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Training Camp Takeaways: Eric Ebron Continues to Impress

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Eric Ebron is standing out in a very good way at training camp thus far. James Daniel noted on Tuesday that Ebron “had made a few splash plays” already in camp, and he continued that on Wednesday, not even a day after being called the “missing link” to the offense by fellow tight end Vance McDonald.

On Wednesday, Ebron skied over All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to make an impressive contested catch. Later in the team sessions, Ebron laid out to make a fantastic diving catch for a touchdown. Those were the key two plays Ebron flashed in the passing game. Daniel praised Ebron’s receiving skillset.

“Ebron’s calling card for the time he’s been in the League is pass-catching ability, and he’s got some quickness, some speed, route-running stuff that a lot of guys don’t have,” Daniel said.

With the team raving about the energy he brings to the table as well, Ebron’s stock is shooting through the roof.

Ryan Switzer is Turning Heads at Camp

After much criticism throughout a lackluster 2019, Ryan Switzer showed up to training camp looked more shredded than ever before. He was battling for a roster spot, and showing up in the best shape of his life is a good way to impress the coaches. Even with his close relationship with Ben Roethlisberger, Switzer had to prove himself. As the only pure slot on the roster, Switzer has a unique skill set, which Tomlin acknowledged on Wednesday.

“He’s a guy that understands that’s a niche for him,” Tomlin said. “He embraces the detail required to be successful in there. He will continue to carve out his role in this process like everybody else is, but he does bring that unique experience to that position specifically.” 

Switzer made a leaping grab over Mike Hilton on Tuesday for a touchdown, and caught yet another touchdown Wednesday in the two-minute team session along the sideline. It was a broken play by Roethlisberger, and Switzer worked the scramble drill with him to connect for the touchdown. Switzer also caught a key pass on a 3rd and 12 play to convert for a first down in the same two-minute drill session. Truth be told, it seems Switzer is on a mission.

“I have to prove No. 7 (Ben Roethlisberger) right. I have to prove a lot of people right,” Switzer said. That’s what I’ve been focused on. I haven’t focused on the people I’m trying to prove wrong. I’m trying to prove Coach Tomlin and Mr. Colbert and Mr. Rooney right.”

It seems Switzer is making a very strong case to make the 53-man roster at this point as the slot specific receiver on the team.

Inside backers flash in coverage

It was a big day on Wednesday for the inside linebackers, as all of the big three made plays that stood out. Devin Bush made a fantastic play on Anthony McFarland. Bush kept pace with McFarland all the way down the field on a deep pass and made a play in the end zone to bat the ball away. In the team sessions, Bush batted yet another ball away from McFarland.

Vince Williams had a standout rep, as he stayed patient and knocked the ball away from Kerrith Whyte in the linebacker-running back coverage drill. Ulysees GIlbert III continues to delight in camp as he registered a few pass breakups on the day both in the drills and in the team session.

For a unit with some depth concerns, the flashes from all three linebackers atop the depth chart are promising.

Mason Rudolph Struggles

While Roethlisberger continues to get lots of praise at training camp, his backup, Mason Rudolph, struggled on Wednesday. In the no-huddle drill, Rudolph did not complete a single pass. After that, he switched to the two-minute drill, where errant passes and a drop hurt the drive from even getting off the ground.

Rudolph should have been intercepted on a few passes but was not due to bad hands from defenders or good defense from the wide receivers to prevent the interceptions.

Rudolph did throw a nice pass to Deon Cain, but Cain fell before catching it. Rudolph also connected with Chase Claypool for a touchdown on the day. Regardless, it would be better if there were rave reviews coming out of camp about Rudolph, not ones that report he is struggling.

Zach Banner is Making His Case

Banner is in fierce competition with Chuks Okorafor for the starting right tackle spot. While Okorafor saw the first-team reps on Wednesday, Banner has shown out the past two days in an effort to prove he is worthy.

On Tuesday, Banner faced Bud Dupree twice and they split the reps against each other, with Banner impressing coaches. In the one-on-one pass-rush drills, everyone that Banner faced was stymied, including seventh-round rookie Carlos Davis. It was an impressive showing for Banner.

On Wednesday, Banner was light on his feet and looked quick. After transforming his body over the past two years, Banner is in better shape than ever before. Banner even got some work in on the Juggs machine prior to practice.

As the competition develops, if Banner continues to impress, he may force himself into the starting spot.

Snell Down 12

Since reporting to Pittsburgh, it has been noticeable that Benny Snell appeared far slimmer than the 2019 season. On Wednesday, Snell confirmed that he had shed weight. In 2019, Snell weighed 224 pounds but said he has now lost 12 pounds and weighs 212 pounds.

Despite that, Snell did it all on his own, which earned the praise of Mike Tomlin. Snell clarified the reasons as to why he and the coaching staff decided he follow the same route that Le’Veon Bell, James Conner, and Jaylen Samuels took.

“The Steelers gave me a plan,” Snell said. “I stuck to it, and I feel like it will help me a ton going into this year with my lateral quickness, my speed, me taking care of my body, the hits I can take, etc.”

Snell is looking to showcase his new athletic skills to become a more dynamic runner. Last year, he was used as a between the tackles, short-yardage power back. In 2020, he will want to prove he has the explosiveness to win outside the tackles, thus earning him more snaps as a scheme diverse runner.

Punters Hard to Evaluate

Special teams are often overlooked but are a key part of the team. Nothing has been truer for the under the radar punter competition between Jordan Berry and newcomer Corliss Waitman out of South Alabama. Despite the tough challenges, Mike Tomlin and Danny Smith both seem comfortable they will be able to sort it out and create a competitive environment for the competition.

“There’s a lot of those battles in terms of the division of labor that’s worrisome in this environment,” Tomlin said. “We will push through it. We will create a competitive environment.”

Waitman comes off a college career of averaging 42.7 yards per punt. Berry is the incumbent and experienced veteran, however. Still, Smith says the Steelers will forge ahead.

“We have time,” Smith said. “We put them in different situations. I’m going to tell you the truth, and I think it’s going to happen a lot throughout our league, when we all open up and there are 16 games being played the first week of the NFL season there are going to be guys out there on every team that we are all going to see what they can do under pressure for the first time in this environment that we’re in.”

How the punting competition works out will be anyone’s guess given the current conditions, but Berry, with experience, would likely be the favorite at this point.

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