Ladies and gentlemen, we are just one day away from seeing Steelers football! I couldn't be more excited for tomorrow, and it has nothing to do with the fact that I'll be drafting my fantasy team while I watch the game. For those of us who haven't had a chance to visit St. Vincent's College this summer, we will get our first impressions of the 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers. For those who have been to training camp, you get to see all the hard work pay off in an actual game situation.
So let's talk about who we want to see make an impact tomorrow. Keep in mind the starters will likely only play a handful of snaps. I want to talk about the guys who will still be playing in the second half. Who do you think is going to make a name for themselves tomorrow night? Who do you want to see make a name for themselves? Here's my list:
Johnson reportedly had a great day at practice on Tuesday, throwing a TD to Toney Clemons in a two-minute drill. I think he is making a strong push to take the #3 spot on this roster. Charlie Batch can no longer claim to have the intimate knowledge of the offense that made him a valuable injury replacement for Ben. If he and Johnson are both starting from scratch in Haley's offense, Johnson has a good chance to upset him with the athleticism and arm strength that Charlie just doesn't have anymore. A strong showing against Philadelphia would go a long way toward accomplishing that goal.
Like Johnson, DCS has a good chance to steal the final spot at his position with a good preseason. His biggest competition is Will Allen, who -despite being a Tomlin favorite and valuable Special Teams player- has made almost no contribution to the defense in two years. For DCS to make the final 53 roster, he will need to prove himself as a capable backup Safety while maintaining little-to-no dropoff on Special Teams.
If it were up to me and I were putting together a 53-man roster today, I would probably keep 9 Linebackers because of our current depth at the position. We saw how easy it is for the position to be depleted last year, and we don't want to have to make guys like Lawrence Timmons play out of position. That said, Ivy and Robinson are my early favorites for that 9th spot. Ivy played well in last year's preseason at ILB and was probably one of the last and hardest cuts to make. Robinson has really surprised this year coming in as an undrafted free agent at OLB, flashing some skills that make you wonder if he can't be a solid contributor already.
Redman is and will be our unquestioned starter in Week 1 and reports from Latrobe indicate coaches are doing everything they can to put the ball in Chris Rainey's hands (something you don't do unless you're confident the guy will make the roster). Dwyer and Batch will likely remain on the roster through Mendenhall's time on the PUP list. The competition between the two comes in who won't be cut upon Mendenhall's return. A big factor in that competition will be pass protecting. Dwyer has struggled in the past in this area while Batch has shown a willingness and knack for it in his short time here. Another thing the coaches will need to consider is the fact that Dwyer is not eligible for the Practice Squad since he has spent 2 years on the active roster already. We have a decent chance to keep Batch through the season on the PS, especially since it will be almost midseason by that time and team's won't be as thorough in scouring the waiver wire.
5. 7th Round picks.
In what ended up being a great Draft for Kevin Colbert & co., there might be just as much reason for optimism for the 7th rounders as for the early round picks. All of them have good opportunities to make the final roster with good showings in the preseason. Toney Clemons is in a heated competition for #5 WR, and with just a bit more consistency from his hands he should pull ahead of the pack. David Paulson has flashed as a receiver but will need to improve his blocking to steal the #3 spot at TE. Terrence Frederick seems to have the upper hand to become the #5 CB, but I would like to see him stand out a bit more. Finally, Kelvin Beachum has proven a quick study of the offense and has a chance to upset Trai Essex for the 9th OL spot. All 4 of these men should be relegated to the Practice Squad if they don't make the final 53.
So, who are you most looking forward to seeing?