What makes for a successful training camp? If you asked Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin whether his team had a successful training camp, his answer would probably be something along the lines of “only if we have a successful season.”
As with so many things that happen before the cleats, helmets and pads get strapped on for real, it’s hard to tell if a team’s training camp session was a positive one.
The practices are team against team, so for every good play, there’s a bad one on the other side. The early preseason reps are short for each set of players, and designed to evaluate the individuals, not the team.
I can say that Arthur Maulet had a good training camp. The former New York Jets defensive back has gone from a “who’s that?” to a penciled-in starter at Nickel corner.
I can also say that Robert Spillane had a poor camp, as the Steelers saw fit to go out and get Joe Schobert to upgrade their inside linebacker position.
But what about the team? Tomlin is probably right. It’s probably too soon to say. But there are some concrete things we can say the Steelers accomplished in their few weeks of practice at Heinz Field:
• They’re relatively healthy. Entering Saturday’s third preseason game, the Steelers have just a couple significant absences: Chase Claypool, who is dealing with an ankle injury and has not been ruled out yet, Stephon Tuitt and T.J. Watt. Going into preseason game three with 82 of 85 players on the roster almost certainly available is a strong sign, and an outlier around the league. The Baltimore Ravens have more injuries at wide receiver right now than the Steelers do overall.
• Offseason questions have been answered. Devin Bush and Zach Banner have returned from ACL surgeries and, while still being handled with kid gloves a bit, have essentially looked the way we’ve come to expect from those two players. Kevin Dotson, rumored to be out of shape this offseason, returned from an early injury to reclaim his starting left guard spot.
• The new offense seems to fit. There have been some hiccups along the way — a fumbled exchange against Dallas and a few too many procedure penalties — but the new offense installed by Matt Canada seems to have gone in without a hitch, and Ben Roethlisberger seems to have completely bought into the concepts Canada has introduced. He spent one practice this week under center, running play action, doing rollouts, and a bunch of other things we haven’t seen from the 39-year-old in a long time. He said Thursday that he’s thankful for the newness of the offense, and that learning new things has re-energized him. That’s a good sign.
Plenty more remains unanswered. Will the Steelers’ re-shuffled offensive line be able to hold up under the onslaught of top NFL front sevens? Can Najee Harris translate college success to the NFL quickly? Will the team be able to deal with the losses of Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson at corner?
It’s a long season. There’s plenty of time for those things to be answered in between the lines on Sundays.
News and notes from around the Pittsburgh Steelers and the National Football League.
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AROUND THE NFL
🏈 2020 The Steelers signed former Bills, Raiders WR/KR Ray-Ray McCloud. Saunders
🏈 2019 Winners and losers from Week 2 of the Steelers preseason. Parker Hurley
🏈 1993 Steelers long snapper Cameron Kanaday was born in Eugene, Oregon.
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