Graphic by Pat Pryor
Written By: Roy Countryman @PreacherBoyRoy
The calendar has turned to July, and football fans are counting down the days until training camps open and fans will get their first looks at all the new faces on the roster. In this article, I will lay out all the pertinent information that Steelers fans will need to know when the gates open at training camp.
The Steelers for the 54th season will call the beautiful campus of Saint Vincent’s College in Latrobe, PA home for the duration of training camp. There are only two days where the Steelers will be away from the confines and that will be for a Family Fest at Heinz Field and for Steelers Fest at a local high school football stadium. Here is the schedule for those looking to attend, as well as the address in case you may need to search for directions.
There is an added treat in that some of the Steelers Legends will be on-site to interact with fans for one hour each day.
Training Camp Address
Saint Vincent College
300 Fraser Purchase Rd
Latrobe, PA 15650
Now let’s dive into the on-field information that you will need to keep an eye on during practices. We will go over how much cap space the team has left for the purposes of keeping an eye on players who could sign an extension or even if reinforcements are needed. In addition to that information, we will take a look at positions with depth questions and training camp battles to keep an eye on.
Available Cap Space (per NFLPA)
Players looking for extensions
Javon Hargrave (DT)
Joe Haden (CB)
Sean Davis (FS)
Mike Hilton (CB)
B.J. Finney (OG)
Bud Dupree (OLB)
Matt Feiler (RT)
Xavier Grimble (TE)
Positions with Depth Questions
Depth Chart: Vance McDonald, Xavier Grimble, Zach Gentry, Kevin Rader,
Christian Scotland-Williamson, Trevor Wood
Insight: With the subtraction of Antonio Brown from the Steelers offense there is a ton of targets that will be free to be divvied up amongst the entirety of the WR and TE corp., and that leads me to Vance McDonald. Since being acquired from the 49ers for pennies on the dollar McDonald has seemed to continually evolve into a very important cog in this offense. If he can stay away from the injury bug McDonald is primed for a breakout season, and could easily become a pro bowler or even an All-Pro. Xavier Grimble is a self-made man, he worked his way up from UDFA who bounced around the NFL, until finally working his way from practice squad TE to now the undisputed #2 TE on the roster. Fans will no doubt hold over his head the horrible decision he made last year versus the Broncos when he decided to try and truck a defender rather than simply juke him inside the 5-yard line, which ultimately ended in a fumble out of the endzone that went for a touchback. That play notwithstanding he is a quality pass catcher who has enough speed to flow down the seam, and is probably the best blocking TE on the roster. After McDonald and Grimble there is a pile of darts to throw at the board. Gentry is a 2019 draft pick from Michigan who has excellent size and pass-catching prowess but needs refinement as a blocker. Rader is a Youngstown State alum who idolizes former Steelers great Heath Miller and has a nice combo TE skill set. The last two rostered TEs have slim chances of making the 53 man roster, Scotland-Williamson is a former Rugby player who spent last season on the Practice Squad learning the American game, while Trevor Wood is a 2019 UDFA who has the ability to chip in as a TE and an LS.
Depth Chart: Sean Davis, Terrell Edmunds, Jordan Dangerfield, Kameron Kelly, Marcus Allen,
P.J. Locke, Dravon Askew-Henry
Insight: This position group is one that has been one undergoing a facelift the last few seasons, and last season the play was solid at best. Davis returns for his second season as the FS after initially starting his career as a SS. He was a solid backend defender, but needs to ratchet up his splash plays if he wants to cash in on a big payday being this is his last season before UFA. Edmunds was thrust into a starting spot last season due to FA flop, Morgan Burnett constantly being injured. He played a ton of snaps and was solid, but it should be very fun to see him evolve in year 2 due to his intellectual growth in the system, and knowing how those around him play. Those two safeties are the only ones assured of a roster spot at this point, and the role of #3 safety on down is up for grabs. Dangerfield is a veteran who has been a stalwart on special teams, while not embarrassing himself when called upon to fill in on spot duty on defense.
