Steel City Underground

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt
steelers.com

I recently spent two days at Steelers training camp in Latrobe, PA. Though it’s hard to get a good feel of how each player is doing in just a few short days, there were some things that were rather telling to me.

During my observation, I noticed players who stood out for both good and bad reasons. Here are my camp notes from this past Tuesday and Wednesday of Steelers training camp.

Tyler Matakevich looks fantastic

The rumors about Matakevich are true. To casual fans coming to witness their favorite team practice, number 44 could be mistaken for the leader of their defense and one of the best players on the team.

This seems like a stretch but it’s true. Matakevich could be seen taking command of the huddle and was around the ball on nearly every play.

Talk about a player making the most of every opportunity in the absence of Ryan Shazier. Matakevich was always one of the first to read and diagnose the offense – often blowing up the play for little or no gain. There’s no doubt Dirty Red will be the primary backup to both linebacker positions, but he may also push Vince Williams for play time in the regular season if he keeps this up.

The wide receiving core is a jumbled mess

With the exception of Martavis Bryant who has recently been cleared to participate in all preseason activities, there are only three wide receivers guaranteed to make the Steelers roster: Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Eli Rogers.

The rest is blurry.

Darrius Heyward-Bey has been on the fringe for two years now, while Sammie Coates, Demarcus Ayers, and Justin Hunter (all of which whom were already in question of making the roster), can’t seem to stay on the field.

Cobi Hamilton is likely auditioning for another team.

Martavis’ return will give the Steelers four wide receiver, meaning the door is wide open for two (or maybe even three) wide receivers to step up and prove they are worthy of a roster spot. Right now, it’s really hard to differentiate between them. We’ll no more as the preseason unfolds.

Joshua Dobbs flashes signs of what it takes to be a good quarterback

Dobbs has his down moments. He might check down too soon or make an occasional poor read, but most of the time, Dobbs was very impressive.

In my time at camp, Dobbs demonstrated the ability to make NFL throws and to drive the ball with good velocity to the outside. His pocket awareness has been excellent, and you already know what kind of damage he can cause with his legs.

Dobbs is the player I’m most interested in seeing this preseason. He has all of the tools you could ask for. If he’s able to correct some of the little things, Dobbs could be in for a surprisingly good career.

Mike Hilton is taking advantage of an injury-plagued secondary

Mike Hilton, who was recently signed by the Steelers, is making his name heard. He’s a small cornerback at 5’9” and hailing from Ole Miss, ironically enough. However, the 23-year-old has been turning heads at camp and was one of the players who stood out to me.

Though small, Hilton is a physical player who flashes some ability and ball skills in coverage. On Wednesday, Hilton dropped what would have been a pick-six in team drills, and harassed receivers on his side most of the day.

With Artie Burns, Cameron Sutton, and Senquez Golson dealing with lingering injuries, Hilton is quickly taking advantage of the situation.

It’s hard to get a good feel for this rookie class

Other than watching Joshua Dobbs and T.J. Watt, it’s hard to get a good feel for exactly how this rookie class is doing. JuJu has had some strong performances in camp but has played through some minor injuries, while Cam Sutton, James Conner, and Keion Adams have been all been sidelined for extended periods of time.

Most injuries regarding the Steelers as of now are considered minor, but when players aren’t on the field, it’s impossible to gauge how they are doing. Cam Sutton (hamstring), is one player in particular who is losing out on a major opportunity. With Burns sidelined, Sutton probably had a chance to roll with the first unit defense, but can’t take advantage.

Though we don’t know a lot yet, preseason should give us a better view of the progress these young players are making.





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