The Steelers last OTA was yesterday. That means we are one step closer to the regular season. Next up is minicap, then training camp, preseason games, then we're ready for some real football. Here's a recap of information (and lack of information) that came out of this year's OTAs.
Will Shazier and Jones meet expectations?
ILB coach Jerry Olasvsky indicated that former first-round draft pick Ryan Shazier is looking good.
Jerry O also sung the praises of Ryan Shazier. That doesn't make it sound too much like there'll be a timeshare at LILB w/ Spence/V.Williams— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) June 11, 2015
ILB coach Jerry Olsavsky: "The guys who react the best are gonna play the most. I don’t really believe in democracy on a football team."— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) June 11, 2015
Since durability has been one of Shazier's weak points, more useful information will come out of training camp when players are in pads and the environment is much more grueling.
There is also a lot of pressure for Jarvis Jones to step up and contribute more effectively. Sidelined and limited by a wrist injury, Jones has had an underwhelming career thus far.
What's going on in the secondary?
The secondary is a huge source of concern for the Steelers. In fact, they received honorable mentions for weakest safety group and weakest cornerback group according to NFL.com. Despite perceptions that the secondary is in trouble, there was plenty of optimism coming out of OTAs.
Rookie CB Senquez Golson received high praise from WR Antonio Brown who said, per ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, "Really like 27.. Seems like he's focusing on his business. I'm liking what I'm seeing from him." He also called Golson a "smooth guy." (Cue Sade)
Rookies Doran Grant and Gerod Holliman are also in the mix along with veterans William Gay, Cortez Allen, and Rising-from-the-ashes-like-a-Phoenix Antwon Blake who has expressed confidence in his abilities to step up and contribute. Blake isn't the only one enthusiastic about his potential, Antonio Brown also touted his abilities recently saying, also per Jeremy Fowler at ESPN, "Quick, competitive, hungry-- he's always a great challenge to go against him because he's not going to quit. Kill him on the route, he's going to come back and try to swat the ball out of there, always fighting to the finish.
There are also worries at safety, but news out of OTAs was positive nonetheless. Will Allen has stepped up into a leadership role, while Shamarko Thomas was predicted to play the majority of snaps at strong safety. There's been a lot of hype about Thomas coming out of OTAs, and the team is counting on a big year from him, especially in the absence of Troy Polamalu.
What are the rookies and new guys up to?
The answer to that is easy. In almost every interview, new players-- and veterans as well, actually- emphasized the amount of time they have invested in learning the playbook. First-round pick Bud Dupree received the most attention for his diligence and efforts to master the playbook.
What's going on with the injuries?
Thankfully, most of the Steelers are healthy or fully recovered from whatever was ailing them last season. There are a few notable injury stories, however, coming out of OTAs. First, Martavis Bryant left the field yesterday under mysterious circumstances. Worst-case appears to be a shoulder injury which should not impact his participation in the regular season. Best case is a mildly bad reaction to a supplement.
Meanwhile safety Mike Mitchell is recovering from groin surgery, which we learned was source of tremendous discomfort for him last season, and Jarvis Jones is continuing to rehab his wrist, an important joint for an OLB.
Also, RB Le'Veon Bell let it slip that his knee was "almost" 100%. He has plenty of time to continue the recovery process and there have been no indication during OTAs that the knee was affecting his ability to work out.