Rookie Reports leading into Saturday’s pre-season opener
1. Maurkice Pouncey, 1st round pick, offensive Linemen
Camp Notes: Twelve days into training camp, Maurkice Pouncey is running second team guard and getting plenty of center reps in the past 2-3 practices this week.
It is just a matter of time before Pouncey is running with the first team but the coaching staff will make Pouncey earn a starting spot to the fullest extent. He projects to start at somepoint this season but at this moment is not a lock to be the team’s starting right guard in the season opener on September 12.
One interesting scenario is Pouncey playing a starting role at center this season. The coaching staff has raved about Pouncey’s ability to learn the offense but plugging a rookie into a starting center role is not a top priority after signing Justin Hartwig to a four year deal last year.
Pouncey struggled early on and has come on strong of late which is a good sign heading into the Steelers pre-season opener on Saturday. Pouncey has been extremely good this week in the offensive linemen – defensive linemen 1-on-1 battles.
Pouncey and 2009 1st round pick Ziggy Hood have had plenty of quality 1-on-1 battles this week and Pouncey has been the one player Hood has not been able to beat consistently.
Camp Grade: B+
2. Jason Worilds, 2nd round pick, Outside Linebacker
Camp Notes: Worilds got off to a terrific start but has been hampered by a nagging hamstring injury which has hampered his ability to practice at full strength for over a week.
Excellent skill set and physical traits, extremely quick off the rush. A lock to make the 53-man roster, It is important for Worilds to be healthy and play well in the preseason as he will be battling for one of the top backup outside linebacker spots to open the season.
Contributing on special teams will also be a key factor for Worilds to earn a “hat” on game days.
Camp Grade: C-
3. Emmanuel Sanders, 3rd round pick, Wide Receiver
Camp Notes: Sanders has been one of the Steelers offensive stars in training camp, showing tremendous playmaking ability.
Over the past week, Sanders hasn’t just shined in a practice or two, he has been making big plays in the passing game on a consistent basis. At this early stage, he appears to be farther along than Mike Wallace was at this time, which Wallace reportedly admitted this week.
Sanders also has kick and punt return game capabilities and is expected to be the No. 2 returner against Detroit.
Camp Grade: A
4. Thaddeus Gibson, 4th round pick, Outside Linebacker
Camp Notes: Gibson is another rookie who has made some noise early into camp. Has performed extremely well in the backs-on-backers drill and he’s a player you want to see what he can do in the pre-season.
Has shown some glimpses of being a potential pass rushing specialist down the road and like Worilds will need to make an impact on special teams.
Camp Grade: B-
5. Crezdon Butler, 5th round pick, Cornerback
Camp Notes: Butler caught the eye of the Steelers coaching staff in OTA’s and has done so again in training camp. He’s adapted to the Steelers defense quickly and is making plays in the secondary.
Has shown some playmaking skills and a knack to be around the ball. His playmaking skills are very intriguing but Butler faces a numbers game as Bryant McFadden, Ike Taylor, Keenan Lewis, William Gay and Joe Burnett have a strong hold on the top-5 cornerback spots for now.
Like many of the Steelers rookies, making an impact on special teams will be pivotal for Butler this pre-season.
Camp Grade: B-
6. Stevenson Sylvester, 5th round pick, Inside Linebacker
Camp Notes: Sylvester hasn’t been a standout in camp but has down some good things at the middle linebacker spot. A hard hitter who has good defensive instincts in the run game .
He was drafted as a player that the Steelers felt could have an immediate impact on their coverage teams (Special Teams). For Sylvester to earn a roster spot, that’s the area he’s going to have to star at in the pre-season.
Like fellow rookie Crezdon Butler, Sylvester also faces a numbers game at the middle linebacker spot.
Camp Grade: C
7. Antonio Brown, 6th round pick, Wide Receiver
Camp Notes: Brown has been extremely productive in the passing game. He’s a shifty receiver who runs effective routes for a rookie this early on. Also plays with an edge and battles hard.
Tremendous speed to the outside and creating separation, has dynamic ability in the open field.
In the special teams department has the potential to be a return specialist and will get a strong look this pre-season.
The Steelers are primed to lose a good wide receiver when the rosters are cut down to 53.
At the receiver position, the Steelers normally carry 5 receivers. Mike Wallace, Hines Ward, Antwaan Randle El and Emmanuel Sanders are locks to make the team.
There is some thought that the Steelers didn’t give Arnaz Battle a $975,000 signing bonus to be released, although Brown has outperformed Battle and has a much higher upside.
Battle though is highly regarded for his ability on coverage teams and one of the main reasons he was signed just days into free agency.
Camp Grade: B+
8. Jonathan Dwyer, 6th round pick, Running Back
Camp Notes: Dwyer showed up to camp out of shape and was limited for about a week with a hamstring injury. Never a good sign for a 6th round pick trying earn one of the final running back spots.
However, he still has time to make his mark and needs to show something early on in the pre-season. The Steelers want to give Dwyer a long look and he is expected to have a featured role in Saturday’s game.
Thus far Dwyer has had mixed reviews through almost a full week of practice. He’s had some good moments and some bad ones. He’s physicality though and ability to pick up the blitz has drawn praise from head coach Mike Tomlin this week.
Dwyer, Frank Summers and Ike Redman are believed to be battling for two spots.
Camp Grade: D+
9. Doug Worthington, 7th round pick, Defensive End
Camp Notes: One of the big surprises in camp, Worthington (6-5, 292) has been a standout in 1-on-1 drills along with 2009 1st round pick Ziggy Hood.
Worthington Battles extremely hard but is a longshot to make the roster. Best case scenario from the Steelers standpoint would be able to put Worthington on the practice squad for a year and let him develop. Could be an intriguing player down the road.
Camp Grade: B
Undrafted Rookie to Watch
Offensive guard – Dorian Brooks: Has down some really good things, very mobile, versatile and athletic. Brooks is the Ramon Foster of this years camp. Some believe he’s pushing for a roster spot