View Full Version : Top 5 Positional Battles to Watch for in Camp & Preseason

08-03-2011, 06:35 PM
Camp Battles: Top 5 Positional Battles to Watch for the Steelers in Camp and Preseason

by John Stephens on Aug 1, 2011


I absolutely love football before actual football. By that, I mean I love reading about camp, watching highlights about camp, and analyzing every single play of every preseason game. The positional battles that occur are always awesome to watch and, believe it or not, these big decisions will have a large impact on the season. These battles are usually for depth positions and ultimately end up having an impact when injuries occur. If you are not a preseason junky like me, you are in luck. I have prepared a checklist for you to watch this year.

Here are my top 5 positional battles:

5. 3rd Tight End
4. Offensive Line Depth
3. Nickle Cornerback
2. The Fifth Wide Receiver
1. 3rd Down Running Back

5. 3rd Tight End

If you have not already heard, Matt Spaeth left for the Windy City, a move that pleases many Spaeth haters. Like him or hate him, his departure creates a major hole in our roster. In other words, Bruce Arians's entire playbook is worthless right now because he does not have enough Tight Ends. Therefore, we need someone to step up in a huge way. Right now, I would say it is a shoe in for David Johnson to be the 2nd TE, unless someone really upstages him and he is left at #3. Either way, I see him making the team.

Players to watch: Weslye Saunders (44), Jamie McCoy (45), Vaughn Charlton (49)

What you need to know: Saunders was projected as a 3rd round draft pick, but was suspended by South Carolina for violating team rules. He is a great pass catcher with some questions about his blocking prowess. McCoy converted to a TE while at Texas A&M. It was an instant success as McCoy became one of the Aggies "most dangerous pass catching threats in his first season at tight end", but questions were left about his blocking ability. Listed on Steelers.com as a TE, but other sites have him listed as a TE/FB. Lastly, Vaughn Charlton is big and slow. He converted to TE in his senior year and is a very raw talent.

My pick: Wesyle Saunders (by mid season he is the #2)

4. Offensive Line Depth

The biggest question marks have to be at Tackle. We all know last year was a disaster at the position and this year is not shaping up to be much better. It was great that the Steelers resigned Willie Colon, but then they cut Max Starks and Flozell Adams. That pretty much places the starting roles in Colon and Jonathan Scott's hands without a serious competition. That has to concern you, at least a little bit. My guess at the line would be: Scott / Kemo / Pouncey / Foster / Colon. Outside of Pouncey and Colon, I am not very excited about that line up.

Players to watch: C/G Doug Legursky (64), G/T Marcus Gilbert (65), T Chris Scott (61), G Keith Williams (62)

What you need to know: Legursky is really a center, but he is not going to play there over Pouncey. He needs to show some flexibility and be able to cut it as a guard. Foster is not a lock for RG and a good camp showing could help Doug win that position. Gilbert is presumably the tackle of the future, but has the flexibility to play guard. He has all the measurables of an OT, but is still rough around the edges. Maybe, just maybe, he can have some Gator magic, like Pouncey, and win a starting position at guard before transitioning into a tackle. Scott was drafted in 2010 and then injured his foot and did not take a snap the entire season. Hopefully, he spent his time on the bench studying the playbook. Williams is projected as a back-up guard, which might mean starter for the Steelers. His lacking quickness hampers his pass blocking skills. He does show promise as a run blocker.

My picks: Well, we will probably carry 8-9 OL, so I imagine all these guys make it.

3. Nickle Cornerback

The Steelers just resigned William Gay and that should not be a surprise. We have a short off season and Gay provides solid competition for a DB roster spot. He is not the best cover-corner, but he is still a "Big Play" maker and knows the defense well. Speaking of that, it takes most young guys a season or so to really get a grasp of the defense, so do not get your hopes up on Cortez or Curtis hurdling Gay, Lewis, and Butler for this spot. I will not write them off, but it is a slim chance.

Players to watch: William Gay (22), Keenan Lewis (23), Crezdon Butler (28), Cortez Allen (39), Curtis Brown (40)

What you need to know: Gay manned the position in 2010 and had an average season. Most people recall his subpar season in 2009, where he filled the role of #2 and got abused. He is the favorite to regain the position, but many people, maybe even the coaches, are hoping Lewis or Butler can step up. Lewis, who at one point was thought to be challenging Bryant McFadden for his spot in the 2010 preseason, took a turn for the worse when he was ejected after a preseason display of fisticuffs. He seemingly never came out of Tomlin's doghouse, faltered in STs, and saw little action on defense. Lastly, Butler is coming

My pick: Butler in at #3, Gay at #4, Lewis is cut.

