By Jeremy Hritz
What a week.
The first installment in OTAs are over, and more storylines are emerging about the Steelers that will remain alive and electric until the conclusion of training camp. The next set of OTAs will occur June 2nd through the 4th, as the team continues to align and come together around their primary goals and objectives for the 2021 season. In reflecting on the past week, here are the biggest stories from OTAs:
From the opening day of OTAs, attendance from the Steelers was outstanding, with big names in the flesh such as Ben Roethlisberger and Cameron Heyward, setting the example for the rookies and letting them know they aren’t too big for these unpadded, contactless sessions. If anything, the excellent participation shows this is a team committed to winning and making every opportunity to improve important and significant.
Aggressively Offensive Offensive Line
There was a lot of talk that focused on the offensive line and the nastiness and physicality being emphasized by new OL coach, Adrian Klemm. This was not a central tenet of the offense in past seasons, so it has been refreshing to hear the linemen discuss the outcome of dominating and punishing the opponent in front of them each and every play. If this truly can be a philosophy that is manifested in the OL, it will go a long way in rejuvenating the offensive line.
Kevin Dotson, The New OL Leader?
Speaking of the offensive line, Kevin Dotson stood out in the media this week, and his words and presence had leadership all over them. He seems to have embraced the violent physicality being pushed by Klemm and has taken it upon himself to be accountable for improving and being effective from the first to final snap. If Dotson can make the leap in year two, he can help stabilize and OL that was a major weakness of the team in 2020.
Big Ben Beat Down
The NFL has a new whipping boy, and unfairly his name is Ben Roethlisberger. Pro Football Focus ripped Ben’s arm strength twice this week with snarky social media posts that drew the ire of fans and players, former and current. It is worth noting, Big Ben plays best with a chip on his shoulder, and the naysayers should be prepared to eat some crow. You can never count #7 out. Ever.
Devin Bush and Zach Banner returned to the field after ACL tears last season, providing optimism that their injuries from 2020 are behind them, and that they are progressing back into healthy form for the upcoming season. That’s good news, as both are critical to the team’s plans in 2021.
Wide Receivers Invisible
No Juju? No Diontae, Chase, or James??? What’s up with that? Curious the receivers were missing, and while not a big deal, should a trend develop, it would be something worth paying attention to moving forward.
Najee the Great
Dude is something special. The media loves him, local and national. He is under a significant amount of pressure to produce, and that’s OK. With a nonexistent running game last season, there is no reason to believe the Steelers won’t be significantly better in 2021 due to Harris. The first looks at the rookie phenom in OTAs show a nimble, swift, and natural runner poised for big things. This could be the start of something massive, and Harris can be a Pittsburgh folk hero, if he can live up to the expectations in front of him. And there’s no reason to believe he can’t do it.
Training Camp Countdown!!!
The Steelers are eligible to report to camp on July 21st since they play in the first Preseason game. For you counters out there like me, that’s only 53 days away. Here we go!!!