The calendar has now flipped over to July and that means the Pittsburgh Steelers annual training camp will be getting underway in Latrobe later this month. As usual, we have several series planned to get you ready for this year’s training camp and mine will center around preview profiles of 50 players over the course of the next 25 days. Most of these profiles will be on players who were under contract with the team in 2016.
Up thirty-third in this series is a 2017 preview profile of wide receiver Demarcus Ayers.
Intro: After being selected in the seventh round by the Steelers in last year’s draft, Ayers failed to make the 53-man roster and thus spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad. He did, however, find himself on the 53-man roster late in the season and even on the field getting meaningful offensive snaps at that. In total, Ayers registered six receptions for 53 yards and a touchdown. His longest play was 15 yards. Five of his receptions came in the regular season finale against the Cleveland Browns, however. Only played 82 snaps in total and this not a lot of film to evaluate.
Current Strengths: Ayers is at his best on short crossing routes over the middle as that’s were several of his few receptions came last season. Quick to tuck player. Showed good body and foot control along sideline on one reception in 2016. Solid work ethic as evidenced by his ascension from practice squad to roster last season. Willing and able blocker for player of his size.
Current Weaknesses: Ayers is currently a very limited route runner and he’ll need to improve that phase of his game moving forward. His small statue allows him to get bounced around by bigger defenders off the line and thus he’s a player that needs space off the snap. Limited catch radius.
2017 Outlook: While Ayers’ rookie season concluded with him being on the team’s 53-man roster, there’s no guarantee he’ll open the 2017 regular season on it. The Steelers have a deep wide receiver room this summer and thus Ayers will likely need to show he can be the team’s punt returner this season during training camp and the preseason in order to make the Week 1 roster. It won’t be overly surprising to see the numbers work against Ayers initially and possibly result in him opening his second season in the NFL on the practice squad.
2017 Base Salary: $540,000
2017 Salary Cap Charge: $540,000
2017 Health Status: No known ailments exiting offseason program after undergoing hernia surgery earlier in year
2016 Health Status: Zero games missed last season due to injury
2016 Regular Season Snaps Played: 82 of 1,083
2016 Stat That Matters: Five of six 2016 receptions came in regular season finale