Sunday, August 14, 2022

Steelers’ top three training camp position battles to watch: Mitchell Trubisky in fight to be starting QB

The Steelers are heading back to their roots for training camp. For the first time in three years, Pittsburgh will camp up the road at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, where the team held over 50 consecutive camps before having to temporarily halt the tradition in 2020. 

Saint Vincent has seen numerous position battles unfold over the years, and it will see several more play out this summer. Fans who will make the trip out to Latrobe will get a chance to watch one of the most talked about training camp position battles in recent memory, one that was created when Ben Roethlisberger announced in retirement in January. 

Let’s break down the Steelers’ biggest training camp position battles, starting with the one that everyone will continue to talk about until Pittsburgh kicks off the regular season in Cincinnati on Sept. 11. 

QB: Mitchell Trubisky vs. Kenny Pickett, Mason Rudolph

Cam Heyward, speaking on his new podcast, basically said that the job is Mitchell Trubisky’s to lose. The soon-to-be 28-year-old comes to Pittsburgh with 50 career starts in the regular season plus two more in the postseason. He received first-team reps during minicamp after getting extensive work in with his skill teammates during voluntary workouts. Given his age, experience, and quick command of the locker room, it’s hard to envision Trubisky not being the starter when the regular season kicks off. 

The real competition could be what happens behind Trubisky. Mason Rudolph has been given a puncher’s chance at the starting job, but not only will he have to beat out Trubisky, he will also have to out-play rookie Kenny Pickett. Rudolph has the most experience within Pittsburgh’s offense, but his lack of consistency when called into action has contributed to him being in this position. 

Trubisky and Pickett (who spent the majority of minicamp working with Pittsburgh’s third-string offense) will be on the 53-man roster. That leaves one spot for either Rudolph or seventh-round pick Chris Oladokun, a versatile player who played at three different schools in college. If Oladokun shows promise, Rudolph’s spot on the roster could be in jeopardy. 

But let’s circle back to Pickett. Could the first-round pick be the team’s starting quarterback in Week 1? It’s extremely unlikely. It appears the Steelers’ plan is to start Trubisky while allowing Pickett time to observe from the sideline. Barring injury, the only way Pickett would likely be the Week 1 starter is if he vastly outplays his fellow quarterbacks this summer. 

LG: Kendrick Green vs. Kevin Doston 

Green essentially lost his starting job at center after the Steelers acquired Mason Cole in free agency. If Green wants to work his way back into the starting lineup, he’ll have to outplay Dotson, who endured a rocky 2021 season that included missing eight games to an injury. 

Left guard is Green’s natural position, so this won’t be asking him to do anything foreign. He played admirably at center last season, when he was asked the fill the shoes of eight-time Pro Bowler Maurkice Pouncey. Green was often overpowered off the snap, but he played well enough to help the Steelers make the playoffs while helping Najee Harris break multiple franchise rookie records. 

Dotson has the edge as far as pro experience is concerned. The 2020 fourth-round pick has 23 games and 13 starts at left guard. Dotson is likely motivated to win the starting job following last year’s disappointing campaign. This should be a good position battle to watch throughout the summer. 

DE: Larry Ogunjobi vs. Chris Wormley 

Owners of one of the NFL‘s most tumultuous offseasons, Ogunjobi initially agreed to terms with the Giants on a multiyear deal in free agency. The deal was nixed, however, after Ogunjobi did not pass his physical as he was still recovering from a foot injury sustained during the Bengals‘ playoff win over the Raiders. He then spent four more months on the open market before signing a one-year deal with the Steelers late last month. 

It will be interesting to see if Ogunjobi will be ready to compete for the starting job at the start of camp. If he is healthy, the Steelers are getting a 28-year-old defensive lineman who is coming off a year that saw him record a career-high seven sacks. But if Ogunjobi is still working his way back from his injury, the Steelers are in good shape with Wormley, who also racked up a career-high seven sacks in 2021 while making 14 starts for the Steelers. 

This is a great problem to have if you are head coach Mike Tomlin. A year after having little to no depth on his defensive line, Tomlin has two more-than-capable defensive ends to help replace Stephon Tuitt, who retired this offseason after not playing in 2021. Pittsburgh is also welcoming back the return of Tyson Alualu, who most all but two games last year due to injury. 

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