PITTSBURGH, PA — The Pittsburgh Steelers are back at it. After a long offseason with plenty of changes, the 2023 Steelers are on the field and ready to sculpt their 90-man roster down to 53.
As Organized Team Activities get started, there are plenty of headlines to watch, positions to fill, and questions to answer. Day 1 felt great simply because there was football being played. But with the start of on-field action came plenty of takeaways.
Let’s dive into them.
Dan Moore Starting Over Broderick Jones
The Steelers aren’t ready to make a change at left tackle just yet. The team kept Dan Moore Jr. as their starter as they began OTAs, meaning rookie Broderick Jones is going to have to earn his place before the start of the season if he’s going to start.
Moore spoke after practice, confirming he took first-team reps on Day 1 of OTAs. He also informed reporters he’s been working on the right side during the offseason just in case he’s needed to operate on either side of the line.
The real competition for left tackle likely begins at training camp when the pads come on, and coaches can actually evaluate an offensive lineman fully. Until then, even Moore knows first-team reps don’t hold a ton of ground.
“It’s early to tell if that (first-team reps) means anything,” Moore said. “Listen, I just do what they tell me. It’s too early in the process for anything else.”
As for the rest of the offensive line, Isaac Seumalo has taken over Kevin Dotson, who admitted he’s lost the job already.
Kendrick Green Back At Center
Another surprising but maybe hopeful move for the Steelers’ offensive line is the move back to center for Kendrick Green. Judging off individual drills, Green took reps during (at least a portion of practice) at center after spending last year at guard.
Last year, Green’s change to guard kept him off the active roster on Sundays all season. As a rookie, he didn’t receive much praise for his work at center, but it was clear he needed to make the position work for him to remain a part of the group.
It’s an uphill battle for Green to remain on the roster this summer, but the third-year offensive line could make it work if he finds a home in the middle.
Punt Return Options
The Steelers begin OTAs with a LONG list of punt and kick returning options. For a team that moved on from Steven Sims, they’re somewhat in need of finding a return specialist. Luckily, they have eight to sift through.
During the first practice of the year, the Steelers worked Calvin Austin, Gunner Olszewski, Anthony Miller, Anthony McFarland, Jordan Byrd, Cody White, Alfonzo Graham, Jason Huntley and Ja’Marcus Bradley as punt returners.
That group will become smaller as weeks go on, but it’s a start for a team who needs to find a returner.
No T.J. Watt
T.J. Watt was one of three players absent from the start of OTAs, joining Larry Ogunjobi and Armon Watts. Really, the big headline is that the Steelers’ biggest star wasn’t at voluntary practice. But the conversation is whether or not it’s related to his pool incident a few days prior.
Warning.. The activity in this video may be dangerous… don’t try at home.. (I am completely ok ????) pic.twitter.com/IiXt5xQmsh— TJ Watt (@_TJWatt) May 18, 2023
Players who don’t show up in the first week typically arrive in Week 2 after Memorial Day. It’s easier to stay home and make the trip after the long weekend, and players like Watt don’t necessarily need to be working in shorts and helmets for three weeks before minicamp.
Still, something to note on Day 1.
Visor Mitch Trubisky
Mitch Trubisky was all smiles when when I approached him in the locker room after practice by reporters. Everyone already talked to him about his contract extension and wanting to return to the Steelers. By another questions should have been…
“When did you decide on the visor?”
Mitch was asked why the visor… He said “I just decided on it a few weeks ago – right around the time extension talks started.”
Looks like its a new backup Mitch Trubisky for the Steelers this season. Not only is it great for him to be a team player and want to help Kenny Pickett grow moving forward, but he’s also going to be the meanest-looking backup QB in the NFL.
To me, that holds some ground.
Connor Heyward Working With Tight Ends
There has been a lot of talk, mostly direction from me, about Connor Heyward playing fullback this season. But on Day 1 of OTAs, Heyward, at least during individual drills, was working with the tight ends.
The Steelers seem to be utilizing all four of their tight ends for different roles. With Darnell Washington and Zach Gentry specializing in blocking and Heyward and Pat Freiermuth being pass-catchers, the offense will try to work all four to their strengths.
You should still expect Heyward to be the starting fullback this season, though.
Steelers CB Rotation
The Steelers gave us the first glimpse of their cornerback rotation as they look to redefine the room in 2023. During individuals, Patrick Peterson and Levi Wallace were teamed up for drills. Interpret that as you will. As for the slot/nickel, Chandon Sullivan got the first reps during individual drills.
This will likely remain the rotation until it’s needed to change. Duke Dawson will compete with Sullivan to try and gain some role within the defense. He could even find himself starting. All of that will continue to be worked out throughout the summer.
As for the outside, don’t expect Peterson or Wallace to lose their starting jobs.