Looking at Steelers Training Camp

WEDNESDAY, JULY 25, 2012

Today, the Pittsburgh Steelers started their 2012 Training Camp at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA.

In the past week, the Steelers resigned left tackle Max Starks (which I will touch more on later in this article) and first round draft pick David DeCastro.

And there was also one big omission today, Mike Wallace failed to report, and until he reports to camp the Steelers will not negotiate on the long-term deal that he covets.

This week, Mike Tomlin signed a three year extension to remain the Head Coach in the Steel City.

Things are looking good going into training camp for the Steelers, so lets look at some of the battles that are going to be happening in camp this year.

Mike Adams vs Max Starks, Left Tackle: Mike Adams, the rookie second round draft pick, is currently penciled in as the starter at left tackle. However, in a slightly surprising move this past week, the team resigned Max Starks who started at that position last season but was injured in the playoff loss to the Denver Broncos.

So why did the Steelers resign Starks? Well it could be for one or more reasons -- a backup who can play both tackle positions so if there is an injury to either starting tackle the entire line doesn't have to be reshuffled, they aren't sure if Adams can start at left tackle this season so if they don't like what they see in camp Starks can step in, or they have already changed their mind on Adams starting and will place Starks in that spot quickly in camp.

Whatever the reason is, Mike Adams now has some competition at left tackle in camp. Mike Tomlin will put his best five linemen out there, be it Starks or Adams.

Keenan Lewis vs Cortez Allen vs Curtis Brown, Cornerback: William Gay, last season's starter across from Ike Taylor, left in free agency for Pittsburgh Wes......err, the Arizona Cardinals. The Steelers didn't trade for a starter or pick anyone up in free agency, therefore they must believe that one of these three can start at that position.

I think that it's going to be Keenan Lewis that come out of this as the starter, and hopefully it will be sooner rather than later. That will leave Allen and Brown competing for the nickel corner spot.

However, while I feel Lewis will be starting this season, I wouldn't be surprised to see one of the other two possibly snagging the spot in preseason games if they do look better.

Jonathan Dwyer vs Baron Batch vs John Clay, Backup RB: It's basically known that Issac Redman is going to be the starter at the beginning of this season while Rashard Mendenhall recovers from a torn ACL. Depending on how Redman plays, Mendenhall may not get the starting job back.

So in camp, it's the battle to back up Redman. All three of these backs bring something different to the table. I think in the end, it will be Dwyer who is the backup to Redman, at least until Mendenhall returns from his injury.

Larry Foote vs Stevenson Sylvester vs Sean Spence, ILB: During the offseason, the Steelers released veteran inside linebacker James Farrior who had started in Pittsburgh since the 2002 season. Last year, it looked like he had lost a step. He just wasn't the same. So the Steelers released him because of that and to get under this season's salary cap.

His replacement will either be Larry Foote, who won a Super Bowl starting next to Farrior in 2005, or Stevenson Sylvester.

Foote has the experience, but he is considered a liability in pass coverage. He is also 32 years old, an age when many feel players outside of kickers, punters, and quarterbacks begin to decline on the field.

Sylvester is young and could turn out to be a good linebacker. He's shown a lot playing special teams and playing in limited rotation on defense.

Then you have the rookie, Sean Spence, who there have been reports during mini camps that he was wowing the coaches. He, in my opinion, was drafted as the eventual starter in the middle of the Steelers 3-4 defense next to Lawrence Timmons.

I think that Foote will be the starter at the beginning of the season, but that either youngster can end up unseating him if he doesn't play as well as the coaches are expecting him to this season.

Emmanuel Sanders vs Jerricho Cotchery, Wide Receiver: Yes, Mike Wallace did not report to training camp because he doesn't want to play under his restricted free agent tender. However, he's going to eventually show up and he will be starting. Across from him will be Antonio Brown.

So what's with this Sanders vs Cotchery thing you may be asking yourself? Well, the third receiver is very important in today's pass happy NFL. And while I expect new offensive coordinator to help fix the problems with the running game that the Steelers had last season, the nickel will still be used quite a bit.

Sanders has speed and a ton of talent. People were saying he'd be the starter across from Wallace. However, injuries have derailed him and he hasn't played an entire 16 game season yet in his career. If he can stay healthy, the sky is really the limit for this kid.

Cotchery is a veteran of eight seasons and has had only one 1000 yard season in his career. However, he reminds me a lot of Hines Ward where he isn't afraid to go across the middle and make the tough catches. He's going to do what's asked of him. Of his 16 receptions last season, 13 of them went for first downs. He's reliable when you need to move the chains.

In the end, I think Sanders wins the third receiver job as long as he stays healthy. He's got the talent, and the kid is fast. Trying to cover Wallace, Brown, and Sanders? Yeah, I don't think many teams have three corners that can do that.

It is now time to focus on climbing that stairway to our seventh Lombardi Trophy. Preparation for the 2012 NFL Season has now commenced. All I have to say now, is one phrase:

HERE WE GO STEELERS, HERE WE GO!

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