Steelers Training Camp Recap: Outside Linebackers

Now that the 2017 Pittsburgh Steelers training camp has concluded, we’re recapping everything that went down over these past 16 practices. We’ll break down each play, position-by-position, with final winners and losers at the end. Continuing the defense with the outside linebackers.

Outside Linebacker

Bud Dupree: It’s a frustrating camp for Dupree. He was on-again, off-again with an injury I still never got clarity on. Pass rushers are always tough to evaluate in camp because they aren’t allowed to touch the quarterback so they’re always, to an extent, going to be incomplete. I am still looking for Dupree to develop a better counter. His speed move, trying to run the arc and bend at the top, is his go-to move, for better or worse, but I couldn’t tell you with confidence what his counter to that is. Part of that is because I didn’t see anything enough, part because he missed out on reps.

And obviously, he didn’t suit up for the first game or Sunday’s either, though the latter doesn’t factor into this synopsis. I would say it was a good camp for Dupree, who looked in tremendous shape and did well in backs-on-backers and flashed during OL/DL.

Big issue with him I thought was his man to man coverage ability. Struggled even against slow-footed tight ends like Jake McGee and David Johnson. Could be a problem going forward for a guy who will drop about 20% of the time.

Camp Grade: B

T.J. Watt: While Alejandro Villanueva will live in his nightmares for the rest of his rookie year, Watt’s first NFL camp was wholly impressive. He showed a bit of everything. Ability to hold the edge versus the run, beat the tackles he should, and looked comfortable in coverage. That all circles back to how he was used by Wisconsin, playing with his hand up, playing on both sides, and dropping into coverage.

While guys like James Harrison got on him to use more power moves than trying to get around everyone, especially someone as big as Villanuvea, it’s a relatively minor complaint and one he’ll work on. Best of all, he showed a unique level of conditioning, no doubt aided by his football family background.

It’s hard to ask for much more from a rookie with the limited college resume he has.

Camp Grade: B+ 

Anthony Chickillo: Another impressive camp for Chickillo, the third in a row he’s had in his career. He is the most varied pass rusher of anyone on the team. Will dip the end, swim inside, convert speed to power, or offer a combination in a single rush. He can play either side and is a good athlete who is able to drop into coverage. You’d never know he was a plump defensive end a few years ago.

Aside from a minor hip flexor injury, he didn’t miss much of practice. Just two total over a 16 practice slate.

Camp Grade: B+

James Harrison: Aside from putting on the pads for the Family Fest practice at Heinz Field, and even then, he wasn’t in team drills, Harrison soaked through his sweats each practice. It’s fair to wonder how the team plans to get him in football shape, but he is 39 and the most rocked dude on the team. The trade off is worth it.

Camp Grade: Incomplete

Arthur Moats: While Moats isn’t going to wow, it’s safe to say his spot on the roster is safe. Moats is a no-nonsense pass rusher who converts speed to power really well, once running over Marcus Gilbert in OL/DL. He’s also gotten work on the first team coverage units, indicating his job is safe and that the team wouldn’t go with 4 OLBs/5 ILBs that could still see Moats on the outside.

And obviously, three sacks in the New York Giants game is about as good as it gets. He’s also the only OLB in camp not to miss any time. Hats off.

Camp Grade: B

Keion Adams: Adams got off to a promising start. A good first step who can win the edge and overall impressive athlete. Those traits looked like they could translate on special teams. But he was hurt during the 8th practice and didn’t see the field since due to a left shoulder injury. He’s an IR candidate and made the battle for the last OLB a lot less interesting.

Camp Grade: Incomplete

Farrington Huguenin: A player with a bit of experience and some intriguing athletic ability, he’s practice squad material. Like his get off and change of direction ability. Maybe faded a bit as camp went on but nothing about his game is terrible. Not the strongest at the POA but shows technique to keep his outside arm free as the force defender. There’s a little something there I’d like to see more of.

Camp Grade: B-

Austin Gearing: The last guy on the lifeboat, signed after the team continued to get hit hard by injuries at OLB. He was in rookie minicamp, allowing him to hit the ground running and work in team from the first day on. Didn’t learn much about his game in the few practices he had, though he did line up at both OLB spots.

Camp Grade: Incomplete

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    agreed.

  • falconsaftey43

    Alex, just overall feel, how do you think this OLB looks compared to the past few years? I feel like they’ve definitely translated to on field play better than in the past.

  • srdan

    Agreed with the grades you give them. But man they overall don’t look or feel as a “B” grade on the field. My comment is harsh since the two starters from last year haven’t played yet. But it’s not like one of them will play much until it matters.

  • Chad Weiss

    Huegenin played fairly well against the falcons . It’s ideal if Adams went on ir and huegenin got on PS imo.

  • NickSteelerFan

    I 100% agree. Get them both back in camp next year with a year of experience being around the team and in an NFL weight room, being around Harrison. If they are all healthy, it could make for a really strong, young room next year

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    I hope that this is the only time this season that we see Bud Dupree and groin in the same sentence. Just saying …

  • Alex Kozora

    I agreed. I think it’s better, on paper at least. So much will be determined by Dupree’s play and he hasn’t gotten into a stadium yet.

  • falconsaftey43

    I’m encouraged by the production the OLBs have had in pre-season. There are only 18 guys with 2+ pre-season sacks right now, and 4 of them are Steelers OLBs: Watt, Chickillo, Moats, Huegenin. Hopefully we see that show up in the regular season, and of course Dupree.

  • Rotten Sircus

    I’m really hoping to see what Keion Adams is capable of. When do they have to make roster cuts ???

  • Larry Kraus

    First of all I was screaming to take watt. I was so happy I would have been over the top happy if they took players from division 3 the rest of the way. I still think watt will become a beast but please remember he’s just a rookie. He’ll learn this year what it takes to be a olb in Steelers land. What he does with that knowledge will tell us just who he is in years 2 and 3. JJ wasn’t defensive player of the Year his rookie year either. Let him grow up then let the chips fall where they may. For this year just remember he has a young man’s body or even a body that’s becoming a man fighting men that have done this for longer than he’s played defense.

  • Conserv_58

    The same could be said of Shazier. It’s really getting to the point that I roll my eyes whenever we hear that he’s dinged up, again. His having a ham string injury is going to linger and hamper him most if not all season. The same goes for Mitchell. There has been a rash of ham string injuries and that’s not good.

  • Conserv_58

    I re-watched the Steelers/falcons game last night and I was wholey impressed with Anthony Chickillo’s game. I counted three times where he just missed getting three additional sacks. He was all over the field and even when he wasn’t making the tackle he was around the ball. His growth from last season is quite noticeable. I can’t say enough how happy I am to see that he has become a valuable member of the defense.

    Fort had a good showing and there should be no question whether Hilton makes the team or not.

    Keion Adams being put on injured reserve may be a blessing in disguise for him.