PITTSBURGH — The Steelers OTAs schedule continued chugging along for its second straight week and a lot came out about the team and players performing at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex throughout the week. Who is garnering buzz and can be labeled winners early on?
CB Cory Trice
Perhaps the winner with the most buzz coming out of the week was seventh-round rookie Cory Trice. It was after a spectacular Thursday when Trice racked up an interception and three pass breakups. Teammates have raved about Trice to me all week, specifically about how rapidly the rookie cornerback is simply learning the playbook and playing at a higher level.
He fell largely due to some medical concerns, but the Steelers never seemed overly concerned about the medical part of the equation with Trice. Instead, they took a swing on a primary press-man cornerback to pair with Joey Porter Jr. His rapid ascent seems to be something that is going to garner a lot of hype over the next few weeks.
LB Mark Robinson
Similar to Trice, the star of Tuesday’s practice was linebacker Mark Robinson, who nabbed a pick-six off Kenny Pickett that day in practice. The second-year linebacker is hoping to reach everyone’s growing expectations after flashing a number of times last season with his impressive physicality. That will not just keep him in the league, though. He needs to show his edge in other ways, such as coverage, which is what made the play on Tuesday so encouraging.
If Robinson can continue to sharpen the edges around the identity of his game up, he could find some real playing time within this inside linebacker corps. It’s thin enough to where there is a need for someone to come in and play some quality snaps, and maybe that could be him.
WR Calvin Austin
His teammates seem to be increasingly impressed by him, so it only makes sense to put Calvin Austin on this list. Patrick Peterson endearingly talked about the second-year WR and his speed that caught him off guard this week, and Austin continues to prove that maybe he can peck his way into a steady role in the offense. There is no way with that game-breaking speed on the team and no one else really meshes as well with some of the gadget plays that the Canada offense requires.
If he can prove to be consistent and healthy, expect Austin to carve out a legitimate role in the offense. The top three seem as firmly entrenched as any position group, but for any other roles, that is wide open. Austin has to be thought of as being part of that group.