The first week of the 2022 Steelers Training Camp is in the books.
There have been breakout performances from some rookies, an extremely fluid three headed quarterback competition, and a slightly controversial holding in situation. The Steelers highest paid defense in the NFL has basically rode roughshod over the Steelers extremely young new look offense, which just so happens to be one of the lowest paid offenses in the league, as currently constructed.
All of these situations where to be expected, and highly predictable. They have also been well covered by every media outlet, including BTSC, your one stop shop for everything Pittsburgh Steelers related.
With that mission statement in mind, here are some under the radar observations you may have missed from the first week of camp, even if you have been keeping up with the daily BTSC Training Camp Tracker articles. If you haven't, you should be.
Although there has been a ton of coverage directed at the position, nothing really notable has occurred, yet. Mason Rudolph has been the most accurate and consistent, Mitch Trubisky has generated the most chunk plays by far, and Kenny Pickett is predictably still trying to find his footing. Pickett has been sensational on off schedule plays outside the pocket, but inconsistent in the pocket. The biggest surprise of the week would be the fact that it appears to be a two-man QB competition at the moment, with Rudolph and Trubisky getting the majority of reaps. That could all change once pads go on this week.
Not a lot to report here, other than the fact that Najee Harris looks destined to be featured in a fitness magazine article in the near future. I did read that undrafted rookie Jaylen Warren looks compact, powerful, and elusive. Honestly, he reminds me of Barry Foster on film. In other words, a bowling ball with tree trunk legs. Tomlin is reportedly impressed by his competitiveness. That's good to hear. The Steelers did workout former Pro Bowler Jordan Howard during the week, for what it's worth.
Pat Freiermuth is dealing with a hamstring injury, limiting his availability. Zach Gentry looks massive and mobile, and appears determined to add seam buster to his already impressive run-blocking resume. Connor Heyward appears more athletic than advertised.
Multiple players are taking full advantage of Diontae Johnson's hold in, and Chase Claypool's absence due to a shoulder injury. The Steelers two impressive rookies have been well documented, so let's focus on the rest of the depth chart. Like the aforementioned Najee Harris, Anthony Miller is jacked up. He looks strong, fast, and focused. Catching everything that comes his way. On the other end of the spectrum, Miles Boykin has let a couple of big play opportunities slip literally through his fingers during the first couple days of practice. Let’s hope that was just a bit of nerves affecting his focus. Gunner Olszewski has been a pleasant surprise as a receiver. Finally, Tyler Vaughns has made a couple of noteworthy plays already. Hopefully that will continue when the pads come on.
It's hard for the offensive linemen to distinguish themselves before the pads come on and the hitting begins, but here's the buzz. James Daniels looks like the real deal, both as a player and person. Huge upgrade for the line from last season, and is making a great first impression. Dan Moore Jr. appears more sculpted, mature, and confident. Kendrick Green admittedly is more comfortable at guard, and his mobility is a good fit for the Steelers new concepts, but his other limitations at the position still give me pause. Rookie tackle Jake Dixon is a brawler who likes to mix it up. Some of his defensive teammates have already taken exception to his tactics. Stay tuned, as things could get interesting.
The defensive linemen are in a similar situation as the offensive linemen, until the pads start popping. Nothing really noteworthy out of this position, other than rookie DeMarvin Leal and former USFL DT Doug Costin. Although it was widely reported that Leal was over 300 lbs. prior to camp, he showed up looking extremely fit and explosive. His better than advertised combative hands have made him a disruptive nuisance for most Steelers blockers to handle. Hopefully that continues with the pads on this week. Don't be surprised if Leal gets some reps at edge in the near future. Doug Costin has NFL experience, as he actually started nine games for the Jacksonville Jaguars after going undrafted in 2020, and has reportedly garnered a little attention during the early stages of camp. He has some Tyson Alualu qualities actually. Low center of gravity, solid anchor, and sneaky quickness.
Without pads, we are basically left with pass rush and coverage to discuss. Alex Highsmith once again looks ready to take the next step in his development. T.J. Watt is a man among boys honestly. Best defender on the planet. Inside backers Myles Jack and Devin Bush have been impressive in coverage, which should come as no surprise. The fact that Robert Spillane and Mark Robinson have looked solid as well has to be a shock to many observers. Brian Flores presence may already be paying dividends.
Some very interesting storylines emerging early in camp. Arthur Maulet created a stir with his strong play over the first couple of days, some of it on the outside, enough to cause some spectators to wonder aloud if he warranted consideration for more playing time this season. That quickly dissipated once Levi Wallace returned to action after a short illness. Regardless, it's good to see Maulet more comfortable and confident in year two with the Steelers. Undrafted rookie CB Chris Steele has been extremely competitive and combative according to all reports. He could be this year's Justin Gilbert, and legitimately compete for roster consideration, although practice squad is more realistic obviously.
Minkah Fitzpatrick and Miles Killebrew have been missing in action due to injuries, so Karl Joseph and Damontae Kazee have been soaking up the opportunities to shine. Joseph looks more comfortable and impactful in year two with the Steelers. He looks like a good fit for Flores defensive wizardry. Kazee seems energized and enthusiastic to be with the Steelers, although one of the coaches should have been up in his grill over an over exuberant hit he laid on diminutive rookie speedster Calvin Austin lll on Friday. No way Austin was expecting the blow, considering it was not a padded practice session. That all changes on Monday.
Then, by all means, fire away.