Organized Team Activities, or OTAs, might seem like nothing but “football in shorts” to some, but to me it starts the beginning of football season. The NFL Draft is awesome, and rookie minicamp is marginally exciting, but OTAs is the first time when the entire team is back together.
With that said, there are several reasons to shrug off OTAs as nothing more than, well, football in shorts, but in my opinion there is plenty to intake and digest during these three weeks of workouts.
In fact, it can be boiled down into three positions of note which I will be keeping an eye on throughout the process. No, I’m not going to be looking at who is starting during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, but how players are being moved around and getting acclimated to the new year, and in some cases, a new team.
Let’s talk about those three positions...
Ladarius Green getting released certainly made news, but it also left a potential roster spot open for another player. Jesse James is undoubtedly the starter, and David Johnson and Xavier Grimble will have their roles on the team, but will the team keep a fourth tight end? And if so, who will it be? Phazahn Odom is a giant of a man, and the team has Scott Ordoff as a potential fill in as well. How some of these young players do could dictate if the Steelers are looking for tight ends released by other teams, or if they are comfortable with their group heading into 2017.
Maybe the most highly competitive battle this offseason will take place at wide receiver. Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Eli Rogers and Martavis Bryant are locks to make the team, but who will round out the corps on the 53-man roster? Sammie Coates, Cobi Hamilton, Justin Hunter, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Demarcus Ayers will be battling for two likely roster spots on the team. This competition starts at OTAs, and it could be vicious.
Second only to wide receiver, how the team deploys their cornerbacks will certainly be something to watch. Artie Burns and Ross Cockrell will be on the outside, but other than that pairing, anything is possible. William Gay didn’t exactly play his best football in 2016, they signed free agent Coty Sensabaugh, Senquez Golson looks to return after two years on injured reserve and they drafted both Cameron Sutton and Brian Allen in the 2017 NFL Draft. While wide receiver might have four players competing for two spots, the cornerback position seems to be wide open for positions in the teams sub packages. Will a rookie step up? Will Gay play some safety in sub packages? Will Golson actually stay healthy? All answers fans will start to get when the team starts their workouts Tuesday.
I dive into these positions battles, as well as things to watch for during OTAs in the podcast below. Give it a listen!