Camp is only a few days old, but there have been enough practices and reports to get some initial impressions of what is going on and who is impressing and who is not. I have 5 winners and 5 losers listed below based on all reports and media stories.
Ziggy Hood – Hood is right on schedule. You have likely read all the stories in the papers thus far as Ziggy is working everywhere on the defensive line including nose tackle. Hood can really spell all 3 guys on the defensive line most noticeably Aaron Smith on the left side. He is showing his athleticism and blowing by everybody on the offensive line.
Isaac Redman – The call him Red this year and he is going to make it very hard for the Steelers not to keep him on the 53 man roster this year. He excelled in the back on backers drill and is showing he can do all of the little things that go along with being an NFL running back. The annual goal line drill is coming up and I expect Redzone Redman to shine for the second straight year. He is looking like a great backup to Rashard Mendenhall right now.
Thaddeus Gibson – Fourth-round pick, Thaddeus Gibson, has gotten off to a fast start in camp and has been nearly unblockable in the Steelers individual drills. The Steelers are looking for depth at left outside linebacker behind Lamarr Woodley and Gibson is bucking to make the roster as the number 2 guy there. He has plenty of experience at the LEO position in college, so he just needs to get use to the speed and flow of the game. There is a ton of camp left, but he has made more noise than second-round pick, Jason Worilds thus far.
Ben Roethlisberger – You might think this is too easy, but Ben looks thinner, stronger and relaxed. He is under extreme media scrutiny right now, but his time running the first team and second team has been stellar by all media reports. This will not change the fact he will still be suspended for at least the first four games, but at least he should be sharp come time the suspension ends. He just needs to continue to worry about himself and not what everyone else thinks.
Antonio Brown – Emmanuel Sanders received most of the offseason attention, but Brown\’s name is showing up quite a bit as a receiver making catches in camp. Brown worked out with Byron Leftwich down in Miami this offseason and has already caught the attention of Mike Tomlin in camp. He is really fast as well and could be another future threat to take the top off of opponents coverages. Still a long shot to make the 53 man roster, but not out of the question by any means. He also is working some as a kick returner which is an added bonus. At worst he starts the season on the practice squad.
Tony Hills – All reports have Hills as a human turnstile thus far again in training camp. This is not a good sign heading into his third season. In a season with no salary cap, Hills is looking like he is on the outside looking in right now. There is still time and Hills needs to show he can be the swing guy on the left or right side in camp. The clock has been ticking long enough on the Texas product.
Jonathan Dwyer – The age old saying, you can\’t make the club from the tub, fits Dwyer thus far. Hamstrings early in camp happen a bunch, but Dwyer needs to get on the field if he wants to make the 53 man roster. Hopefully he can be ready by the first preseason game as the depth at running back is mighty thin for the Steelers.
Justin Hartwig – Not surprising that the center spot is the weakest on the line right now. Hartwig might still be recovering a bit from offseason surgery, but might be getting pressed more than he wants from Doug Legursky. I wrote in the offseason his roster spot is not a sure thing. We shall see.
William Gay – Do I need to explain this? According to early reports, not much has changed.
Jeff Reed & LaMarr Woodley – OK, we get you are unhappy with the contracts. You both say you do not use the media, yet both of you use the media. A “no comment” a few times would be music to everyone\’s ears. We want to hear your names in relation to work on the field during practices, not between practices on the way to the cafeteria.