Pittsburgh Steelers: The 5 Players Who Are Being Hurt the Most by the Lockout
The Pittsburgh Steelers are a veteran laden team with few holes. They have not had any player organized workouts to this point, instead a creaking defense has decided to rest it's weary limbs over the last few months.
Offensively some Steelers such as Rashard Mendenhall and Hines Ward have still found their way to the headlines for opposing reasons. Mendenhall of course was involved in that Twitter incident while Ward shuffled his way to a dancing crown.
However some Steelers really needed this offseason to establish themselves while others needed it for other reasons.
In a sense, Keenan Lewis is being helped by the Lockout in that the team hasn't been able to bring in a cornerback, however that opportunity will arrive eventually.
Lewis has struggled through the first two seasons of his career. Despite possessing all of the physical attributes needed to succeed at this level, his mental errors have repeatedly infuriated his head coach. Nonetheless, as a former third round pick, Lewis has shown enough to stay on the team ahead of the released Joe Burnett.
The Louisiana native was obviously hoping to prove himself ahead of next season during the offseason as there is definitely an opportunity to claim a starting role with the team after their poor displays last season. Lewis is not going to be playing any nickel corner because of his less agile frame therefore looking to beat out Bryant McFadden or proving he could replace Ike Taylor would have been his aim during this offseason.
However Lewis will now be looking to stave off Crezdon Butler for a place behind the starters. Speaking of Butler...
I firmly believed that Crezdon Butler—with a good offseason—would be in line to be the Steelers' nickel cornerback from the start of next season. Butler impressed during the preseason last year to the point that he was kept on the roster ahead of Joe Burnett.
He appears to be an intelligent player who knows how to get his hands on the football while also being a ferocious tackler. Well, I say tackler when in reality he prefers to just hit people. He had three pass breakups and one interception in limited time during the preseason.
He also racked up seven tackles in the final game against Carolina. Butler ran a 4.43 forty coming out of college but he does not translate as the fastest player on the field. Nonetheless he could certainly have had a chance at replacing William Gay in the role of nickel corner for the team.
Butler may still manage that but without an offseason for him to learn the defense as thoroughly as possible, it is less likely.
Casey Hampton has had weight issues in the past. To be fair to Casey, the definition of his job is to be big. If I was his size I probably wouldn't be too motivated to get on a treadmill either.
What is worrying for the Steelers is the fact that Hampton got his final contract from the Steelers last season. He is now playing simply for his own competitive nature, he does not have much left to prove in what has been an outstanding career.
Hampton has two years left on a $21 million deal of which he is guaranteed $11 million. At 33 years of age, Hampton's motivation may begin to dwindle the longer that this lockout lasts. This is a major issue with a player of his type because it will be very difficult for him to recover should he put on too much weight while he can't afford to lose any either.
Hampton is also a veteran, however, so at the very least should know how to manage his body to keep his weight at the ideal size.
Limas Sweed needs to prove himself heading into this season. It is definitely his final chance at establishing himself as an NFL receiver.
As a former second round pick Sweed definitely has the talent. He showed that at Texas and in flashes in the NFL. He routinely got open with ease but struggled to consistently catch the ball, suffering what appeared to be mental lapses.
Many fans have already given up on Sweed, however, if he were to reach his potential he would be the perfect final piece in the Steelers' receiving corp. After two years of injuries and unknown issues Sweed would have been more determined than ever to turn his career around this off-season, however now he is likely to be cut as his chances dwindle away at proving himself to the coaching staff.
Of the Steelers' 2011 rookie draft class, Marcus Gilbert has the best chance at becoming a starter during his first season. However Mike Tomlin is infamous among Steelers fans for not trusting younger players.
Last season's exceptional rookie class got on the field more often than anyone would have thought but that was an exception rather than the rule. There probably isn't another all-pro offensive lineman from this year's class but if Gilbert can prove himself enough early he could play start at right guard.
Gilbert is naturally a tackle but the team has a need at guard so could plug him in there straight away. His chances won't be destroyed completely by the lockout but it is hurting him by not being able to turn up and show off to his new coaches every day.
While Cameron Heyward may be the headline choice from last year's class he is unlikely to see that much playing time behind Brett Keisel, Aaron Smith and Ziggy Hood.
Gilbert, however, has a chance to overtake Ramon Foster, Doug Legursky and Trai Essex to become a fixture on the team's offensive line instantly.