Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 Training Camp Sleepers – Offense

We’re just days away from the start of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 training camp. The team reports Tuesday with the first practice Wednesday afternoon, 1:55 sharp. The focus is on all the big things. The quarterback battle, how the O-line unfolds, how the rookie receivers look, you get the idea.

But I’m all about the camp sleepers. They often come out of nowhere and are hard to predict. Sleepers everyone knows about aren’t sleepers. Here’s a couple of Steelers on my radar this summer who few people are talking about now but could turn into camp darlings by the end of next month.

OG/OL Chris Owens – Last year, John Leglue became one of the summer’s sneaky sleepers. He didn’t have an incredible camp everyone discussed, but he quietly set the foundation to making his way onto the 53-man roster and eventually, as the team’s starting left guard. Owens is cut from a similar cloth with great versatility, playing primarily RT and center in college and playing mostly guard in the spring with Pittsburgh. Versatility creates value and that is often enough to keep you around. Owens is smart and comes from a great program at Alabama.

Should Pittsburgh keep nine offensive linemen, the ninth spot is open, and Owens could try to push Leglue off the roster for that last spot. Even if he doesn’t, he’s a solid bet to land on the practice squad, and all it’ll take is an injury or two for Owens to get called up. That’s exactly what happened to Leglue a year ago. Playing well early could maximize his reps. Big difference between second and third team work along the O-line, so hopefully Owens is able to run with the two’s, though my initial projections have him third-team guard.

RB Mataeo Durant – One of two undrafted running backs signed this April, Durant is more Anthony McFarland than Benny Snell. Undersized by the Steelers standards at 5’11, 196 pounds, he dazzled at his Blue Devils’ Pro Day with a 4.38 40. Kevin Colbert was the only GM in attendance and that time clearly got his attention. Durant isn’t a one-trick pony and catches the ball well. He’s comfortable in the screen game, being flexed out, and running the route tree. A lack of size and power could be his biggest downfalls but he’s one crease away from busting off a 50+ yard run. That’ll turn heads.

WR Tyler Snead – Snead was one of several players invited to rookie minicamp on a tryout basis to latch onto the 90-man roster exiting it. It’s unclear exactly what Snead did to earn his keep but he obviously impressed. It’s no surprise after having a solid career at East Carolina. I can’t tell you the number of fans who told me to watch out for this guy when he got the minicamp invite. They were right.

An undersized slot receiver and returner, he should see work in both those roles with the Steelers. I can see Snead having success early in camp, before the pads come on, as a shifty receiver taking advantage of the no-contact sessions. How that translates over into padded practices and games is a different story, but bank on someone calling him the next Wes Welker/Julian Edelman/Hunter Renfrow. They’ll be wrong but it won’t stop anyone from saying it. I’d be surprised if Snead didn’t earn some level of buzz this summer.

WR Gunner Olszewski – Olszewski certainly isn’t quite like the others on the list. He’s a far more established player signing a two-year deal coming over from New England this offseason. He’s a strong bet to make the team. But he hasn’t been discussed much, lost between all the other receivers brought in this offseason. Olszewski will be a returner and coverage guy but could see more involvement this summer. Perhaps he sees extra slot work and gets involved in the receiver run game.

WR Anthony Miller – Oddly, Miller struggled to see the field last year despite Pittsburgh hurting at receiver. But sometimes catching the moving train is hard to do. He’s a serious slot option for a Steelers’ team that has no defined leader in that spot. He’s reunited with QB Mitch Trubisky from their time in Chicago and could show early chemistry there. He could battle for that sixth WR spot with Miles Boykin, who may also look good early on given his height/weight/speed profile.

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