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: Finding diamonds in the rough
This is a lot harder to do when you only have training camp and no preseason. The pool is shrunk even further when there are no tryouts at a rookie minicamp that never even happened. Still, there will be teams who find obscure players whom they feel have stepped up enough to deserve a roster spot here and there, or at least a practice squad spot with a mind toward developing them.
Will the Steelers find any such players? Truth be told, their more recent history with rookie college free agents hasn’t necessarily been great, though that also depends upon your perception. Devlin Hodges will be seen as a success to some, a failure to others.
But who are the candidates this year? From reports, the closest things seems to be 6’2” defensive back James Pierre out of Florida Atlantic, who has gotten a lot of reps and a lot of mentions in the small amount of writeups to which we have had access. It will be difficult for him to make the team, but perhaps the practice squad is a possibility. The same with Trajan Bandy, though we’ve heard less of him.
Defensive coordinator Keith Butler mentioned recently that there were a few young defensive linemen whom they had their eye on, but he didn’t want to mention names because he didn’t want to draw attention to them—in case they don’t make the roster, in the hopes that they clear waivers.
The options would include players like seventh-rounder Carlos Davis, Henry Mondeaux, Calvin Taylor, and Cavon Walker. It sounds like at least one of these players have caught the eyes of the coaching staff, so perhaps there is something to develop there.
We’ll know in a couple of days whether or not there was anybody on the outside looking in who impressed the coaching staff enough behind closed doors to make the 53-man roster. With 16-man practice squads this year, it will look less significant for any one player to make it that far, but that’s a matter of optics.