July is finally here, and that means the Pittsburgh Steelers will report to Latrobe for training camp later this month. We have already looked at a few training camp battles that will take place, and today we will look at the battle for the backup tackle spot on the 53 man roster. Leave your comments below and make sure to cast your vote in the attached poll in addition.
Training Camp Battle Setup: The Steelers know who their two starting tackles will be in 2013 as both Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams will man the left and right spots respectively. Being as veteran Max Starks was not resigned during the offseason, however, the team has depth issues at the tackle position heading into training camp that must be answered. By the looks of things, second-year offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum could very well be the first player off the sideline should either Gilbert or Adams go down injured, but he is also being groomed to be the backup to Maurkice Pouncey at center in addition, so the team will likely need another tackle on the roster just in case. That leads us to look at the upcoming training camp battle between Guy Whimper, Joe Long and possibly even Mike Golic Jr. for a spot on the 53 man roster.
Guy Whimper - The Steelers signed Whimper back in early May following his release from the Jacksonville Jaguars. The 6 foot, 5 inch tackle has a history of sorts with new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr., as he was coached by him for one season in 2009 as a member of the New York Giants. Whimper, however, was not a starter for the Giants that season and played all of 32 snaps that year before being released just before the 2010 season.
During his two and a half seasons with the Jaguars, Whimper started 22 games with most of his work coming at right tackle. During that span of time, he allowed 21 sacks as his pass protection was pretty much atrocious. As far as his run blocking goes, Whimper was perhaps at his best in 2011 as a member of the Jaguars, but in 2012, he regressed in that area. He is no longer as mobile as he once was when he was drafted in 2006.
Whimper is a one position player and would be a huge liability on the left side of the Steelers line. Reports during the offseason practices stated that he did receive some second-team reps at the left tackle spot in addition to the right tackle spot, but I can\'t see him being a serious contender to play on the left side in a real game. He is a right tackle or bust out of training camp.
Joe Long - Long was signed to the Steelers practice squad late last year, and that\'s where he finished the 2012 season. Like Whimper, Long measures in at just over 6 foot, 5 inches, but appears to be much more mobile than the former Jaguar at only 23 years of age.
Long played left tackle at Wayne State, where he was accustomed to running both the inside and outside zone. During the Steelers offseason practices he played on the second team at both the left and right tackle positions, so it will be interesting to see if he indeed gets work at both of those spots during the preseason to test his position flexibility.
Originally signed by the St. Louis Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2012, Long only played in four preseason games before being released prior to the start of the season. Being as he failed to make a practice squad until he signed in November with the Steelers, however, should be a concern.
Until Long puts the pads on at training camp it is just too hard to give an honest assessment of him as all we have up until this point is just his college tape and limited snaps last year during the preseason.
Mike Golic Jr. - Golic Jr. really is a dark horse to make the 53 man roster after only starting 13 games at Notre Dame where he mostly played right guard and center. Since being signed as an undrafted free agent, Golic Jr. has received most of his reps as the Steelers third team tackle, so that should give you an idea as to where he is at on the depth chart.
Being as there is so much competition between several bodies at the interior line positions, it is hard seeing Golic Jr. getting many reps anywhere else on the offensive line outside of right tackle, so I suspect he will see very few snaps during the preseason as a result of that. In reality, he will more than likely be competing in training camp for a spot on the practice squad.
Prediction: This battle, in my opinion, is really only between Whimper and Long as Golic Jr. is a long shot at this point. I don\'t think we can entirely rule out another veteran being brought in at some point, so there is a tiny chance that none of these players will make the roster should that wind up being the case. Until the pads go on you have to think that Whimper is the favorite, but that could change quickly and my hope is that Long can show enough during camp and the preseason to win the job as Whimper\'s best days, of which he didn\'t have many, are way behind him.