2018 Offseason Questions: Biggest Takeaway From OTAs?

The journey toward Super Bowl LII ended far too prematurely for the Pittsburgh Steelers, sending them into offseason mode before we were ready for it. But we are in it now, and are ready to move on, through the Combine, through free agency, through the draft, into OTAs, and beyond.

We have asked and answered a lot of questions over the years and will continue to do so, and at the moment, there seem to be a ton of questions that need answering. A surprise early exit in the postseason will do that to you though, especially when it happens in the way it did.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring developments all throughout the offseason process, all the way down to Latrobe. Pending free agents, possible veteran roster cuts, contract extensions, pre-draft visits, pro days, all of it will have its place when the time arises.

Question: What is your biggest takeaway about the Steelers in 2018 from OTAs?

It goes without saying that there is only so much that you can actually learn from some spring practices, where only about half of the offense and defense actually gets installed and much of the focus is more on teaching technique and fundamentals than working on broader concepts.

Still, there are some things that one can gather from such a period in the year if you look carefully enough. For certain players, physical conditioning can be important. Young players with very little experience are always expected to make big jumps. New players, new coaches, new roles: there is plenty to learn.

In terms of sheer volume, perhaps the biggest takeaway has to be new defensive backs coach Tom Bradley and the fact that seemingly every single one of his players has talked to reporters about how much emphasis he puts on technique and details. I’m just going to guess this is going to be the most popular answer.

Another big one—or potentially big one—is the fact that second-year running back James Conner has come in this offseason not just healthy, but in great shape. As a bonus, reports from his teammates are indicating that he has made important strides in areas such as pass protection, which is a sort of rite of passage for playing time at the running back position.

For those inclined to focus on such things, the fact that Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown were not in attendance could be a major takeaway. Even something like the comments from players such as Bud Dupree in weighing in on certain tangential topics might receive some mention.

We haven’t heard a ton about the Steelers’ rookie class during OTAs. James Washington has received from praise, even from Roethlisberger, and Mason Rudolph has been a frequent source of attention, but it’s been relatively quiet for most of the rest of the draft class. Hopefully we hear more about how they’re doing during minicamp next week, perhaps especially Jaylen Samuels, and more on Chukwuma Okorafor now that Jerald Hawkins is done for the year.

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