He should have the inside track on a roster spot. Kameron Kelly is an AAF alum who signed on with the Steelers after the league folded. He flashed multiple times during the AAF season with multiple plays showing the great ball skills he possesses. He seemed to have caught the eye of some coaches during OTAs and even got some reps with the first-team defense, he is a darkhorse candidate to make the team. Marcus Allen is a 2018 draft pick that didn’t see the field much last season, but he is a hard hitter who can cover TEs and is at his best coming downhill in pursuit. He also could see some time as a Dimebacker. P.J. Locke and Dravon Askew-Henry are 2019 UDFA who could push themselves into the equation with a quality showing in training camp as well as preseason games. Locke is especially intriguing due to being utilized in multiple positions while at Texas and was considered one of the leaders and alpha males on that defense.
Training Camp Battles
Those Competing: Donte Moncrief, James Washington, Diontae Johnson
Insight: With the ascension of JuJu Smith-Schuster to the #1 WR on the team after the AB trade the #2 WR spot is wide open. Moncrief is an intriguing free agent acquisition with elite measurables for an outside WR, but he has never had an opportunity to play with an elite level QB for the entirety of a full season. Washington is a 2018 draft pick that somewhat underwhelmed last season after it seemed to take him a few weeks to get a grasp of the offense and be where Big Ben wanted him to be. After a late-season call out by Ben, he responded with quality showings in the final weeks of the season. Johnson is a 2019 draft pick that has eerily similar measurables to Antonio Brown, but will need to put on a convincing showing of his pass-catching ability as well as route running to win the trust of the franchise signal-caller, he also could see some time being utilized from the slot.
Those Competing: Matt Feiler, Chukwuma Okorafor, Jerald Hawkins
Insight: After seeing the mainstay at RT, Marcus Gilbert struggled last season with injury and then a suspension, it was the play of Feiler that made him expendable. He is one of the strongest players on this roster and seemed to really mesh well on this talented and experienced group. Okorafor is a 2018 draft pick that was pressed into starting duty 3 times last season, including one against the Broncos and the All-Pro Von Miller. He did not embarrass himself and has the athleticism to become one of the best RT in the NFL, he just needs some seasoning. I would not discount the chances of him usurping Feiler come Week 1. Hawkins is a former 4th round pick back in 2016 that has struggled with injuries, and I believe he has very slim chances to even be considered in this race due to that lost time.
Those Competing: Devin Bush, Mark Barron, Vince Williams
Insight: This should be one of the position groups that all Steelers fans should circle come training camp time. After the devastating injury to Ryan Shazier, the front office has finally been able to assemble a very talented and athletic group to be able to combat high flying offenses. Bush is the LB the Steelers targeted early in the draft process as a difference-maker, and he has not dissapointed so far. In OTAs, he impressed not only with his athleticism, but it was his intellect and ability to lead that impressed the coaching staff. Barron is a key free-agent signing that is an excellent run and hit LB, he also has the chops to be able to cover TEs downfield, especially with his background of being drafted as a safety. Williams is the under the radar forgotten man in this LB corp, but his voice and bone-crushing hits can be heard every Sunday you watch the Steelers. He is a leader on this defense and is one of the best interior pass-rushing LBs in the NFL. This is a well-rounded group and it will be interesting to see how the snaps are divided up.
Those Competing: Joshua Dobbs, Mason Rudolph
Insight: Dobbs was a high-quality backup last season for the Steelers, showing poise, intelligence, and moxie. He was able to step up in big moments when Big Ben went down and deliver to the talented pass-catchers in this offense. Rudolph is a 2018 3rd rounder who has a ton of arm talent but took last season developing as the #3 QB on the roster. He came from a wide-open, spread offense at Oklahoma State, and now with experience and a full season of working with NFL coaches he is poised to wrestle the backup job away from Dobbs. This situation is similar to a few seasons ago when the Steelers had Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch battling it out for backup duties, there really is no downside in having quality depth in your QB room.
Those Competing: Jaylen Samuels, Benny Snell, Trey Edmunds
Insight: James Conner coming off a Pro Bowl season is entrenched as the starter going forward. The #2 job now that is up for debate. Samuels has the inside track, and should stun people when training camp time comes around with is build, because he has slimmed down to help with the rigors of being a RB. His skill set is well rounded with excellent pass-catching ability and underrated running instincts for a player who hasn’t had a ton of time to focus just on one position. Snell is a hard-nosed, tackle-breaking runner who is cut from the same mold as James Conner, but he will help to chip in as a wrecking ball trying to establish a physical demeanor on offense. Edmunds is an athletic specimen, who is also a hard-nosed runner, but it is his special teams prowess that will win him a roster spot.
