PITTSBURGH — Steelers minicamp is officially in the books and the team is now focusing its eyes on Latrobe in July. However, let’s look back one last time. Who were the winners from the week of minicamp and who seems to be really catching on?
I wrote two days in a row that I thought Washington was the star of camp. That makes him the star of the minicamp. To me, you can knock his route running, sure, but nothing I saw took away from what his defined role will likely be. This guy should be a redzone monster, a seam threat, and a ferocious blocker. I think that role is very much going to happen. Over the week, we confirmed through him and various other players that he racked up five touchdowns this week.
I would say the one thing that really stuck out to me about Washington is how much better he got each week. Whether that was him getting more comfortable with the playbook and his quarterback or something else, I’m not sure. What I do know is that he’s really starting to show why he can be a viable weapon for Pittsburgh this year. If you want to ask me who will have the most impact day one from this group of rookies, Washington is my pick.
A couple of notes:
– I'm buying Darnell Washington stock. You can project the role in which he's gonna help. Impressive player.
– When talking to the young DBs, Pat Pete is an incredible resource. He's really helped.
– I think the Steelers RB3 battle is really spirited fun
— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) June 15, 2023
You had to be excited when the Steelers signed Markus Golden. For good reason, this team needed someone else behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. But more than that, Golden has just been really good so far. He’s not that explosive compared to most other guys in the NFL. Look at his NFL Combine numbers, they aren’t flashy. But you see just why he has lasted so long in this league despite that.
He’s craft, has power and finesse moves, and carries a certain hunting mentality. For a guy nicknamed ‘Junk’, it’s an apt nickname. Golden’s a guy that can notch 5 or so sacks while applying a lot of quality pressure to quarterbacks. He’s going to be a quality add to this team’s outside linebacker room.
I think that some people really discount some of these UDFAs at this time because what can you really tell? Well, when you are trying to identify some UDFAs that can stand out, I look for three things. One is the basic athletic traits. Two is the mentality of the player. Three is the strengths a player has that give them an inside track to maybe earning a roster spot. If you knew last year, I peddled that I thought the team had something in Jaylen Warren. Now, I think they have something in Alfonzo Graham.
Graham has athletic traits. He’s fast and has some instant acceleration which is really something to watch. I’m not sure I knew he had that based on the tape but he’s got a few extra gears than most guys in this league. Second, his mentality is pretty rare. This is the guy that stepped up and challenged Minkah Fitzpatrick as a minicamp tryout player who signed after the rookie minicamp. He’s just wired the right way. Third, his traits as a receiver and experience on the special teams aspect of football will give him a track. I’m not sure if Graham makes it. The pads still need to come on. But I know he has the three things I look for that could make that recipe for a sleeper to make the team.
OT Dan Moore Jr.
Alright. I’m just not sure what else I could have asked from Dan Moore Jr. in the spring. First, he comes in with a completely new body after a rigorous off-season program. Second, he learns right tackle on his own without a prompt from the coaches. Third, he takes Broderick Jones under his wing even though the Steelers clearly drafted Jones to take over at some point.
And I’ll tell you what, Moore looks solid. The added strength adds a new layer to his game that won’t really pop until the pads come on. But he’s moving better in space. Moore is a true professional and team player. The stock is rising on him, especially for his long-term future with this team. Even if he is just a quality swing tackle, Moore has done everything to show he is about the team and what is best for them, all while maintaining a healthy, competitive spirit for the left tackle job.
CB Levi Wallace
I think a lot of people seem to discount Levi Wallace and what he brings to the table for the Steelers’ secondary. But he was underrated last year and the guy is a fighter So, it’s really not a surprise to see him have a good spring. If you think one of the rookies is going to come in and take Wallace’s job over right away, I just don’t see it happening out of the gate. He’s fluid, has good ball skills, and is one of the smarter players on the team.
His athleticism isn’t as jumpy as Cory Trice or Joey Porter Jr, but Wallace has polished technique that has allowed him to stick in this league as a rock-solid player that can be depended upon. Going forward, I think everyone should put a little more stock in what Wallace brings to the table.