For the rest of the preseason, we’ll give a recap, position-by-position, player-by-player of what I saw during the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers training camp and preseason games. Flipping over to the defense with the d-linemen.
Javon Hargrave: While BJ Finney had his best camp ever, Hargrave did well too. I’m not sure why the Steelers feel the need to play him as much in the preseason as he does, as if he wasn’t a budding star and key starter, but he wins with a rare blend of quickness, power, and hand use. Special talent for the position he plays.
Camp Grade: B+
Daniel McCullers: Give it up for Big Dan. Another good preseason and arguably even better than what he did a year go. Consistency has been the key improvement. No longer are you getting one good play out of every ten. He’s shown more physicality and intensity and sticking to using his bull rush to collapse the pocket as a pass rusher. His roster spot is now earned, not given. Good for him.
Camp Grade: B+
Isaiah Buggs: Buggs has faded a bit at the end, his performance the last two weeks haven’t been great, but he earned plenty of buzz during camp from me for showing better quickness and advanced hand use for a rookie, much less a 6th round pick. He wins in a variety of ways and shows the ability to create space in the run game to stack and shed. His lack of length and anchor hurt him a bit and he can get washed out sometimes against base blocks but I like his effort, IQ, and potential. Steelers might really have something here.
Camp Grade: B+
Cam Heyward: Heyward missed a few days to be with his family after the birth of his daughter but when he was out there, was his typical Heyward-self. He’s on the short list of players you don’t need to pay much attention to during camp and as long as they get out healthy – and he did – you’re happy. That’s where I’m at with him. He’s a stud, as his performance against the Tennessee Titans proved.
Camp Grade: B
Stephon Tuitt: Same story for Tuitt. He balled out against the Titans to the tune of two sacks. Being able to finish plays is the #1 key for him to take the next step. Fingers crossed for a breakout year from him or at least surpass his single season sack record of 6.5.
Camp Grade: B
Henry Mondeaux: As we sit here today, Mondeaux appears to be the favorite for the practice squad spot along the defensive line. Above average athlete with good hand use and ability to disengage from blocks. Versatile, playing end and a little bit of nose tackle. Any defensive linemen have to be able to get after the quarterback these days, not one-dimensional run stuffers.
Camp Grade: B-
Tyson Alualu: Pretty quiet camp for him but he’s a guy who you know what you have. His pass rush ability has diminished last year, failing to record a sack for the first time of his career despite playing more than 300 snaps, but he’s a steady run defender, comfortable with the scheme, and a high-effort player. His spot on the team is secure this year as the #3 DE but next year could be a different story, especially if Isaiah Buggs’ emerges.
Camp Grade: C+
Casey Sayles: What I’m writing here would be about the same for Lavon Hooks prior to his season-ending Achilles injury. Sayles is the old-guard. Largely a run stuffer with limited athleticism and pass rushing chops. His experience could give him a slight edge but I don’t see him getting the nod over Mondeaux.
Camp Grade: C
Winston Craig: He only had a moment or two that impressed this year but did well in some of the run sessions and shows burst and overall energy. Batted a pass in the preseason and chipped in a pressure or two. But an odd body type without great length or anchor in the run game. Enough talent to spend the year on the tryout circuit and could end up on someone’s practice squad if an injury happens. Probably not in Pittsburgh though, at least, not initially. Better fit for a 4-3 front.
Camp Grade: C-
Greg Gilmore: Brought back for another lap around the track after signing as a tryout player in rookie minicamp. Spent the year as the 3rd string nose tackle, a position that doesn’t offer many snaps, and Hargrave and McCullers didn’t miss any practices. He looks a little better than last year but is a run stuffer with hardly any mobility. Expect him to be cut outright. Again.
Camp Grade: D+
Conor Sheehy: Probably would be the 91st man on the roster if I had to create a list 1-91. Lacks size, length, athleticism, power, and rotated in with the 4th stringers throughout camp. Props to him for getting this far, not everyone gets into and stick in an NFL camp, but there’s no future here. One-and-done player.
Camp Grade: D-
2019 Camp Recaps