This off-season, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been a team on a mission, and its members are training and practicing like it -- even the so-called camp bodies.
First week of #Steelers OTAs are in bag. My winners: CB Isaiah Green, FB Will Johnson; NT Al Woods; C/G Kelvin Beachum, OLB Adrian Robinson— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly_Trib) May 23, 2013
Isaiah Green was a standout at rookie orientation, where he intercepted one pass and broke up another deep down-field. The Steelers secondary, while showing plenty of room for improvement in 2012, are finding crowded quarters amongst its ranks. Curtis Brown, Josh Victorian and DeMarcus Van Dyke gained valuable, but painful experience last year, and are all looking to atone for their growing pains. Rookie Terry Hawthorne has already drawn rave reviews from secondary coach Carnell Lake, and veteran Justin King is fighting for career survival. Green's best opportunity entering the off-season was to make the roster through special teams. If he continues to impress, he could just surpass someone on the depth chart.
Kaboly has been very impressed with Kelvin Beachum, and continues to believe the team will attempt to groom him into a center. Al Woods needs a strong camp, as he clings to the roster behind Ziggy Hood, Cameron Heyward and the remainder of the team's young defensive linemen. Seemingly, his greatest competition could come from rookie NIcholas Williams, although it has taken Hood four years to learn Dick LeBeau's defense. Williams could spend his first season on the practice squad, especially if Woods continues to stand out.
Adrian Robinson earned a roster spot last year, despite not seeing much playing time. The team thought so much of his potential, they did not want to risk releasing him even though he still needed quite a bit of polishing. Even though James Harrison is no longer on the roster, there will still be plenty of competition at outside linebacker. Jason Worilds is expected to open the season as the starter, and rookie Jarvis Jones is seen as a face of the future. The Steelers will keep at least one more OLB to backup Woodley. Perhaps this season, Robinson will convince the team to forgo the Chris Carter experiment.
Will Johnson has done nothing but impress since the first time the Steelers organization laid eyes on him, while actually scouting another player (WR/TE Wes Lyons) during a West Virginia pro-day. He had rookie moments in 2012, but seemed to improve with each passing week. He is not expected to competing for his job in training camp, which should allow him to focus on his progression. Pittsburgh fans should expect an increased role for Johnson in 2013.
Of course, Mike Tomlin would tell you none of this means anything, as it all happened while wearing shorts. However, these players should be watched a bit closer when the team enters the next session of OTAs.