With Pittsburgh Steelers coaching camp beginning this week, we must always not less than get solutions to lots of the questions surrounding the 2023 Steelers and the way they’ll open the season. With loads of query marks on offense, listed here are 5 issues we wish to find out about Pittsburgh’s offense by the tip of coaching camp.
Who’s the workforce’s RB3?
We all know Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren are the workforce’s two foremost working backs, however at this level the race for RB3 is huge open. Anthony McFarland Jr., Jason Huntley and rookies Alonzo Graham and Darius Hagans are presently competing, and whereas McFarland has essentially the most expertise, his work on particular groups thus far has been lackluster.
This opens the door for one of many Grahams, Hagans or Huntleys to say the job. Each Huntley and McFarland have returning NFL expertise, however outdoors of their 11 mixed kick returns, neither has in depth particular groups expertise. Benny Snell Jr. stays a free agent, and given his work on particular groups, I feel he nonetheless has an out of doors plan of a gathering with the workforce if they don’t seem to be pleased with what’s presently on the roster.
However by the tip of camp, we’ll know who deserves the job and who will earn it. It is some of the underrated positional battles contemplating Snell’s significance to the particular groups unit, and Graham and Hagans are thrilling gamers to observe. It will likely be fascinating to see if Pittsburgh goes with the familiarity within the type of McFarland and even Huntley, who spent a lot of final season on the apply squad, or in the event that they take a flyer on one of many rookies.
Will Broderick Jones supplant Dan Moore Jr. at left deal with?
That is in all probability the largest query surrounding the Pittsburgh assault. The workforce traded to pick out Broderick Jones in hopes he would change into Pittsburgh’s left deal with of the long run. The one query is whether or not the long run begins in 2023 or 2024.
Jones is uncooked, particularly in move blocking, together with his passing approach being one among his greatest weaknesses. However he could possibly be an instantaneous influence contributor within the working recreation together with his measurement, athleticism and skill to maneuver. Working with Pat Meyer ought to assist Jones hone his approach, nevertheless it will not be simple to beat Moore, who has proven plenty of progress since being chosen within the 4th spherical of the 2021 NFL Draft.
If Jones can not win the job, his position for 2023 is unsure. He is unlikely to slide in because the workforce’s swing deal with as he would not have a lot work on the fitting flank, so failing to earn the beginning place might result in him changing into recreation day inactive firstly of the season.
I feel Jones will finally beat Moore, however there is a good likelihood he will not, and it’ll be the Steelers’ greatest battle for place.
What would be the influence of Darnell Washington?
Washington was the workforce’s third-round decide within the 2023 NFL Draft after dropping to the board as a consequence of medical points. Washington was Georgia’s second tight finish choice behind Brock Bowers, however his run blocking made him an thrilling selection for Pittsburgh.
However Washington continues to be uncooked as a move receiver and he’ll have to indicate he can do sufficient as a blocker to outrank Zach Gentry on the depth chart. Connor Heyward might additionally play a job, though he’s more likely to play fullback and will line up extra within the backfield.
Nonetheless, there’s plenty of competitors for Washington, and together with his brutality he’ll need to show to the teaching employees he could make an influence in Week 1 to get himself a helmet on recreation days. I feel Washington has a ton of upside, however his influence throughout his rookie season is perhaps minimal.
After all, Washington might additionally come out and impress and change into a key run blocker for a workforce that wishes to depend on the run. By the tip of coaching camp, we must always know what sort of position he’ll play firstly of the season.
How a lot will Calvin Austin III see the sector?
Austin is predicted to work within the slot with Allen Robinson II, and after lacking his complete rookie season, there’s loads of pleasure about Austin who might carry on offense. However with Robinson possible the starter within the slot, one wonders how properly Austin will see the sector.
Pittsburgh will clearly rotate them each, however I wish to know the way a lot I wish to know by the tip of camp. It could possibly be a 50/50 cut up, or moderately a 60-40 or 65-35 cut up in favor of Robinson. Robinson suffered from an harm and wasn’t nice final season, but when he reveals any indicators of rebounding, he might knock Austin off a number of the slot.
Austin goes to need to work onerous to carry down Robinson’s complete, however I am fairly assured he’ll have an effect this 12 months. Pace kills, and Austin has pace aplenty, and I feel he might assist Pittsburgh remedy its explosive play downside. Robinson and Austin ought to be huge additions to Pittsburgh’s passing offense, which ought to present enchancment from final 12 months.
Who would be the backup middle?
Proper now Kendrick Inexperienced, Ryan McCollum and Spencer Anderson are all competing to be the man behind Mason Cole.
Inexperienced was Pittsburgh’s beginning middle in 2021, which was a catastrophe, earlier than transferring to protect final 12 months the place he did not play an everyday season recreation. Anderson is a flexible piece from Maryland who the workforce drafted within the seventh spherical of the 2023 NFL Draft, whereas McCollum spent most of final 12 months on the apply squad however has NFL expertise with the Detroit Lions.
It is an unstable place, and if something had been to occur to Cole to trigger him to overlook time, the shortage of strong choices within the center is actually troubling. Another choice could possibly be Nate Herbig, who has 49 profession snaps at middle and is one of the best pure offensive lineman among the many group of men who could possibly be within the working for the position.
That is one other underrated positional battle and one that would have main implications ought to Cole run out of time.