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: Who is your pick for this year’s training camp sleeper?
We are slowly getting closer and closer to training camp, and as we get there we will be doing more pieces set to preview what we are expecting to see. One of the favorite topics tends to be picking out the camp sleepers, the players you expect to perform above their status and make a push for a position beyond what was expected of them.
Last year’s training camp sleeper ended up working out particularly well. That would be second-year cornerback Mike Hilton, who was an undrafted free agent in 2016. He spent a bit of time at the end of that season on the Steelers’ practice squad and was re-signed to a Reserve/Future contract.
He spent the next several months doing everything in his power to prove himself to the coaches and ended up with a day-one starting job in the nickel, a role he never relinquished and which he figures to continue to hold going forward.
Now, that sort of result is not typical of the proverbial camp sleeper. More often than not, a sleeper is somebody who is lucky to just make the 53-man roster, let alone earn a starting job. It sometimes even ends up just being somebody who pushes his way onto the practice squad in hopes for another chance the following year.
I’ll just throw some names out there. Olasunkanmi Adeniyi is a guy who can potentially push for a roster spot. Brian Allen with a great preseason could carve out a role for himself on defense. Greg Gilmore has an opportunity to make a run at a roster spot along the defensive line as well.
If there is room for a specialist, somebody like Quadree Henderson could have a lifeline. One name I might keep in mind is Ryan Malleck, the tight end who replaced Jake McGee after his injury. R.J. Prince is an offensive lineman who will be competing to force the Steelers to keep a ninth at the position.