Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp: Week 1 Stock Report
The first week of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2014 training camp is in full swing. On Monday, Pittsburgh finally put the pads on and started some real hitting. And happily, that’s one full-contact practice down and no significant injuries to report.
This early stock report is good—no, make that very good. Players are flying around all over the field, making plays. So far, no players have really flopped, so all these reports are positive. Things can change in a hurry, but for now, here are five players whose arrows are pointed firmly up.
Stock Up: Dri Archer, RB
It didn’t take very long for running back Dri Archer to make an impression. The velocious rookie came into the league as one of its fastest players, and nothing that has happened since has changed that.
Early on, the Steelers are using multiple approaches to putting the football into Archer’s hands. According to Mark Kaboly at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Archer has been lining up as an inside slot receiver in their four-wide sets.
Archer also took first-team reps as a punter returner and was able to put on a show with his blazing speed and ability to make people miss in the open field. As exciting as that proposition is, having him on offense is big.
Imagine Archer lined up as a single running back, with Pittsburgh in 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end). Archer goes into motion and drops in as an inside slot wide receiver. This means the formation would likely dictate Archer is going to draw coverage from either a linebacker or a safety.
Creating these kinds of mismatches will be a huge key to the team’s success this season. Pittsburgh has a player who can give it the splash plays it was missing in 2013.
Stock Up: Justin Brown, WR
Having too many good wide receivers is a great problem to have. Everyone knows about Antonio Brown and how good he is. The additions of rookie Martavis Bryant and Lance Moore were significant upgrades over last year’s depth chart. And with the hope that Markus Wheaton can return means this group is really deep.
However, you can add one more name to the list of wide receivers who are working hard for some reps. Second-year wide receiver Justin Brown has been opening eyes the entire offseason, and nothing he’s doing in the early stages of training camp is changing that. Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review indicated that Brown is earning the praise of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with his athletic play.
With Brown, Wheaton, Moore and Bryant mortal locks to make the final roster, those last spots are going to be very competitive. Also, with rookie speedster Dri Archer getting some reps at wide receiver, it’s possible the Steelers will only carry five wide receivers. That means it will be vital that Brown continues making plays if he wants to lock down that final spot.
Stock Up: Stephon Tuitt, DE
For all the conversations about wide receivers and quarterback contracts, the defensive line has quietly improved a great deal. A part of that is because of rookie defensive end Stephon Tuitt. Tuitt is one of the most impressive size-athleticism combos on the roster and is a natural fit at defensive end for the 3-4.
Early in camp, according to Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Chris Gazze, Tuitt is playing very well. He is working with the first team and showing off that power and explosion he had at Notre Dame when he was healthy.
Pittsburgh needs a player to step up and take control of that left defensive end spot. If Tuitt can do the types of things at 303 pounds other 3-4 defensive ends do at 285 pounds, this defensive front is going to be very hard to contend with.
Stock Up: Sean Spence, LB
It is a great feeling to see linebacker Sean Spence out on the field running full speed at last. Way back in 2012, Spence suffered a horrific knee injury that he finally looks to be recovered from. Spence was a terror during his time in college. His ability to fly to the football and finish with power is rare in the league.
Teresa Varley from Steelers.com spoke to Spence, and it seems he’s in great spirits and sounds ready to strap the pads on and get to work:
I have been waiting all offseason for this opportunity and I am up for the challenge. Having to watch all of training camp last year and be separate from the guys, it feels good to be with them and working with them. Last year was full of a lot of down moments, sad times. I was away from football for my second year in a row. This year I am full of joy, around the guys, taking advantage of every opportunity.
The Steelers are making a concerted effort to get faster on defense, and Spence falls right into that. Even with first-round pick Ryan Shazier in the mix to start at inside linebacker next to Lawrence Timmons, there will be reps for Spence.
Stock Up: Ryan Shazier, LB
It is hard to imagine that rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier could do more to improve his standing with this team. However, on the first day of pads at training camp, he did just that.
Pittsburgh started the contact with backs on ’backers. Here’s a video of the drill from the Steelers training camp back in 2011, to show what it’s all about.
The highlight of the event was when Shazier squared off against running back LeGarrette Blount. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Steelers writer Mark Kaboly tweeted out just how physical things got: "My lord the collision Blount and Shazier. Blount staggered him. Shazier whipped him twice before."
These kinds of impacts highlighted what a very upbeat and physical practice it was. The one criticism of Shazier coming out of college was that he didn’t always engage offensive players and muscle them up enough. It’s only one day, but this is great news for the Steelers.