2. The Fifth Wide Receiver

Things we know: 1) Mike Wallace 2) Hines Ward. Additionally, we can guess that Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Browns are not locks, but pretty darn close. That leaves one position open, not two like last year. I think the Steelers went with 6 WRs last year, because of the uncertainty they had with Wallace taking over a bigger role and unknowns in Sanders and Brown. Wallace appears to be a stud and the other two appear to be serviceable, at worst.

Players to watch: Limas Sweed (80), Arnaz Battle (81), Tyler Grisham (19), Wes Lyons (15), Adam Mims (18), Eric Greenwood (8), Terrence McCrae (11), Armand Robinson (14)

What you need to know: In my opinion, this is a three man battle between Sweed, Battle, and Grisham. Keep in mind, that unless one of these guys shows to be a really talented pass catcher (*cough cough* Sweed *cough*) they will be expected to be a ST standout. Battle could very well oust these two with his ST talent, even though he may not offer as much to the offense.

Anyway, here are some "quick slants" on each player. Sweed oddly fast for his height (6'4), great route runner, head problems lead to bad hands(?). Battle was a great ST gunner in 2010 with limited, rough offensive snaps. Grisham is a slot-type WR, very shifty, small, fan favorite. Lyons is really friggin' tall (6'8). Mims is very short (5'9), but lightning fast (4.4) and a great returner. Greenwood is tall, relatively fast, and played in a small conference. McCrae has a great speed to height ratio (6'3 / 4.42), played on a run-heavy offense, could surprise...or not. Robinson is short and slow, can jump though and might be good addition for the charity basketball team.

My pick: Hands down (bad choice of words probably) Limas Sweed. I think he is poised to have a breakout year and could end up supplanting Brown at #4.

1. 3rd Down Running Back

Rashard Mendenhall and Lord/Saint Isaac Redman are locks at 1 and 2.

Players to watch: Mewelde Moore (21), Baron Batch (35), Jonathan Dwyer (27), John Clay (38)

What you need to know: Moore was our 3rd down back in 2010 and played very well, especially towards the end of the year. However, he is a perfect candidate for a cap casualty with his age and assumed veteran minimum contract. Presumably, Moore would not have been resigned if camp was not shortened. However, we are in that situation and Moore had to be brought back as an insurance policy and competition for the spot. Batch is going to be a fan favorite, because he is a fantastically intriguing person off the field. Also, he was a stud at Texas Tech and has already made a name for himself in camp by doing well in Backs on Backers.

Dwyer is somewhat of a mystery. He fell in the draft in 2010 because he played in a weird offense and scouts questioned his ability to play in a pro offense. However, his measureables were very appealing and the Steelers grabbed him late in the draft, which some dubbed "the steal of the draft." Then, in camp I hear stories about him being complacent in drills and forgetting plays. That is not unusual for a rookie, but I have already heard rumblings of the same this year. Dwyer could end up being a waste of talent or nice fill in, his choice. Clay, is one of the top UDFAs the Steelers were able to grab. He is a big lumbering back that had some nice numbers at Wisconsin. His 40 time of 4.85 leads me to believe he will never be an NFL running back, but could maybe a FB. The only problem is that the only things I have read state that his pass blocking skills are, well, not good.

My pick: Baron Batch. I am picking with my heart there, but I like this kid a lot.

http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/20 ... teelers-in (http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2011/8/1/2309449/camp-battles-top-5-positional-battles-to-watch-for-the-steelers-in)

08-03-2011, 08:02 PM
It looks to me that it's going to be same old, same old for the Steelers this year- at least in terms of significant playing time. Not many changes- in fact, probably no "POSITIVE" changes in the starting roster, with really only the subtraction of Max to factor in, and the raising of Jon Scott.

I question if the Steelers can be 'better' than last year as most of the significant players for the Steelers are either at their peak, or past their peak- not really likely to be better than last season.

The only way the Steelers might be considered better is if you factor in the injury situation last year & it's effects on some starters- Polamalu, McFadden, Smith, Colon & Harrison in particular. Will they come back better players this year than they were last year? Probably. Will that be enough to go from SB loser to SB winner? Not so sure.

In the end, the success of this season might come down to these factors- scheme, injury, luck & the 5% players improving on last year- 3rd down conversions (offense & defense), ST plays, guys filling in for tired players mid-game. If we can improve those 5% guys, if we can avoid serious injuries to key players & if Tomlin & Co can improve their playcalling by that elusive 5%, then the Steelers might improve.

Otherwise, same old, same old...

(Not that THAT is bad- but is it enough?)

