Tuesday marks the beginning of Organized Team Activites (OTAs) for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and it will mark the first time the team will be participating in drills involving which will involve live competition. Whether they are 7 on 7 drills, or 9 on 9 drills, there will certainly be plenty of coaching and assessment going on. As always, position battles will begin to take root, and eventually develop into more intense competition heading into training camp.
Take a look at a few position battles to look for as OTAs begin:
Heath Miller is the starter, there is no doubting that fact; however, who will be the pass catching option behind him is certainly up for grabs. Matt Spaeth is primarily used in blocking situations which leaves second year tight end Rob Blanchflower battling free agent acquisition Michael Egnew and rookie Jesse James for the primary role as second tight end behind Miller.
Similar to tight end, there isn't much competition for the starting position, which belongs to Antonio Brown. Rather, the competition seems to be for the second and fourth wide receivers on the depth chart. Will Martavis Bryant prove himself worthy of more reps across from Brown as the No. 2 receiver, or will Markus Wheaton hold onto the spot he earned coming out of camp in 2014? Likewise, Darrius Heyward-Bey holds down the No. 4 wide receiver, but rookie Sammie Coates will push him for that role in 2015. Heyward-Bey's special teams play certainly keeps him above any receiver who won't be able to run "teams".
Troy Polamalu is no longer in the black and gold, and all signs point to Shamarko Thomas getting his opportunity to shine. Although Thomas has the most NFL experience of the group outside of Mike Mitchell, Isaiah Lewis, Robert Golden, Gerod Holliman, Will Allen and Jordan Dangerfield will all be vying for a spot on the 53-man roster. Whether that be as the primary back up, or in sub package football. A lot of players competing for just a few roster spots.
Of course cornerback will be a competition this offseason. William Gay seems to be the only defensive back guaranteed a spot in the backfield entering 2015 which leaves a large group of players with potential to see significant playing time. Rookies Senquez Golson and Doran Grant will look to impress this week, as will returning veterans Antwon Blake, B.W. Webb, Kevin Fogg and Cortez Allen. Among all offseason position battles, this may be the most intruiging.
Some may read this list and wonder why the outside linebacker position was left off, and the answer is simple. OTAs doesn't involve contact, which will make gauging talent, versatility and overall effectiveness extremely difficult at many positions. This certainly will be a camp battle to watch, but the above positions will have an over emphasis on their play, even in a "football in shorts" setting. How will these position battles shake out? Only time will tell, but today starts the beginning of the process to find those answers.