The Pittsburgh Steelers wrapped up their first week of OTA practices on Thursday and below is a recap of all of the top storylines from the week.
Pouncey Healthy – We had a pretty good notion heading into the week that center Maurkice Pouncey might be able to get some live reps in during the first week of OTA practices and it appears as though he got plenty of them. While Pouncey did appear to be wearing a knee brace, he practiced on Tuesday and Wednesday before being given Thursday off. That will more than likely be his schedule for the rest of the OTA practices as there’s no reason for him to push too hard at this point.
Shazier Fast Tracked – Rookie first-round draft pick Ryan Shazier hit the ground running this week as he was instantly inserted as the first-team mack inside linebacker. All of the reports about him have been positive thus far, so there’s no reason to think that he won’t be the starter come the season-opener against the Cleveland Browns. He’s looking to become the first Steelers defensive rookie to open a season as a starter since inside linebacker Kendrell Bell last accomplished the feat back in 2001.
Spence March Back Continues – Inside linebacker Sean Spence appeared to be just another player on the field this week and that certainly is encouraging news. Reports say that he is moving well on his knee and now the goal is for him to continue to progress before the hitting starts in training camp. If Spence is going to make the 53 man roster this year, he more than likely will have to prove his worth on special teams. At this point, no new news is really good news.
No Ike Taylor – Heading into this week we all knew there was a good chance that safety Troy Polamalu would be absent, but it was a bit of a surprise that cornerback Ike Taylor missed the entire first week of OTA practices. After he failed to show up on Tuesday, I was pretty sure he would arrive on Wednesday, but that didn’t happen. Like Polamalu, Taylor’s absence is not a big deal and he probably just had a few loose ends to tie up first in Florida.
Worilds On Ice – By the sound of things, the Steelers didn’t suffer any serious injuries during their first week of OTA practices, however, linebacker Jason Worilds did miss practice time due to some sort of thigh injury that required an ice wrap. Hopefully this heals quickly and we’ll just have to wait and see if he can get back on the field next week.
Lis Spaeth? – Outside of Worilds, tight end Matt Spaeth was the only other real high profile player to miss practice time this week. I’ve read speculation that it could be related to the Lisfranc injury that kept him sidelined for most of last season, so that’s all we have to go on right now.
Wheaton Points Finger At Himself – According to reports, second-year wide receiver Markus Wheaton has a permanently disfigured pinkie finger on his right hand as a result of some sort of miscommunication related to how he was supposed to rehab it after having surgery on it early last season. Wheaton has taken the blame for it, but doesn’t think it will cause him any problems moving forward. The Steelers young wide receiver isn’t the first player to have a finger mangled, but it still makes you wonder how a miscommunication such as this could happen. Wheaton, by the way, was reportedly the starter opposite Antonio Brown this week.
Adams Swinging – Mike Adams had a rough 2013 season and he opened up the OTA practices this year as the swing tackle, according to several reports. He seems to be taking everything in stride. However, baring any injuries, it’s hard to imagine that he will open the season as a starter. For now, it looks like Kelvin Beachum and Marcus Gilbert will be the starting tackles heading into training camp.
Five Down, Four To Go – The Steelers managed to sign a few more of their draft picks this week as cornerback Shaquille Richardson, offensive lineman Wesley Johnson and linebacker Jordan Zumwalt all signed four-year deals. That leaves Shazier, Stephon Tuitt, Dri Archer and Martavis Bryant as the four draft picks that remain unsigned.
Embernate Fails Physical – Even though he tore up his knee a few weeks before Pouncey tore up his, guard Nik Embernate has yet to fully recover. A failed physical resulted in the 2013 undrafted free agent being waived on Thursday and now we’ll have to wait and see if he reverts back to the Steelers injured list. This is not a positive sign at all for the San Diego State product and there’s a good chance that we’ve seen the last of him.
Draft Benterpretation – You’ve all probably already read the quotes from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger this week concerning his thoughts on the Steelers draft. Some of you will say that this is just the media taking what he said out of context, while others of you will say that he probably shouldn’t have said what he did. At least he was honest and it appears as though he got caught up in the pre draft “tall” wide receiver talk. What Roethlisberger said really isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but I fully expect that he’ll be asked to further explain his thoughts in a future interview. If this is the worst thing to happen all week, then the team is in great shape.
LA Archer – Archer did not practice this week as he was selected to take part in the NFLPA Rookie Premier out in Los Angeles. He will be able to pick up next week where he left off at the rookie minicamp.
Alabama Belue & Mississippi McCray – The Steelers added another cornerback to their roster this week as Deion Belue was claimed off waivers from the Miami Dolphins. Belue suffered through a turf toe injury last season at Alabama and for now he should be considered a practice body at best. Emmanuel McCray was also signed this week after bewing recently waived by the St. Louis Rams. McCray an undrafted free agent out of Mississippi essentially replaced Kaycee Ike on the 90 man roster. Ike was waived to make room for Belue, while Embernate was waived to make room for McCray. Got all of that?
The Steelers second set of OTA practices will get underway on Tuesday.