3 Storylines I'm Watching as Steelers Training Camp Gets Underway

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With the Pittsburgh Steelers returning to Latrobe for Training Camp, here are the Top 3 stories we're keeping an eye on as the summer workouts begin.

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Congratulations football fans!  You've officially made it through the offseason.  Training camp has now begun for all NFL teams, which is one of the first signs that football games are on the horizon.  I wanted to use the start of camp as an opportunity to touch on some of the things I'll be keeping my eye on as the preseason unfolds.

1. Quarterback Battle

The first, and most notable, is the position battle we're going to see at quarterback.  This is the one you'll hear most news/media outlets discussing, and for good reason.  With the retirement of long-time Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the new era for the team's signal-caller has begun.  We saw the team address this with the signing of Mitch Trubisky, formerly of the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills, and the drafting of Pitt's own Kenny Pickett.  Along with Mason Rudolph, the only quarterback left on the roster with any Steelers experience, this trio will be competing all camp long for their respective spots on the depth chart.

Head coach Mike Tomlin expressed on the first day of camp that the current order is Trubisky as the starter, Rudolph as the backup, and Pickett as the 3rd-string quarterback.  He went on to say that this will not be a day-to-day type of competition.  No one play or throw will cause this ordering to fluctuate.  The team looks to be taking the approach of using the entirety of camp to base what the true order of these quarterbacks will be as they head into the regular season.

It makes the most sense for Trubisky to be the starter going into the season unless something crazy happens, such as an injury.  The schedule to start the season for the Steelers is brutal and I find Trubisky the most equipped of this bunch to handle it.  Therefore, I think we see the biggest battle between Rudolph and Pickett to determine who will be backing him up.  

I don't know if the organization truly believes Rudolph is the backup or is stating this initial ordering based on the experience factor, but I believe Pickett will win the backup spot by the end of camp.  A team wouldn't use their first round pick in the draft to take the first quarterback off of the board if they don't think he can at least be the backup in his first season.  Maybe I'm wrong, and Rudolph will prove me as such with his play throughout camp, but we shall see as camp goes on.  Myself, as well as all Steelers fans, will be keeping close tabs on this over the course of training camp.

2. New Backup Running Back

The second storyline I'm going to stay apprised of is another position battle, this time at running back.  Earlier this week, the Steelers signed veteran Jeremy McNichols.  He immediately enters the conversation of who will be the backup to last year's first round selection Najee Harris.  Harris is coming off of a stellar rookie campaign, where he was one of the few consistent bright spots on offense.  However, he took the significant majority of running back snaps and both he and the team are hoping to reduce his workload in his second season.

McNichols will be going up against both Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland in this competition.  Both of these returning Steelers were draft picks that never quite lived up to the expectations the team had when drafting them.  Snell is more of a physical running back, while McFarland is the speedster and unfortunately, we have not really seen either excel in their respective strengths in their brief playing stints.  McNichols falls more in the speedster category, while also being known for his pass-catching abilities.  However, he, like the other two, never lived up to the expectations surrounding him coming out of college either, causing him to bounce around the league.

This competition will most likely come down to who stands out as training camp progresses.  I wouldn't say any of the three really has a firm grip on being the "backup" as camp starts, so it does appear to be a truly open competition.  Harris in an interview yesterday said he felt overworked at times last season and found himself being tired quite a bit while still on the field.  So the team really needs one of these three running backs to take the next step over the course of camp.  

Running backs take a beating in today's game, which is why you see so many teams deploy two and three-running back systems.  The Steelers bucked that trend last year since they lacked a competent backup.  For the team and Harris' sake, it would be a huge benefit to have one, or even two, of these guys impress over the course of the preseason.

3. Devin Bush and Myles Jack

The last storyline I want to keep my eye on as camp goes on is the play of the defense, especially that of Devin Bush and Myles Jack.

A lot of eyeballs will be focused on the play of linebacker Devin Bush heading into the 2022 season.  Bush is coming off a terrible 2021 season, one that saw him garner a lot of media attention for it.  A former first-round selection, Bush now enters the final year of his contract after the Steelers failed to pick up his fifth-year option.  This gives Bush a lot to prove in training camp, wanting to show the team that they made the wrong decision to not pick up the option.  Coming off of an ACL tear two seasons ago, he didn't look anywhere near the type of player he was before the injury, so this year will be crucial to turning things around, both for himself and the Steelers defense as a whole.

Playing alongside Bush will be veteran linebacker Myles Jack, who the Steelers signed in the offseason after playing six seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars.  He, like Bush, is also trying to right the ship following a decline in play with Jacksonville, which ultimately led to him being released.  Some believe the change in scenery can help Jack return to the stout interior linebacker many saw earlier in his career.

Luckily, both will now have the fortune of playing under new linebackers coach Brian Flores.  The former head coach of the Miami Dolphins, Flores has garnered a reputation throughout the league as one of the best defensive minds in the game.  He not only showed that in his years in Miami but also in his many years as a coach of the New England Patriots, under renowned defensive specialist Bill Belichick.  Early in camp, we've already seen both Bush and Jack working off the field with Flores on drills and schemes.  I would not be the least bit surprised to see both players take a jump forward under his tutelage.

With camp only just beginning, we will see plenty of new storylines unfold.  However, these are the three I'm most focused on with the team now officially back in Latrobe.  There will be plenty more to talk about as we get closer to the regular season, but I think at this point we all can just appreciate that football is officially back!