Pittsburgh Steelers' Unit-By-Unit Analysis

Vicki FarriesCorrespondent IAugust 7, 2009

This is a quote from Mike Tomlin’s press conference after the Steelers' Super Bowl win.

As we close on the first week of into training camp, the only distraction at Saint Vincent has been reporters trying to get a juicy story on Roethlisberger and his accuser.

Coach Tomlin even decided to hold the Super Bowl ring ceremony in June to reduce the distraction level as a new season approached.

Next is to find the 53 men, Tomlin described in that same press conference. There are a lot of the same faces from 2008. A few have gone, and a few will go before the first game of the regular season.

For those that remain, some roles will change. Some will ascend, some will descend, says Tomlin.

For this training camp, the Steelers have been testing the new prospects, working the veterans, and moving personnel around trying to find different combinations that work with the sole purpose of building for the 2009-10 season.

Unit-by-Unit analysis of the first week of Training camp.


Starter—Ben Roethlisberger.

Backups—Charlie Batch, Dennis Dixon

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is off to a slow start at training camp, suffering from a sore arm. He admits his arm isn't as strong as he'd like it to be, and it usually takes him a week before his arm improves.

It was intimated that Dixon could be a shoe in for No. 2 because of his potential with the Wildcat offense. However, OC Bruce Arians has no plans to utilize the Wildcat offense this year. 

The upside that Dixon has makes him a strong case to be No. 2.

Early in camp, Dixon had been accurate and seemed to know the offense better after years of experience as a spread QB, although at times he has looked indecisive and shaky in the red zone.

Coach Mike Tomlin said in the spring that it was possible for Dixon to overtake Batch as No. 2.

After missing all of last season with a broken collarbone during preseason last year, Batch is working to get back to the No. 2 spot behind Roethlisberger.


Starters—Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes

Backups—Limas Sweed, Mike Wallace, Shaun McDonald, Dallas Baker, Tyler Grisham, Brandon Williams, Martin Nance

According to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, WR Hines Ward is not practicing because he wants to give his other receivers more reps in the first week of camp.

Limas Sweed and Shaun McDonald are distancing themselves from the pack in the battle for No. 3 receiver.

Arians notice a significant improvement with Sweed, who is running routes with authority, catching passes seemingly with ease, and has learned to find the seam in a zone defense.

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, if for no other reason than process of elimination, believes WR Limas Sweed will be the Pittsburgh Steelers No. 3 receiver this year.

Bouchette said he does not believe WR Shawn McDonald is physical enough and WR Mike Wallace may not have the experience despite having speed

Rookie receiver Mike Wallace has had his struggles hanging onto the ball at practice on Monday, especially after S Tyrone Carter rocked Wallace over the middle in seven on seven drills.

In addition to receiver duties, Wallace has been teamed up with RB Mewelde Moore returning kicks.

McDonald, a free agent from Detroit, is said to have great hands; he worked with WR Santonio Holmes on goal-line passing situations.

However, Bouchette feels McDonald may not be physical enough as a receiver.

Dallas Baker and Brandon Williams battle for the fourth receiver.

Williams is reported to be struggling at times, dropping passes and juggling others. Baker, formerly called the "Touchdown Maker" at Florida, is still trying to prove himself.

Martin Nance, who played with Roethlisberger at Miami, OH, is struggling as well. Reports are that he is unsteady and unsure since camp started, and that his routes are choppy and tend to end too early.

Another free-agent WR Tyler Grisham seems to have made a statement at camp. Described as small in size (5’10”, 184 pounds), he seems to have great hands.


Starters—RB Willie Parker, FB Sean McHugh.

Backups—RB Rashard Mendenhall, RB Mewelde Moore, RB Frank Summers, FB Carey Davis

Although no contract extension talks for RB Willie Parker, he continues to portray himself as a consummate pro and continues to work hard.

