Pittsburgh Steelers guard, Ramon Foster, provided the media with a list of names that have stood out during offseason workouts. Those names may surprise you.
People expect Antonio Brown, Cameron Heyward and Ben Roethlisberger to look good as soon as they step on the practice field. These aren’t young athletes looking to perfect their craft, but veterans who have become some of the best at what they do.
What people don’t expect is some of the young guys, or roster fillers to step up when their number is called. It may only be OTAs and Mini Camp, but to shine early leaves your name on the coach’s watchlist moving into Training Camp.
Want to come out of nowhere and make a career for yourself? Pittsburgh is the place to do it. From James Harrison, Antonio Brown, Mike Hilton, Brett Keisel, the list is endless. The Steelers look at talent before anything else, meaning whether you’re a first or a last round pick, you’re given the same chance to prove yourself in this city.
Ramon Foster sees these guys working for their opportunity, everyday. He’s let it be known who’s making noise before, and he’s ready to do it again. He told Steelers media that he’s seen a few guys stand out so far, this offseason.
"“No. 40,” who we all know as Mike Hilton."
"“No 38, the kid from North Carolina Sate.”“He looks well conditioned,” Foster said. “He’s a guy that’s finding the hole and going, he’s fast. He has to work on a few things as far as protections, but he’s looking really good.”“He’s doing more than just run the ball,” Foster said. “Le’Veon (Bell) created the blueprint for this thing. If you’re a young running back that’s coming up, learn how to run the ball and catch the ball.“He’s made two or three combat catches in the end zone, back-shoulder fades and jump-balls where you’re like, ‘this kid’s got something,’ receiver stuff, which is huge. That gives him an opportunity. He’s just so stoic, too. He’ll catch the ball and just go back like it’s work as usual. That’s what you have to appreciate about a young guy like that.”"
"“Another one is (James) Conner,” Foster continued. “Conner is looking really damn good. No. 38 and Conner have both had really good off-seasons.“Another one is Justin Hunter. He’s making plays I didn’t see him make all of last year, for sure. Justin’s looking like a guy, I wouldn’t be surprised if Justin has a really good year this year. Deep balls, high jump-balls, he’s just catching combat catches. Justin is looking really good.”“Justin, No. 38 and Conner have had really good springs. Those three are guys I’m really looking forward to seeing (in training camp), but mostly Justin.”"
Foster gave some names you would expect, and some you wouldn’t. What this says, is a lot actually. For starters, it means that Le’Veon Bell isn’t going to be handed the ball 400 times this season without earning it. No one is looking for him to show up to training camp, but if he starts slow, like last season, James Conner and Jaylen Samuels will be right there to take their shot.
It also means Mike Hilton is going to make this defense very good. The secondary struggled some of last season. But more importantly than the secondary, Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt struggled to find the quarterback.
With Hilton and Cameron Sutton defending the slot, Pittsburgh can utilize their outside linebacker in the pass rush. That gives Dupree and Watt a chance to earn double-digit sacks from both sides, and makes this defense a lot scary for opposing quarterbacks.
Finally, it means this team may be using a lot of wide receivers. JuJu Smith-Schuster and what should be Eli Rogers, will man the slot. They’ll be the two rotating on the inside, with Smith-Schuster taking a majority of the snaps.
On the outside, Antonio Brown and James Washington will get the start. After them, though, Justin Hunter could see himself suiting up for every game. That may not mean he sees the field on the outside 10 times a week, but it could mean he works his way into the circulation. A speedy, tall wideout on the outside. That’s something Ben Roethlisberger loves to see.