Even before the Pittsburgh Steelers make a single offseason move, multiple positions will be up for grabs. While this list will grow in the coming weeks, let's take a look at the early camp battles featuring players on the current roster.
Matt Feiler vs. Chukwuma Okorafor vs. Zach Banner
This battle is contingent on the rumored release of Ramon Foster. If the left guard spot opens up, Matt Feiler would likely kick over to the position. Okorafor vs. Banner should be one of the most tightly contested position battles of 2020.
Banner is the highly popular swing tackle who has yet to make a start at a regular O-Line position, but played a lot in 2019 as an eligible tight end. Okorafor has started 2 games at RT in the past, but was a healthy scratch for most of the 2019 season.
I’m excited for this camp battle because this one is going to come down to who puts in the most work this offseason. Whoever wants it more will be a starter for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020.
Deep Threat Wide Receiver/WR5
Johnny Holton vs. Deon Cain
In 2019 the Steelers liked to trot out a receiver specifically for taking the top off of defenses. for most of the year that was Johnny Holton who caught 3 passes on 15 targets.
After injuries to JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson the team elected to claim Deon Cain from the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad. While only being targeted just 6 times, Cain was able to hall in 5 of them.
A full offseason will make this battle interesting (as long as more wide-outs aren't brought in). I’d expect Cain would be the favorite heading into camp as his production during his short time was impactful. But this one will come down to who has the most chemistry with Ben Roethlisberger.
Duck Hodges vs. Paxton Lynch
These two quarterback’s paths to this spot couldn't have been more different. Lynch is a first round pick, from an FBS school, and stands at 6’7” tall. Duck Hodges, an UDFA, is the all-time passing leader in FCS, and is a slight 6’1”. But regardless of their past (and physical stature) they’re both vying for the QB3 position.
Having started games for the Steelers, Hodges obviously will have the edge heading into camp. But Lynch’s size, strength, and running ability will be hard for coaches to look past. This will come down to who can make the throws and who has the best grasp of the offense. Which makes it hard to predict but will be a fun sub-plot of camp.
And guess what Steeler fans?! We might be able to see all this play out on HBO’s Hard Knocks!
Who do you think will win these battles? Are there any other positions up for grabs that I missed? Let me know in the comments below!