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Steelers OTA’s: Key Storylines To Watch

Steelers OTA's Brook Ward via flickr


Steelers OTA’s are Officially in Session

Steelers fans, the wait for the 2017 season is almost over! As of Tuesday, March 23rd, Steelers OTA’s have officially started. The OTA’s for the Steelers will run for the next four weeks. With that in mind, here are some key storylines surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers on offense to follow during this time period.

Battle for the Backup QB

The battle for the QB2 position will be a key position battle to watch during Steelers OTA’s. Future hall of fame quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, is returning for the 2017 season so obviously that position is locked up. However, the next man in line is completely up for grabs. The two candidates in contention for this role are Landry Jones and Josh Dobbs.

Jones has been the Steelers backup quarterback for the past few seasons. He has done a decent job in the past when having to come in to relieve Roethlisberger due to injury. Jones is 2-2 as a starter when filling in for Roethlisberger. He threw for 558 yards with 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in 2016. It is also important to note that he just signed a new two-year contract with the Steelers this offseason.

Dobbs was drafted by the Steelers with their fourth round selection (pick #135 overall). Coming out of Tennessee, Dobbs had a very successful college career. In his final season with the Vols, Dobbs threw for 2,946 yards and 27 touchdowns. He also rushed for 831 yards and 12 touchdowns.

My prediction would be that given his experience, Jones will get most of the second-team reps to begin the offseason. However, I fully expect Dobbs to beat out Jones and take over the QB2 spot at some point this season. This is due to Dobbs’ abilities as a dual-threat quarterback and the fact that he is an overall more talented option than Jones.

Who Will be the Third Running Back?

Another position battle to watch for at Steelers OTA’s is the battle for the third running back spot. The Steelers have arguably the best running back in the league with Le’Veon Bell. Also, they drafted James Conner out of Pittsburgh to fill in the role of the second running back. However, the Steelers usually keep three running backs on the roster, so that third spot is up for grabs. The two most likely players to fill this role are Fitzgerald Touissant and Knile Davis.

Touissant has been with the Steelers for two seasons. He has served as the third running back and has also played an important role as a kickoff returner for Pittsburgh. In the 2016 season, Touissant ran the ball 14 times for 58 yards. He also returned 13 kickoffs for 278 yards.

Davis, who played most recently for the Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers, was signed as a free agent by the Steelers this offseason. Much like Touissant, Davis served both as a running back and a kickoff returner for the Chiefs. In his four seasons with the Chiefs, Davis accumulated 800 yards rushing for 11 touchdowns. Davis has also made an impact on special teams as a returner. Davis also had 1,960 yards and two touchdowns on kickoff returns while with the Chiefs.

My prediction for this position battle would be that Davis will win this battle. He is the more experienced of the two running backs and is an overall better player than Touissant. The signing of Davis could hurt Touissant’s chances of making the final roster due to the fact that Davis is the better kickoff returner as well.

Which Wide Receiver Will be the Odd Man Out?

The Steelers wide receiver core has been one of the strong points for the team in the past few seasons. They have one of the top three receivers in the league, Antonio Brown, back to lead the group. Also, Martavis Bryant has been reinstated into the league so he will fill in the second spot. Recently drafted wide receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster is expected to fill in the third role. After those top three, Eli Rogers will most likely fill in the fourth spot as an extra slot receiver. The final two wide receiver spots will be up for grabs. Some receivers that will be in the competition for those two spots will be Sammie Coates, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Cobi Hamilton, and Demarcus Ayers.

Coates and Heyward-Bey are the most experienced of the four. Coates was limited in 2016 due to injury but still showed signs of a talented deep threat. He finished with 21 receptions for 435 yards and two touchdowns. For Heyward-Bey, he finished the 2016 season with 6 receptions for 114 yards and two touchdowns. Cobi Hamilton finished the season with 17 receptions for 234 yards and 2 touchdowns. Ayers saw playing time towards the end of the season, accumulating 6 receptions for 53 yards and one touchdown.

My prediction for the 2017 season would be that Coates will get the fifth wide receiver spot. Also, I believe that either Hamilton or Heyward-Bey will get the sixth spot. However, I wouldn’t rule out Ayers, as he has been receiving a lot of recent praise from the coaching staff.

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