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Steelers Friday Mailbag: NFL Preseason Week 1

We answer your questions ahead of the Steelers preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Q: Almost all the stories coming out of camp describe somebody doing great. They all can’t be having a great camp. Are there any vets that look bad this year and you think they might be in trouble?- Huntingteacher25

I haven’t seen anyone that’s been outright terrible. I will say, however, that Chandon Sullivan has been outperformed by Elijah Riley at nickel cornerback. Sullivan wasn’t great in Minnesota, and there were legitimate questions about the nickel spot coming into camp and if someone would take it from Sullivan- Riley very well may have.

Q: How many times in the regular season will we see the 2nd and/or 3rd team finishing off games?- aitch b

This Steelers team isn’t going to routinely blow teams out. Their M.O. isn’t that of an explosive offense that will score 30 points per game. They’ll lean into the defense holding teams to less points. That said, they play the Cardinals Week 13 at home- that’s a game they should win rather easily.

Q: How many completions from Pickett to Pickens in 2023?- Polamolicules Dude

There are a lot of mouths to feed in the offense, and the Steelers will also run the ball more than people seem to realize. I’d say somewhere in the neighborhood of 70-75receptions for Pickens is a realistic expectation.

Q: 1. Who has done most unexpectedly well out of this camp so far: Dan Moore, Anthony MacFarland, Gunner Olszewski, Isaiahh Loudermilk, Nick Herbig, Kwon Alexander, or Luq Barcoo?

2. Other than by injury, does Broderick Jones start this year? Is he going through a James Daniels style adaption to the Pat Meyer school of blocking or is he a year away from being NFL ready?- CorunnaXB70

All of them have performed really well. If I had to pick one, though, Herbig hasn’t just been surprising- he’s been one of the best players in camp as a whole. In terms of Jones, he’s going to start Week 1. They are already showing signs of making the transition official.

Q: The S/CBs seem to have a lot of great competition and experience, iron sharpens iron. What about the ILBs? Many new to the Steelers system besides Robinson? Is this the most concerning position on the whole team?- Polamolicules Dude

I think fans will be pleasantly surprised about the off-ball linebacker rotation in Pittsburgh. Each of the top three guys brings something different to the table. Elandon Roberts is very good in defending the run. Cole Holecomb is better in pass coverage than Roberts, and Kwon Alexander is the best of both worlds. Alexander and Roberts would be my pick to be the top two guys, but Holecomb will certainly see the field plenty.

Q: Are the Steelers done adding veterans to the roster? And expand on your yes or know answer to why you think that.- slashsteel

I’d say don’t expect any huge splash unless someone of note is a surprise cut from another team. There isn’t a huge glaring need outside of nickel cornerback, but even then, they’ve had some surprises in-house step up at that position. Now, I could see them giving Ben Jones a look depending on how Mason Cole looks in the preseason. Outside of that, though, there are no glaring needs that would prompt them to still be searching to make any sort of splash, nor is there any talent left in the free agent market at a position of need.

Q: Will the Steelers be wearing a throwback uniform - even if it’s just the block numbers again - this season?- YourBlitzIsShowing

I don’t recall them making any sort of announcement about the block numbers, but they have worn them at least once for the last few seasons, and I’d expect them to do it again late in the season.

Q: Who on the current roster do we think is destined for the practice squad? Of those, who is most at risk of being claimed by another team?- Trunnion

One of the tight ends is going to be sent down, and it feels like it’ll be Zach Gentry. I can’t see Pittsburgh rostering four tight ends, along with Kendrick Green.

Q: If the Steelers decide to keep 6 WR’s again this year. Who do you feel has the best shot of winning that last spot? Gunner, Hakeem or Cody White? Assuming DJ, Pickens, ARob, Calvin & Boykin are locks. Thanks!- yodes

I wouldn’t say Miles Boykin is a lock, but with his special teams prowess, it’s very likely he gets a spot. If I had to bet on who gets the sixth spot, I’d say Gunner. Kenny Pickett gave him a lot of praise and said he was reliable in a spot with NFL Network, and he’s had a really productive camp. Even if he isn’t the predominant returner, he has the edge over Cody White and Hakeem Butler.

Q: How is the Pickett to DJ hook up progressing? Can they get done what they want to do?- aitch b

They have been in synch all camp. I expect a big year for Diontae Johnson.

Q: Can Steelers Nation finally get truly excited? This is going to be a special season!- Polamolicules Dude

My bold prediction entering the preseason is that the Steelers win the division. That’s not to say they are better than the Bengals, but they have an easier schedule, the best defense in the division, and the best coach in the division. I don’t think they go far into the postseason, but getting there would be great for this young group.