5 Things We Learned from Steelers' OTAs
A bunch of guys running around in shorts and shells doing non-contact drills doesn't seem all that important for sport that involves, well, contact. But still, some can be learned from OTAs.
NFL teams have started their "organized team activities" and the Steelers are no different. There will be rookie hazing and good fun all around. Some veterans will show up, some won't. All in all, it's a better time for young guys to shine and borderline players to make their names known.
With plenty of questions surrounding the Steelers in 2013, here's five things we've learned from the Steelers OTAs.
Kelvin Beachum Is One Versatile Lineman
When offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum was drafted by the Steelers in 2012, many thought the former SMU tackle would be making the move inside to guard at the next level.
Contrary to that belief (and due to a mass of injuries), Beachum was thrust into the Steelers starting right tackle position for the team's final five games of the season. He was Pittsburgh's third starter at the position in 2012.
But now that Pittsburgh will presumably be getting Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams back at each tackle spot for the 2013 season, the team has other plans in store for Beachum.
According to various outlets, the Steelers have been working the second-year player across the line, including some time at center.
The fit makes sense. Pittsburgh lost backup interior lineman Doug Legursky to free agency and starter Maurkice Pouncey has never finished a full season of play. Beachum's versatility may not land him a starting spot, but he could take over the role held by Legursky over the past few years. That role comes with plenty of field time.
Beachum has proven that he can play right tackle and guard at an NFL level. If he's a successful center, he becomes even more valuable to the Steelers.
Alameda Ta'amu Slipping out of Plans
It's hard to believe that just one year ago, the Steelers selected big nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu out of Washington to, presumably, take over for Casey Hampton when his time with Pittsburgh had ended.
Well, Hampton's time with the Steelers is over, but it's not Ta'amu who's filling his shoes. Or even those of his backup.
Not only will versatile defensive lineman Steve McLendon enter offseason workouts as the team's starting nose tackle, but Ta'amu isn't even taking second-team reps. That distinction has gone to backup defensive end Al Woods.
Woods has been unproven as an end in the league, so to see him getting the nod over Ta'amu and Hebron Fangupo is a bit surprising. But it does say a lot about Ta'amu's standing with the Steelers organization at this point.
Following his "incident" during his rookie season, Ta'amu was already in hot water with the team. If he's not going to be even a contributor, he may not make it through camp.
A Running Scheme Takes Shape
It's easy to say looking back on 2012 that the Steelers run game was a complete and total disaster. Between the lack of continuity on a constantly fluctuating offensive line and a corps of backs that were less than stellar, Pittsburgh put up some pedestrian numbers on the ground.
But after parting ways with former first-rounder Rashard Mendenhall and adding Le'Veon Bell, the Steelers are ready to make a change in their running game. And during OTAs, one back gave us a little preview.
According to Isaac Redman (via TribLive.com's Mark Kaboly), the Steelers will be "dedicated to the zone."
Yes, Pittsburgh is scrapping its old way of running the ball for a more new-fashioned offense and one that plenty of teams across the NFL run. And it seems to be catching on with players.
Center Maurkice Pouncey loves the new style, according to Kaboly, as do Marcus Gilbert and Ramon Foster. They're actually set up pretty well for the scheme, loading the line with nimble maulers up front.
We'll see how the zone works in Pittsburgh early on, but one thing's for sure, these backs will have to get downhill quick for this scheme to work.
Now Is the Time to Experiment
One of the more injury-prone teams in the league, it seems like the Steelers are constantly shuffling their pieces around on offense and defense, trying to put together a competent staff.
Now is the time to see which players can play other positions.
We've already discussed Kelvin Beachum playing all three line spots and Al Woods playing both end and nose tackle. But the Steelers have moved more than just big men around this offseason.
According to Behind the Steel Curtain, William Gay has been taking some snaps at safety during OTAs, just in case Troy Polamalu were to go down early in the season. Gay has spent all of his career playing cornerback and is very familiar with the Steelers defensive scheme. Although he'll probably be the team's nickel corner, having him know some safety doesn't hurt.
They'll be more movement of players as the offseason rolls along, but versatility is important, especially on an aged and oft-injured Steelers team. The offseason is the time to find out who can play where if need be.
LaMarr Woodley Answers Critics...Sort of
From anonymous teammates to the media and even his coaches, LaMarr Woodley has heard from every angle over the last year-and-a-half that he's out of shape and it's causing his play to slip.
For the first time, Woodley addressed that situation publicly via NBC Sports:
Playing football my whole life growing up, and you’re in the spotlight sometimes it comes with the good and the bad. You just have to know how to accept it. I’m one of those guys, I don’t pay attention to much at all. I just go out there and do what I’m supposed to do. And these guys on the team know what I go out there and do each and every day
It doesn't sound like Woodley took much of the criticism to heart, but teammate and fellow linebacker Larry Foote sees him as a little "extra-motivated" this year in camp.
Whether it was simply injuries that have slowed Woodley's young career or coming into camp out of shape, by all accounts it looks like he could be back to form this season. And if he is, that's great news for the Steelers.