As we continue to march through the dead space between the end of minicamp in mid-June and the beginning of training camp in late July, we are beginning to see more and more preview-type features in the build-up.
Among those features that seem to be gaining steam at the moment are the ‘camp phenom’ predictions, and I’ve deliberately avoided looking at these in too much detail so that I can make my own, unbiased predictions.
Of course, this is to be taken with a grain of salt as the opinions of somebody who hasn’t seen any of these players in a practice. Rather, I can only base my opinions either on prior game tape or the first-hand accounts of others.
It should also be noted that I’m using the term not necessarily as somebody who has an incredible run during training camp, but rather somebody who simply improves his stature within the team. Many of them may not be popular choices. With one exception, I have avoided players who are seemingly locked into a roster spot already, such as the high draft picks.
With that in mind, these would be my top five candidates I believe are most likely to solidify a roster spot or their position on the team with a strong camp showing this year, in alphabetical order:
Brian Arnfelt: Arnfelt, the second-year former undrafted defensive end, would seem to be a natural candidate here. As a rookie, he wound up playing the second-most snaps for the Steelers during the preseason, and he showed an awareness of scheme and technique in the process.
He made it to the practice squad behind a deep rotation of defensive ends on the roster last year before being called up late in the year, and I don’t suspect he wants to go back down. He figures to make himself a feature within the defensive line rotation if he picks up where he left off last summer.
Chris Carter: Carter certainly isn’t one of the more popular players on the Steelers, even if he was briefly viewed as promising as a rookie because of his speed around the edge when he had to come in against the Patriots.
He has had his playing opportunities over the last couple years, and hasn’t shown much, but he has been getting positive reports so far this summer, and he knows he must perform or he could find himself without a team. I think he will solidify himself as the fourth outside linebacker in the preseason.
Landry Jones: Another fan favorite, last year’s fourth-round quarterback had a pretty shaky rookie season. He displayed obvious mechanical flaws and struggled with his reads during the preseason. This year, he has taken a good number of reps with the second-team and reportedly has shown some improvement. I don’t know that he will be able to win the backup job, but I sense that he will start to earn his place on this roster.
Shaquille Richardson: The rookie cornerback Richardson came about four rounds later than many people would have liked. But he could prove to be an intriguing candidate. Reports suggest that he’s had a steady, quiet offseason thus far, and seems to have the potential to make the roster as a rookie. One of his unique features among most of the reserve defensive backs is his 6-foot height, which plays in his favor.
Brad Wing: It’s rare that a punter would even be in this discussion, but given his college resume, and the Steelers’ recent woes in this areas, it makes sense in this case. His competition is a former fourth-round pick who has faced his struggles with consistency over the past two seasons—much like the two punters the Steelers had last year. Wing has the chance to seize an opportunity here.