The Pittsburgh Steelers are famous for finding all sorts of diamonds in the rough when it comes to young players. Many players that wouldn’t get second looks on some teams end up carving out a great career in black and gold.
Each year, a new crop of potential stars comes to the forefront in training camp. Here’s a look at some sleepers you may want to watch this year in camp and during the preseason.
The absence of Mike Wallace has opened up a lot more opportunity for the wide receivers in camp that aren’t already assured of a roster spot or a specific role.
One of those guys is Maze, an undrafted player who is one of the best playmakers in camp. With the consistent drop issues suffered by draftee Toney Clemons, Maze might be able to make a move for a roster spot.
Maze is an excellent pass-catcher that runs good routes and generally can make highlight-reel plays at any time. He’s in the Emmanuel Sanders or Antonio Brown mold as a do-it-all guy at one of the receiver spots.
He may end up fitting best as the fifth receiver this season, and he could work his way up the same way Wallace, Brown and Sanders did during their first campaigns.
A lot of the focus is on what Isaac Redman will do as the primary ball-carrier for the Steelers. There’s good reason for that, but one of the players who’s quietly having a great lead up to the regular season is Batch, a second-year player who missed all of last year with an injury.
Batch is versatile, something that the Steelers covet in their offensive players. He is not only a great runner, he is also a fine receiver out of the backfield. That could pay dividends for a team that likes to spread the ball around.
I can see Batch having a role similar to Dexter McCluster of the Chiefs or similar to that of former Steeler Mewelde Moore. He should end up winning the job as the third-down back, and he could have a profound impact this year.
Mike Tomlin seems to be very intrigued so far by Paulson, who is a good tight end that can block and catch very well. He’s got more value as a receiver so far, but his blocking is improving.
Traditionally, the Steelers like well-rounded tight ends, and they figure to utilize them as receivers more often under Todd Haley. Paulson could team up well with Heath Miller and Weslye Saunders to give the Steelers three good threats.
There’s some good competition here, and Paulson is right in the middle of it. He is fighting for a roster spot with Leonard Pope, the team’s lone free-agency addition. He’s also competing with Saunders to see who the primary backup will be for Miller.
He may not be as much of a sleeper as the other guys on this list, but he’s not the biggest name in the battle for the starting cornerback job. Keenan Lewis and Curtis Brown are bigger names, but Allen may be just as good.
Allen had a surprisingly successful rookie year in which he eventually got some snaps defensively. He shows a good ability to cover, and he even flashes some ability for splash plays, which Mike Tomlin covets.
He will certainly make the competition interesting if he keeps growing as a playmaker. The Steelers really need more out of their corners with regards to turnovers and big-play ability. Allen may just bring that to the table as either a starter or as the nickel back.
The battle for the punter job has been kind of obscure so far. The battles for the inside linebacker job and the starting corner job are more prevalent.
The battle for punter is just as important, however.
Jeremy Kapinos is the incumbent of sorts. He replaced an injured Daniel Sepulveda midway through last year and did an excellent job. That was the second year in a row he made the trip in from the bullpen.
Now, he’s going to be battling Drew Butler, an undrafted player who’s very good. I think Butler, despite not being someone you’d know, has the real inside track. Kapinos hasn’t been healthy so far, and Butler is a little stronger and can place kicks a little better.
He’s part of a battle you should be watching.