4 Players Turning Heads at Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp
For others, though, training camp is their livelihood. Some are fighting for a starting spot; others are fighting simply to make the roster. What they do (or don’t do) over the next few weeks will decide their fate.
Read on to see who’s making a positive impression at the start of training camp.
Brown, a 2013 sixth-rounder, was buried behind a talented depth chart and relegated to the practice squad in his rookie season. The offseason departures of Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery have greatly improved his chances of not only making the team, but also logging significant snaps.
According to several reports, Brown is doing his very best to seize that opportunity. ESPN’s Scott Brown referenced a leaping grab Brown made on a bullet pass from Ben Roethlisberger. SB Nation’s Neal Coolong wrote that Brown’s been catching everything thrown his way.
With two relatively high-round picks in Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant competing ahead of him, the odds may not be in his favor. That being said, he wouldn’t be the first sixth-round receiver named Brown to conquer some long odds.
The Steelers face questions aplenty at outside linebacker heading into the ’14 season. Can Jarvis Jones recover from a miserable rookie year and live up to his draft billing? Was Jason Worilds' breakout merely a flash in the pan in pursuit of a big contract?
These questions won’t be answered for some time, but it appears the team can at least count on quality play from the position’s top backup: Arthur Moats.
Moats was used as a pass-rushing defensive end at James Madison and finished second in school history with 29 sacks. Moats has recorded a mere five sacks in four NFL seasons—none in the past two—primarily because he wasn’t afforded the opportunity in Buffalo.
Per Steelers Depot’s Dave Bryan, former Steelers offensive tackle and current radio analyst Tunch Ilkin sees the 3-4 defense as a great fit for Moats’ talents.
The guy that jumped out to me today in all the drills was Arthur Moats,” Ilkin said. “And the reason is, when Arthur Moats was at Buffalo, he was a 4-3 stack linebacker, an outside linebacker – played off the line of scrimmage. He never jumped out at me. As a 3-4 outside linebacker, he looks much more natural, much more at ease as a natural pass rusher, who does a great job of not only with an initial move, but a counter off of it.
If Ilkin’s analysis proves correct, Moats may not be out of the running for a starting role.
The selection of Dri Archer has been oft criticized over the past few months. A team expected to be targeting a big, physical presence on offense took the opposite approach with its first offensive pick.
The 5’7” speedster may be diminutive in stature, but his big-play ability is undeniable. After all, he left Kent State with 40 total touchdowns, just one behind all-time leader Joshua Cribbs.
According to reports from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, it hasn’t taken long for Archer to flash that ability at the game’s highest level. The report states that Archer is taking snaps from the slot in four-receiver sets and is also taking first-team snaps as a punt returner. More importantly, it said that he “broke off a couple of long runs.”
The fact that the Steelers are already utilizing Archer in a number of ways speaks to his versatile skill set. And the fact hat he’s seeing first-team reps as a return man could generate quite a spark while helping to preserve the legs of team MVP Antonio Brown.
The hype train has been churning steadily along since Ryan Shazier was drafted nearly three months ago. His top-level athleticism and playmaking ability has had him penciled in as a starter through the entirety of that span as well.
One concern some have is how the relatively lean (6’2”, 229 lbs) Shazier will hold up against the more physical nature of the NFL. In the early goings of training camp, he’s begun to quell those concerns.
In the now-infamous "backs on backers" drill, Shazier was pitted against the 250-pound LeGarrette Blount and more than held his own. In fact, per Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ray Fittipaldo, Shazier bested Blount with speed moves in two of three attempts.
He got my attention on the first couple,” Blount said. “As a football player, it’s in your nature not to lose. I just have to make sure I get him before he gets off the line. He’s a quick kid. Obviously, I’m not as quick as he is, so I have to get to him before he makes his move. He’s really quick, he’s really fast. He makes plays.