Thoughts On The Steelers As They Reach The Halfway Point Of Training Camp – Part 1

By the time the Pittsburgh Steelers return to practice on Wednesday their training camp will be at the halfway point, so now is a perfect time for me to write about all the things that are going through my mind right now concerning the team. Here is part one of my thoughts and concerns.

Perhaps linebacker Stevenson Sylvester is more of a safe bet to make the final 53 man roster than I originally gave him credit for. In a recent interview with David Todd of 970 ESPN Radio, linebackers coach Keith Butler made it sound as if he is currently the backup inside to both Larry Foote and Lawrence Timmons right now and that the real battles going on in training camp are behind him. While Sylvester will continue to get a little work on the outside, inside linebacker is still his primary position. Right now, Sylvester just needs to make sure that he continues to stay healthy so that he can get a good deal of playing time during the preseason.

While it just might be an attempt to get Mike Adams some work at left tackle just in case Marcus Gilbert was to go down with an injury, several are starting to believe the Ohio State product just might stay on the left side for good. I stated early in the offseason that Adams should be on the left side, but had given up on that wish based on what occurred during the OTAs. We still have a full month to go until the regular season starts, however, so a lot can change between now and then. I can understand working Adams on the left every now and again during practice just in case, but should he start the first preseason game Saturday against the New York Giants on the left side; you would have to think he\’s the new leader in the clubhouse.

At the rate the cornerbacks are going down right now, the Steelers might have to start Ryan Steed and Buddy Jackson, two players who weren\’t with the team at the begging of training camp, against the Giants on Saturday. I\’m kidding of course, as at least Ike Taylor, William Gay and Josh Victorian are still on the field. Just to remind you, both Taylor and Gay have trained down in Florida with renown trainer Tom Shaw for several years now. Think there\’s anything to that as it relates to health? Yes, Cortez Allen has started training with Shaw as well, but much like Taylor\’s ankle injury late last season; I think Allen\’s injury might have been just one of those freak things as well. Victorian really sits in the drivers\’ seat right now, and he\’ll have a golden opportunity Saturday night to show he belongs on the 53 man roster this year as opposed to the practice squad.

Can anybody tell me who the backup nose tackle is at the halfway point of training camp? Whatever your answer is, are you happy with it? Alameda Ta\’amu was finally removed from PUP on Monday, but unfortunately, he missed all the physical practices that have taken place so far. Hebron Fangupo is still learning the position just as Ta\’amu is. Is defensive end Al Woods a candidate? He played all of 30 snaps last year on defense. I think it is now easy to see why I have worried about this position over the course of the entire offseason. I\’m fine with Steve McLendon starting and am looking forward to it, but what happens if he goes down?

It sure is nice to hear that rookie wide receiver Justin Brown is having a good camp so far, but can he keep it up? If he does, can the Steelers really afford to keep six wide receivers on the 53 man roster? Hey, Ben Roethlisberger has wanted a tall wide receiver ever since Plaxico Burress left after his rookie season. Burress is of course back now, but he doesn\’t figure to see a lot of playing time in 2013, assuming of course those ahead of him stay healthy. If Brown can at least stay on the heels of Burress for the rest of the preseason, the veteran, Roethlisberger buddy and all, essentially becomes expendable. It\’s still way too early, but you can bet I will be watching Brown closely once the preseason starts.

I have barely scratched the surface with these, so now it\’s your turn to take time out and let us all know what is running through your mind at the halfway point of training camp.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    Alan Baxter is getting the rare props that Isaac Redman used to get. Adrian Robinson MUST step up in pre-season to assure his spot. I’m much more excited to see how we run our running plays with the “new” ZBS- are we still far behind from the learning curve? Are we where we are supposed to be?

    Also the safety depth positions must not be overlooked. They are much as important as cornerback positions.

  • steeltown

    It sure feels like Fangupo has passed Ta’amu at this point, I’ve heard a few nice things about Fang, very strong guy

    Looking forward to the hopeful development of Victorian who received some very important playing time last season. He definitely has a chance to make the 53man at this point.. and I’ll be watching Isaiah Green as well

    Justin Brown might be the surprise of the camp so far, hope that continues

    Hearing that Terence Garvin was running with the 1st Team Defense at ILB the other day was a bit surprising, obviously Foote and Timmons were out and I would assume that Sly was playing outside, but a bit surprising none the less

    A few players I’ll really be watching this weekend – the entire OLine, Wheaton, J.Brown, Victorian, Isaiah Green, Fangupo, V.Williams, M.Mcfadden and of course our young Safeties Golden and Shark

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I could add to your list of people I want to see but I guess it just shows me i want to see the Steelers playing as a whole and excited to see if some of these young kids can step up. Can’t wait till Saturday!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Just for note sakes add Baxter, Bell, Cheadle, Dunn, Garvin, Gilreath, L. Jones, Hoping McNeil gets on the field, Paulson, Robinson.

  • Putter

    Just an observation – we haven’t heard much from #54 Carter. Is he #4 at OLB?

  • Amuzon12

    One player I wanted to see in preseason was Terry Hawthorne. With all of the athletic talent discussed over weeks/months for a 5th round pick, the lack of any on the field action has been frustrating…and for him too I’m sure!
    It will also be interesting to see how Bruce Gradkowski is meshing with the Black & Yellow offense. The running back competition should also be a great spectacle watch on Saturday. This will be one of the more interesting pre-seasons for the Steelers in a while….so many positions up for grabs.

  • steeltown

    I 2nd that Landry Jones reference.. and same goes for others Le’Veon, A.Robinson, Paulson etc.

