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Steelers Analysis

Steelers Takeaways: Herbig Impresses, WRs Improving



Steelers WR Allen Robinson II

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers logged one last practice before Tuesday’s final cut-down date. As they trim the roster down to 53, what was the talk of the town from Monday’s practice? Here are a few takeaways that caught my eye from the session.

Trench Depth is Strong

The Steelers have something this year they did not have last year — depth along the defensive and offensive lines. The Kevin Dotson trade showcased that Pittsburgh has depth along the offensive line they have not had for years. Meanwhile, the notorious defenisve line depth will create multiple tough cuts down the stretch for Pittsburgh. The emergence of players such as Spencer Anderson and Dylan Cook gives Pittsburgh confidence in the offensive line. Meanwhile, improvements from Isaiahh Loudermilk and DeMarvin Leal and outside additions such as Armon Watts and Breiden Fehoko boost Pittsburgh’s defensive front.

“I think our lines are going to be like that,” center Mason Cole said. “Depth in the trenches is so important. Those guys are rolling in, and you see guys on the defensive line, they play like 15 snaps per game. It’s huge. We’re deep there.”

That’s a common sentiment felt around the Steelers locker room. The preseason tape showcases the team should be deep in the trenches. For top players who are starters, having that security blanket to give you rest on defense is invaluable.

Herbig is Learning

Nick Herbig came into the Steleers locker room like a sponge. So far, the fourth-round draft pick stole T.J. Watt’s ghost move, sharpened his spin move with Alex Highsmith, and now is taking run defense tips from Markus Golden. His advice from Golden is the newest addition to the lessons that Herbig wants to take from three veterans around him.

“That kid got to bend, man; he can get around that edge,” Golden said. “He can hit any move you want, power, or doing what he wants to do in practice. He has so many moves that he works in practice, taking it over to the game film. He’s fantastic at practicing stuff he can take into the game.”

All veterans love Herbig’s willingness to embrace the knowledge around him. Not all rookies are willing to go up to veterans and ask anything of anyone. But Golden says it’s hard to shake Herbig as a veteran because “you can bet the kid will ask you questions” both on the field and in the film room. That’s the right mentality for someone hoping to impact his rookie season significantly.

New Kickoff Rules Change?

The Steelers got their first experience of the new kickoff rules in the preseason. Core special teamer Miles Boykin had an interesting reaction to it. The teams will have little ability to get returns in the first part of the season, but the colder it gets, the more returns he thinks will be likelier. But it appears to be showing up because it opens up the playbook for teams. Not just that, but the emphasis on the punting game is even more critical now.

“Yeah man, the field position is huge on punt now,” Boykin said. “It already was just because you look at statistics where drives start and the probability of it ending in points. But it’s made punting more important… for offenses, the playbook is more open at the 25. You’d be shocked at how much of a difference five yards makes. But it does.”

Those are two new perspectives playing out so far that Boykin and other teams are noticing. Teams feel freer to call whatever they want, and you better have a solid punter if you want to win the field position battles in the NFL. So, special teams are still essential; they shift in different ways.

WR Room Impressing

Boykin is also part of the nucleus at wide receiver that continues to develop together. You could consider the nucleus six clear top wide receivers, with Boykin and Gunner Olszewski rounding out that depth. But those two embrace the dirty work others may not embrace as much at the top of the depth chart. With Kenny Pickett’s guidance, the room is flowing together seamlessly.

“We are cleaner on our details now; whenever we step out there, there aren’t as many busted plays,” Boykin said. “Honestly, that starts with Kenny down. It’s being vocal, and Mitch is also extremely vocal. He knows what he wants and looks for, and we all bring something different for the room. Gunner and I are the scrappy guys and do the jobs that nobody else wants to do. But we love doing that. And obviously, the four other guys have huge playmakers and huge talent.”

I keep coming across it, but Boykin said that Allen Robinson II is the veteran who made a difference in that room on the details. It’s unsurprising, but the communication and savvy Robinson brings to the room has helped them grow as a unit.


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