By Jeremy Hritz
Hall of Fame Weekend is nearly complete, with the final inductions to take place later today, and a few days have passed since the Steelers first preseason contest against the Dallas Cowboys. The team will have 3 more practices, today included, starting at 1:30 PM at Heinz Field, before being off on Wednesday before their second preseason contest on Thursday at 7:30 PM against the Philadelphia Eagles in Philadelphia. It was a majorly busy week for the Steelers this week, so let’s try and recap and catch up everything we missed over the last several days:
Steelers Start Victorius
Last Thursday, the Steelers started the season on a positive note with a 16-3 win against the Cowboys, and several players had positive showings for themselves, including Najee Harris, Alex Highsmith, Pressley Harvin, and others. On the flipside there were players who demonstrated they have much work to do until their roster spot is cemented. This coming Thursday’s contest against the Eagles will be important for those players who underperformed this past week, including Mason Rudolph, Justin Layne, and Ulysses Gilbert III. Additionally, hopefully the much anticipated battle for the #2QB spot can get underway between Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins.
James Washington Wants Traded. I Mean, Nevermind…
Following the HOF Game, Adam Schefter reported that wide receiver James Washington wanted to be traded due to his lack of utilization in the offense. Being that Washington typically does ride in the backseat in the WR room, many jumped on this to be true, and the speculation heated up. However, following Saturday’s practice, Mike Tomlin addressed this specifically and said it was not true. Was he downplaying the issue to avoid locker room controversy? Who knows. But typically, where there is smoke, there is fire, and it will be interesting to see if Washington, is, in fact unloaded for a draft pick or player. He could be solid trade fodder should the Steelers be looking to upgrade their offensive line.
Antoine Brooks, Jr. and Kalen Ballage Hurt
Antoine Brooks, Jr. and Kalen Ballage were both injured in some fashion in the HOF Game and missed practice on Saturday. Both had impressive showings in the opener, and hopefully, their time away from practice is minimal. Ballage has especially looked more than capable as the #2 or 3 RB, and his play is calling into question Bennie Snell’s future with the team.
No Contract, No Practice for TJ Watt
In not a surprising piece of news, defensive coordinator Keith Butler indicated that TJ Watt would not participate in practice until his new contract is finalized. While I believed this would have been completed by now, I cannot envision this going unfinalized for much longer, especially with many players around the league beginning to ink new, record-setting contracts (see Josh Allen).
Justin Houston Almost a Steeler?
Justin Houston, longtime Kansas City Chief, indicated this week after he signed with the Baltimore Ravens, that he was very close to joining the Steelers. He said that decision was determined for him by which scheme was the better fit, which is why he selected Baltimore. From my perspective, the Steelers scored the win here, as Melvin Ingram has more tread left on the tires than Houston, and I expect a more productive year from him than Houston.
Saturday’s Training Camp Practice
The Steelers practiced on Saturday for the first time since their opening preseason game, and Harris got right to work, beating ILB Devin Bush for a long touchdown reception. Pat Freiermuth also returned to action, performing well, as did Eric Ebron giving hope that the PSU product will get snaps this coming Thursday. Per Alex Kozora, Rudolph and UDRFA Lamont Wade both had good days in practice which hopefully can carry over into the next preseason game. The key now as camp moves on is health and avoiding injuries at key positions. Here’s hoping the team can stay healthy.
New Battle for TE3?
Following the preseason game against the Cowboys, Kevin Rader had a nice performance with a physical block in the red area, in addition to a great 15-yard reception. Zach Gentry on the other hand was so-so, which could possibly spell a true competition for the 3rd TE spot. Later this week, I’ll be diving deeper into this possible competition and forecasting who should emerge as the roster spot winner by the end of camp.
Steelers Take Over Canton
It looked like a home game for the Steelers in Canton as several Steelers were inducted in the Hall of Fame, including Donnie Shell, Bill Cowher, and Troy Polamalu. The Terrible Towels were waving and Steelers Nation was alive in all of its magnificence. Just another example of why there truly is no fan base like the black and gold.
Previewing This Week of The Steel Study
Get ready for 5 straight days of Study Sessions, a full-length podcast covering the Steelers vs. Eagles game, the next installment of The Big Ben Project, and my analysis of the battle for TE3. It’s going to be a great week!
As always, thank you for your support of The Steel Study! Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and give the Study a follow on Twitter @SteelStudy. Peace!