Within the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive depth chart, there aren't many jobs up for grabs. To be honest, most positions which are considered open are for backup positions. One battle to keep an eye in training camp is the 5th wide receiver, and punt returner, battle.
Before going any further, who are players who could be in consideration for this job? Second year receiver Eli Rogers from Louisville certainly has an opportunity, rookie Demarcus Ayers from Houston has been impressive in offseason workouts and there are several other receivers like Shakim Phillips who could turn heads in Latrobe.
To be honest, it seems as if this position battle will come down to the first two names mentioned above. Both Rogers and Ayers have been playing well this offseason, and turning heads.
With an undisclosed injury keeping Markus Wheaton out of minicamp practices, Rogers got some quality reps with the first team offense and Ben Roethlisberger. Don't think this goes unnoticed to the second year pass catcher.
"It's always good to get the reps in with the (starters), get reps in with Ben (Roethlisberger), get the trust down and everything," Rogers told Jason Mackey of DKPittsburghSports.com. "To have Ben coaching me up and telling me ‘good route' and things of that nature, I hope I made some type of impression."
Rogers certainly would have the nod as a pass catcher and route runner, but Ayers is the player who could finally allow Antonio Brown to not have to return punts. Ayers has been impressive throughout offseason workouts, and looks to prove he belongs on an NFL roster.
"Catching balls against the wind, with the wind, showing them that I can be detailed in my work, being square, catching everything and not letting one drop get me down, I think those are the characteristics that I can show right now," Ayers told Mackey. "I feel like I've been able to do that."
This is just the start of a training camp battle which will be worth keeping an eye on.
Return of the two-back set?
On paper it seems obvious. You have DeAngelo Williams and Le'Veon Bell, why not put them in the backfield together? Imagine the possibilities?! They could both stay in the backfield, or you could flex Bell out to the flat as a wide receiver. The options are nearly endless, and won't be detailed here, but what are the actual odds of Todd Haley putting both ball carriers on the field at the same time?
When Mike Tomlin was asked this question, his response was interesting.
"Sounds fun, doesn't it?" Tomlin said. "If it helps us, not for the essence of doing it, because you have to do it with a purpose, but I am not opposed to exploring that."
It is easy for the coaches to say things like that, but what about the players? What about the people like Le'Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams who might have to share the football rather than be the isolated back?
"We try to get all of our best 11 on the field," Bell said. "Last year we had a couple packages with me and DeAngelo on the field at the same time. I definitely anticipate us doing the same types of things this year. It was successful last year. We'll do it again this year."
Unfortunately, the duo didn't have much of a chance to play alongside of each other with Bell's suspension to start the 2015 season, and his knee injury which ended his year just as it was getting started.
"If it translates to a win, I'm all for it," Williams said. "If it doesn't, I'd rather one of us be back there ... preferably L. Bell."
At the end of the day, winning is all that matters...
Bell to talk with Adrian Peterson regarding knee injury
As Le'Veon Bell prepares to return to the gridiron after suffering both MCL and PCL injuries last season, he is very unsure about returning to the field. How he deals with this turmoil will ultimately depend on his comfort level playing the game without hesitation.
"I want to get over the mental aspect of everything," Bell told Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I just got cleared to cut a couple weeks ago. Right now, I sometimes think about it.
"Even though it is not hurting me and I know it is strong, but it is mental like, ‘Is this going to hurt me when I cut?' I want that to be gone. I want to come into (training camp) and be ready to go."
Bell will go through the rehabilitation process and will be medically cleared, but sometimes players want to talk to another player, not a doctor, in regards to what it is like coming back from an injury. Bell plans to talk to Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson about his own personal journey back after suffering a torn ACL in 2011.
"I want to see the extra things he did, like if he wore a brace and how he felt coming into the season," Bell said. "He came back and played Week 1 and had a great game, and that's the standard."
The Steelers now have six weeks off until the players report to training camp at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA for the 51st time in team history.