08-03-2011, 08:51 PM
I just want the best guys on the field. But the guys I'm really rooting for are:

1. Legursky to win the RG spot. I still think the best line would be Legursky @ C and Pouncey @ G, but I know we'd never move Pouncey. I like Foster the least out of the potential starting line.

2. Big Play Willie Gay to be consistent and really lock down the nickle CB role. He's young, but he's never gonna be a #1 or #2 CB, so if he puts it together he could contribute for a long time without having to worry about big money for our #3 CB. And he's got a knack for being a headsy player that makes the splash plays. If he limits his mistakes, he's gonna be a fan favorite and can be the modern Deshea Townsend for us - great player if he's not on the outside and you don't want to isolate a big WR/TE on him.

3. Tyler Grisham - Ijust like something about this kid and think he'd figure out a nice role for himself once Ward is gone, but I fully get Sweed's potential and what he could do for this offense, so I don't want Grisham to knock Sweed off the team - I'm rooting for them both. Heck with Ward and Sanders hurt, Grisham could play a role if either of these guys can't go to start the season for some reason.

08-05-2011, 02:35 AM
Thursday's Camp Report: How the depth chart shook out today with labor strife over

Thu, Aug 4th, 2011 by Dale Grdnic


The Pittsburgh Steelers hit the field about 4:30 p.m. Thursday, 90 minutes later than usual, and got final word that the new CBA was ratified close to 5 p.m. That's when 15 veterans could put on their full gear and join the practice.

"They didn't miss much,'' Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "They got the official word right at stretch, which was exactly how I planned it. It was an unusual day for everyone, but we don't worry about those things. (So), it was good to have our 90-some guys out there on the field today.''

Chris Hoke, as usual, led the charge onto the field for the opening drill and was happy to oblige after a week on the sidelines.

"It was great,'' Hoke said. "It was like we weren't part of the team, but now we are. It's great that we can all work together now to get ready for this season.''

The starting offensive line included Jonathan Scott at left tackle, Doug Legursky at left guard, Maurkice Pouncey at center, Ramon Foster at right guard and Willie Colon at right tackle. Foster also played left guard, while Chris Scott -- the right tackle during the first week -- also played right guard.

The second-team offensive line included Tony Hills at left tackle, Keith Williams at left guard, Doug Legursky at center, Chris Scott at right guard and Kyle Jolly at right tackle after starting at left tackle throughout the opening week.

Ben Roethlisberger, obviously, was the starting quarterback with Rashard Mendenhall at running back. Heath Miller started at tight end, while Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Arnaz Battle were the top three wideouts.

Defensively, Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel were on the line from left to right. The linebacking corps also was intact with LaMarr Woodley, James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons and James Farrior.

And in the secondary, Ike Taylor was back at right cornerback, while Ryan Clark was the free safety. William Gay opened at left cornerback for injured Bryant McFadden, while Ryan Mundy was the strong safety for Troy Polamalu. First-year cornerback Donovan Warren was the fifth DB in passing situations.

The walking wounded again included CB Keenan Lewis, migraine headaches; WR Adam Mims, quad strain; CB Cortez Allen, hamstring; CB Crezdon Butler, quad; CB McFadden, hamstring; OT Marcus Gilbert, right knee; OG Chris Kemoeatu (left knee) and S Polamalu, who got another day off.

McFadden, Butler and Allen all worked with trainer Ryan Grove on ladder agility drills, while Kemoeatu took instruction from head trainer John Norwig.

A referee crew will be in camp for the next couple days. They monitored Thursday's practice and will do the same Friday night at Latrobe Memorial Stadium. Friday afternoon, the group will conduct a seminar on rule changes.

Since the Steelers officially signed their six unrestricted free agents and one restricted, several players had to be released. Gay, Hoke, Moore and punter Daniel Sepulveda all signed one-year deals.

Tight end John Gilmore signed a one-year contract after spending the last three seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Long-snapper Greg Warren, also an unrestricted free agent, signed a two-year deal. And quarterback Dennis Dixon, a restricted free agent, signed a one-year agreement.

To make room on their roster, the Steelers released offensive tackle Joshua Harrison, quarterback Chris Dieker, long-snapper Derek Chard and punter Aaron Bates. The team also placed offensive lineman Dorian Brooks on the Exempt-Left Squad List and linebacker Erik Clanton on the Waived-Injured List.

