Steelers training camp: Biggest notes from recent practices

Steelers training camp has helped us gain some insight. Here are some of biggest notes after being on hand for practices at Saint Vincent College.

With the exception of 2020 (when no training camps were open to the public due to COVID-19), I have been going to Steelers training camp for at least a few days of practice for eight consecutive years. There’s something about being there in person that gives you a very good feel for who’s performing well.

Over the past few days, there have certainly been players who have stood out in a positive light as well as some who have really underwhelmed. I didn’t notice anything too egregious during practice outside of a few very ugly reps from backup offensive tackle, Chaz Green. However, practices left a lot to be desired — particularly when it comes to quarterback play.

There are many players I plan to expand on from my notes at Steelers training camp, but here were some of the biggest (and perhaps most important) things that stood out to me during my time in Latrobe:

George Pickens looks the part

I know that it seems like fans are already putting George Pickens on a pedestal, and many of them are. But this kid really does look the part. Pickens hasn’t been perfect. I noticed at least two concentration drops over the past few practices. However, he has some excellent traits that could help him develop into a star in this league.

Pickens looks remarkably smooth for a 6’3 1/4” receiver. He effortlessly plucks the ball out of the air after flashing late hands. His catch-radius and natural football ability make him nearly impossible to defend in WR vs DB drills. Pickens needs refinement, but it’s looking like he could have a sizable role on Steelers offense from the gate.

No Steelers QB looks particularly good

This one hurts because the quarterback position is so important. I really was hoping to come away from Steelers training camp impressed by the quarterback play. I was not.

What’s worse is that Pittsburgh doesn’t even have a clear front-runner for the job to begin the season. While many suspect this will go to Mitch Trubisky, I actually think he has been the worst of the three to begin the week.

I knew that it wasn’t going to be a good sign if Mason Rudolph looked like the best of the group in camp, and so far, that appears to be the case. There is still plenty of time for Trubisky and Kenny Pickett to improve, but I’m not satisfied with what I’ve seen so far.

Ahkello Witherspoon has been a cut above the rest at CB

Something that continued to jump out at me as I watched Steelers training camp practices was how good Ahkello Witherspoon looked compared to his peers. This isn’t a slight to Cameron Sutton or the rest of the guys in the group, but Witherspoon appears to be picking up where he left off late in the 2021 season.

Witherspoon uses his speed and length to his advantage. Even on a few players where George Pickens won late in the rep, Witherspoon was on his hip. The veteran cornerback also had a few nice pass deflections.

It’s worth noting that newcomer, Levi Wallace, hasn’t been practicing as he nurses an injury, and Sutton recently went down with what has been labeled as a lower-body injury. Still, I think it was pretty easy to see that Witherspoon was the best CB of the group.

Kenny Pickett is holding the ball way too long

This was one of my biggest knocks on Kenny Pickett entering the NFL Draft this year. During his final season at Pitt, Pickett was aided by an offensive line that allowed him ample time to throw the football play after play. In fact, Pickett had one of the longest average time-to-throw of any QB in the NCAA last year.

So far at Steelers training camp, Pickett is holding onto the ball for far too long. Oftentimes, the team will allow things to play through, but if these were real game scenarios, Pickett would be pummeled far too often.

The rookie quarterback must speed up his processing and start delivering the football on time. I do like the fact that Pickett is looking to make plays, but he’s going to get himself killed if he doesn’t speed things up.

I’m going to take a deeper dive into some of my other observations and notes from Steelers training camp, but these were some of the biggest things that stood out to me over the past few practices.