This time a week from today, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be holding their first training camp practice of the 2022 season. Evaluations will take time, they’re not made in a day, but next Wednesday kicks off crucial battles that litter the Steelers’ roster.
CBS Sports put together a list of the three biggest battles and question marks each AFC North team is facing. Author Jordan Dajani named Pittsburgh’s biggest battles at quarterback, wide receiver, and left guard.
On quarterback, he wrote:
“The Steelers will conduct the most interesting quarterback battle this offseason between Mitchell Trubisky and Kenny Pickett. Mason Rudolph is in the mix as well. If I had to predict a winner, I’m going to go with Trubisky.”
It’s Pittsburgh’s first quarterback battle and uncertainty in more than two decades. There wasn’t even one in 2004, Ben Roethlisberger’s first year. The Steelers plan was to slow-play him as the #3 and he only entered the starting lineup after injuries to Charlies Batch and Tommy Maddox. The last true battle came in 2000 between Kent Graham and Kordell Stewart, one that Graham initially won but was short-lived, benched after three weeks and a 0-3 start. Like most others, Dajani is leaning towards Trubisky winning the job. He figures to take the first snaps of training camp but where the battle goes from there is up to him.
Receiver is a little less clean of a competition, a rotational battle between the rookies and who will play in the slot. Dajani writes:
“Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson will be the top two, but how will things shake out behind them?…All eyes will be on these wide receivers in training camp, as they jockey for position on the depth chart.”
Claypool and Johnson are locked in as the starters, though it’ll be interesting to see how much work Claypool gets in the slot this year. Behind them are rookies in George Pickens and Calvin Austin III, both trying to adjust to the NFL while the Steelers determine where they work best. Pickens played on the outside at Georgia but could line up anywhere on the field, while Austin figures to play in the slot after primarily working on the perimeter at Memphis. There’s also Miles Boykin, claimed off waivers from Baltimore, and return specialist Gunner Olszewski.
Finally, the one battle along the offensive line comes at left guard with Dajani noting:
“Kevin Dotson is probably the favorite, but he played just nine games last season before an ankle injury landed him on injured reserve. Kendrick Green, who played center last season for the Steelers, is the other contender.”
Pittsburgh has a half-dozen questions up front, but the only semi-competition is between Dotson and Green. Dotson should win this job but if he falters, Green will be right behind him. Ideally though, Dotson comfortably locks down the spot with Green becoming an interior swingman in a BJ Finney-esque role. Others on the line must prove themselves but there’s little in the way of direct competition between two players.
Other battles worth noting include backup running back duties behind Najee Harris, the slot battle between a host of candidates in nickel and dime packages (Arthur Mauler vs. Tre Norwood vs. Damontae Kazee), backup battles at ILB and EDGE, and the defensive line battle for a team who has seven 53-man worthy players that traditionally only keeps six spots, though they make an exception this year.