Steelers 2013 Training Camp Battles: John Malecki Versus Nik Embernate Versus Justin Cheadle

The start of the 2013 Pittsburgh Steelers training camp is now less than three weeks away so we will continue to look at the training camp battles that will take place with a look at the battle for a backup interior offensive line spot on the 53 man roster. You can comment on this battle below and make sure to vote in the attached poll.

Training Camp Battle Setup: We already know six offensive linemen that will make the Steelers 53 man roster, but with Doug Legursky and Willie Colon no longer in Pittsburgh, a battle for a backup interior spot will take place during training camp. The combatants for that backup spot figure to be John Malecki, Nik Embernate and Justin Cheadle.

John Malecki – Malecki finally saw his first NFL game action in the 2012 season finale against the Cleveland Browns as he played 31 snaps at right guard after both David DeCastro and Kelvin Beachum left the game with injuries. While the pass protection part of Malecki\’s game was fine, he did struggle a little in the run blocking department.

Malecki spent the entire season on the Steelers practice squad, so he should be well versed in the offense as he heads into a make-or-break training camp. Malecki is no longer eligible for the practice squad, so if he doesn\’t make the final 53 man roster his career very well might be over.

One thing that Malecki has going for him is that he has learned the center position since coming into the league as an undrafted free agent in 2010. He can also play both guard positions and figures to get plenty of snaps during the preseason at all three interior line spots in order to show his position flexibility. With Legursky no longer in Pittsburgh, and Beachum just now learning the center position himself, Malecki has a very good shot at becoming the seventh or eighth offensive lineman on the 53 man roster.

Nik Embernate – Embernate was a high-priority undrafted free agent signed by the Steelers this year. He was a three-year starter for San Diego State at right guard and even played some right tackle in the Poinsettia Bowl against BYU due to injuries.

Embernate is as nasty as they come and the comparison to Miami Dolphins left guard Richie Incognito is a fair one. Embernate moves good for a player with his size and build and he was asked to pull left quite a bit during his college career.

Heading into training camp, Embernate is viewed as a one position player, and it will be interesting to see if he is given snaps during the preseason at left guard in addition to right guard. His lack of position flexibility, however, might make it tough for him to make the Steelers 53 man roster, so he must have a strong preseason and clearly show that he is a better guard than Malecki is. Should he not make the Steelers 53 man roster, Embernate should be a perfect candidate for the practice squad.

Justin Cheadle – Cheadle was originally signed by Kansas City Chiefs as an undrafted free agent in 2012, so new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. has worked with him before. Cheadle was signed to the Steelers practice squad last November after previously being a member of the Green Bay Packers practice squad for a few weeks prior to that.

Cheadle is primarily a right guard, but there were some reports during the Steelers offseason practices that he received a few snaps at the center position. Despite that work, however, it would be surprising to see him get any snaps over the ball during the preseason as both Beachum and Malecki figure to get all of that work once starter Maurkice Pouncey exits those games.

Cheadle is a long shot to make the 53 man roster out of training camp, so he realistically will be battling for a spot on the practice squad.

Prediction: Assuming the Steelers don\’t add another veteran interior lineman between now and the start of the regular season, Malecki figures to be the favorite to win this battle because of his position flexibility. There is an outside chance that Embernate also makes the 53 man roster if the Steelers choose to carry nine offensive linemen, or if they decide that Beachum and Ramon Foster are adequate emergency tackle backups. The team in all likelihood will only carry eight offensive linemen on the 53 man roster, so carrying Embernate as the eighth with Malecki as the seventh would mean that tackles Guy Whimper and Joe Long both don\’t make the team.

  • VaDave

    What is scary is Malecki was on the PS most of last year because he was not better than Legurski after almost three years on the PS. Just a thought.

  • Randy Neff

    If Embernate shows in camp and in preseason games to be a much better guard than Malecki, he could win a spot. Position flexibilty is key, but so is performance. If Malecki is below the line at guard or center, flexibility is meaningless. Teams will attack a weak link and even if the rest of the OL is rock solid, it will bring down the overall performance of the unit. The old OL saying, you are only as good as your weakest link, sometimes rings true.

    I expect someone to be possibly claimed after final cuts are made to provide better option at backup center.

  • Stephen Dale

    Bryan is probably correct.

  • Steves

    I voted for Embernate to make the team but he would be a good PS person if he don’t and that would give him more time to learn the system.

  • steeltown

    The fact that Foster and Beachum can kick out and backup at RT, makes interior depth prevalent. I could actually see Embernate and Malecki both make the roster, especially if Long and Whimper don’t show much in preseason on the outside and Beachum struggles to grasp the Center position.. Long could easily be stashed on the PS again

  • Shea Fahr

    I think Beachum’s ability to grasp the Center position is the wildcard as to who makes the team. If Beachum can get the snapping mastered, I think Embernate will beat out Malecki.

  • steeltown

    You could be right

  • Shea Fahr

    I really hope Long shows something. I just can’t stand the thought of Whimper.

  • Shea Fahr

    If they keep 8, I would like to see:

  • Luke Shabro

    You and me both. I think 99% of Steelers Nation is hoping that Whimper is not on the 53!

  • Shannon Stephenson

    ATM Malecki has more position flexibility and at C where there is no back up currently which puts him on the roster. I also feel even if Beachum does grasp the C position we will still want another guy who can play the C position which still puts Malecki on the team. I also have Ebernate making the squad too. We will not have the Lee situation happen again.