The Pittsburgh Steelers begin their third, and final, phase of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) Tuesday, and although this is just football in shorts, there is plenty of information to glean from the process.
Should fans take news from OTAs with a grain of salt? Absolutely, but it doesn’t mean it all should be ignored either. With that said, here are five storylines to keep an eye on during the Steelers’ OTAs the next few weeks:
1. Who shows up?
The NFLPA had several teams, including the Steelers, publicly state they were going to skip all voluntary workouts this offseason. Even with such a declaration, many veterans have showed up to the first two phases of OTAs. The players who are almost certain to be there would be those fighting for a roster spot, young players who need the extra work and those players who find themselves in a looming training camp battle. It is worth reiterating how these workouts are voluntary, so not player contractually has to show up and participate, but the NFL usually uses these workouts as an extension of minicamp. Those who show up will be giving the coaches an extra look at their body of work, and that is never a bad thing.
2. Rookies getting acclimated with veterans
Rookie minicamp was just over a week ago, and while the newest members of the team likely got their feet wet in a practice situation, it is different with no veterans there. As stated in the No. 1, there might be several veterans who chose not to attend these workouts, but there will be plenty who show up. This will be the first time rookies like Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth and Kenrick Green get to stand next to, and go against, someone who isn’t a first year player. Time to see what they’re made of.
3. New offense
Some might scoff at the thought learning anything about Matt Canada’s offense during these offseason workouts, but I disagree. I believe fans can learn the framework of what Canada is trying to do with these new schemes. Sure, it won’t be intricate, but Canada is slowly installing parts of his offense. That is important, and something which shouldn’t be overlooked. Until the regular season starts, every time Canada has offensive players on a football field is noteworthy.
4. New player/position groups
If players like Zach Banner and Chukwuma Okorafor show up, it will be the first time the offensive tackles will line up on opposite ends of the line, and not battling for the same right tackle spot. This is just one example of a position group which has a significantly different look in 2021. Along with that are players who are new to the Steelers. Players like Joe Haeg and Miles Killebrew. This starts the acclimation process for these players, and hopefully the start of them contributing to the team’s championship hopes.
You hate to read about players in the league suffering major injuries during these offseason workouts, yet it happens every season. If a player twists an ankle and has to sit out the rest of the week, that isn’t that bad. But if a player ruptures an Achilles tendon and is out for the season, that is hear-breaking. Here is to hoping the Steelers avoid the injury bug during the final phase of OTAs. For those who are superstitious, yes, I just knocked on wood.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the rest of the offseason and the 2021 regular season.