PITTSBURGH — The Steelers OTAs are continuing on as the team goes into practice number five for the offseason program. With mandatory minicamp around the corner in the middle of June, what could be taken away from the practice overall on Wednesday?
Physicality Wanted in Secondary
The secondary is a place where there are a ton of new players, from the rookies in Joey Porter Jr. and Cory Trice, to veterans such as Patrick Peterson, Keanu Neal, and Chandon Sullivan. However, one thing is bringing all of the secondary together, and that is the demand for physicality.
So, on Wednesday, Grady Brown took the secondary and made them work on block shedding, tackling, and angles according to third-year safety Tre Norwood. Norwood has wanted to work on his tackling, but Brown wants the entire secondary to match each other’s energy. The team is learning near hip and near shoulder, the correct angles, and playing with strength at the line, Norwood says.
“We don’t always have to focus on the big hit,” Norwood said. “Shoutout to Coach Grady, we come out here in indy and work these tackling drills because we all need that consistency. You know, we have to track that ball to the near hip, take good angles. That’s something we all work on. If you don’t play with physicality, you might not play.”
So, the ideas in the secondary are very clear at this point. Play with physicality, and you very well may not play. Expect the secondary to come out playing with an edge early on in the season if this continues.
Leal’s Weight Change
Yesterday, I talked about a change that I saw in DeMarvin Leal’s frame. He looks to have lost some lower body mass and gained some in the upper body. Well, at Steelers OTAs, I talked to Leal today. It turns out that the weight change has been extremely drastic. He played last year at 315 pounds to start, meaning he played edge at 315, which is insane. Now, after his meniscus injury and the offseason, he is down to 290 pounds.
His role is still unsure this year, but there is enough weight there, he believes to play each way. He trained his body to be a tweener, which has allowed Leal to embrace the change in his role since he was drafted.
Wide Receiver Depth Flashing
The wide receivers are interesting at OTAs this year. There are a lot of them, even with the top guys there. So, when there are spots up for grabs, those players have to be watched closely. The Steelers have different archetypes, too. There are shiftier slot types like Anthony Miller and Gunner Olszewski, bigger guys like Hakeem Butler and Miles Boykin, fast guys like Jordan Byrd and Cody Chrest, and more. The variation is interesting.
So far, quarterback Mitch Trubisky is impressed with a lot of the depth guys that he has thrown to so far. With questions about the team’s depth behind the top guys, he views a lot of the guys on the rise as potential players for the backend roster spot.
“The competition is fierce there,” Trubisky said. “You know, there’s a lot of dependable guys there right now. They’re all showing out, so I’m really impressed by a lot of these guys.”
We’ll see specifically who can make it out of those top guys, but if Trubisky is heaping some of that praise on them already, training camp and the preseason should be a battle among those targets.
Unheralded WR Stands Out
One of the WRs that no one is talking about is Dez Fitzpatrick. However, both Trubisky and Fitzpatrick confirmed to me at Steelers OTAs today that Fitzpatrick caught 3 touchdowns during today’s practice. It was an impressive standout performance for someone who many did not have on their radar, but Trubisky is impressed by him.
“You know, he’s a guy who at this point you give a chance to and he’s going out there and making plays,” Trubisky said. “Dez is a hard worker, a good guy, and so far, he’s making plays.”
Fitzpatrick is taking things one step at a time, but he has a quick twitch in his game that stands out. At 6-foot-2, he’s a bigger receiver but at Louisville, he played from multiple alignments and ran a rather expansive route tree. He could be someone to watch.
Trice Flashing Skills
I went around the locker room to check on the secondary today in-depth, and one player that most of the players on both sides of the ball came away impressed with over the first two weeks of OTAs is rookie CB Cory Trice. There is only so much you can show in these sessions, but Trice is proving to be a quick learner and looks to be fully recovered from any effects of the torn ACL he suffered at Purdue in 2021.
We’ll see how this progresses, but the rookie cornerback is earning some good reviews from his teammates early on at Steelers OTAs, which is always the first step.