Those Competing: Ryan Switzer, Eli Rogers, Diontae Spencer
Insight: JuJu Smith-Schuster is the unquestioned #1 WR on this team, and he will move all around the formation, even spending a bulk of time from the slot, but he won’t be the only one these WR will have an opportunity to chip in when the playcalling asks. Switzer was acquired late in the preseason last year, but was a quick study and seemed to really gain the trust of Big Ben as the season led on. He is a jitterbug in tight spaces, fleet of foot, and is able to cut on a dime which leads to a number of catches going for nice gains after the catch. He also is a reliable pass catcher and will sacrifice himself to make a play on the ball. Rogers worked his way back from a Torn ACL from the previous season to make some key catches late last year. He is adept at working back to the QB and seems to always come down with some clutch grabs. He is quicker than fast and can win fast from the LOS. Spencer is a CFL export who has a small frame, but is an explosive mover in space, and may be able to carve out a niche as a return man if the roster spots allow it.
Final DL spots
Those Competing: Dan McCullers, Isaiah Buggs, Casey Sayles, Lavon Hooks, Greg Gilmore,
Winston Craig, Henry Mondeaux
Insight: For the last few seasons the Steelers have carried 6 DL on their 53 man roster, and there is already 4 spots spoken for in Heyward, Tuitt, Hargrave, and Alualu. McCullers is a wildcard, he owns a MASSIVE build, but doesn’t seem to have an angry bone in his body, although last season under a new DL Coach he seemed to evolve a little bit, and if he can continually develop a mean streak look out NFL! Buggs is a 2019 draft pick that was recruited to Alabama by his now DL coach Karl Dunbar. He is a terrific interior pass rusher who plays with ferocity but will need to continually get stronger to be able to combat NFL OL. Sayles is an AAF export that played at an extremely high level while the league was in existence. He also was in training camp last season and was one of the last cuts before the regular season. He is a blue-collar DL who can anchor, shed, and ragdoll OL with strong hands, as well as push the pocket as a pass rusher. Hooks has bided his time on the practice squad and will push to make the roster this season as a strong, run defending DL. Gilmore and Craig both were in the AAF as well, and Mondeaux is an interesting DL who has to deal with type 1 Diabetes all the while trying to combat OL, all three faces an uphill climb to even be in consideration for the 6th and final roster spot but could be retained on the practice squad.
Final LB spots
Those Competing: Ola Adeniyi, Tyler Matakevich, Anthony Chickillo, Ulysees Gilbert,
Sutton Smith, J.T. Jones
Insight: The last few seasons the Steelers have carried 8 LBs (4 ILB and 4 OLB) into the regular season, and 5 of those 8 are already spoken for in T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Devin Bush, Vince Williams, and Mark Barron. So that leaves 6 guys fighting for three spots, more likely to be used on 1 additional ILB and 2 OLBs, but I would not be surprised if they keep 9 LBs in total, and cutting another positional group short. Adeniyi was the training camp phenom last season and even made the 53 man roster out of the preseason, but an injury led him to be limited last season. He is back this year and in peak conditioning looking to steal playing time away from the lackluster Dupree. He is a bull of a pass rusher as an OLB and has an array of moves to combat OTs. He should have the inside track on a roster spot if healthy. Matakevich is the other LB that most likely will secure a roster spot due to his Pro Bowl special teams prowess, and ability to be a solid ILB if the situation arises. Chickillo is an OLB who has worked himself into the rotation and even turned down a lucrative offer from the Patriots to return to the Steelers this season. He came into the NFL as miscast DT that transitioned to OLB and plays with ferocity and energy. He also is a standout special team player and vital to the team in that facet.
Gilbert and Smith are 2019 draft choices that have unique abilities that could get them onto the 53 man roster or at the least on the practice squad if not sniped by another team. Gilbert is a run and hit LB that has great athleticism, and can cover skill players downfield. Smith is an outside pass rusher who lacks the elite measurables that teams want outside, but his heart, tenacity and hand usage allowed him to become one of the best pass rushers in MAC history. He also has dabbled with playing FB in the OTAs which would give him the upside of being able to play multiple positions in addition to play special teams. J.T. Jones is an AAF import that had a decorated career at Miami (OH) and could find a place on the practice squad.
So there you have it Steelers Nation, everything you need to know for Training Camp as well as the preseason to get you geared up for a hopeful 7th Super Bowl season for our Pittsburgh Steelers! Keep stopping back at Blitzalytics.com for all your Steelers insight!