Stefan Logan, fresh off the PUP list with a foot injury looked impressive in receiving drills. The problem is how the former CFL star can make the team in a crowded backfield.

Logan is being worked into the punt return rotation, along with Mewelde Moore.

Logan is being worked in everywhere on the field—at RB, WR, and special teams.

Tank Summers has been a little bit of a disappointment. He has not run the way he looks and he has not been used in goal line sets yet.

Steelers RB Justin Vincent, a longshot to make the team, has looked good in camp. He runs hard and has decent hands.


Starters— LT Max Starks, LG Chris Kemoeatu, C Justin Hartwig, RG Darnell Stapleton, RT Willie Colon.

Backups—G/T Trai Essex, G Kraig Urbik, C A.Q. Shipley, T Tony Hills, T Jason Capizzi, G Jeremy Parquet

Guard Darnell Stapleton, bothered by an undisclosed left knee injury a few days ago, will have arthroscopic surgery Friday morning and will be sidelined for an indefinite period.

Stapleton had fluid on his knee after apparently injuring it Sunday during practice. He has not been on the field the last three days.

Stapleton, who made the roster in 2007 as an undrafted free agent, started the final 12 regular season games and all three playoff games at right guard after Kendall Simmons went down with a torn Achilles tendon.

Stapleton has been considered a big factor for offensive line this season, being groomed to play guard and center.

It was expected that with Hartwig out with the sore toe, Stapleton would have been slated as backup center, with Essex playing guard.

The absence of Hartwig and Stapleton leaves the team thin on the offensive line.

Legursky is working as center with the first team, backed by rookie A Q Shipley

Essex, expected to challenge Stapleton for a starting spot, is playing right guard.  

Jason Capizzi is working at guard/tackle position.

Both starters, left tackle Max Starks and left guard Chris Kemoeatu, will be relied on heavily to protect the blind side of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

There will be a problem if either succumbs to injuries or need to be spelled for a series or two.

Second year tackle Tony Hills and third round draft pick Kraig Urbik have not started off well in camp this year. Its been reported that Hills is struggling.

Thus far, Hills has had a disappointing training camp. Reports are in he needs to be more consistent to be guaranteed a roster spot.

Earlier this week Hills had a knockdown drag-out with LB Keyaron Fox. Is frustration or determination that is fueling these emotions?

Urbik, on the otherhand, is a rookie not ready to be in the starting lineup. It is too early to get a true assessment of him, and at this juncture he will need to catch on fast.

Behind both of them are undrafted free agent Ramon Foster and journeymen Jeremy Parquet and Jason Capizzi. Foster might be the saving grace, but he is probably more of a guard than he is a tackle, and is also better on the right side.

All in all, someone needs to step up as a solid versatile left side replacement. This will be looked at heavily during preseason games.


Starter— Heath Miller.

Backups—Matt Spaeth, Sean McHugh, David Johnson

With one season remaining on a five-year contract, TE Heath Miller agreed to a six-year contract that runs through the 2014 season.

Considered one of the top blockers among NFL tight ends, Miller has become everything the Steelers want in a tight end. He's a good receiver and a good blocker, which can be a tough combination.

Because of the below-average line play last season, Miller was positioned required to block.

Matt Spaeth, on the other hand, is strictly a receiver.

It’s been reported that Spaeth is having a good camp. He's blocking is first rate and his pass catching has improved.

Sean McHugh, a converted tight end, impressed the Steelers with his work at fullback down the stretch last season. He'll may split time with Carey Davis again in 2009 as a fullback.

McHugh is a blocker and considered more of an h-back. Released last year by Detroit, McHugh started 12 games last season as a fullback-tight end—or H-back, as that hybrid position has come to be known

Sean McHugh is battling David Johnson for the No. 3 spot in the depth chart.

Johnson has looked good blocking and it seems from reports that Johnson may have taken an early lead for consideration in the depth chart.


Starters -- LDE Aaron Smith, RDE Brett Keisel,  NT Casey Hampton.

