The long offseason is almost over Steeler Fans and now we are just weeks away from the black and gold returning to the pristine surroundings of St. Vincent’s College in Latrobe.
To get you ready, I’m previewing the team. Over the coming weeks we’ll have our “Training Camp Battle Reports” which highlight specific position battles that will go on during camp. We’ll also be giving you updates from our friends “on the ground” in Latrobe and we’ll keep you updated with our opinions and analysis of everything that’s going on with the Black and Gold.
As far as the team goes, I’m going to nail down some of the goals Mike Tomlin had his staff will have as Training Camp 2016 gets underway.
Number One: Stay Healthy. Yup, it’s always a given and it is also quite redundant too but it has to be said. Over the years we’ve seen careers end before they really even began. We’ve seen long careers come to sudden stops and we’ve seen injuries that nag a player all season long. Injuries are part of the game but the Steelers must avoid those to key players as camp rolls on into the end of the preseason.
Number Two: Find a Number Two Quarterback. The Steelers will head to camp with both Landry Jones and Bruce Gradkowski on the roster. Tomlin made it clear that Jones will enter as the back-up but he’ll need to do the necessary things to hold on to that spot. Besides Ben Roethlisberger, the only other QB on the roster is Dustin Vaughan who will be primarily just “another arm” in camp.
Number Three: Settle the Left Tackle Position. With Kelvin Beachum in Jacksonville, it was thought the Steelers were pleased enough with Alejandro Villanueva to enter 2016 with him as the starter. Instead, the Steelers went out and signed Ryan Harris who started in the same spot for the Super Bowl Champion Broncos in place of their injured starter Ryan Clady. Regardless of who wins the job, the Steelers will have an excellent player in reserve.
Number Four: Get it Right at Receiver. Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Sammie Coates enter camp as the top four receivers. The number five receiver is the first major question and the second is how positions two, three and four shake out. The Steelers have a plethora of guys who will be fighting for a roster spot and among them are guys with various assets like Demarcus Ayres, Eli Rogers, Canaan Severin and Shakim Phillips. Whoever can stay healthy and produce the most in Camp will earn the spot.
Number Five: Good Luck Picking the LBs. I can’t tell you which linebackers will make this roster but what I can tell you is that the Steelers will likely be forced to cut someone pretty darn talented. Right now, you’re looking at James Harrison, Bud Dupree, Jarvis Jones, Arthur Moats, Ryan Shazier, Lawrence Timmons, Vince Williams and Steven Johnson. If Tomlin chooses to keep ten LBs then the fight for those final two spots is between L.J. Fort, Anthony Chickillo, Jordan Zumwalt, Tyler Matakevich, Mike Reilly and Travis Feeney. Those last two spots will be decided on by injury and who can play special teams and who can’t. Regardless there will be some good players sent packing.
If you’re headed to camp, check steelers.com for everything you need to know. As I say every year, if you haven’t been to Latrobe then do yourself a favor and go. Its a great experience.