The Steelers took the field against the Seattle Seahawks and in Saint Vincent throughout the week at Steelers camp. This was the most important week of them all since Pittsburgh finally played a live game against another team. So, who came out of the week with a better outlook than before?
Nick Farabaugh of Steelers Now breaks down who put themselves in the right position heading into the final week of training camp, and who needs to get a little push heading into next week’s action against Jacksonville.
You know, I could really put all three quarterbacks in this ranking in different spots, but that room as a whole came through strong this week. The quarterback competition has only heated up as training camp has continued onwards, and these quarterbacks seem to be coming out for the better on it.
Mitch Trubisky’s weeks may have had their valleys but his performance against the Seahawks was extremely encouraging. He looked confident, made plays with his legs, and was in a rhythm all evening. There have been enough wow moments throughout training camp for this team to know what Trubisky can be at his best. Saturday was close to that, as Trubisky was impressive with an average depth of target over 13 yards. That is a win.
Mason Rudolph gets too much flak for what he has done in this training camp. In the first preseason game, there was the errant throw to Conner Heyward that was scrutinized. However, throughout the week and outside of that play, Rudolph was steady and calm. The Steelers know what they have in Rudolph, but there is value in that comfort. He is proving he is worthy of that comfort.
Meanwhile, Kenny Pickett needs no introduction. The rookie has improved every week he has been in Latrobe and played inspired football on Saturday. He did not take many chances in the game, but was on time, made the right reads, and was generally accurate. Pickett put on a showcase on Wednesday with some of the most impressive throws of training camp downfield. All of it puts together makes him a winner, too.
McFarland has been someone who simply has flown under the radar to an egregious degree. Each day at training camp, it was McFarland who put together solid day after day. The speedy Maryland product might finally be turning the corner on something, that is the hope. He has contributed in more than one way throughout the entirety of training camp. Then, in the game, McFarland showcased his vision, toughness, and elusiveness. To say the least, McFarland is playing his way onto the team.
Another big winner has to be Jaylen Warren out of the backfield. If it was not for everything that George Pickens is doing, Warren would be the talk of the town. Instead, he is just taking a slight backseat. However, in practice and in the game, Warren played at a high level. He is a multi-faceted running back who has proven to be a capable pass catcher and pass protector. If he can clean up the fumbling issues, Warren has a good chance to make the roster.
No one is talking much about the Steelers’ starting center, but Mason Cole has put together a really solid week of practice. His hand usage has improved each and every week. That correlates perfectly with his win total in the one-on-ones going straight up on a chart. Even against the Seahawks, Cole was solid, clearing lanes in the run game and handling Seattle’s powerful rushers on the interior. The offensive line has been a bit of a jumbled mess to this point, but Cole has shown his worth in the past week.
When opportunity knocks in the NFL, players simply need to kick the door in. Steelers wide receiver Miles Boykin has done that time and time again. When Anthony Miller and Calvin Austin III get injured, it was Boykin who stepped up to make his name known. That included a strong special teams performance where Boykin forced a fumble and registered another tackle. The big-bodied receiver out of Notre Dame is playing himself right onto the roster with days like that.
Now the players who haven’t done enough to rise above the competition.
Steelers Inside Linebackers
The entire unit, minus Myles Jack, deserves to be on this list as players that need to show a little something in the future. Devin Bush did not impress during the week or against the Seahawks. Robert Spillane has moments where he flashes, but in coverage, he still can not be trusted with consistency. Behind that, Mark Robinson and Buddy Johnson are roller coasters who have great flashes, but also some head-scratching moments. All in total, the Steelers’ inside linebackers surrendered two touchdowns, 82 yards, and three first downs in coverage on Saturday according to PFF. That’s just not good enough.
The defensive line goes in tandem with the linebackers, and while many of the top contributors did not play for the Steelers on Saturday, Chris Wormley did. It was not his best showing, as Wormley was washed out of his gap more than a few times in run defense. The Steelers surrendered 6.1 yards per carry to the Seahawks on the ground and Wormley’s performance in the trenches did not help that in any manner. He is a capable veteran who needs to have a bounce-back week with the regular season upcoming in just a little bit under a month.
Boykin took advantage of what he was given the opportunity, but Cody White was mostly quiet. If White wants to make the 53-man roster again, he needed to make more noise than he did on Saturday. That includes special teams, where White was called for an illegal double-team block on the opening kickoff. Boykin outclassed White in many ways during the week, and that allowed Boykin to secure a spot while White is more than likely looking at a practice squad spot as things stand.
With Kevin Dotson injured, it was Kendrick Green’s opportunity to prove he could secure the starting left guard spot for the Steelers. Still, many of the same issues that plagued Green at center showcased themselves at left guard, as his hand placement was all over the place. Green often gets too wide with his hands and can be caught overextending due to his lack of length. It often allows defensive lineman to push right into his chest and push him back. There was plenty of that from Green on Saturday. He is better than last year, but his hand usage still needs to improve. Over the next few weeks, his practices and games will be very telling as to where he is right now.
Justin Layne simply has to show something in this preseason. He has not had a particularly good training camp while Chris Steele has surged his way up to challenge him. While James Pierre has distanced himself from Layne, there is still plenty of uncertainty around Layne’s roster spot. Whether it is on special teams or on defense, Layne needs to create some splash sooner rather than later. If he does not, there is always the possibility that he could be on the outside looking in on the roster by the end of training camp.