By Jeremy Hritz
In Mike Tomlin’s press conference about the upcoming preseason match-up against the Washington Redskins, he spoke to the still nascent stage of this year’s Pittsburgh Steelers:
“I want to continue to reiterate this point. Because camp is coming to a close, it’s really just about the midway point in the team development process. So I’m not looking at this with any type of finality. I know that you guys ask questions in that vein, but we’ve got three preseason games left before we’ve got to determine who is the Pittsburgh Steelers for 2013. We’re simply just changing locations in terms of where we work.”
So while Camp Tomlin has concluded, the evaluation process has really just started.
While it may seem that the Steelers were in training camp for an extensive period of time, their camp preparations only totaled 23 days, and the team didn’t practice every one of those days because of CBA mandated days off. Additionally, the team has only played one preseason game, so there is still quite a ways to go before a valid conclusion can be drawn about the 2013 Steelers.
A lot can happen in between now and the team’s first regular season game against the Tennessee Titans on September 8th, which is now 21 days away, and while some players may have yet to assert themselves as capable gamers, there is still time to do so.
Sure, Jarvis Jones didn’t show much against the Giants outside of gift-wrapped fumble recovery and a nice play on a tight end screen, but he has had the right attitude following his first NFL outing and has said that he is working to improve on his performance. As Dick LeBeau said earlier in the week about Jones, “he has it and we intend to let him use it.” Monday night will provide Jones with an opportunity to do just that.
While Markus Wheaton provided more mental mistakes than he did explosive plays, he did subtly flash his potential. And with three opportunities ahead of him to make the Giants contest nothing more than an awkward picture in a high school yearbook, there is no reason to believe that the rookie that Ryan Clark says is already better than Mike Wallace won’t electrify the offense.
And we can still be hopeful that second year players like Adrian Robinson, David Paulson, and Robert Golden will make strides in the remaining preseason schedule to show that the potential they put on display in 2012 is coming to fruition.
There is still plenty of work to be done before the Steelers are ready to go for their home opener, and they are still in the process of figuring out just what their identity as a team will be.
As Tomlin pointed out, nothing is set in stone at this point, and against the Redskins, Chiefs, and Panthers, in competition against players other than their own teammates, the true evaluations that began against the Giants will continue, and they will ultimately determine those players that will earn the opportunities to contribute to this year’s team.