If asked about the team’s first training camp depth chart, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin would likely caution observers “not to read too much into it.” Nevertheless, it does offer insight into how Tomlin & Co. view the pecking order entering camp, as well as the leading contenders to replace the likes of offensive linemen Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro, not to mention former slot cornerback Mike Hilton, the latter of whom signed with the Cincinnati Bengals in mid-March.
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On offense, there isn’t much drama or intrigue at the skill positions, with Ben Roethlisberger and Mason Rudolph the starter and primary backup at quarterback, while former first-round pick Dwayne Haskins and five-year veteran Josh Dobbs are No. 3 and 4, respectively.
Meanwhile, first-round running back Najee Harris is the only rookie starter on either side of the ball, with possible trade bait Benny Snell Jr. the top backup, followed by Anthony McFarland Jr., Jaylen Samuels and Kalen Ballage.
At wide receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson are all listed as starters, backed up Ray-Ray McCloud, Cody White and James Washington, while veteran tight end Eric Ebron is ahead of 2021 second-round pick Pat Freiermuth.
Most of the intrigue surrounds the offensive line positions, where Chukwuma Okorafor is the starting left tackle, backed up by the rookie fourth-round pick Dan Moore Jr. At left guard, the presumed starter is Kevin Dotson, with B.J. Finney next in line. At right guard, it’s free agent acquisition Trai Turner over Rashaad Coward, with Zach Banner ahead of Joe Haeg at right tackle, the latter yet another free agent acquisition.
Finally, it’s worth noting that the Steelers have J.C. Hassenauer listed as the starting center, though Tomlin has already indicated that rookie third-round pick Kendrick Green will start the Pro Football Hall of Fame game on Aug. 5. And while B.J. Finney is listed as third-string, it’s anyone’s guess how things shake out.
After all, one wouldn’t have expected third-string offensive tackle John Leglue and third-string right guard Anthony Coyle to be working at center on Saturday, this after Green missed practice (excused by Tomlin) and Hassenauer and Finney both left practice early with injuries.
Meanwhile, the starting defense looks very similar to the unit the Steelers rolled with at the beginning of last season, with former third-round pick Alex Highsmith starting in place of Bud Dupree and Robert ‘Front of the Plane’ Spillane slotting in for the very-recently retired Vince Williams.
In the secondary, Cameron Sutton is first-choice to replace Steven Nelson at right cornerback (James Pierre is listed as his backup), while former third-round pick Justin Layne is behind Joe Haden on the other side.
At safety the Steelers lack depth, with rookie seventh-round pick Tre Norwood behind Minkah Fitzpatrick at free safety and special teams specialist Miles Killebrew behind strong safety Terrell Edmunds.
The competition at slot corner is robust, however, with 2020 draft pick Antoine Brooks Jr. currently ahead of veteran Arthur Maulet, “but there will be times when you’ll see other guys,” Tomlin told Steelers.com on Friday.
As for the specialists, those figure to remain much the same as in 2020, except perhaps at punter, where Jordan Berry will have to try to hold off rookie seventh-round pick Pressley Harvin III.
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