The Pittsburgh Steelers are about to start their second OTA session this week as we inch closer to the start of the 2013 season.
To this point the team has signed five of their nine draft picks and fortunately there have been no serious injuries to report.
Here is a look back at the first OTA session and a look ahead at what to expect this week from the Steelers.
Even though there were no serious injuries, the team didn’t come out of the first OTAs completely out of the woods.
First-round pick Jarvis Jones seems to have aggravated a previous hamstring injury and I wouldn’t be surprised if he missed this week’s OTA session. Jones originally hurt his hamstring at his Pro Day and then at the Steelers’ rookie minicamp he twinged it again.
The Steelers already have one linebacker with a history of being slowed by hamstring problems, LaMarr Woodley, which is why I see them letting Jones get completely healthy before pushing him.
The only other injury to note for the Steelers was rookie cornerback Terry Hawthorne having surgery to remove bone chips in his knee. Even though Hawthorne is a fifth-round pick, there has been a lot of buzz surrounding him about his future with the team. Fans see Hawthorne as having a chance to become a No. 2 or No. 3 corner for the team when he develops.
At the moment, though, he should be out until the start of training camp.
The Steelers opened up OTAs with Marcus Gilbert as the starting left tackle and I fully believe they will at least give Mike Adams a shot at some point. Gilbert had his 2012 season ended by an ankle injury, though he seemed to be healthy at OTAs last week.
With Max Starks signing with the Chargers this week, the pressure is really on Gilbert and Adams to stay healthy and perform this season. Not that there wasn’t already pressure,but the team doesn’t have Starks around to turn to if either struggle.
At this point I give the edge to Gilbert to win the left tackle job, if only to give Adams more time to develop, but this will be one of the more interesting battles to watch in camp.
Steve McLendon is the unquestioned starter at nose tackle this season, yet behind him there is nothing but questions.
Alameda Ta’amu has the talent but he is still pretty raw and has had his share of off-the-field problems already with the Steelers. Hebron Fangupo was claimed off waivers from the Seahawks late last season and at this point has been trying to adapt to a 3-4 defense from the 4-3 he was in.
According to Dave Bryan of Steelersdepot.com, Al Woods was seen getting time at nose tackle ahead of both Ta’amu and Fangupo. Woods has been a solid backup defensive end for the Steelers and this could be nothing more than seeing if he could play the position.
I still believe the team will keep both Ta’amu and Fangupo on the roster, though this could mean they are closer to being inactive on game day rather than contributing.
According to Mark Kaboly via twitter, the Steelers intend on using Cortez Allen in the slot rather than on the outside in 2013.
The plan is that Allen has the ability to cover both fast receivers and big tight ends, which will obviously help the Steelers’ defense. I think it sounds like a pretty good idea until William Gay has to line up outside. This decision further confuses me as to why they decided to not even make an attempt to keep Keenan Lewis in free agency.
Even if I didn’t agree with it, I could understand saying that you let Lewis go so that Allen could step up into his place. Keeping Lewis would have afforded the ability to play Allen in the slot with Lewis and Ike Taylor on the outside.
In my opinion, William Gay does not do well on the outside and I only thought his signing was good because he would be able to stay in the slot.
There has been a ton of attention given to the Steelers undrafted free agent Reggie Dunn because of his 40 time, reportedly low 4.3, and the fact that he had two 100-yard kick returns in one game in college.
The big question has been whether or not Dunn would be able to show he could do anything else other than return kicks. Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette talked about Dunn in his online chat last Tuesday and is quoted as saying Dunn “has not mastered the job of catching the ball on punts”, though also threw in that he thinks “they will try to avoid using Brown.”
I also think that the team will do whatever it can to allow both Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders to focus only on the receiver position. If Dunn can show improvement, then he has a good chance to make the roster. I think David Gilreath will get a good look at returning kicks as well.