Standouts from Steelers training camp so far

As the Pittsburgh Steelers continue through their second week of training camp at Saint Vincent’s College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, there are several players – and storylines – which are starting to steal the spotlight at camp.

Here are some of the observations that I made while out in Latrobe and stay tuned as I make some more here, and on our SCU Podcast.

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Kenny Pickett entered camp as the Steelers starter. Last season, as a rookie, Pickett wasn’t earning the first-team reps, and there was a defined pecking order of plays spread among a three-way quarterback competition.

This year, Pickett is taking most of the plays. Even to the casual observer, it’s clear that he is more than capable of being the Steelers franchise quarterback, with accurate throws and anticipate that are way ahead of his year-two curve.

Simply stated, Pickett looks the part.

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Pickens vs. Porter

If you’re on social media, you have no doubt seen video of either second-year Steelers WR George Pickens or rookie CB Joey Porter Jr. (I’m not sure how, since staff at camp has been especially keen on making sure no one records during camp!)

Regardless, both players have been making plays, with a good portion of them being in matchups against one another.

Pickens has made the impossible seem commonplace, akin to a certain receiver who was on the roster five years ago. (That would be Antonio Brown.) Porter, on the other hand, should be a pushover as a new player: he’s anything but, getting in Pickens face and showing he belongs on this stage.

The scary thing is how good Pickens is and how Porter is keeping pace. Pittsburgh could have a new WR1 and CB1 before 2023 is over. That’s how good both players have looked competing against one another thus far, yet that will all depend on Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who has acknowledged cornerback as the toughest position to transition to the pros from college.

Tomlin, a former defensive backs guru in his hey day, has show reluctance in the past to start rookies, especially those on defense. There have been exceptions, such as T.J. Watt, so if Porter continues on his early pace, he’ll help make the Week 1 decision easier on his coach.

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Inside Linebackers

With good reason, every Steelers fan should have some concerns about a new inside linebacker joining the ranks. Each season, there’s promise of the “next guy” who might replace Ryan Shazier. And each year we keep waiting.

Now there may be more than one suitor.

Cole Holcomb looks like the real deal early in camp. The Commanders’ defensive captain last season is a three-down off-ball linebacker who is calling the plays in the huddle.

But he’s not alone, as the Steelers signed veteran linebacker Kwon Alexander over the weekend. Alexander jumped right into the second team as their play caller.

Both men are speedy and physical – and it’s a strong possibility that each gets a strong amount of playing time in-season. Stay tuned.

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Mount Washington

It must be seen to be believed, but third-round draft pick Darnell Washington really is a blocking tight end with major upside – and massive size.

While the 6-7 264 lbs. Washington is roughly the same specifications as Zach Gentry (who is 6-8 265 lbs.) the rookie carries his weight in an entirely different manner and looks like a man amongst boys.

First Washington held off T.J. Watt on multiple pass rushing efforts during padded practices. Then, Washington hauled in back-to-back receptions, the second of which saw him bull into the endzone for a touchdown during a Mitch Trubisky led two-minute drill.

While there’s plenty of hype around the earlier picks, Washington is going to make it difficult for coaches to leave him observing from the sidelines for long.

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