The Steelers begin their 2012 preseason on Thursday, when they face the Philadelphia Eagles.
We all know that the Steelers’ starters don’t typically take many snaps until the third preseason game. That will likely be true this week as well. But despite a lack of starters playing meaningful minutes, there will still be some interesting position battles to keep your eyes on.
Here are a few of the players/positions that I think Steelers fans should be paying close attention to on Thursday:
Some are already saying that Keenan Lewis is going to be the starter when the regular season begins, and that Cortez Allen will be the first player called upon in nickel situations. But I don’t completely agree with that assessment.
Thus far I’ve seen a very tight battle at training camp. Lewis, Allen, and Curtis Brown have all shown an ability to make plays. Nobody has separated from the pack. Because of this, many sports writers and bloggers are saying that Keenan Lewis has the advantage due to his longer tenure with the team. Cortez Allen got more playing time at nickelback last year than Curtis Brown, so people assume that he will be next on the depth chart. And finally, they assume that Brown will be third on the depth chart due to his lack of playing time at the cornerback position.
All of that may be true right now, but I’m hoping that one of the three players will separate himself on the field. Tomorrow’s preseason game will be the first opportunity for one of them to do that.
Isaac Redman is thoroughly entrenched as the starting running back while Rashard Mendenhall is on the PUP list. But after him, it’s anybody’s position to win. Jonathan Dwyer, John Clay, Baron Batch, and Cris Rainey are all very different types of running backs. They bring different things to the party. It will be interesting to see which of them is capable of making the biggest impact in Todd Haley’s new offense.
Like so many other Steelers fans, I’m particularly excited to see what Chris Rainey can do under actual game conditions.
Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jericho Cotchery, and Mike Wallace (when he finally show up), are all entrenched at wide receiver. Their places on the roster are assured. But there are two other wide receiver slots on the roster that have yet to be claimed.
Toney Clemons is tall, and he has speed, but he really hasn’t done very much in training camp. Frankly, he’s looked more like Limas Sweed than John Stallworth.
Frankly, it’s been Marquis Maze and Derrick Williams who have done the best job of holding onto the ball at practice. But that’s very different from holding onto the ball while a cornerback is trying to take your head off.
After the draft, everyone assumed that Alameda Ta’amu was the nose tackle of the future. But from all indications in camp, the future is now, and his name is Steve McLendon. McLendon is bigger, faster, and stronger than he was last year, and he has been thoroughly outplaying Ta’amu. In fact, it hasn’t even been close.
Frankly, I’m not sure that Casey Hampton would be able to hold off McLendon from taking his position even if he were healthy (Hampton is currently on the PUP list).
Well, it’s not the entire offensive line that I’m anxious to see. It’s just the two rookies; David DeCastro and Mike Adams.
Adams has looked good in training camp. DeCastro…….Ummmm, not so much. But both will have plenty of opportunities to show what they can do on Thursday. Coach Mike Tomlin has announced that both rookies will be starting against the Eagles.