Welcome to the BTSC round table. Here at the round table different writers for the site will answer a question, and then you, the readers get to respond as well. Who got it right, who got it wrong? Let us know.
The question for our first round table comes from one of our BTSC writers, our resident film guru, New Jersey’s own, K.T. Smith.
“What is one development you are most anticipating as the 2020 training camp begins?”
Bryan Anthony Davis: I’m looking forward to seeing the evolution of the Front Seven in training camp. While you know what you have with Stephon Tuitt and Cam Heyward, the interior of the defensive line has not been carved in stone as of yet. Chris Wormley is a solid run stopper and Tyson Alualu is a versatile veteran lineman with plenty of starting experience, but will we see Isaiah Buggs or Cavon Walker take a step up and make any strides?
Both linebacker spots intrigue me as well. The starters are pretty much set. You have the “Toledo Twins” Ola Adeniyi and Tuzar Skipper providing depth. But is it starter quality depth? And where does Alex Highsmith fit in? Is the third-rounder form UNCC the heir apparent to Bud Dupreee? The inside backer depth is probably the most suspect. Will Mike Tomlin be satisfied With Robert Spillane and Ulysses Gilbert III being a heartbeat or an ACL away from a starting role?
Shannon White: I am most looking forward to seeing how the Steelers will go about utilizing the newcomers on offense to improve the creativity and big play potential of the unit.
Ben Roethlisberger is definitely not a newcomer, but he very well may be new and improved this season. Any improvements on offense this season begins and ends with Ben Roethlisberger.
The speed and/or length factor of each offensive newcomer is intriguing to say the least. Anthony McFarland brings an elusiveness and acceleration element that has been missing in the Steelers backfield for years. Chase Claypool brings a size/speed combo comparable to the great Calvin Johnson, and finally fulfills Ben's not so secret desire for a receiver with a exceptional catch radius and contested catch ability. Speaking of catch radius and contested catch ability, Eric Ebron brings all that and more. The more being actual NFL experience and proven success at the highest level.
The only question will be how quickly the Steelers can get the newcomers up to speed and ready to contribute this season, and what kind of impact will Matt Canada's creativity have on those contributions.
Dave Schofield: I’m looking forward to the development on the Steelers’ young wide receivers along with the veteran tight ends. The more threats a team can put on the field, the more difficult they will be to defend. If the Steelers can have four legitimate weapons at wide receiver and two at tight end, it will be extremely difficult for defenses to come up with a plan to stop everyone.
If JuJu Smith-Schuster can emerge to be even 80% of what he was in 2018 along with Diontae Johnson taking a jump in his sophomore season, the wide receiving corps will have a great start. Factor in James Washington who led the team in receiving yards in 2019 and rookie Chase Claypool, having all the players emerging will make defenses have to pick their battles wisely which should be create better opportunities for everyone.
K.T. Smith: I’m like Shannon and Dave in that I’m curious to see how the new weapons are utilized, particularly Ebron. I was so excited when we signed LaDarius Green back in 2016. For the twelve seconds he was actually healthy he and Big Ben seemed to have great chemistry. I think Ben will love having Ebron and I really look forward to how their relationship develops.
I’m also really interested in the situation at right tackle. Will either Chuks or Banner be good enough to lock down the starting spot? If so, it gives us some flexibility on the OL beyond this season. If not, and Feiler has to move back to tackle, we probably get Wisnewski at guard. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as he’s a solid player. But it would be nice to see one of the two young tackles develop enough to earn the job.
Anthony Defeo: Since there will be no visual evidence in terms of his preseason performances, I’m interested in hearing about the continued development of Mason Rudolph after his 10-game baptism by fire in 2019. How much has he learned from a season ago? Does he appear to have a better command of the playbook, of the huddle, things of that nature? Will the addition of Matt Canada as the quarterbacks coach aid him in taking a huge step forward in 2020? Does he truly have what it takes to make folks less concerned about the backup quarterback role? Furthermore, is there still hope in some circles that he can be the heir apparent to Ben Roethlisberger?
Jeff Hartman: This season always has, and will be, about No. 7. We can talk about weapons and new arrivals till we are blue in the face, but if Ben Roethlisberger returns it complete transforms the offense. No longer a captain-less ship floating around on the water, but a unit bolstered with talent and a captain at the helm. If Roethlisberger is healthy, and effective, this offense won’t be talking about not cracking the 30 point plateau ONCE in a season, like 2019, but would be considered a legitimate threat to win games. Last season the Steelers averaged just 18.8 points per game, with Roethlisberger back I would add 6 points to that immediately, making them a force to be reckoned with again.
Geoffrey Benedict: So much focus on the offense, and understandably after the mess we saw last season. I’m going to go in a different direction, though. I want to see how the secondary evolves with Minkah Fitzpatrick having an off-season to work with his secondary teammates, but also an off season with the coaches being able to pick Fitzpatrick’s brain and work with him in mind as they develop the defensive scheme.
A huge part of that is also the development of Terrell Edmunds. We don’t talk much about the role Edmunds was forced into last season when Sean Davis went down. Edmunds became the primary communicator in the secondary as well as facing a dramatic increase in both his responsibilities and the variety of ways he was used. I expect a lot of growth in him as a player, and while he may never be a great deep zone defender, I expect him to eliminate a lot of the weaknesses in his game and become the Ryan Clark to Minkah Fitzpatrick’s Troy Polamalu.
Flip: I will temper anything I hear coming out of camp by the four reporters (How many work for the Steelers?), that being said, I want to hear about Chuks Okorafor. For me, this will be the most important story that will unfold. Last season was an exceedingly important season for his development and it became a lost season due to injury. He was a raw prospect coming out of college and needed time to develop. Will he be able to hold off Zach Banner and how long of a leash will the coaching staff put on them if they fail miserably?
The last thing I want to hear is that the experiment and the move to left guard by Matt Feiler is being glossed over and the situation implodes Week 1 with Ben Roethlisberger holding some body part while rolling around on the turf.
That’s it for the staff in this first installment of the BTSC Round Table, now it is your turn.
What is one development you are most anticipating as the 2020 training camp begins?