  • steeltown

    He is apparently backing up Woodley exclusively at LOLB, but the thing to remember is if Woodley goes down I’m pretty sure they’ll kick Worilds over to the Left side and start Jarvis or A.Robinson at ROLB.. with Sly seemingly getting reps at OLB I think Carter is definitely “on the bubble”

  • StrengthOfVictory

    I have been waiting to see Wheaton in black and gold since we drafted him. REALLY looking forward to seeing that young man develop into a dynamic weapon for this offense. I’m also curious to see if the buzz around Paulson is as good on the field as in camp. (I hope so.) Obviously, we need to see which DB’s can stand out and step up…cause we’ll need them.

    I also really want to see Justin Brown. I remember the groans when we drafted him, as some thought he’d end up a UDFA. (Sadly, however, I think Gilreath might just become the next Arnaz Battle — who always looked so solid and reliable in the preseason, but it was never enough to overtake the top WR’s on the roster.)

  • steeltown

    Yea I expect a dogfight between Burress, J.Brown and Gilreath

  • I’m also interested to see what happens with T. Garvin. He started at WVU as a safety but later bulked up and moved to LB to fill a team need…so he has the atheticism and coverage skills (presumably) to match up with speedy tight ends and RBs (and possibly be a special teams assassin). Roster spots are very tight…but the practice squad is a possibility while he learns his craft and the team irons out its future ILB needs and whether the other back-ups can meet the standard.

    It also sounds like Moye, Dunn, and Baxter are gaining positive attention, I wonder if Wilson has a chance to unseat Jones as the third QB…whether Cheadle or Chris Hubbard are keepers…whether any of the rookie tackles (Long or Farrel) might unseat either of the free agent pick-ups.

  • westcoasteeler

    I’m kinda interested in seeing John Parker Wilson. Having a good camp and from what I hear has a stronger arm than LJones.
    And Paulson and JBrown.

  • steeltown

    My thoughts exactly, Garvin is an interesting hybrid type guy, we usually keep an extra LB on the PS so I think he’ll be in a dogfight with Alan Baxter for that spot, pending what happens with Vince
    IMO Cheadle and Joe Long are the top practice squad candidates, pending Whimper falling flat on his face during preseason and Joe Long moving ahead of him

  • steeltown

    I just don’t see them keeping Wilson over L.Jones even though he is above him on the depth chart. Wilson is a guy that could be called in off the street during the season in an emergency

  • Andrew

    Considering hadn’t heard many positive reviews on Sly prior, most surprised about Butler’s review on him. Went to camp last Friday night, saw Jamie McCoy drive Sly back on roller skates for a solid 5-10 yards on an outside run play to the left.

    Chances of J.P. Wilson beating out Landry for #3? Outside of watching Landry be the first to make the garbage can toss into the L back corner of the end zone that Friday night, haven’t heard much positive.

    Wexell reported “sources” indicating Beachum performing well, chance to beat out Gilbert at RT? God, I hope not. Not to spite Beachum but would be very bad sign for Gilbert. Furthermore, an injury on the inside and you slide Beachum in, then bring Gilbert off bench? Too much shuffling.

    Excited to watch Redman/Dwyer/Baron battle unfold in actual games.

  • Dom

    I just can’t effing wait for Steelers football.

  • Marcus

    Will Johnson is the player I am most excited about. I can’t wait to see how they use him.

    He is one of the hardest workers on the team, and he has a lot of versatility, and I think he can be a pro-bowl caliber FB. I think if Hailey uses Johnson to their advantage he has the ability to transform this offense. He is that good in my opinion.

  • steeltown

    Between him and Le’Veon its hard to not feel good about our run/pass game compared to yrs past

  • Steeler Wheeler

    Seems like most of the linebackers have been dinged during practice. without seeing a snap, that tells me the O-Line is getting the better of them and/or the linebackers just want no part of the hits.

  • Agree! I wondered when they signed Garvin whether Tomlin/Lebeau were looking for a situational ‘hybrid’ LB to counter emerging offensive packages, including RGIII, Cam N., Russel W., etc. On one hand, we don’t play these QBs often, but it would be nice to have a weapon ready to counter them when we do. On the other hand, Tyler Eiffert and Giovoni Bernard are making strong impressions at the Bengal’s camp. Sean Spence might have matched-up well against their athleticism. But as it is, their skill-sets could present problems. If Butler played Garvin with the first team (due to injuries and Timmons having a death in the family), I’d say they’re serious about seeing what he can do. They already have Foote, Timmons, Sylvester, and McFadden as ILB roster locks (presumably). Williams is a draft pick the team reportedly likes. Can they find a spot for Garvin if he plays ‘lights out’ this preseason?

  • westcoasteeler

    I agree. But I like the competition LJones has in the undrafted Wilson. Makes him pick up his game. You can tell LJones is pressing by all the miss throws and int’s. He’ll learn and get better and hopefully stronger.

  • steeltown

    Very true.. and of course it’s just my opinion

  • Don

    I think that’s (the hybrid LB) what they were hoping for from Sean Spence, wasn’t it?

  • steeltown


  • Paul

    It doesn’t matter what these guys do in shorts, they have to do it for real starting Saturday night

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    eh, I don’t know. I’m not disagreeing with you, sir but from what i understood and remember (been a while) in training camp there are a lot of agility drills with plenty of getting physical. When this occurs, Butler would chew up linebackers for poor of “techniques” not lack of athleticism or awarness, so when you adapts to such techniques, its no surprise that some linebackers get hurt somewhere on their bodies.
    I’m praying that our O-linemen ARE better though!

  • Busforever

    If McLendon goes down or need rest, I would be happy to see Ziggy Hood playing NT. To be short, I find Hood disapointing at DE, but I like what I saw when he played NT. Of course, it was in pass rushing situation, but if we are going in a 3-4 defense with 1 gap DL, he can fit.