The second portion of the Pittsburgh Steelers organized team activities resumed on May 29th. As in the first segment of OTAs, much of the Steelers roster practiced with their respective position coaches. This portion of OTAs included the some notable absences, players looking to rebound from injury-plagued seasons, and injuries. Here are some of the storylines for these OTAs.
The Injury Bug Hits the Steelers at OTAs
Generally when we think of injuries during the offseason, we associate them with full contact practices during training camp in late July. For third year tackle Jerald Hawkins and last season’s UDFA tight end signee Jake McGee, both their seasons ended even before it got started. Hawkins’ injury was especially damaging, as he was expected to play a huge role as backup offensive lineman. Coming off injured reserve in his rookie season, Hawkins was looking to take that next step from the limited role he had last season. Senior Steelers writer Mark Kaboly detailed Hawkins’ knee injury according to veteran offensive lineman Ramon Foster.
Ramon Foster on Jerald Hawkins knee injury: "All I heard was him screaming."
— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) May 30, 2018
With Hawkins lost for the season, this sets the stage for this year’s third round pick, offensive tackle Chukwuma Okorafor, to step up and play the role of backup to Marcus Gilbert. For tight end Jake McGee, his Achilles tendon injury effectively ended his season. Though McGee was not noted as playing a big part in the Steelers offense, any loss of depth could affect them later in the season.
Killers ‘B’s NOT present at OTA
In the first three days of OTAs, both Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown were very much involved in team drills and other activities. As of Tuesday, it was reported by several sources that Roethlisberger was away on family vacation, and opted not to attend OTAs. In the case of Brown, his reported absence was due to his preference of working “with his starting QB”.
Maurkice Pouncey said Ben Roethlisberger has been on a family vacation, thus his absence from OTAs. Multiple #Steelers said Antonio Brown's absence is only b/c of his preference to work w/ his starting QB. Players uniformly said this isn't holding back any "install" of new OC's O
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) May 31, 2018
Though OTAs are not mandatory, considering they have a new offensive coordinator for the upcoming season, their absences could have an effect on the cohesiveness of the entire unit with the new tweaks in the offense. Also taken in consideration were the comments made by Brown to All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell‘s decision not to attend OTAs. It was reported that Brown was still in the Pittsburgh area and still training intensely with his personal trainers.
Cameron Sutton Displaying His Versatility
One of the many reasons why the Steelers selected cornerback Cameron Sutton in last year’s draft was due to his ability to play multiple positions on the field. In addition to playing in multiple spots at cornerback with the Tennessee Volunteers, he also played safety and was a respectable kickoff/punt returner. According to Penn Live reporter Lauren Kirschman, Sutton was seen playing in three spots; safety, corner and nickel. At this point Sutton has not played dime, but that is likely to change with the way things are trending. Sutton, who played in a handful of games last season, notably against the New England Patriots in December, is slated to play bigger role in the defense this upcoming season.
Second Year Players Motivated By Adversity
The 2017 season was not an ideal one for both outside linebacker Keion Adams and running back James Conner. Both suffered injuries during training camp, and in the case of Adams, his shoulder injury was serious enough to require surgery and effectively end his season on Injured Reserve. For Conner, his season came to end as a result of an MCL injury suffered in December against the Patriots.
Motivated by redeeming themselves from injury plagued seasons, both Adams and James Conner have been taking full advantage of OTAs, taking as many reps as they can handle. When asked by Steelers.com host/ team reporter Missi Matthews about the mental process in dealing with an injury plagued season, Adams spoke of the importance of staying mentally active throughout.
I had to go out there and mentally prepare as far as just learning how to watch film, learning the small things, not just running through plays and things of that nature.
For Conner, though he is anxious to make his imprint this upcoming season, he talked about taking things “one game at a time” and showing up. Adams is coming into this season with the opportunity of playing an important role in the Steelers pass rushing defense. With the absence of Bell in these OTAs, Conner is taking as many reps as he can; this upcoming training camp is looking to be very competitive at the running back position.
Steelers Unveil New Throwback Jerseys
To commemorate the Steelers back-to-back Super Bowl teams from 1978 and 1979, Dan Rooney II alongside Steelers receiver Juju Smith-Schuster, unvailed this year’s throwback jersey, which will make an appearance in their October 28th matchup against the Cleveland Browns. The design was made with the purpose of capturing that era in Steelers history.
The strength of the 1970's.
The fire of 2018. pic.twitter.com/WSndRMi2uo
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 30, 2018