They say jobs are won and lost during the preseason. A good training camp can open a coaching staffs eyes and immediate playing time can be earned with good performances during the summer months.
However, that’s wishful thinking when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers. With a veteran football team coming back, there aren’t many jobs up for grabs as the team prepares for the 2012-13 season. Yet like any NFL team, there are some camp battles worth keeping an eye on as training camp has started.
Here’s a look at the top battles likely to take place during the Steelers stay at Latrobe.
Left Tackle- Mike Adams, Max Starks, and Trai Essex: Essex has started with the first team early on and Starks is still healing from a knee injury suffered during the Steelers playoff loss to the Denver Broncos. The ideal situation is for Adams to win the job, but he’s going to have to do exactly that. It won’t be handed to him. He has the size and the ability, but only three Steelers’ offensive linemen have ever started the opener, so it won’t be easy.
Right Guard- David DeCastro and Ramon Foster: Similar to the situation involving Adams, the rookie DeCastro will have to play his way into the starting lineup, but I would expect nothing less. Foster is getting the early reps with the starters, but it shouldn’t be long until DeCastro gets his opportunity.
Backup Running Back- Chris Rainey and Baron Batch: Until Rashard Mendenhall is healthy, Isaac Redman is the starter, leaving Jonathan Dwyer (third year), John Clay (second year), Batch (second year) and Rainey (rookie) battling for roster spots. One job could come down to Dwyer and Clay, but an interesting battle could take place between Rainey and Batch.
Rainey can bring a new level of explosiveness to the Steelers offense, but Batch was excellent in the 2011 camp before injuring his knee.
Wide Receiver- Toney Clemons, Marquis Maze, and Tyler Beiler: Four spots are settled as Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery have the team made. Sanders will play the X in the absence of Wallace and depending on how long his hold-out lasts, a couple of these guys will have the opportunity to make the team.
These are jobs that will be won during preseason games and keep an eye on the rookies Clemons and Maze as well as Beiler as they could have the early leg up on the competition.
Cornerback- Keenan Lewis, Curtis Brown, and Cortez Allen: This is the battle to watch in camp as one of these guys has to separate himself from the rest of the competition and seize the starting job opposite Ike Taylor. I like what Lewis did last season and I would give him the edge, but Brown is a guy that Dick LeBeau likes a lot.