Backups - NT Chris Hoke, DE Ziggy Hood, DE Travis Kirschke, DE Nick Eason.

Hood spent the entire summer working out at the Steeler training facility.

Steelers plan to use Hood as DE and DT, with heavy concentration at DE. 

Hood has been working with the second team unit which consists of NT Chris Hoke and DE Travis Kirshke.

Optimistically, the Steelers seem to have a nice DE rotation with Smith, Keisel, Hood and Kirschke.

Although Hood has had his ups and downs as any rookie, he has a huge upside, showing quickness off the ball.

Rookie DE Ra'Shon Harris hampered by the groin problem has not practiced.


Starters—LOLB LaMarr Woodley, LILB James Farrior, RILB Lawrence Timmons, ROLB James Harrison.

Backups—OLB Andre Frazier, OLB Bruce Davis, OLB Arnold Harrison, ILB Keyaron Fox, ILB Patrick Bailey, ILB Donovan Woods

LB Lawrence Timmons, sidelined last weekend battling cramps last weekend, has returned to practice.   

Free agent LB Tom Korte, who has been working in nickel and dime packages, seems to have made a huge impression at camp. He has a non-stop motor and lots of intensity.

It’s been reported that if he can deliver on special teams, he could make the 53-man roster. A rookie from Hillsdale College, MI, Korte won the all GLIAC conference accolades three years straight, finishing fifth in the conference in tackles (114) and second in tackle for losses (18).

LB and special teams’ specialist Keyaron Fox has been impressive this week, especially as a stand out in seven on seven drills with some hard hits.


Starters—LCB William Gay, RCB Ike Taylor, FS Ryan Clark, SS Troy Polamalu.

Backups—CB/S Deshea Townsend, S Tyrone Carter, CB Anthony Madison, CB Joe Burnett, CB Roy Lewis, CB Keiwan Ratliff, CB Keenan Lewis, S Ryan Mundy.

Rookie CB Burnett and second-year veteran Ryan Mundy are working in the nickel and dime packages.

Gay and Townsend are alternating with the first unit. The duo is fighting for the right CB starting spot.

Keenan Lewis looks very good. He and Joe Burnett are more likely to battle for the dime cornerback spot.


K Jeff Reed, P Daniel Sepulveda, LS Greg Warren, P/KR Mike Wallace, KR Joe Burnett.

Punter Dan Sepulveda is back after missing last season because of meniscus tear.

Sepulveda has been wearing a brace on his knee but says he's back to 100 percent.

To prove that, Sepulveda recorded some punts 55-60 yards

During one practice, K Jeff Reed was 5-for-6, missing from 50 yards out; Sepulveda was holding and Greg Warren was the long snapper.

Steelers WR Brandon Williams is working for the first time on punt returns, joining RB Stefan Logan, WR Shaun McDonald, and CB Joe Burnett

Mike Wallace could be an effective KR because of his blazing speed. He has huge upside as a receiver, but like most rookies, he's inconsistent.

The Steelers return units had WR Brandon Williams, RB Stefan Logan, WR Shaun McDonald, and CB Joe Burnett rotated as punt returners, while RB Mewelde Moore and WR Mike Wallace returned kicks


    2018 Is a Defining Year for Cam

    NFL logo

    2018 Is a Defining Year for Cam

    Mike Tanier
    via Bleacher Report

    Ranking Expectations for Rookie QBs

    Pittsburgh Steelers logo
    Pittsburgh Steelers

    Ranking Expectations for Rookie QBs

    Brent Sobleski
    via Bleacher Report

    Does Greg Hardy Deserve a Second Chance?

    NFL logo

    Does Greg Hardy Deserve a Second Chance?

    Jemele Hill
    via The Undefeated

    NFL Players Respond to Trump's Pardon Request

    NFL logo

    NFL Players Respond to Trump's Pardon Request

    Mike Chiari
    via Bleacher Report