PITTSBURGH — The Steelers will finally put on the pads Wednesday, but from the permissible to report portion of practice, there were some key takeaways that could be seen through even the players just wearing their shorts.
What are some of those key takeaways as the Steelers take the next step in training camp?
Devin Bush Looks Really Good
In modern times, returning from an ACL tear is not the death sentence it once was. However, it still can negatively affect the athleticism from athletes even as modern medicine has advanced.
Luckily for Devin Bush, that is far from the case. In fact, he looks like he has not missed a beat. Bush was flying around the football field and making sharp cuts. That indicates his rehab has gone well and he looks to not have any confidence issues, either. So far, so good for the third year linebacker.
Mark Gilbert Makes An Impression
Special teams are the hidden value of the team, as Mike Tomlin likes to say. For undrafted free agents especially, special teams are the way to the roster as they try to claw their way into a bigger role.
Undrafted free agent cornerback Mark Gilbert out of Duke seems to be taking that to heart. During gunner drills, Gilbert was buzzing around the field and looked smooth and experienced. For a guy with such limited special teams experience, that’s can only be a good thing.
Tre Norwood Looks Smooth
One thing that can be discerned even from watching players in shorts is hip fluidity. Some guys just look smoother than others do on the football field, that’s a natural thing. Seventh-Round rookie Tre Norwood, at the very least, has that going for him.
The way he gets in and out of his transitions is marvelous and he can cover some serious ground even in drills. Outside of Minkah Fitzpatrick, Norwood arguably covers the most ground on the back half of that defense. For that reason, it is little surprise that the Steelers would want Norwood to be their backup free safety in 2021.
Ray-Ray McCloud Still Looks Like the Most Natural Punt Returner
The Steelers will always bring in competition at the return spots and that is no surprise given every team in the NFL does it. Ray-Ray McCloud was solid as a returner last year, but his job is by no means safe.
Still, he appeared to be the most natural of all the returners who were back to field punts on Tuesday. McCloud’s ability to get seamlessly under the ball, track it properly, and then accelerate straight out of the catch is thus far unmatched on the team.
The Running Back Room is Odd
The Steelers running backs are an odd bunch. Najee Harris is who he is. Essentially, the Steelers have someone who looks pretty much head and shoulders above everybody else. Then, there’s Anthony McFarland, who still looks lighting fast and explosive. However, everything for him has to translate to pads and on the field.
Still, outside of those two who show promise, there is really not much here to write home about. Everyone else is who they already are, and while someone like Kalen Ballage is interesting, no one really catches the eye of the beholder in that room aside from Harris and the athletic glimpses of McFarland.