Steelers Camp Preview
Fresh cut grass, hot summer sun, yes - it is time for NFL training camp and that means football is back. As of Thursday, July 27, players will have reported to camp with today being the first practice of the season. The Steelers have a foul taste in their mouth with the loss to New England in the AFC Championship game. However the Steelers have a new hope with a lot of positives camp battles coming into the new season, that could help them get back or further than they were last season. Every team starts off 0-0 and every team feels they have a shot at winning the Super Bowl, could the Steelers be one of the 2 teams that are right? I think they could be.
In some of my past articles I have gone over the Steelers draft and how they will impact this season as well as the future, lets look at some adds in Free Agents pick ups that could help this up coming season.:
Key Adds: WR - Martavis Bryant (back from Suspension), DE – Tyson Alualu (FA), CB – Coty Sensabaugh (FA), WR- Justin Hunter (FA), RB Kniles Davis (FA).
The Steelers were not flashy in free agency and some of there new additions are going to have to fight for a spot on the 53 man roster, however with the draft and the free agency moves they made, the Steelers are coming into the new season much better. Martavis Bryant is the biggest name coming off a 1-year season suspension will really help put their offense over the top. With players added like Alualu and Sensabaugh these are key to add much needed depth to a defense that is on the rise.
Key Battles this camp: WR Depth Chart & Starting Slot CB.
As mentioned before Steelers are getting back Martavis Bryant this season, which he should slide right back into the number 2 spot. Number one on the depth chart is filled by possibly the best WR in the game Antonio Brown. After 1 and 2, there is a bit of a logjam. Eli Rogers was the number 3 WR most of last season as Marcus Wheaton was hurt all last year and moved on to the Bears in the off-season but I wouldn’t count on Rogers having a big advantage coming out of camp as the number 3 starter.
Other than Rodgers they have a few others on the depth chart that could leap up in the depth chart during camp. Sammie Coats does not seem to be one of them, but he still might steal a roster spot and make his way on the team. Sammie who seemed to take a step back last season and will be out for the start of camp with a knee scope. If Coates was not a fourth round pick, I believe he would be cut. Justin Hunter and Darrius Heyward-Bey are probably fighting for the same spot, both can contribute on special teams and I do not see them making it as the 3rd WR, one will take the 5 and if they choose to carry six, the other will take the sixth spot. That means that WRs Demarcus Ayers, Cobi Hamilton will probably not make the team. That being said, the Steelers went very high in the draft and got WR JuJu Smith-Schuster in the 2nd round from USC. He is big physical wide out that can play both on the out side and in the slot. He to me will be the guy turning heads this camp. He reminds me a lot of Martivis Bryant just more physical. My money is on JuJu for the 3rd spot. But don’t be shocked to see more 4 wide with the Steelers going all in at TE with Jesse James. A lot of NFL teams go 4 wide with a TE in the 2nd slot, see the Steelers look to mix and match there top 4 wide outs and move them around to create some confusion on for the opposing Defense.
Probably the biggest and most important battle of this camp is the Slot CB position. Last year William Gay filled this role, with Artie Burns and Ross Cockrell on the outs sides. William Gay at times was lost and was not holding his own in the middle. This to me means that it should put his spot in jeopardy for camp as well as a roster spot for his price tag. With lots of fast young talent, the Steelers would be better off taking a gamble with a draft pick or the FA pick up. Eliminating Gay out of the running the Steelers have a few options to compete for this position. The always-injured Senquez Golson, free agent pick up Coty Sensabaugh or 3rd round draft pick Cam Sutton.
Since being drafted in the 2nd round of the 2015 daft the one time college ball hawk has not played in an NFL game. The past 2 seasons Golson has ended up on the IR before he could really make a name for him self. Going into his 3rd season he has a lot to prove and his roster spot could be on the line. I think unless the 5’9 CB has a lights out camp he is not going to be taken seriously for the slot position and at this point is just depth seeing as the Steelers double dipped in the NFL draft at CB.
Free agency pick Coty Sensabaugh is trying to get back to 2015 form when he had a career year with 60 tackles, 2 Ints (one TD) and 8 pass deflections. Coty at 5’11 has a good size for a slot Corner and will battle for the inside job this camp. Coty has some tough competition for the slot job, as once again I go to the Steelers NFL draft pick in Cam Sutton.
Going into the NFL Draft I did not know Sutton very well, but after watching some film and seeing all he has to offer, Sutton is a great find in the 3rd round for the Steelers. Not only can he come in as a day one slot starter, He can play press on the outside as well as return punts and kicks. He has tremendous vision in with the ball in his hand and is also listed as 5’11 though he plays much bigger. Cam who started every game leading up to his senior year, fractured his ankle half way into the season. Had he not gotten hurt, Sutton would have been an early 2nd round pick. Once again I go with a rookie to win this job.
A new hope for every team starts at the beginning of training camp. The Steelers got better in the offseason; the defense will grow and get better game-by-game. Something the Steelers need to deliver on this season is scoring more points. Ben Roethlisberger has the WR talent, the offensive line (Villanueva just getting signed to a four-year deal really helps) the play caller to do it. This is the start of a very exciting season.