The Steelers just wrapped up their second week of training camp down in Latrobe. Now, with an eye looking toward their first preseason game, which is likely to be a hotly contested game for the Steelers, who are coming out of the second week of training camp as a massive winner?
Last week, I listed Pickens as a winner, and he’s here again. There is no player that has been as consistently dominant in this training camp as Pickens. It is not just the viral contested one-handed grabs he makes. I said it last week, but Pickens has shown the adaptability that the Steelers were really craving by showing his ability to separate. Pickens is getting open down the field and has been able to run a fuller route tree and win on those routes.
He’s not perfect and still needs to polish his field awareness. Pickens has been out of bounds or called for illegal touching at times in this training camp. But I have seen him talking to referees and coaches to fix those little things in the minutiae of the game. His route running appears to be sharper. I’m not sure he’ll ever be an elite separation guy, but better than last year? You can bet on that one. Pickens looks fantastic so far.
From the losers list, last week to the winners list this week. And this one was not hard to see, as the practices without pads distinctly take away what makes Darnell Washington great. The guy is a massive, 6-foot-7 behemoth that blocks like a mack truck. You can just throw the ball up to him in the seam and expect him to bring the ball down. That is becoming increasingly clear. I’m not sure why people want him to be Travis Kelce or something with this crisp route running. He does not need to do that, and that does not make him any worse for wear.
Let Washington block guys in space and kick defensive ends behinds at the point attack. Then, let him run on a vertical plane. Run seams, corners, posts, crossers, and other obvious routes that allow Washington to pop. This is his role in year one, and it is becoming clearer that the Steelers have an idea of what they want out of Washington, to no surprise. The second week of training camp showed just what Washington can be.
The Steelers’ inside linebackers were one of the biggest questions of training camp. But then they signed Kwon Alexander. So far, it’s hard to argue that Alexander is not one of the best players of the week. He jumped right into the program with pads on, and he right away popped out. Alexander has been great in the team run periods. He has proven to be able to shoot gaps violently and stack and shed at the second level.
In coverage, Alexander has competed well in the periods, including a few pass breakups that stick out. Alexander just looks like a player that should be a real boon to this unit and what they bring to the table. It is a committee, and that is fine, and Alexander is a big part of it all.
When I look at under-the-radar guys, I don’t just want to see the flashy parts of the game sticking out. No, I want to see what your niche is and what you can hang your hat on as a player. I can say I know Breiden Fehoko’s niche is in the Steelers’ defense. His a space-eating, double-team defeating nose tackle that harkens back to the late 2000s days of AFC North football. Fehoko brings the juice and in every team run period, he looks the part and stands out in a big way.
No one else on the team brings the type of upside that he does against the run. Adding more onto this, his bull rush appeared quite effective in the one-on-ones this week. Pittsburgh has a deep defensive line, and Fehoko is going to be one of the guys to make the team.
On some days, the Steelers’ offensive line looked like a disheveled mess. But one thing became clear, and it was that Isaac Seumalo was a massive piece to the team’s trench play. He clears running lanes on a variety of blocks, looks good in space, and has been the steadiest pass protector on the entire offensive line. There is very little that Seumalo struggles within the grand scheme of things.
He is proving to be the anchor of this offensive line. That is a good thing, and just what the Steelers brought him in to bring to the offensive line. I am excited to see him in a live, game setting for the first time in a Steelers uniform to really take in all that he can do.