As we head into the start of training camp, the 2013 version of the Pittsburgh Steelers certainly have their share of depth issues on both sides of the football. There are, however, five backup players who could possibly calm some of those depth fears, but each will need to show marked improvement over the course of the next several weeks in order to do so.
Here is a look at those five players whom the Steelers are expecting to make big jumps during training camp and the preseason.
Curtis Brown – The 2012 season was an awful one for Brown, the Steelers third-round draft pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, and it all started in the first preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles. We all know that Brown is a hell of a special teams player, but with Keenan Lewis no longer in Pittsburgh, the Texas product figures to be the first cornerback off the bench in nickel situations if any of three cornerbacks ahead of him go down with an injury.
Brown talked during the offseason about how he\’s now a lot more comfortable with the defense, and you can bet that he will get his fair share of playing time during the preseason to prove it.
Brown has excellent coaches working with him as Rod Woodson, who is back with the Steelers this year as a coaching intern, will be assisting defensive backs coach Carnell Lake throughout training camp and the preseason.
David Paulson – It will be a while until we know whether or not tight end Heath Miller will be ready for the start of the season, but even if he his healthy enough to suit up; you would have to think that he might be eased into action initially. The Steelers brought back Matt Spaeth during the offseason, but he is better known for his blocking more so than his ability to threaten defenses in the passing game.
Paulson could very well be an integral part of the passing game if the coaches have trust in him and his run blocking must vastly improve based on what we observed last season. If the Steelers don\’t get solid play out of the tight end position to start the season, it will certainly hamper the offense\’s ability to move the football.
Chris Carter – Like Brown, Carter enters his third year in the league with some serious question marks surrounding him. Until rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones is deemed ready for action, Carter, the Steelers fifth-round pick in 2011, very well could be the first one off the bench should something happen to starters LaMarr Woodley or Jason Worilds.
After starting the first three games of the 2012 season at right outside linebacker, Carter figures to get the bulk of his work during training camp and the preseason on the left side behind Woodley. This is Carter\’s third training camp, so there is no reason for him not to know the defense inside and out, even though he has missed a good amount of time in the past with injuries.
Kelvin Beachum – Beachum actually represented himself pretty well as a starting right tackle during his rookie season after both Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams went down with injuries, but he still has his share of warts that need treatment. Last year during the preseason, Beachum didn\’t look like he would even make the 53 man roster as his play at both left tackle and left guard was pretty bad, and it included him leading the team in penalties with four of them being holding calls against him.
This year, Beachum is looking to be the ultimate swing offensive lineman, and that includes him possibly backing up Maurkice Pouncey at center. If indeed he is going to be the first offensive lineman off the bench in 2013, he will need to show that he can handle the interior spots on the offensive line during the preseason much like he handled the right tackle position last year.
Robert Golden – The Steelers drafted Shamarko Thomas this past April, but with two veteran safeties winding down their careers, the team hopes that Golden can become Thomas\’ future counterpart in the secondary.
Golden saw limited action during his rookie season thanks to all the injuries the team had in the secondary, and he didn\’t look comfortable in the 46 snaps that he played. In the loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Golden was beat for an easy touchdown catch on a seem route by Cowboys tight end Jason Witten and in total, he allowed three catches for 30 yards in that game.
This year during the preseason, Golden figures to get a lot of work with the second team, and he needs to show that he can be the first safety off the bench should something happen to Troy Polamalu or Ryan Clark, as Thomas figures to have a learning curve to navigate until he is ready for playing time.