One training camp battle Steelers fans may not be interested in but should be

Jul 27, 2022; Latrobe, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end T.J. Watt (90)
Jul 27, 2022; Latrobe, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end T.J. Watt (90) / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The announcement that the Steelers 2023 training camp dates have been finalized got me thinking about all the storylines that are endemic to camp. Every season, it seems like there are always stories within stories, players who are considered long shots to make the team, players whose positions are completely safe, and players who may be considered 'hidden gems'.

Every season, there are training camp battles that fans keep an eye on, and rightfully so; however, there are also training camp battles that fans may not necessarily pay attention to but probably should, as far as I'm concerned. The 'under the radar' camp battles sometimes are the most intriguing.

The Steelers may have a cover linebacker hiding in plain sight

As I stated, there will be camp battles fans should and will pay attention to. For instance, spending our first-round pick on a left tackle sends a direct message to Dan Moore Jr., the incumbent at that position. Will Broderick Jones be able to supplant Moore Jr. by the beginning of the regular season? Only time will tell.

With the flurry of off-season moves the Steelers made, one position group, in particular, will have a completely new look. With the signings of Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts and with Mark Robinson already in the fold, the inside linebacker group will certainly have a new look to it for the 2023 campaign.

The question for me is this: Who among the linebackers we currently have on the roster can provide something that I believe has been lacking for years and that is the ability to cover? When I say the ability to cover, I don't mean the ability to cover a running back. I think most linebackers should be able to perform that task.

What I mean is the ability to cover a tight end who is flexed out or comes off the line to run a route. The tight end position has evolved into a pass-catching position and is, with very few exceptions, strictly the blocker I grew up watching. As I said, that type of linebacker has eluded us for years, but we may have a solution in the form of what I would consider to be a underrated free-agent signing.

Tanner Muse is the linebacker whom I believe can fill the role of the sub-package linebacker responsible for coverage, specifically for coverage of the tight end. Full disclosure, I realize there are times when we might ask a linebacker to cover a wide receiver, but frankly, I think that is a terrible design and should be stricken from our scheme.

When we signed Muse, I don't think a lot of fans noticed or cared all that much since Muse is not a 'household' name, but if you're like me, someone who watches a lot of college football, you will remember that Muse had a stellar college career at Clemson where he played safety. Unfortunately, for Muse, he spent his rookie campaign on injured reserve and was waived the following season.

Muse saw spot duty with the Seattle Seahawks before being signed by us this offseason. So what makes me think Muse can be the answer to our dilemma at the sub-package linebacker position? First, the fact that Muse played safety would suggest that he is at least serviceable in coverage. Second, Muse is listed at 6'2" and 227 lbs, so he's tall enough and has enough 'bulk' to hang with a tight end.

Muse also ran a 4.41 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. Obviously, that doesn't mean that he can still run a 4.41 40, but if he can even come close to that, he may provide the athleticism, height, and speed we have been lacking at the inside linebacker position for some time. Like everything else we discuss, only time will tell if Muse can become the solution I believe he can become.