With training camp finally, here, it's time to look at some roster spot battles that will be happening on the Steelers roster. While there will be plenty of battles for starting spots, I wanted to take a look at the players who will be fighting for a spot on the 53-man roster.
Here are some training camp battles to watch on the defensive side of the ball.
Matthew Thomas vs. L.J. Fort
The bottom of the inside linebacker group is a wide-open spot. Given that the Steelers have no top-tier starters within the group, rounding at the depth chart is important. The question at hand is, do the Steelers go with the player they know in LJ Fort, or bet on a high-upside undrafted free agent in Matthew Thomas.
Entering his 4th season with the Steelers, Fort has had a mostly quiet role on the team. He has primarily played on special teams. Though he has flashed the ability to play defense, his role on the team would likely remain has a special teams ace. Matthew Thomas is the opposite side of the coin, given his size and athleticism he is a player who could be seen as a future starter. While he is likely the most athletic inside linebacker on the roster, his inexperience could influence the Steelers to go with the safer option in Fort.
Predicted winner: Matthew Thomas
Keion Adams vs. Farrington Huguenin
The battle for the 4th outside linebacker spot is an odd one. Given the depth, it's clear the Steelers are finished with the OLB rotation scheme they used years ago. Otherwise, they wouldn't have two fairly unknown and inexperienced players fighting for the 4th spot on the depth chart.
Keion Adams appears to be the frontrunner here solely on his pedigree. He was selected in the 7th round of the 2017 draft and unfortunately missed the entirety of the following season due to injury. What Adams does have going for him is his athleticism, which is vital given how often the Steelers have their OLB's drop into coverage.
Farrington Huguenin is also entering his 2nd season with the Steelers, but his edge comes from having participated in training camp, preseason games, and the practice squad. This experience will certainly help Huguenin entering camp. While he doesn't have Adam's athleticism, he is bigger and stronger.
Predicted winner: Keion Adams
Josh Frazier vs Dan McCullers
While this battle won't be sexy, the 6th defensive lineman spot is wide open. On one side you have Dan McCullers. At 6'7, 350 lbs. there's no denying his massive size, but McCullers has never managed to be more than a big body that can't take advantage of his size.
On the other side, you have Josh Frazier, who was selected in the 7th round of the 2018 draft. While not quite as big as McCullers, his 6'3, 320 lb. frame shouldn't be overlooked. Frazier has a lot working in his favor. The Steelers new defensive line coach, Karl Dunbar, coached Frazier at Alabama and surely knows him well. According to interviews, Frazier’s lack of playing time at Alabama wasn't necessarily because of his play, but because circumstance cause him to fall behind players on the depth chart and from there he was stuck.
Predicted winner: Josh Frazier