With The Pittsburgh Steelers’ training camp set to begin next week, we’ll finally get a chance to see the final roster start to form.
Though all of us could probably predict about 90 percent of the roster right now, there are going to be a lot of interesting position battles in camp.
Here are eight battles to keep an eye on as the Steelers report to camp on Friday, July 26th.
Curtis Brown was drafted in the third round in 2011 and to this point hasn’t developed anywhere near as fast as anyone would have liked.
Because of that, Brown finds himself in a make or break camp and isn’t a lock to make the final roster. The guys against him are Josh Victorian, Terry Hawthorne, DeMarcus Van Dyke and Isaiah Green.
There should be two spots up for grabs between these five guys, and right now I would have Hawthorne and Brown as the front runners.
Brown isn’t going to be given anything though, and if he doesn’t show enough development, the Steelers will have no problem cutting Brown.
If everyone can actually stay healthy for a full season the Steelers should have a very good offensive line and an improved offense in 2013.
The problem is that other than Kelvin Beachum, the team has absolutely no depth at all at every position on the line.
Competing for those spots are Mike Golic, Jr., Joe Madsen, Joe Long, Nik Embernate, John Malecki, Mike Farrell and Guy Whimper.
There are probably two spots up for grabs on the line, at most three, and the leaders heading into camp in my opinion would be Golic, Jr., Malecki and Whimper.
The thing is that none of us really know how any of these guys are going to come out and perform when camps starts and that’s why I’ll be watching this competition closely to see if anyone separates themselves.
Larry Foote and Lawrence Timmons are obviously the starters on the inside for the Steelers, but right now there are isn’t a set backup.
Rookie Vince Williams would be my pick going into camp, but I wouldn’t fully rule out Brian Rolle and Marshall McFadden.
I only see one spot being available here, and it is going to come down to which of these guys proves he has a firmer grasp of the defense.
If they were to keep an extra inside linebacker, I would think both Williams and McFadden would be the ones to stick on the roster though.
Honestly, I don’t really see Jarvis Jones overtaking Jason Worilds in this competition, but I’m not going to say there is no shot of it happening.
With the departure of James Harrison, there will be a lot of pressure on LaMarr Woodley, and most likely Worilds, to get pressure on the quarterback.
Maybe the slide should really be Jones versus himself because I know I’ll be watching to see where his development is in camp and how quickly he can realistically help the team.
Personally I see Worilds having close to a ten sack season, and I wouldn’t be surprised either to see Jones put up eight sacks as a rookie.
Other than LaMarr Woodley, there really are nothing but question marks at the outside linebacker position for the Steelers.
Now I think that Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones are going to have good seasons for the team, but no one knows for sure that it’s going to play out like that.
The last outside linebacker spot will be between Chris Carter and Adrian Robinson, and at this point I would still give Carter the slight edge.
I will say though that the Steelers did not keep Robinson on the roster for the entire 2012 season for nothing, and if he shows development, he will go ahead of Carter.
David Johnson was in a heated competition last training camp with Will Johnson before having his season lost to a knee injury.
David Paulson surprised most by making the roster as a rookie and started the end of the 2012 season after Heath Miller went down.
Johnson will have to prove he is fully healed, but right now he is definitely the better blocker than Paulson. Where Paulson has the edge is that he has more potential to be a threat in the passing game, whereas Johnson never really developed in that area.
With the injury to Heath I could see both guys making the roster to start the season, but it will be interesting to see if Paulson can show enough to keep his spot past that.
At this point I would be surprised if Le’Veon Bell did not win the starting running back spot in camp, but we don’t know that definitely. Bell is going to have to prove he has a grasp of the playbook and that he has protection schemes down.
I have been a fan of Jonathan Dwyer his entire career with the Steelers, and though I think Bell will win the job, I wouldn’t fully exclude him from the competition. First off, he has to come into camp in shape and then he needs to show that he has improved from last season.
We pretty much know what we have in Isaac Redman, and that’s a guy who runs hard every time he has the ball and is deceptive in the passing game.
LaRod Stephens-Howling will be the change of pace back for the team, and he will also be competing to return kicks.
The only way I see Baron Batch really having a shot to make the roster would be if the team ultimately traded/cut either Dwyer or Redman.
This competition really comes down to whether or not the team decides to keep five or six receivers on the roster.
If the team decides to only keep five receivers I think it would come down to only Plaxico Burress and David Gilreath. If they decide to keep six guys, then it expands out to Justin Brown, Reggie Dunn and J.D. Woods.
Realistically, either way I still see this battle coming down to Burress and Gilreath. Burress is old but has height and the experience to be a threat in the red zone. The biggest factor when considering Gilreath is the fact that he can return kicks and punts.
Unless one of the rookies really has a great training camp, I don’t see any of them being able to unseat both Burress and Gilreath.