The three most intriguing training camp battles to watch for during the Steelers 2014 training camp are:
Antonio Brown is firmly entrenched as the No. 1. After that, things get a little muddled. In a perfect world, second-year pro Markus Wheaton emerges as the No. 2. If Wheaton, who was hampered by finger surgery as a rookie, fails to elevate his game, veteran free agent Lance Moore is the likely go-to guy. And then there’s the battle for the fifth, and likely final, receiver spot. Rochester’s Derek Moye looks to retain his spot in a battle against veteran free agent Darrius Heyward-Bey, former practice squad member Justin Brown and Martavis Bryant, a fourth-round pick who brings size but ample questions about his hands and his commitment.
2. DEFENSIVE END
For the first time since 2006, Brett Keisel isn’t a part of the three in Dick LeBeau’s 3-4 defense — at least for now. Cam Heyward, who enjoyed a breakout season in his fourth year, is the only certainty along the line. Cam Thomas, who was signed as a free agent, figures to earn a starting nod, but where? Thomas, coming off a career year in San Diego, could see time in the middle if Steve McLendon falters again and Stephon Tuitt emerges as the left end of the future. Tuitt, a second round pick, could join first-rounder Ryan Shazier as the first rookies to start for a LeBeau defense in Pittsburgh. It appears change could be coming because the Steelers, who ranked 13th in team defense, registered just 34 sacks and coughed up a once unheard of 115.6 yards rushing per game.
Perhaps there is no more thankless profession in the organization than punter. Ask Zoltan Mesko, Drew Butler, Mitch Berger, Jeremy Kapinos or Daniel Sepulveda. All five have been the primary punter during Mike Tomlin’s seven-year reign. This year’s camp pits seven-year veteran Adam Podlesh, most recently of Chicago, against Aussie newcomer Brad Wing. Both have their drawbacks. Podlesh was last season’s lowest-rated punter, according to Pro Football Focus, averaging 38.4 net yards. Wing, 23, has dealt with questions about his character dating back to his time at LSU.