The 90th player on the roster is offensive guard John Malecki, a Pitt and Franklin Regional High School product, who originally was signed by Tennessee as an undrafted free agent in 2010. He also spent time on Cleveland's and Tampa Bay's practice squads and will wear No. 77 with the Steelers.

http://insidepittsburghsports.com/story ... ver/41186/ (http://insidepittsburghsports.com/story/thursdays-camp-report-how-the-depth-chart-shook-out-today-with-labor-strife-over/41186/)

08-05-2011, 12:10 PM
I'm hoping Lewis can turn this back around. For a brief moment he was the man rising up, but he clearly couldn't get his testosterone and emotions in check. Not surprising since he was way excited. But hopefully that set back will get him to keep things in check.
Gay is tolerable as a backup. Only Philly has an allstar backup and that won't be for long.
I like Butler going forward as well.

I like Batch, hope they can keep him on PS to replace Moore next year. Cause Moore isn't going anywhere.

Very surprised that we all of a sudden have only 2 competent WRs and two up and comers. Cupboard seems a bit bare. Sweed might actually survive cut afterall. Or maybe we grab someone through FA after cuts begin.

08-05-2011, 12:54 PM
I'm hoping Lewis can turn this back around. For a brief moment he was the man rising up, but he clearly couldn't get his testosterone and emotions in check. Not surprising since he was way excited. But hopefully that set back will get him to keep things in check.
Gay is tolerable as a backup. Only Philly has an allstar backup and that won't be for long.
I like Butler going forward as well.

I like Batch, hope they can keep him on PS to replace Moore next year. Cause Moore isn't going anywhere.

Very surprised that we all of a sudden have only 2 competent WRs and two up and comers. Cupboard seems a bit bare. Sweed might actually survive cut afterall. Or maybe we grab someone through FA after cuts begin.

They will keep Batch as at least a 4th RB...he will take Dwyer's place...

Sweed will make the roster on his own merits this year...

08-07-2011, 02:07 PM
Steelers sorting out crowded backfield

Saturday, August 6, 2011
Andrew Chiappazzi Times Sports Correspondent


Baron Batch handles his own against linebacker James Harrison during a recent workout at St. Vincent College.

LATROBE - Many running backs might have viewed the Steelers re-signing of Mewelde Moore as a threat to their job security.

Not Baron Batch. The Texas Tech rookie, already an early camp fan favorite, said he merely sees it as another veteran to learn from.

Batch may need all of the football education he can get, as the Steelers possess a crowded backfield that lacks definition behind starter Rashard Mendenhall. With no minicamps or OTA sessions in the offseason, the Steelers staff didn't have the usual opportunity to evaluate backs prior to camp.

Recently re-signed third-down back Mewelde Moore and short-yardage back Isaac Redman appear to be firmly entrenched behind Mendenhall, but the door is open for an eclectic mix of younger backs in camp to make a move.

"We're pretty comfortable right now with what we have, but we're looking for guys who can contribute to special teams in a major way," running backs coach Kirby Wilson said. "That was indicated to our room from Day 1, that we're looking for big time special teams contributors. Our room has not been a big-time special teams contributor in recent years and we need to improve in that area."

The recently re-signed Moore recognizes the congestion, knowing he might have dampened the enthusiasm of a couple guys whose reps he'll take, but he said he still has an important role as the elder statesman of the backfield.

"I take everybody under my wing," Moore said. "Whatever it takes us to continue to be a great group of running backs, that's my job. I take pride in that and I take it to heart."
It wasn't long ago that Moore was the guy trying to find a way onto a roster by any means necessary.

"You blink your eyes, turn around, and you're the vet in the classroom," Moore said with a chuckle.

Moore made his way by excelling as a third-down back and a special teams contributor, and Wilson said that guys who can fill multiple roles and have a bit of a kamikaze streak in them will get the longest look.

"We're looking for people who can tackle," Wilson said. "We're looking for violent people who can go down and take someone's head off and make some splash plays in the special teams area. And that's going to be critical in their development to making this team."

The candidates are already being tested. Last year's sixth round pick, Jonathan Dwyer, has been utilized early in camp as a returner, while Batch has spent time on kick coverage. And if anyone needed a hint that the coaches were focusing on those two, they were the primary backs in the highly anticipated goal line drill on Saturday. Dwyer scored on one of his two carries, while Batch scored on two out of four.

"I think those young men have done a tremendous job in terms of picking up our system in terms of trying to play fast without making too many mistakes," Wilson said. "Jonathan's coming along and Baron's a young guy who is trying to pick it up under a tremendous amount of pressure right now, and I think he's handling it extremely well."

http://www.timesonline.com/sports/local ... 78966.html (http://www.timesonline.com/sports/local_sports/steelers-sorting-out-crowded-backfield/article_1bcd3926-41ef-5b63-b9e7-120fcea78966.html)