By Alex Kozora
Two days down, a lot more to go. Today will serve as the first day in pads for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Obviously, there’s a lot to look forward to. Such as…
– Of course, as I mentioned, today is the first time the Steelers are allowed to wear pads. This is the first opportunity I can really get a good look at the trench players, offensive and defensive line. Who shines and who shrinks?
Players whose calling card are popping pads, Shamarko Thomas and Jordan Zumwalt come to mind, have a chance to shine in this environment. Sunday’s practice was more chippy than Saturday. Players are anxious to hit.
– To that point, this will be the first practice where I’ll look at the plays unfold more than who is in them. My focus has been pointed towards who was playing at what position and who was running with what team more than who looked good/bad during a play. Because players couldn’t hit yet, the intensity level isn’t as high and evaluating defensive players is next to impossible. That’s the reason why information on who looks good or bad has been scarce so far. To try and make any conclusions would be exaggerating what I saw.
Today, the focus changes and we’ll take our first true step to obtaining clarity on who is up to snuff.
– The injury bug: will Martavis Bryant, Le’Veon Bell, or C.J. Goodwin return? My guess is the team will err on the side of caution and sit Bell out or at best, have him do just position work and remove him from the team portions. With this being the first day in pads, no need to risk further injury to his hamstring. Goodwin is climbing Mt. Everest and if he can play through the pain, he should. We’ll see what happens with Bryant.
– Will the offensive line be shuffled again? Will there be a third pairing or will the Steelers go back to the line used on the first day of camp (Mike Adams, Chris Hubbard, Bryant Browning, Guy Whimper).
If that’s the case, there’s going to have to be a new #2 center. If Cody Wallace runs with the 1’s, and that feels likely, Wesley Johnson could replace the injured David Snow as the second-team center. Bottom line: we’re still trying to determine the look of the backup offensive line.
– What personnel looks will the Steelers use? Will there be more 12 with Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth or 11 with Lance Moore I the slot. We’re about to find out.
– John Mitchell seems to rotate in second team defensive lines even with the rest of the first team defense on the field against the first team offense. I’d love to see Stephon Tuitt against David DeCastro or Marcus Gilbert, Daniel McCullers versus Maurkice Pouncey, and Briant Arnfelt against Kelvin Beachum. How the young guys attack the chance. It’s a big test.
– This is the first chance in quite a while Arthur Moats will get to play like a true edge rusher. Want to see him set the edge and dip the tackle rushing. Opportunity for us to learn about him and frankly, for him to learn about himself.
– Ike Taylor versus Antonio Brown. Need I say more? Two ultra-competitive guys going at it for the first time in about eight months.
– The offensive line worked on picking up stunts while the defense showed aggressive blitzes in 11 on 11. When it all comes together tomorrow, who’s going to win the battle?
– Said it yesterday, will say it again. When will the defense get its first interception? Great opportunity today when they can really get at it.
– Just some general house-keeping. Want to try and get a better feel for who the actual second-team cornerbacks are. So far, there’s been a heavy rotation. Want to again see how often Dri Archer gets split out. On Sunday, he was used strictly as a running back out of the backfield. And again, see the pecking order of the receivers.