With the Pittsburgh Steelers concluding training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA, I felt it would be a good exercise to take a look back at some of the compelling storylines surrounding the team prior to camp, and see if we have anything definitive at camp’s conclusion. Many of these storylines won’t be fully known until the rosters are cut to 53 players and the team prepares for a regular season game, but there are also some which have been deciphered throughout the team’s near month-long stay away from Pittsburgh.
Let’s get to the storylines...
Open QB Competition/Post-Ben Roethlisberger Era
The Ben Roethlisberger era is over, and the 3-way competition between Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph and Kenny Pickett was on full tilt in camp. Was it truly an open competition? Did Mike Tomlin give everyone an equal chance to win the job? What we saw at camp was it was always Trubisky’s job to lose. Who is the backup is certainly up for grabs, but QB1 was Trubisky from Day 1.
Result: Never was a truly open competition, but it sure has been fun to keep tabs on.
Everyone knows the Steelers finished dead-last in run defense in 2021. That wasn’t the storyline heading into camp. The storyline was can they fix it? Stephon Tuitt retired, the team got Tyson Alualu back and signed Larry Ogunjobi. Did they do enough? That has yet to be determined.
Result: Too early to tell
The Steelers’ offensive line was a hodge-podge of players last season, and they never truly put together anything which resembled a quality offensive line. Najee Harris was dodging would-be tacklers in the backfield, Kendrick Green was getting blown off the ball and Trai Turner was on the back nine of his career. Has it improved after the free agent acquisitions of James Daniels and Mason Cole? Will Dan Moore Jr. be the answer at left tackle? What about left guard being Kevin Dotson or Kendrick Green? Preseason Week 1 was a step in the right direction, but everyone knows this is far from a finished product.
Result: Looks to be heading in the right direction, but too early to tell
The Steelers ended up with seven players in the 2022 NFL Draft:
RD 1: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pitt
RD 2: George Pickens, WR, Georgia
RD 3: DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M
RD 4: Calvin Austin III, WR, Memphis
RD 6: Connor Heyward, TE/FB, Michigan State
RD 7: Mark Robinson, LB, Ole Miss
RD 7: Chris Oladokun, QB, South Dakota State
How much will these players contribute this season? Pickens, Leal and Heyward have the look of players who are destined to contribute right away. You could include Austin to that mix if his foot injury heals before the season. And Pickett showed some tremendous promise in his preseason debut, even though his playing time in the regular season will hinge on either an injury or poor play. Nonetheless, the rookie class has proven plenty throughout training camp.
Result: A tremendous draft class
The key to every training camp across the NFL — avoid the major injury. Although the Steelers suffered some minor injuries to their starters, none were the season-ending variety. Mission accomplished.
Result: Avoided the devastating camp injury
How will the Steelers secondary, mainly the cornerbacks, handle the loss of Joe Haden? Will Cam Sutton be able to step into that role? Was the signing of Ahkello Witherspoon the right move? Levi Wallace is the new face, but can he handle the responsibilities of either the slot or outside? Yeah, this is far from decided after camp...
Result: Too early to tell
Devin Bush remains in the proverbial cross-hairs of Steelers fans, and the addition of Myles Jack, while a good signing, hasn’t really quelled the concerns at the position. Robert Spillane continues to be a decent backup, but that’s it. It’s sad to say, but the team continues to search for their every down answer to the vacancy left by Ryan Shazier.
Result: ILB remains a concern
What do you think about these storylines? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the NFL Preseason and the regular season.