the microscope the next several weeks as both are expected to be huge contributors during their rookie seasons. Not to be dismissed because of their round selections are cornerback Cameron Sutton and running back James Conner. If ever were there a year when chances are good that every draft pick winds up making the 53-man roster out of training camp, it’s this year. At worst, six of the eight should ultimately be on the Week 1 53-man roster.
Key camp battles – A couple of wide receiver spots appear to be up for grabs this summer and that likely means that Coates, Justin Hunter, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Demarcus Ayers will all be battling for perhaps two open spots. Third-year cornerback Senquez Golson has a few weeks to prove that he can remain healthy and finally contribute. The safety and inside linebacker depth charts also have several question marks within them that will be answered in the coming weeks. Can veteran outside linebacker Arthur Moats hold off rookie draft pick Keion Adams this summer? What about backup tight end Xavier Grimble? Is his job safe? Let’s also not forget about under-achieving defensive tackle Daniel McCullers as his roster spot is far from secure upon training camp opening.
Scheme hints? – Will we see an increase in man coverage this year from defensive coordinator Keith Butler? What about more dime personnel on defense? Will offensive coordinator Todd Haley use more four wide receiver sets than he has in previous seasons? It’s hard to pick up on these things during training camp practices and preseason games, but it won’t stop us all from trying just the same.
Ultra-late additions? – As we’ve seen several times over the years, the Steelers final 53-man roster has included players who weren’t even with the team when they reported to training camp. Recent examples of that include cornerback Justin Gilbert, cornerback Brandon Boykin, quarterback Zach Mettenberger, defensive end Caushaud Lyons and running back Jordan Todman, just to name a few. The Steelers are certainly not opposed to adding players late and thus odds are likely good it will happen again this year. Regardless, the 90-man roster will change significantly over the course of the next month.
Season-altering injuries? – Like it or not, injuries are going to happen during training camp and the preseason. We can only hope that none wind up seriously effecting what looks to be a very promising 2017 season.