Frank Franklin II/Associated Press
With little depth on the offensive line, the Steelers are in need of one of their linemen to impress.
Chris Elkins has caught the attention of many in training camp. He has impressed enough that Scott Brown of ESPN.com identified him as a “long shot” to watch for in the preseason opener against the New York Giants.
Despite impressing in pass-protection drills, Elkins remains a member of the third-team offensive line. It isn’t surprising for an undrafted free agent to be at the bottom of the depth chart at this point of the preseason.
However, Elkins will need to make a move very soon up the depth chart to have a chance to make the roster. He must prove that he can play against better competition or else he will be limited to a spot on the practice squad.
Willie Parker. James Harrison. Josh Mauro?
Mauro has a long way to go before he can be considered as the next great undrafted free agent signed by the Steelers, but it is hard to ignore the impressive start that he has had to training camp.
In only two weeks, Mauro worked his way up from the third-team defense and is now running with the backups. Based on when he entered the game against the Giants, he may have jumped Brian Arnfelt on the depth chart.
Neal Coolong of Behind the Steel Curtain praised Mauro for his performance against New York:
“Mauro performed well against the non-taxi squaders, having participated in much of the second half and [was] the edge-setter in the Steelers' base defense and goal line down the stretch.”
Given his effort in practice, Mauro’s performance in his NFL debut was not a surprise. He has been one of the hardest working players in training camp. Not only is he proving that he physically belongs, but he is picking up the mental aspects of the game as well.
Mauro still has work to do, but he is in a better position to make the team now than he was at the start of training camp.
A transition from Division II Shepherd University defensive lineman to Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker is not an easy one to make. You would never know that if you have watched Howard Jones over the past two weeks.
Jones has a lot to learn about playing outside linebacker in the NFL, but the early returns have been good. He has demonstrated the ability to get to the quarterback during practice and was all over the football in the first preseason game.
The coaching staff is looking for defenders who can make plays, create turnovers. Jones recovered two fumbles and converted one into a touchdown. As a result, he was named the Steelers Digest Player of the Week (h/t Bob Labriola of Steelers.com).
Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that Jones’ performance was “a good first step,” and it was. However, one good game will not be enough to beat out veteran Chris Carter. He will have to continue to show up not only on defense, but on special teams.
As long as he continues playing at this level, Jones will make it a tough decision for the Steelers. They can find a spot for him on the final roster or risk losing him if they try to place him on the practice squad.