Pittsburgh Steelers Break Camp: A Firsthand Take as They Leave Latrobe
The Pittsburgh Steelers broke camp in Latrobe yesterday, and they took more than equipment and the bumps and bruises of a few weeks in the training camp sun with them.
After spending the last several days at St. Vincent College, several situations and players stuck out that could have a great impact on the 53-man roster come the end of the preseason.
5. Tyler Grisham Deserves a Roster Spot
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He’s unproven. He’s small. He’s undrafted.
But he does as much with what he’s got as anyone on the field, he works as hard or harder than anyone on the field, and he has the natural instincts and feel for the game it takes to surprise anyone who doesn’t take him seriously.
Grisham fits the Wes Welker mold and could quite possibly develop into a special player if given the opportunity.
The Clemson product spent last season on the practice squad before being signed to the active roster in December as a special teams contributor and reserve at the receiver position.
Grisham provides the versatility needed from a guy that fills one of the last two or three spots on the 53-man roster. In addition to being deceptively quick and agile, his pass-catching ability and work ethic allow him to not only be a solid backup receiver, but also a special teams contributor that you can expect something from.
Look to see him get more than a few chances to make the roster, especially if Antonio Brown unseats Stefan Logan as the Steelers’ top return man.
4. The Steelers’ Backfield May Not See a New Face After All in 2010
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After drafting Jonathan Dwyer in the sixth round of the 2010 draft, many, including the Steelers and yours truly, were very high on the skill set Dwyer brought to the team out of the collegiate ranks.
Since April, Dwyer has done little to live up to the excitement.
He arrived at camp overweight and has shown very little desire to take the opportunities being presented to him.
His lethargic approach to his professional transition has been extremely evident, and he has done anything but run with the authority and power the Steelers were anticipating.
Isaac Redman got work with the first team offense on Wednesday afternoon, and it appears the coaching staff intends to use Redman to do more than fill a roster spot in 2010.
Redman played well during the 2009 preseason, but fell short of making the roster. So far, he has made a statement with his approach and play in 2010.
If Redman is going to provide the power running he has shown in camp to go with Rashard Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore in the Steelers’ backfield, Dwyer will have to show enough toughness to get past his sore ankle and take a roster spot away from last year’s running back disappointment, Frank Summers.
If Dwyer fails to overcome whatever it is that is holding him back, whether it is mental or physical, the Steelers will enter the regular season without a new face on the roster at the position.
3. A Year Has Brought Tremendous Growth for Ziggy Hood
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Ziggy showed a few flashes of great potential in 2009, and his performance and effort in camp have brought on tremendous respect and trust from not only his teammates, but the coaching staff as well.
Hood showed up at camp in the best shape of his life and has improved tremendously in every facet of the game.
One thing Dick LeBeau has loved to do within the 3-4 defense is utilize a defensive end off the line in disguised coverage assignments. The Steelers have not been able to employ it consistently in recent years because of the lack of mobility the Steelers have shown on the end.
Ziggy Hood has consistently shown the tools and speed in camp to not only leave the line of scrimmage in pass coverage, but also be quite successful in doing so.
While growth is going to create tremendous versatility along the defensive line in 2010, Hood's mere presence in the lineup is going to give the Steelers a better chance of keeping guys like Aaron Smith healthy down the stretch run of the season.
2. All Signs Lead to Maurkice Pouncey Replacing Justin Hartwig
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Many wondered what the Steelers would do to utilize their first round pick in 2010.
If you believed Mike Tomlin and knew about his propensity to refrain from starting rookies, you likely expected Pouncey to battle for the job at right guard this season.
If you know the game, what Pouncey brings to the table, and what he is best suited for in the Steelers' offense, you knew it was only a matter of time before he unseated the porous Justin Hartwig and became the team’s starting center.
While it would be easy to question the wisdom of starting a rookie at the center position in the NFL, you don’t have to be very observant to see the flashing Vegas-style signs here.
Hartwig is coming off one of the worst seasons a center has ever had wearing black and gold, and he doesn’t look to have revitalized his game during the offseason.
Pouncey has shown a football intelligence beyond his years since coming to camp, and the quick respect he has earned on the field from both the offensive and defensive veterans is only punctuated by the raw physical tools he brings to the table.
Pouncey got an opportunity at the request of Ben Roethlisberger, and they have continued to work privately with the help of veterans like James Harrison after practice sessions all week.
His mobility and comfort with the technique at the position have been evident in his play both in his first preseason game and also in team scrimmages, where he has consistently stonewalled his man and gotten to the second level to make an additional block.
Pouncey’s presence and ability to get to that second level will instantly upgrade the Steelers’ running game and allow for the best five guys to be on the field.
* Additional Notes
Expect Justin Hartwig to be cut if he is supplanted by Pouncey. With the emergence of Doug Legursky this offseason, the Steelers have the freedom to relieve themselves of Hartwig’s high salary if he is not going to start.
1. Antonio Brown Is Holding Several Roster Spots for Ransom
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Antonio Brown has been one of the biggest surprises of training camp so far. His flat-out speed and physical ability have allowed him to capture the attention of the coaching staff and much of Steeler Nation as well.
Much of what he showed in the collegiate ranks projected him as a slot receiver at best, lacking the strength and size to be much more in the NFL.
What he has shown in camp has been anything but that.
Brown has proven his ability to get open and make catches almost as well as he has quickly proven to be the best kick returner on the roster.
Because Brown is making great strides both as a receiver and a return man, he is holding several roster spots for ransom as a result.
If Brown supplants Stefan Logan as the return man for the Steelers, it will create an interesting dynamic by which several players can make the final roster spot.
Players like Tyler Grisham, Jonathan Dwyer, Frank Summers, and several others will watch with interest to see what happens in the situation.
If Logan proves to be expendable with the arrival of Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, a designated special teams position will be left open, as well as a running back position—which means both Grisham and Dwyer or Summers will possibly make the 53-man roster.
It will be interesting to see what the Steelers look to do in the coming weeks, but if Brown can continue to impress in game situations as a kick returner the way he did here at camp, there is no reason that anyone should expect Logan to make the team.