Notes From First Week of Steelers' Camp
Posted Aug 04, 2009 8:12PM By JJ Cooper (RSS feed)
The NFL may be worrying about Twitter and most NFL teams treat the simplest news that is bound to get out as if it's a state secret, but with open practices and quality reporters, it's pretty easy to get a good idea of what's going on at training camp.
Between Jim Wexell's tweeting and posts at Steel City Insider, vrabinec's incredibly detailed posts over at draftsteel.com and the rest of the in-person rundowns over at SteelerFury.com and Behind The Steel Curtain, there's a heck of a lot of good information out there.
Here's a summary of some notes culled from the first-person reports.• If there is a undrafted rookie with an inside track on a roster spot, it looks to be offensive lineman Ramon Foster. The Tennessee Volunteer has shown solid strength and pretty good technique. On the other hand, rookie third-round pick Kraig Urbik hasn't looked particularly impressive, as multiple practice observers have said that he's struggled with bull rushes and has appeared to be a ways from being able to compete for a starting job. Now the Steelers have yet to play an actual game, and rookies can make big strides from the start of camp to the end, but the summer prevailing wisdom that Urbik would be starting by early in the season seems to be a unfulfilled wish. Speaking of rookie linemen that got plenty of post-draft hype, center A.Q. Shipley seems to be trailing Doug Legursky (who Jim Wexell says reminds him of a young Hank Fraley) in the battle to be the backup center. And backup left tackle Tony Hills is apparently still a long way away from helping out.
• Ziggy Hood has lived up to every hope the Steelers could have for a young defensive linemen. It's hard for a rookie defensive end to make an instinct impact in Dick LeBeau's defense, but Hood seems to be showing the power and motor that gives him a chance to be something special down the road. As Aaron Smith told Jim Wexell: "He's going to be a good one."
• Seventh-round pick David Johnson (pictured above) isn't an exceptional athlete, but it looks like the tight end can block in individual drills and scrimmages. That's good because the thing the Steelers need in a third tight end more than anything. Backup tight end Matt Spaeth can catch a little bit, but he's not much of a blocker, which was apparent especially in goal line situations. If Johnson can drive some linebackers or defensive ends off the ball, he could play his way into a roster spot.
• Frank "The Tank" Summers hasn't shown himself to be the physical bruiser yet that the Steelers are hoping for in a power back. He needs to run behind his pads, which hopefully is something he'll learn after James Harrison lights him up a couple a times.
• Limas Sweed has apparently looked good in camp, which is good news for him because rookie Mike Wallace is showing blazing speed and a good set of hands that could eventually earn him a larger role if Sweed kept battling the dropsies. The thought of Wallace splitting zone defenses in the same way that Nate Washington did last year has to make Bruce Arians smile.
• Starting guard Darnell Stapleton's knee injury could be bad--Jim Wexell's tweet today says that when Stapleton was asked if he would miss the season he answered "I don't know." If Stapleton is seriously injured, it looks like Trai Essex will replace him. That's bad news because unless Essex becomes a much more physical player, he lacks the functional strength to be a solid run blocker, but he's also the Steelers only veteran backup at tackle. Maybe Jason Capizzi can step up and fill that role, but if not, if Essex starts at guard the Steelers have to shuffle the entire offensive line in case of an injury.