2018 Steelers Training Camp Preview – 4 Bold Predictions

This year’s training camp is shaping up to be the most intriguing and most competitive it has been in years. When it comes to Steelers training camp, certain outcomes are easy to predict, such as All-pro receiver Antonio Brown remaining as the Steelers premier receiver. Yet what makes this time of the year exciting and frightening at the same time is the unexpected. Keeping with the theme of the unexpected, here are some predictions that fans may not expect but can happen when all is said and done.


Matthew Thomas beats out Tyler Matakevich at starting inside linebacker

Coming into OTAs, third-year linebacker Tyler Matakevich was party anointed as the player to start at inside linebacker alongside veteran linebacker Vince Williams this coming season, a spot which Matakevich himself stated he was ready to take. Enter undrafted free agent Matthew Thomas. Thomas’ trials and tribulation are known to many; however what cannot be denied is Thomas’ incredible athletic ability which he displayed during this year’s NFL Combine. From a physical standpoint, Thomas better fits the description of a true mack linebacker than Matakevich. Thomas brings ideal height, speed, reactive athleticism, and is an underrated hitter. Matakevich’s skill set is better suited for a buck linebacker, as his size and lack of athleticism have proven him vulnerable in coverage. Considering what is at stake, Thomas is likely to rise to the occasion by using his athleticism to his advantage, while making splash plays during team drills and in a preseason game. Thomas has overcome as many personal obstacles as a player can handle; those obstacles did not weaken him, they only made him stronger.


Receiver Justin Hunter will not make the 53-man roster

During the first week of training camp last season, arguably the best performer at training camp was Justin Hunter. During that time, all reports indicated that Hunter was turning heads with spectacular catches and athletic ability. As training camp went on, he started to regress and eventually became an afterthought following the return of receivers Martavis Bryant and Sammie Coates. Though he did enough to make the 53-man roster, Hunter was not much of a factor last season. Coming into this season, he is favored to take the last receiver spot on the roster; however, he has some stiff competition.  Part of that competition is Damoun Patterson, a 6’2 signee out of Youngstown State with deep-threat abilities. The other is Memphis standout Tevin Jones, who possesses tremendous physical attributes, which includes running a 4.38 at his Pro Day a few years ago. Though Hunter stands as the Steelers tallest receiver at 6’4, he is not the type to make combat catches; meanwhile, his hands are not always reliable. With the Steelers in need for a true slot receiver,  Eli Rogers or Marcus Tucker are likely to have the advantage over Hunter.

Rookie Joshua Frazier beats out Tyson Alualu as the backup defensive tackle

The best thing to happen to Steelers rookie Joshua Frazier was the hiring of Alabama defensive line Karl Dunbar. Though Frazier mainly a reserve role for the National Champion Crimson Tide, he played an integral part in their success. A big reason why Frazier is in the right spot to take over the backup spot behind Javon Hargrave, has much to do with Alualu. Despite being a serviceable backup, Alualu does not possess a particular skill set that would set him apart from the rest of the competition. Frazier’s quickness is underrated and is able to play both sides at defensive tackle and nose tackle. Familiar with Dunbar’s teachings, Frazier already has a leg up on the competition.

UDFA Jarvion Franklin Gains a backup running back position

Second-year player James Conner is coming into training camp with a leaner frame, and an empowered attitude after overcoming an injury-plagued season. The expectation by many is for Conner to become the undisputed backup being All-pro running backLe’veon Bell. With improved fitness and mindset, one might be asking what makes Jarvion Franklin the person to take over his spot? For starters, Franklin brings a more elusive running style making him harder to tackle. In contrast, Conner is a stiff downhill runner with little lateral movement. Franklin is also a decent receiver in open field which given him another dimension which Conner lacks. Conner injury may have made him more vulnerable physically than mentally, and Franklin has the ability to contribute right away if given the chance.

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