This weekend the Pittsburgh Steelers will have their first rookie mini-camp, giving the organization its first glance at all of their recent draft choices, un-drafted rookie free agents, veteran futures signees and some established veterans that make their way to Pittsburgh. More importantly, this will be the first time new offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s playbook will be on display.
Looking at the incoming class of rookies, this event will be extremely important for two of the highest profile Steelers selections in the draft, as first round pick OG David DeCastro and second round pick OT Mike Adams will be unable to attend any of the other scheduled workouts due to their universities operating on the quarter’s schedule. Hopefully, that short-term setback will not set them too far behind when training camp opens.
While no jobs will be won or lost during this mini-camp, there are a few veterans that were signed as futures prospects that may have a shot at earning a roster spot on opening day or in the future, and this would be a great chance at opening some eyes.
While QB prospect Jerrod Johnson (Texas A&M) is a longshot for the opening day roster, the Steelers have expressed a desire to find a young quarterback prospect to develop with back-ups Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich signed only to one-year contracts and age creeping in. Johnson is an interesting story, and a player, if healthy could have a chance to be that guy.
Going back and looking at the tape on the 6-5, 253 pound quarterback, it is easy to see how the shoulder injury affected him. In fact, he went from an all conference selection and riser as junior to only seven games as a senior after undergoing shoulder surgery in March 2010. Ironically, it was his injury that opened the door for 2012 Miami Dolphins first round selection Ryan Tannehill to see the field as a quarterback.
Prior to the injury he was a gifted quarterback with a strong arm, mobility and pocket awareness. Yes, he did demonstrate some fundamental flaws and needed technique refinement, but he was a worker and seemed coachable. If he is totally recovered, you cannot overlook or coach his natural skills and abilities. Sure, he may not make the active roster in 2012, but the team could keep him in their plans moving forward and showing the Steelers he is healthy could be a huge first step.
For wide receiver, Derrick Williams (Penn State), the opportunity is now. The Steelers could use some veteran depth at wide receiver and a kick returner, areas that led the Detroit Lions to select Williams in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft.
Williams, 5-11, 197 pounds, has solid size for the position and had solid short area quickness that made him look like a solid inside or outside threat. He has good but not great hands and has the ability to be an asset against zone coverage understanding how to find holes and settle down. As a return man, he has enough speed and technical awareness to present challenges to the kicking team. Unfortunately, he was never able to put it all together with the Lions and was released.
The Steelers drafted RB Chris Rainey from Florida in the fifth round and look at him as a potential explosive return man, but Williams may have a chance. In looking at the roster, the team has carried up to six wide receivers, with one primarily a special team performer. Currently, there look to be only four players on the roster that are relatively safe for the 2012 season in Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Jerricho Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders at the wide receiver position, so there are positions to be had if young players perform. For Williams, he is running out of opportunities to latch onto a franchise and this may be his last chance at a NFL career, thus, giving him extra motivation to make every attempt to seize the moment.
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