You’ve survived the offseason. Congratulations. I’ll print up T-Shirts.
Today is day one of the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers’ training camp. I know you all – myself included – are going to be buzzing about everything that happens during today’s practice. But a word of caution.
This is a marathon. Not a sprint. One practice isn’t the end-all. For one, they’re still in shells, helmets and shorts. The heavy stuff doesn’t start up until Sunday, the first padded practice. These first two days, I’m largely getting a feel for who is lining up and running where. Who is first team, who is in the slot, who is playing in sub-packages, what rotations look like.
These will change throughout camp, there’s a lot of mixing and matching, but it’s important to get a baseline idea so when these things do evolve, we’ll know and be able to compare/contrast. And so by that important third day, we have an idea of who is where and can spend more time focusing on actual performance. So that’s how I approach today and tomorrow. We’re not here to make any hard conclusions today. Or tomorrow. Or the next day…
That in mind, here’s what to check out position-by-position for Day One.
– You can expect Josh Dobbs to get 2nd team reps over Mason Rudolph. For today at least. Just want to see these guys get in a rhythm, throw on time, and not make any mistakes when they’re essentially throwing “on air.” Defenders can’t do as much today as they will once the pads come on. How does Devlin Hodges look? First NFL camp practice. Any sense of nerves? Sure the butterflies are there but do you see it on the field?
– Feels like the Steelers just “copy/paste” the bottom end of their depth chart. 5’11, 220+ pound power backs. That’s virtually the entire group. Who has the burst to hit the hole that makes them stand out? Trey Edmunds? Ralph Webb? How about rookie UDFA Travon McMillan?
How good does Benny Snell look catching the ball? And does Jaylen Samuels look any different than he did a year ago? His goal was to get slimmer and faster.
– Pretty wide open group. You have JuJu Smith-Schuster and then…a ton of question marks. Excited to get Eli Rogers and Ryan Switzer back in camp. First one for Switzer and first for Rogers since 2017. Nice to let them hit the ground running.
– Spotlight will obviously be on the other three names. Donte Moncrief, James Washington, and Diontae Johnson. We’ll see what the chemistry between Moncrief and Ben Roethlisberger is. Sure you’ll get Johnson and Diontae Spencer in the return lines, too.
– I expect to see Vance McDonald in a Bubble Boy type enclosure, safe from any defender even thinking about touching him.
– Big camps for Xavier Grimble and Zach Gentry. Can Grimble show consistency? This is how is starts. Gentry on the blocking sleds will be fun. Tall guy and a rookie is generally a dubious combination. We’ll see what his leverage looks like.
– How different does Christian Scotland-Williamson look compared to last year? Kudos to him for being available in each practice in 2018 but he looked like a complete afterthought. Want to see someone with more energy, confidence, and catching some passes downfield, even if it’s just the first day.
– Lot to look at here. I assume Matt Feiler will take the first, and probably the bulk, of first team reps at right tackle. The rest of the starters are known.
Backups though? Feels pretty wide open. Here’s a wild guess for how the lines will look.
First Team: Villanueva-Foster-Pouncey-DeCastro-Feiler
Second Team: Hawkins-Finney-Hassenauer-F. Johnson-Okorafor
Third Team: Gray-Brumfield-Morris-Prince-Banner
I’ll be sure to report who is lining up where.
– Where does Isaiah Buggs line up? A guy who could play up and down the line. Is Lavon Hooks playing end or nose or both? And do any of the backups stand out? You know what you’re getting with the starters. Pretty wide open here.
– Had a paragraph written here about TJ Watt. Then we found out he’s starting the year on PUP. So save that for another day, one hopefully in the near future. Expect Anthony Chickillo to open up at LOLB opposite of Bud Dupree today. Ola Adeniyi may not technically get more reps, he’s second team either way, but a chance for him to stand out all the more.
– Get our first game of “Where in the world is Sutton Smith?” Outside linebacker, special teams, maybe some fullback? We’ll see. Interested in seeing JT Jones, too.
– Expect some rotation here. My guess is Vince Williams and Mark Barron take the first reps with the 1’s but they’ll mix and match throughout camp. Excited to get eyes on Barron and of course, Devin Bush. Get a feel for their athleticism right away. See if they’re making any splash, especially in 7 shots with the field condensed.
– Debut of Justin Layne. His ability to turn and run and defend vertical will be critical to his development. Can Brian Allen get off on the right foot? And Artie Burns is here and probably isn’t going anywhere. Last chance for him. Does Cam Sutton (or Allen, for that matter) get any work at safety? Maybe not out of the gate. But later in camp where guys begin to move around and injuries thin out the lines.
– Big year two for a couple guys here. Terrell Edmunds and Marcus Allen. Not sure if we’ll see any dime tomorrow but Allen should be 2nd team SS opposite Jordan Dangerfield. Good litmus test for him after barely seeing him as a rookie (and he missed a chunk of camp/preseason too).
– The sleepers here? Kameron Kelly, who has plus ball skills, and PJ Locke and Dravon Askew-Henry, two hitters. The latter two won’t do their damage until the pads come on.
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