The Best Rookie Storylines at Pittsburgh Steelers OTAs
The Pittsburgh Steelers rookies have tasted their first week of organized team activities (OTAs). Because OTAs are nothing more than a warm-up for mini-camp, any rookie storyline remains potential energy.
Like everything else in nature, those storylines eventually move from potential energy to kinetic energy, and find resolution by Week 17 of the season.
Here are the major rookie storylines brewing at the Pittsburgh Steelers OTAs.
Will Jarvis Jones' Hamstring Be a Constant Problem?
When the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Mark Kaboly reported that Jarvis Jones had limited participation in the beginning of OTAs due to a "tweeked" hamstring, Steelers Nation took a deep breath. This is the same hamstring Jones "tweeked" during pro day and then re-aggravated at the Steelers' rookie camp.
The concern is whether Jones' hamstring will become a chronic issue. Sure, this may be just an injury that requires Jones to rest during OTAs. However, it could also betray an underlying issue with him, either in his physiological makeup or his training regimen.
Going into camp, LaMarr Woodley currently holds the title of poorly-conditioned linebacker with hamstring issues. The Steelers don't need Jones to inherit it. They brought him in to re-energize an ailing pass rush. He won't help it much lying on the trainer's bench next to Woodley.
Time will tell if this will become a recurring theme for the rookie linebacker.
Can Le'Veon Bell Become the Featured Back?
When the Steelers drafted running back Le'Veon Bell, it wasn't so that he could provide a little depth at the position. The Steelers already have that. What they need now is a player to step forward and lead.
Last season, the Steelers ranked No. 26 in the NFL in rushing yards with 1,537. Granted, injuries to the offensive line didn't help, but that wasn't a good enough excuse for the poor numbers for general manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin. They believed an upgrade was needed, and that upgrade was Bell.
That doesn't mean that Bell won't be without competition, though. Maligned veterans Issac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer have something to prove. Redman showed up at OTAs with a new mindset thanks to a change in diet and training regimen. Dwyer has the extra push from purportedly not being wanted in Pittsburgh.
The overall competition will be good for Bell. It will show his resolve and determine if he has what it takes to be a starter this year.
Will Markus Wheaton Make an Immediate Impact?
A notable absentee from OTAs is wide receiver Markus Wheaton. Wheaton's absences is not by his own accord, however. NFL rules forbid a rookie from participating until after his school's graduation.
Wheaton's presence in Pittsburgh was caused by the departure of Mike Wallace to the Miami Dolphins. While not as fast as Wallace, he still has the speed to stretch the field. His rate of development will have an impact on the Steelers offense.
Last season for Oregon State, Wheaton caught 91 passes for 1,244 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Steelers hope he carries those numbers to Pittsburgh.
Right now, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders are the presumptive starters with Jerricho Cotchery as the No. 3 guy. If Wheaton moves into Cotchery's spot, the Steelers will once again have a formidable trio of wide receivers.
Can Shamarko Thomas Succeed in the NFL?
The Steelers needed a safety going into the NFL draft. They got Shamarko Thomas.
While diminutive in stature (5'9", 213 lbs), Thomas plays like a raged rhino. Because of his size and aggressive style, he's been compared to Bob Sanders.
The question remains as to whether or not that style translates to success in the NFL. He definitely has the physical tools. He ran a 4.42 40-yard dash and jumped 40.5" vertically at the combine. At Syracuse, he oftentimes moved to the line of scrimmage to cover the slot receiver.
Because of Pittsburgh's' lack of depth, Thomas will likely learn both the strong and free safety position. As such, Thomas will soon get a chance to prove that he belongs.
Is Landry Jones a Viable QB or the Just Another Temporary Clipboard Holder?
While it's premature to assume Landry Jones is the successor to Ben Roethlisberger, it's not out of bounds to ask whether or not he will be a viable NFL quarterback. The Steelers' recent history drafting young quarterbacks to back up Ben Roethlisberger has been lacking (Omar Jacobs and Dennis Dixon, anyone?)
While at Oklahoma, Jones finished as the Big 12's all-time passing leader with 16,646 yards. He has the physical tools to be a backup quarterback and perhaps an eventual starter, but it's the mental aspect of his game that's in question. Several key mistakes the past couple of years at Oklahoma have put his ability to handle big games in doubt.
Obviously, Jones won't be asked to do much this year. He'll sit behind Bruce Gradkowski and wait for his turn. Eventually, the Steelers will find out if they got the best quarterback in the draft, as former Indianapolis Colts general manager Bill Polian believes, or, instead, got the next Tee Martin.