3 underdogs who look like early favorites for roster spots at Steelers training camp

  • Two unexpected defensive backs earn first-team reps
  • A young linebacker sees work over the veterans

Steelers, Steelers training camp
Steelers, Steelers training camp / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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Every year, there always seems to be an underdog player or two who really turn heads at Steelers training camp. While the James Harrison-type success stories are almost non-existent, Pittsburgh occasionally finds a few players who seem to come out of nowhere.

Last year, Jaylen Warren was the talk of the town. The former Oklahoma State running back made his presence felt from Day 1. Eventually, he went from being an undrafted free agent with no job security to being the clear-cut number-two running back on the team.

While we certainly aren't going to guarantee another success story like that in 2023, there are three young underdogs on the Steelers 90-man roster who are already turning heads very early in Latrobe. These early Steelers training camp standouts may ultimately be favorited above their piers to land spots near the bottom of the 53-man roster.

CB Duke Dawson

I don't think anyone would have predicted that Duke Dawson would be taking first-team reps at cornerback for the Pittsburgh Steelers from Day 1 of practice. All summer, Dawson felt like a name that would be thrown into the mix of third-string defensive backs during team sessions in 11-on-11 drills, but this wasn't the case.

Instead, Dawson was the starting nickel cornerback to begin training camp. This obviously doesn't mean that his role is secure, but the coaching staff apparently liked him enough to give him the first crack at carving out a sub-package role with the team.

Dawson was a former second-round pick by the New England Patriots back in 2018 who has failed to catch on in the NFL. His only action came with the Denver Broncos in 2019 and 2020, but he hasn't seen the field for a regular season game since then.

In today's NFL, a team's top nickel cornerback is essentially a starting player. Dawson has a short thick build and solid athletic traits. If he can impress over the next several weeks, he may not only be an underdog making the roster, but he could even carve out a role on defense as well.