With the Pittsburgh Steelers wrapping up training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA, I thought it would be a good exercise to take a look back at some of the compelling storylines surrounding the team ahead of camp and see if we have any final conclusion of the camp. Many of these stories won’t be fully known until rosters are whittled down to 53 players and the team prepares for regular season play, but there are also some that have unraveled over the course of the stay of almost a month of the team away from Pittsburgh.
Let’s get to the stories…
Open QB Competition/Post-Ben Roethlisberger Era
The Ben Roethlisberger era is over, and the three-way competition between Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph and Kenny Pickett was in full swing in camp. Was it really an open competition? Did Mike Tomlin give everyone an equal chance to win the job? What we saw in camp was that losing was always Trubisky’s job. Who the backup is is certainly available, but QB1 has been Trubisky since Day 1.
Result: It was never really an open competition, but it sure was fun to keep track of.
Everyone knows the Steelers finished last in run defense in 2021. That wasn’t the story heading into camp. The story was could they fix it? Stephon Tuitt retired, the team brought back Tyson Alualu and signed Larry Ogunjobi. Did they do enough? That has yet to be determined.
Result: Too early to tell
The Steelers offensive line was a mix of players last season, and they never put together anything resembling a quality offensive line. Najee Harris was dodging would-be tacklers in the backfield, Kendrick Green was receiving the ball and Trai Turner was on the back nine of his career. Has it improved after the free agent acquisitions of James Daniels and Mason Cole? Dan Moore Jr. will he be the answer at left tackle? What about Kevin Dotson or Kendrick Green at left guard? Week 1 of the preseason was a step in the right direction, but everyone knows this is far from a finished product.
Bottom line: It looks like it’s going in the right direction, but it’s too early to tell
The Steelers finished with seven players 2022 NFL Draft:
RD 1: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pitt
RD 2: George Pickens, WR, Georgia
RD 3: DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M
RD 4: Calvin Austin III, WR, Memphis
RD 6: Connor Heyward, TE/FB, State of Michigan
RD 7: Mark Robinson, LB, be miss
RD 7: Chris Oladokun, QB, South Dakota State
How much will these players contribute this season? Pickens, Leal and Heyward look like players who are destined to contribute right away. You could include Austin in that mix if his foot injury heals before the season. And Pickett showed great promise in his preseason debut, though his regular-season playing time will depend on injury or poor play. However, the rookie class has shown strength during training camp.
Result: A tremendous draft class
The key to every NFL training camp: Avoiding major injuries. While the Steelers suffered a few minor injuries to their starters, none were of the season-ending variety. mission accomplished
Result: Devastating camp injury avoided
How will the Steelers secondary, primarily the cornerbacks, handle the loss of Joe Haden? Will Cam Sutton be able to fill that role? Was signing Ahkello Witherspoon the right move? Levi Wallace is the new face, but can he handle the responsibilities in the slot or outside? Yeah, that’s far from decided after camp…
Result: Too early to tell
Devin Bush remains in the proverbial spotlight for Steelers fans, and the addition of Myles Jack, while a nice signing, hasn’t really quelled concerns about the position. Robert Spillane is still a decent backup, but that’s about it. It’s sad to say, but the team continues to search for all of its answers to the vacancy left by Ryan Shazier.
Bottom line: ILB remains a concern
What do you think of these stories? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes on the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the NFL preseason and the regular season.