It may seem like a long ways away, but July 25th will be here before you know it, and that is the exact date the Pittsburgh Steelers report to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA for their annual training camp leading up to the 2018 regular season.
The 90-man roster has been set for several weeks now, and besides a few tweaks here and there, what you see is what you get for the black-and-gold. With the players set, what will people be talking about as the team heads to training camp? Here are the Top 5 story lines to keep an eye on.
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Le’Veon Bell Contract
Of course this has to be the top story line. Why? Because Le’Veon Bell is one of the best players on the Steelers’ offense, and the deadline for him signing a long-term deal, or playing under the franchise tag, will fall just before players report to camp (July 16). If the team is somehow able to ink Bell to a long-term deal, it will be a huge story line for both the roster, and the salary cap. However, if the two parties fail to find middle ground for a second-straight year, the story line will be Bell’s swan song in the Steel City.
Coming into the season it was assumed rookie Mason Rudolph would be QB3 and Landry Jones QB2, leaving Joshua Dobbs looking for new employment elsewhere. While it is only football in shorts, Rudolph has impressed making many wonder if he could backup Ben Roethlisberger, making Jones and/or Dobbs expendable. Having a story line surrounding the backup quarterback position is a good problem to have, meaning you have an entrenched starter, but this will be fun to watch, and make the preseason more watchable than previous years.
What to do at the safety position? The Steelers picked up Morgan Burnett and Nat Berhe in free agency, Sean Davis is the lone safety returning from last year and Terrell Edmunds and Marcus Allen were both selected in the 2018 NFL Draft. Throw in Jordan Dangerfield and you have a full house of safeties entering training camp. The story line here isn’t so much who will make the team, but how will the team use these players? Will they deploy Edmunds and/or Allen as sub package specialists? Will the safeties be expected to ease some of the burden off the lack of inside linebacker athleticism lost by Ryan Shazier? Who will play free safety? All of these answers will come soon enough when camp begins.
Speaking of inside linebacker, how the Steelers plan on using these players is anything but certain. Jon Bostic was signed in free agency, yet Tyler Matakevich spent the entire offseason alongside Vince Williams as the starting linebacker. Will Bostic be nothing more than depth? Will Matakevich be able to hold down the starting linebacker spot without jeopardizing the entire defense? Who will be staying on the field during sub packages? Plenty of questions, and unlike the backup quarterback role, the decisions made at this position will have a huge impact on the team.
Le’Veon Bell will be in black-and-gold this year no matter what, and the story line with this position resides in the depth at the position. James Conner has reportedly looked great this offseason, but behind him is up for grabs. Jaylen Samuels’ versatility is attractive, and the question then becomes how many backs will the Steelers keep? Assuming Bell, Conner, Samuels and Roosevelt Nix make the team, what will they do? Will Fitzgerald Toussaint continue to defy the odds and make the team, or will someone like Stevan Ridley impress enough to make the roster?
All of these questions will ultimately be answered when the players report to training camp in just over a month, but for more in-depth analysis you can check out the latest BTSC Podcast in the player below: