6 Biggest Winners and Losers of Pittsburgh Steelers OTAs, so Far

Nick DeWittAnalyst IJune 7, 2012

6 Biggest Winners and Losers of Pittsburgh Steelers OTAs, so Far

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    As the Steelers continue their preparations for the 2012 season with their Organized Team Activities, several members of the team have distinguished themselves while others have disappeared or been outshone by others. While it is still early, it's a good time to take a look at who's a standout and who's not so far.

    Here's a look at the six biggest winners and losers so far.

Winner: Baron Batch, RB

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    Batch is a big winner. He's been talked about a lot. For a guy who was a seventh-round pick in 2011 and didn't get a chance to compete for a spot last season because of an injury, that's a victory in itself. Getting your name mentioned means that, even if you don't make it here, you might make it somewhere.

    But Batch has a good chance of making it in Pittsburgh.

    One of the reasons he's been talked about is that he's been performing well. He has taken to the offense and has showed off his speed, versatility and tenacity.

    The Steelers need a few good men to work at the running back position. There's an open competition for roster spots. Batch has a great chance now to snag a spot.

Loser: Rashard Mendenhall, RB

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    Mendenhall really can't blame himself for this. He's here most by circumstance. He's in the boat of players who've been outshone by someone else. In his case, it's because he can't really perform yet because of his ACL injury.

    While most accounts seem to show Mendenhall on the mend and possibly ahead of schedule, he still isn't in any condition to suit up and play.

    Isaac Redman and the rest of the Steelers backs have looked good and seem to be picking up the offense relatively well. They look more than capable of carrying the load in the rushing attack without Mendenhall.

    For Mendenhall, who seems very dedicated, that's a blow. If he's healthy, he might still get back by opening night, but he may never again be the team's featured back. That ship may sail before he has a chance to catch it.

Winner: Larry Foote, ILB

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    Larry Foote seems to have found another lease on life in the NFL. After two years as a virtual afterthought in Pittsburgh, he's emerging as a guy who might regain a starting job on the inside with Lawrence Timmons, the player who replaced him.

    Foote came into the activities determined to show he was not the old, fading linebacker that many had thought. He also wanted to prove he was better than the backup role he seemed destined for once again.

    Dick LeBeau has given him the chance to prove he can still start. He's seized it and might have taken the early lead in a position battle that is very interesting.

    I'm quite impressed by Foote, and given where he was a few months ago, I think he might be the biggest winner of the workouts. He has really shown he still has plenty to do in the NFL.

Loser: Stevenson Sylvester, ILB

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    A little over a month ago when the draft ended, I would have told you Stevenson Sylvester was going to be the next great linebacker to come out of the Steelers' system.

    Now I'm not so sure. I haven't heard much of Sylvester at all. In contrast, I've heard all about Larry Foote and his work during OTAs. I worry that the younger Sylvester, who's already fallen off the radar a couple times, may have done so again.

    Sylvester doesn't have a lot of room for error here. The Steelers were already poised to select a replacement for James Farrior, and the job he was to have taken. They didn't get Dont'a Hightower.

    Instead of seizing on this new opportunity, Sylvester hasn't been visible enough. Compared with Larry Foote, who's been the talk of the linebacker spot so far, he might as well have stayed home for the whole competition. He might end up on the bubble now.

Winner: Todd Haley, Offensive Coordinator

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    Besides the usual growing pains that almost always come with learning a new offense, things have gone smoothly in the first action we've seen for the Steelers under Todd Haley's offensive guidance.

    There's no real big evidence yet. We haven't seen it in a game. We haven't seen it in a full-out practice yet. But we have seen pieces of it here and there.

    The negativity seems to have stopped. There hasn't been a ton of sound coming out of OTAs that has said anything negative about the offense. Everyone has finally moved into the learning and execution phase. That is a big victory for a guy who didn't inherit the easiest task in the world.

    While the jury is certainly still out, I think Haley and the offense as a whole are on the right track now. That's a huge win as they aim to prove that they are a Super Bowl-caliber group.

Loser: Mike Adams, LT

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    This is a dual loss. For the Steelers, it means their presumptive left tackle hasn't yet had a real practice with his team. The mini-camps he was able to attend weren't anything like OTAs. This is valuable time for learning.

    For the player, it's valuable time lost in both trying to make a good impression and in learning a new system in a new league at a higher level. For a guy with some issues coming in, that's not always good.

    The Steelers need Adams to perform well and win the left tackle job. The way they have reshuffled the line, they don't have a great backup plan at that spot unless you count Marcus Gilbert, whose move wouldn't really help matters.

    Once Adams comes in, and I can't fault him for missing time because he's working on school—something I consider much more important—he needs to make up for lost time and really bring it. If he does that, no one will remember he wasn't at OTAs.