Training camp is finally here, even genuine practices. This is the first time all year that we, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, have had the opportunity to take the field in any capacity, which is an all-important step in the process of evaluating your offseason decisions and beginning to put the puzzle together that will shape the upcoming season.
The Steelers are coming off of an 8-8 season, but while they will default to clichés about how you are what your record says you are, they know they have the potential to be much better. Still, they enter training camp with some questions to answer.
They are no different than any team in the NFL in that regard, in any year. Nobody comes to practice as a finished product. So during this series, we are going to highlight some of the most significant storylines that figure to play out over the course of training camp.
Headline: Chris Wormley getting his feet under him in new system
One of the current developing storylines in training camp is the status of Chris Wormley, the fourth-year veteran for whom the Steelers gave up a fifth-round pick in March via trade with the Baltimore Ravens. The former Wolverine has missed much of training camp practices so far with what is evidently a recurring shoulder ailment.
He previously was seemingly sidelined from at least last Friday into the middle of last week. After briefly returning, he was also dinged during Saturday’s practice with Mike Tomlin referencing his shoulder during his injury roundup.
The Steelers were off yesterday, so he has not missed a practice since then. We don’t know when Wormley’s shoulder injury emerged during Saturday’s practice and whether he was pulled from practice entirely. We will see later today when the team gets back out on the field whether or not he joins them.
It is important that he do so with consideration of the fact that he is expected to be the top defensive end reserve this season behind Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, as veteran backup Tyson Alualu moves inside to the nose tackle position.
Granted, the traditional 3-4 end role does not command an exceeding number of snaps anymore in today’s NFL, with virtually every team’s ‘base’ defense now a nickel, whether they emerge from a traditional 3-4 or 4-3 front.
One thing to keep in mind about Wormley is that this is to be a season of observation for him. The Steelers probably wouldn’t have given up a fifth-round pick only to pay him over $3 million this season and then watch him leave in free agency.
I’m sure, ideally, they would like to be able to re-sign him after this season (noting also that Alualu, approaching his mid-30s, is also in the final year of his contract) and allow him to develop into a core member of their defensive line depth. But he has to be on the field and contributing at a high level to happen, and missing important parts of the offseason process won’t help. It didn’t for Nick Vannett.