We’re through four practices of the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers training camp. With it being an off day and having some time to breath, we can step back with some bigger picture thoughts as opposed to being in the weeds with the day-to-day grind. So let’s go position-by-position for the notables after the first few practices.
– Up and down this group. Yesterday was a rather ugly day across the board. Mason Rudolph has been better than Josh Dobbs. Really to all areas of the field but he’s showing more accuracy on the “easy” throws underneath and his placement/touch deep downfield. Dobbs was a little better yesterday and he can make impressive plays but he’s felt too scattershot with his accuracy to all levels of the field. Devlin Hodges is better than your typical #4 QB but let’s pump the brakes on anything more than that.
– Like the group. Jaylen Samuels been a little quiet but I’m not trying to sound alarmist. Some of the bigger backup backs have some burst for their size. Benny Snell, Ralph Webb, and Malik Williams have had their moments. Snell has shown a well-rounded game and responded to pretty much everything they throw his way. Williams is a plus athlete with burst and lateral agility. Tall back but can sink his hips and put his foot in the ground. He may be limited as just a runner, not offering as much as a receiver and blocker.
– Overall, want to praise the ball security of the group. They’ve hung onto the football. Zero fumbles through four practices, two of them in pads. So good job all around.
– Roosevelt Nix has been the only man used at fullback. No sign of Sutton Smith working there yet but still could happen.
– Vance McDonald has played well, as expected. Xavier Grimble finally flashed yesterday while Zach Gentry has looked like a raw rookie. Nice day for Trevor Wood yesterday but overall, the reserve tight ends have been pretty quiet. Definite improvement from Christian Scotland-Williamson. His leverage, hand placement, power he’s able to derive from that, though backs on ‘backers was a predictable mess from him. Kevin Rader has struggled to catch the ball consistently but seems like a serviceable blocker.
– JuJu Smith-Schuster looks like his usual, excellent self. Donte Moncrief off to a nice start, on the same page with Ben Roethlisberger, until he suffered that finger injury yesterday. James Washington has been a little up and down but shown the ability to stack corners and find the ball over the top. It’s been a fine start. Diontae Johnson has to see the ball in and not get upfield too quickly but with the ball in his hands, he’s quick-twitch with the ability to stop-start and make taller corners and safeties struggle to keep up. Diontae Spencer has shown big-play ability with some technique and burst at the top of his route as a route runner. Eli Rogers has run ahead of Ryan Switzer and made a bigger impact in team drills while Tevin Jones and (especially) Trey Griffey have been very quiet.
– Plenty of four receiver sets, maximizing the talent and depth they have, and you’re going to see four – and maybe even five – wide this year.
– Good starts for Matt Feiler, Chukwuma Okorafor, and Zach Banner. Rookie OG Fred Johnson has the makeup and talent of someone who is going to find himself on the roster. Jerald Hawkins has taken his lumps but can win with proper placement and a strong initial punch. Patrick Morris has been a bit of a disappointment, simply overpowered by bigger defensive linemen (which is all of them). Garrett Brumfield has also struggled, struggling to slide and prone to doubling over. Lack of size and length hurt him off the line. Like Derwin Gray’s size on the interior. Guys can’t get around him.
– Pretty much as anticipated. Isaiah Buggs showing a burst off the line with advanced hand use for a rookie. Casey Sayles is tough and stout against the run but I’m not sure how much more he’ll offer. Lavon Hooks has been alright and Daniel McCullers is having a similarly good camp as last year. Winston Craig is explosive and has the ability to get penetration as a one-gapper. D-line has done a nice job of getting their hands in throw lanes too when they can’t get to the quarterback.
– Really good group across the board. Ola Adeniyi is the #1 star of camp. His hand use, strength, ability to set up rushes and win outside, inside, and with power. Tackles can’t guess anything or he’ll properly counter. JT Jones did well in backs on ‘backers while Tuzar Skipper converts speed to power well and can club tackles to win the edge. Sutton Smith’s size is an obvious issue but he can win the edge enough to want you seeing more. Needs to be quicker and get skinnier when countering inside so he doesn’t get walled off.
– Not a “wow” start but a good one for Devin Bush. Around the ball a lot. Made a couple plays in coverage. Didn’t have a great backs on ‘backers drill. Failed to stand out. You can see Ulysees Gilbert III’s athleticism while Robert Spillane has seemed to earn a longer look by the coaching staff. Tyler Matakevich has been steady as well. Still getting a heavy rotation between Bush, Mark Barron, and Vince Williams. Bush has seemed to be the guy when the Steelers go dime.
– Steven Nelson evened out after a “meh” first day. Artie Burns having another good camp. Been down that road before. Cam Sutton wearing a lot of hats. Work in the slot, at right corner, and the first man up in dime packages. Been around the ball a lot too. Couple interceptions already. He, along most of these CBs, showing a willingness to tackle in run periods. Justin Layne hasn’t stood out terribly well but he’s a good tackler with desire. Bummed Alexander Myres hasn’t been out there. How did he not start the year on PUP?
– Terrell Edmunds has been impressive. His recognition, ability to diagnose and close on the ball downhill. Kameron Kelly has a path to the 53 and shown ball skills. Pick in 7v7 and team drills, though the later came courtesy of Artie Burns tipping a pass. Jordan Dangerfield’s roster spot is very much in danger. Little quiet for Marcus Allen while Dravon Askew-Henry and PJ Locke haven’t shown up in run sessions, though Locke had a nice breakup yesterday.