As the calendar has finally hit the late-July date that signals the start of training camp for the Pittsburgh Steelers, we turn our attentions for the next few weeks to just that, training camp, the necessary respite for all football fans who have been the past six weeks wondering what to do with themselves—as least as far as the game goes.
With the start of training camp also comes the start of meaningful competition, and I’m not just talking about players getting to put on pads and smash into each other. There are battles to be won. Position battles, roster battles. Battles for starting jobs.
Before we get too deep into the swing of training camp, here is a quick series that provides a preview of some of the most significant battles that will have to be determined over the course of training camp and the preseason, though the regular season can always decide to change the results.
As much as we are all inclined to think otherwise, there is as of yet nothing guaranteed about the current status for the 2017 season of wide receiver Martavis Bryant. We do not know that he is going to start. We do not currently even know that he is going to be on the 53-man roster. As a result, there is still an opportunity for others to push for a role.
One point that I want to make here is that even during his last season on the field in 2015, Bryant was not somebody who saw every snap on the field. In his first game back from suspension, he only played 61 percent of the team’s snaps.
You can verify this for yourself, but there were only three games that season in which he even saw 80 percent of the Steelers’ offensive snaps, and even then no higher than 83 percent. There were some games even while fully healthy that he only saw about half of the offensive snaps.
The point is that the has never truly been a full-time starter. And considering the fact that he hasn’t even been on a football field in over a year, it stands to reason that he may not be logging 90 percent of the Steelers’ snaps this year either.
That is something that he is going to have to earn, and he is going to have competition for it. While his primary snap-drainer that year, Markus Wheaton, is gone, there are others who are looking to absorb that playing time, and rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster could be a key here.
Sammie Coates, Eli Rogers, Justin Hunter, and Demarcus Ayers are all additional players who can compete for rotational action that could keep Bryant’s snap count lower than many might be expecting to see. Even Darrius Heyward-Bey will get go-route opportunities. And the longer it takes Bryant to get on the field, the more likely this is.