As fans of the NFL we have now enter the dull void of no football relevant events from now till the start of training came. After searching through and viewing many different articles about the OTA's and Minicamp I think it is time to start making some prediction for some individuals. Hopefully this will spark some continued football related discussion while we fight through this lull.
Prediction #1: The RB Corps. will be design with RBs that can play on passing downs
It seems that everyone has a differing opinion about who will actually make the roster. The only two roster locks of this group are Isaac Redman, and Rashard Mendenhall while the rest seem to be a toss up. Here is my take on the running backs. Rahsard Mendenhall will start the season on the PUP. Isaac Redman, Chris Rainey, Baron Batch will make the roster. Why?
Well according to Gerry Dulac only Redman, Rainey and Batch have taken first team reps. Both Rainey and Batch received first team reps on third down. It is my opinion that on third down this year the Steelers will utilize the Shotgun formation and a running back on both sides of Roethlisberger, Rainey and Batch. Rainey will then be motioned out to the slot or used for a screens out of the back field. Why am I certain that Batch will make the roster?It is because of his pass blocking skills and receiving skills. If you look at the roster only Redman and Batch can really pass block. and only Batch and Rainey are real receiving possibilities coming out of the backfield. Clay and Dwyer are not good at those skills and Rainey is too small to be considerably effective blocker.
Prediction #2: Maurkice Poucey will have a 1st Team All-Pro year.
Pouncey early in the off-season had an ankle surgery that he should have had a year ago. He now says he feels 100% and regrets not having the surgery earlier. I believe with a healthier ankle he will hold up against the bigger defensive tackles more successfully. It is also no secret that the guards on both his right and left side will be vastly improved which will help Pouncey as well. I have been on record saying that when healthy Willie Colon was the best drive blocker I had seen at the tackle position. Colon should bring that with him to the interior as well as deceptive quickness needed to pull. His quick feet should also help him against any of the small quicker DTs. DeCastro despite being a rookie should also be a huge improvement at the RG. His pass blocking smarts and ability to pull right should not only keep defenses honest but prevent the MLBs from cheating to one side. If the MLB can't cheat to a side because he can predict the play Pouncey with his athleticism should be able to get to him.
Prediction #3: Come the end of Training Camp, Keenan Lewis will be the #4 CB.
Honestly when I watch Keenan play I see someone who can't play press coverage because he fails to redirect at the line. I see a player who isn't aware enough to excel in zone coverage and isn't athletic enough to hold up in off man. Unlike William Gay he doesn't see the entire field when he plays which help Gay to allow little YAC despite being beat. Top off the under whelming attributes with the fact that his competition has the coaching staff enamored doesn't mean good things for Lewis. The coaching staff really likes Cortez Allen who is athletic eough to play man, long enough to play zone and able to cover TE effectively. Allen will be starting opposite Ike Taylor. They are also ecstatic with Curtis Brown's potential. He is quicker then William Gay and would make a good slot corner as he can come off the blitz well and change direction well. The problem is Brown has been hurt and he still needs to learn to read the play as it develops. I still think it will happen if he stays healthy. Then we have Terry Carter who is flashing his skill, Terrence Fredrick who is expected to flash his skill in pads not shorts and the Steelers defensive backfield is so stack it will definitely put Lewis in his last year in the Black and Gold.
Prediction #4: Antonio Brown will make the Pro Bowl for his offensive prowess.
Brown ran 427 routes and had 1,108 yards. His 427 routes were 127 less than Mike Wallace but he only 175 less yards. What does this mean? When Antonio Brown is on the field he is getting open and Ben is finding him. I think as Brown becomes a consistant presence in starting lineup his chemistry with Ben will get even better and Ben will rely on Brown to make the plays when needed like he once did with Ward. Unlike Wallace Brown can run every route and prides himself on getting his footwork right. He also despite being the team MVP has been seen working for hours after practice on his route running.
Prediction #5: Sean Spence will have a bigger impact in his rookie year then any rookie linebacker drafted before him in Tomlin era.
Why am I saying this? Well first of all when Dick LeBeau and Keith Butler are praising your football smarts you probably have some major football intelligence. On a more visible note Spence has been getting second team reps because of the injury to Stephenson Sylvester. Not only that but there are rumors coming out that at the end of the last mini-camp Spence was able to call plays for the second team. Spence however may make an immediate impact on special teams because of his athleticism and quickness. I could see by the end of the year Spence staring at the Mack will Timmons slides over to the Buck because Timmons has gained mass intentionally making taking on blocks easier and Spence is at his best when he can flow all over the field not when he is taking on blockers. Though if the D-line does well enough at keeping him clean there is no reason why Spence can't play the Buck. Remember LeBeau's defense has never been about being physically better than an offense but instead being mentally better.