The Pittsburgh Steelers well underway with the offseason workouts at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the heart of the offseason, where hope springs eternal following a few months of pretty significant changes, in terms of both departures and arrivals.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Which players most need to keep their focus during the down time before training camp?
While the NFL is on a temporary hiatus right now on the eve of training camp, that doesn’t mean everybody can afford to be idle. There are no formal team activities going on, and surely many, many players are going to be going home or going on vacation at this time of year. Nevertheless, there is work to be done—and more for some than for others. But who?
One such player whom I believe cannot afford to take his foot off the gas over the course of the next three weeks is second-year wide receiver James Washington, who had a disappointing rookie season. He is expected to make major strides in year two, and part of that has been improving his conditioning. He has to report in excellent shape both physically and mentally.
Another one that to me is obvious would be Devin Bush. It will always be the case when you’re talking about a rookie possibly starting right out of the gate, but it’s especially important for the signal-calling inside linebacker. And he’s not being handed a job, either. He is competing with Mark Barron and Vince Williams, a couple of players who are no slouches.
A couple of more experienced players whom I believe will be feeling the pressure are Bud Dupree and Stephon Tuitt—the former to earn a payday, and the latter to justify it. Dupree he playing under his fifth-year option, which is a nice chunk of change, but not long-term security relatively speaking. Tuitt has yet to put together a complete season since signing a big extension.
I realize I’m focusing a lot on the defensive side of the ball, but Artie Burns has to be another name on this list. He’s hanging on to a job by the skin of his teeth. He is also due a roster bonus on the third day of training camp. If he shows up in a less than stellar position, he could risk that.