Steelers camp: Who’s hot, who’s not, who’s getting a shot
As the Steelers depart Saint Vincent for the preseason opener Thursday in Philadelphia, here is a look at who’s hot, who’s not and who’s getting a shot to make an impression on the coaching staff.
Terrell Edmunds: The rookie first-rounder took advantage of Morgan Burnett’s absence at strong safety early in camp by making play after play with the first team. Burnett’s return has eased Edmunds back onto the second team, but he has taken plenty of reps in sub-packages and has continued to impress. Edmunds figures to get a long look in the preseason, starting with the opener against the defending champions.
James Conner: Le’Veon who? Just kidding. Bell is in no danger of losing his starting job whenever he decides to rejoin the team. Conner, though, has done nothing to hurt his stock. He has been running with purpose and flashing more quickness than the 2017 training camp when he was slowed by hamstring problems. A good showing against the Eagles will help cement his role as the No. 2 back.
Jon Bostic: Tyler Matakevich opened training camp as the starter, raising questions about whether Bostic was having difficulty picking up the nuances of Keith Butler’s defense. No more. A week into camp, and Bostic started taking snaps with the first team. He’s been a fixture there in recent days, and the job could be his to lose.
Vance McDonald: It’s hard to make an impression when you’re not even on the field. McDonald’s absence has increased playing time for Jesse James and Xavier Grimble, but his first camp with the Steelers was supposed to provide him more stability in the offense. His foot injury is the latest in a series of setbacks since he joined the team 11-plus months ago.
T.J. Watt: See McDonald. An injured hamstring has made the 2017 first-round pick a nonfactor in camp. Combined with Bud Dupree’s concussion, the Steelers haven’t gotten a true idea whether their starting outside linebackers can adapt to the switch they made in organized team activities.
Cameron Sutton: Expectations were that the second-year corner would push Artie Burns for a starting job in camp. That still might happen, but Sutton hasn’t done much to stand out. He’s been working on the outside, in the slot and in the dollar defensive package with various units. Maybe it’s too much on his plate at this stage of camp.
Who’s getting a shot
Matthew Thomas: With the focus centering on whether Bostic or Matakevich will start at inside linebacker next to Vince Williams, the undrafted free agent from Florida State has been making an early case that he belongs on the 53-man roster. Strong play in the preseason opener will be a step toward earning a job and making everyone forget the Steelers ignored the position in the draft.
Ola Adeniyi: The ranks at outside linebacker have thinned because of injuries to T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree and Keion Adams, allowing the undrafted free agent from Toledo to take some meaningful reps in practice. Adeniyi, too, was injured early in camp but has shown some skills shedding blockers.
Chuks Okorafor: Expect the third-round draft pick who turns 21 on Wednesday to enter the game early – or perhaps even start if Alejandro Villanueva or Marcus Gilbert is rested. Okorafor will get every chance to show he can be the swing tackle in the preseason so look for him to log plenty of snaps.
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at [email protected] or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.