Today is the day. The Pittsburgh Steelers will report to Latrobe shortly for the first day of training camp, kicking off the 2017 preseason and the Steelers’ quest for a seventh Super Bowl.
As we have been for the past three seasons, our goal is to be at every practice. We’ll be as transparent as possible in our daily reports, taking note of everything I am able to, and if you guys ever have questions for something we didn’t address, or want clarification on something we do, please reach out. You can do so in the comments section or hit me up on Twitter (@Alex_Kozora).
I touched on this subject a couple weeks ago in one of my mailbags but it’s still a relevant discussion. The sports world continues to see a deemphasize on the written word. Places like Fox and more recently, VICE Sports, have opted for a video-driven path, pushed by big name personalities. For many in the industry, it’s an uncertain time.
While I’m confident the idea of video pushing out written content is one that will fail, I am elated to be in a place like Steelers Depot. We value the written word. We thrive on content. And camp is one of the biggest examples of that. True, our reports will be lengthy – some will creep into the 5000 word range, I’m sure – but I know we have a community that thrives on it. Video takes long to load. There’s ads in front of it. People can’t watch on their own time, at their own pace. All opposite of how written copy works.
The knowledge that you all support that endeavor by coming here only affirms our drive to do the best that we can. And we thank you for that.
Now that I’m off my pedestal, let’s talk about camp.
If you have the chance to come out to Latrobe this year, I implore you that you do. St. Vincent College, I can’t talk about this enough, is such a gorgeous place to football. It’s free to attend the ones at SVC (there is a small charge for the Latrobe High School and Heinz Field ones this year), with great scenery and football to watch. Nothing better than that. And if you do make it out, be sure to stop by and say hello.
Matthew Marczi has written about some of the camp battles already but I wanted to dive in on a couple.
The biggest is Eli Rogers vs JuJu Smith-Schuster. The slot position is a difficult spot to learn and JuJu could struggle there. But if he picks things up, it’ll be a very interesting battle to watch. There’s no margin for error for Rogers in that scenario. Wide receiver across the board is going to be an intense position who will bring it every day, top to bottom.
Honestly don’t know how much of a battle there will be at tight end. You’re looking for growth from guys like Jesse James and Xavier Grimble but I think the tight end spot is generally set. Scott Orndoff isn’t going to be a better blocker than David Johnson and Phazahn Odom – who I like – is really raw and expectations should be tempered.
Cornerback feels sorta settled at the top. I don’t know if anyone will push William Gay and don’t think Cameron Sutton is really going to threaten Ross Cockrell’s job. But behind those three, it’s a jumbled mess and I am downright giddy to see it all play out. No one has a job locked up.
Safety is interesting. Lot of guys cut from a similar cloth. Robert Golden, Jordan Dangerfield, and Daimion Stafford all better downhill than moving backwards. Seeing all three make the roster would definitely be a stretch, unless the team went heavy at DB and kept 11 (six corners, five safeties). Tough cut could be made.
Offensive line is set. Quarterback is set. The third spot at running back is Knile Davis’ to lose but that might happen.
The defensive line is mostly entrenched too, though Daniel McCullers has to take a noticeable step forward or the team could look outside the organization for his replacement. We know the Keion Adams/Arthur Moats battle for the final outside linebacker spot. Only one is making it.
Inside linebacker is interesting behind the trio of Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams, and Tyler Matakevich. Steven Johnson and L.J. Fort are known commodities. Can UDFAs Keith Kelsey and Matt Galambos push them?
UDFA To Watch: IUP guard Ethan Cooper is the best talent the team brought in. His path to making the 53 is nearly impossible, it will take injury, but he has the best chance at making the practice squad.
Camp Sleeper: Corner Mike Hilton. Who we have hyped up quite a bit. Yes, there often is one DB that makes noise (Kevin Fogg, Alden Darby) but Hilton could play his way onto the roster as the #2 in the slot, especially if Sensabaugh and Sutton don’t get any reps there and Golson fails to make the team.
Battle To Note (no one is talking about): Demarcus Ayers for the PR job. Steelers want to get Antonio Brown off that unit and Ayers would be the front runner to take it. If Ayers proves he’s capable, how does the rest of the WRs fit? Would make things very interesting.