5 Players off to the Best Starts at Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp
The sample size is finally large enough to start making judgments about which Steelers are having the best training camps so far.
This has not been a typical Steelers training camp. Coach Mike Tomlin may insist the changes have nothing to do with last year’s 8-8 record, though wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders seems to disagree.
Training camp has reflected this anger. Practices are running longer, there is an unprecedented amount of live contact and a few rookies are making serious cases for starting jobs.
I like the energy and enthusiasm. The guys are really getting into the rhythm of this thing and we are seeing the results of it. They are developing the skill that is going to be required of us to be good, and generally from an effort standpoint, they are doing a nice job of fighting through.
As Tomlin puts his players through the preseason gauntlet, a few are beginning to emerge as potential stars for the 2013 season. There are the usual suspects, newbies making their presences known and a couple of nice surprises.
These are the guys who are making the most compelling cases for Tomlin’s trust come the regular season.
This is by far the most important thing to note about Steelers training camp. Until otherwise proven, Ben Roethlisberger looks sharp, happy and healthy.
Obviously there should be no questions about a guy in his prime with two Super Bowl rings, but in this case, there were.
Big Ben had to prove he was fully healed from his injuries that hindered him toward the end of last season and that he was committed to being a cog in offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s offense. So far, he is showing no signs of rust, discomfort or frustration.
Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that the additions of rookies Le’Veon Bell and Markus Wheaton to the offense appear to have energized Big Ben. That is exactly what Pittsburgh’s coaches and fans want to hear.
“Some things have changed,” he told Robinson on Sunday. “There’s some new faces. We’re seeing what we’re made of.”
Big Ben sounds pissed and motivated to me. That is exactly how he needs to feel all season if he wants to guide the Steelers to another Super Bowl appearance.
Le'Veon Bell has been practicing with the presumed starters since training camp began, meaning that—right now—he is the favorite to start at running back in 2013.
Roethlisberger seems quite pleased with the addition to his offense.
“He’s shown that power,” Roethlisberger told Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “He’s been able to run through things. He’s shown some shiftiness and quickness. He’s made some guys miss which is good. He’s dynamic and can do a lot of things, and you can see it so far.”
SB Nation’s Neal Coolong seems to think the starting running back position is Bell’s to lose.
“He’s shown the ability to be a three-down back in this offense from Day 1,” Coolong said on Tuesday.
All signs are pointing to a bright future for Bell. Unless Jonathan Dwyer or Isaac Redman suddenly become Jerome Bettis and Franco Harris, it looks like Bell is the man to beat.
SB Nation’s Neal Coolong noted that the only first-round pick to start under Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was Maurkice Pouncey in 2010. Jarvis Jones may not start right away, but his training camp suggests he will still have an immediate impact.
He is still competing with Jason Worilds for the starting outside linebacker job. Worilds has not overly impressed, but he has done nothing to drop his stock.
Worilds will probably start this season, but as he enters the final year of his rookie deal, he will have to give the Steelers a reason to extend him.
The popular opinion appears to be that Jones is being groomed to take over that position in the event Worilds cannot cut it, possibly sooner than later.
Jones has already earned admirers at training camp.
“He’s very explosive and has a nice motor on him,” linebacker and defensive leader Lawrence Timmons told Sports Illustrated’s Don Banks. “The guy has it all. He’s a very sharp kid, and if he can pull it together, I’m sure he’s going to be where he wants to be.”
Banks said that Jones has shown speed, strength, athleticism, good instincts, pass-rushing prowess and the ability to swat down passes. All of this sounds like Jones is proving himself to be a valuable asset for the Steelers going forward.
Not only has Adams come into training camp healthy, he has also been showing a surprising versatility. Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. reported on Monday that the Steelers had been working him out at left tackle while Marcus Gilbert is taking reps on the right side.
It is no secret that besides Kelvin Beachum, the Steelers have very little depth on the offensive line. Being able to mix and match Adams and Gilbert in case of injuries would be a godsend.
Gilbert told Varley he prefers protecting Big Ben’s blind side on the left, but is perfectly fine with whatever is working.
“Anywhere on the line, keeping No. 7 (Big Ben) clean is the most important thing,” he said.
That is the right attitude and is a positive sign that he and Adams can both thrive at either position. Considering how depressing the Steelers’ offensive line has looked in recent years, any bit of good news goes a long way for this unit.
David Paulson is creating a competition where it was not thought there would be one. He just might steal the starting tight end position away from Matt Spaeth if Paulson plays his cards right.
Spaeth was expected to start until Heath Miller fully recovered from injuries he suffered last season, but Paulson has come into camp and put a target on Spaeth’s back.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Ralph N. Paulk said that Paulson has improved his blocking, his ability to make difficult catches and his ball security.
“I’m big-time better than last year,” he told Paulk. “I can’t say I have it all figured out, but I’m more confident with the offense. I’m doing a lot less thinking and more reacting.”
Considering how important tight ends can be to Pittsburgh’s offense, it is nice to see Spaeth and Paulson pushing each other in the early stages of training camp.
Competition can only produce better talent, right?