All posts by Ryan Pawloski

Ive loved pittsburgh sports from the 1st day and will till my last day. Current PSU student for sports journalism

Tight End Improvement; Steelers Acquire Vance McDonald

Vance McDonald was traded to the Steelers from the 49ers on Tuesday. The trade sent McDonald and a 5th round pick to Pittsburgh, while the Steelers sent back a 4th round pick. It’s a win-win for both sides. The Steelers strengthen a weak position and get a 5th round pick, meanwhile only giving up a 4th round pick. All in all, its a low-cost risk for the Steelers. Here are his stats from his time in San Francisco with the 49ers:

His stats don’t show much, but he is a reliable target to add into this team. But remember, that he played with average quarterbacks at best. Players like Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick. Neither of the two are franchise quarterbacks like Ben Roethlisberger. His stats should continue to rise as he enters into this explosive offense. As for his blocking, it could use some work. He isn’t the strongest blocker (like Jesse James), but he can grow into it. He is strong at the point of attack and just has to work on his leverage. He is still young and maybe he will be Ben’s new Ferrari.

McDonald is the next man up when it comes to finding a suitable replacement to Heath Miller. Heath has been retired for years now and thus far the Steelers haven’t found an answer. We shall see if McDonald is the answer, but he provides a vertical threat to the already productive offense. He will have to learn a lot of the scheme in little time to be productive.

Only time will tell if McDonald is the answer at tight end. He comes at a cap hit at around $3 million. If he plays well and is effective, then it’s worth it. But asserted before, only time will tell if he is. If he isn’t, then the saga continues for finding a new tight end, which will probably be on top of the Steelers draft list. McDonald does, however, has a chance in front of him, so he better take it.

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Daily Thoughts: Camp Edition

Noticed at camp

Justin Hunter is a solid depth player for the Steelers. He has been strong all camp and today was no different. He’s tall and uses it to his advantage. Hunter has showed great abilities even against first string talent. So we shall see where he goes from here but I’m very impressed.

Artie Burns also stood out to me. He matched up against Antonio Brown all day. He not only handled himself but took each rep as a new memory was implanted into his head. He had good coverage on close to every snap he played.

Senquez Golson is the Beau Benett of the Steelers. He again was carted off the fields of Latrobe and that’s never a good sign. Hopefully it’s nothing major but we all know he doesn’t drink his milk. James Conner got his shoulder banged up during practice today. He was pictured with a sling post practice. Hopefully it’s just a minor injury and he can come back very soon.

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Training Camp Preview: Wide Open Competition 

As training camp rolls around, the Steelers go to Saint Vincent College with a lot of receivers. Not only do they have quantity, but also quality players in that position. They’ll be a very interesting group to watch during camp, how it plays out there as we go into the season. Expect a lot of great battles during camp and push guys to grow. With Darrius Heyward-Bey, Justin Hunter, Demarcus Ayers, Sammie Coates, Cobi Hamilton, and maybe a few others rounding out the receivers group, there is going to be tough cuts. The player with the best ability on special teams will make the final spot or two.

News broke today that Coates got a scope done and will miss some of camp. That already puts him behind the eight ball. His entire career as a Steeler has been injuries, and when he isn’t injured, his past injuries affect his play. He still has a catching issue which will need to be shown as fixed during camp. Coates could be a surprise cut if he doesn’t play much this camp and preseason. If he can stay healthy and learn to catch the ball more consistently, he could develop into a solid player.

Players that’ll be lower on the depth chart like Ayers, DHB, Hunter, and Hamilton, will fight for one or maybe two spots max on the final roster. There’s a lot to like about Ayers and what he showed and could provide special teams ability if needed. DHB has made his special teams play known around the league and continues to show his speed on offense. Hunter and Hamilton are similar. They both have size and can make contributions on offense, but you could question if either could be talented enough to make this roster. Popular expectations is for DHB to make this roster and Ayers could make it as well. If he doesn’t make the final roster, then hopefully he will be picked up on the practice squad.

The starters are all locks and so is JuJu Smith-Schuster. It’s a waste of time talking about Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant as your one-two punch. Eli Rogers is coming off of a solid season as well, so that’s four making your final 53. But the question is which is going to start in the slot for you? It’ll be a good battle between Rogers and JuJu. Rogers showed good promise last year and looks to be a speed slot receiver, where JuJu shows to be a strong possession receiver. No matter who wins, the 4th receiver will get a lot of snaps. Expect a lot of four-receiver sets.

The biggest question is if the Steelers want to keep five or six receivers on the final roster. Maybe they keep seven if someone blows them away on special teams. It’ll be exciting to watch this battle, and expectations are most, if not all of these guys, will have jobs during this season. No matter if it’s with the Steelers or not. Either way, feeling confident in the depth at receiver is a understatement. It’ll be interesting in how it checks out through this year’s competition.


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Steelers Training Camp: Scenarios to Watch For

The Steelers are heading back to Latrobe for another training camp. They have a lot of competition as they do every year; some to circumstances of possible holdouts or starting positions being up for grabs. So here are the things to watch for this training camp for the Steelers.

Tight End Depth Chart

Tight end is a question mark this year. Jesse James showed he is growing and can be a decent starter. If he had a good off-season, then he will be a good option for the starting role, but all in all this position doesn’t have much depth that I see. You got Scott Orndoff, Xavier Grimble, and Phazahn Odom behind James. You would think Grimble is the number two, but I think it’s a open competition going into camp. Orndoff could be a surprise and could bring something to this offense. Grimble has shown an ability to make plays on the catching side of his game. Odom brings great size, but is extremely raw. He needs to develop a lot, but if he’s coached up well enough them maybe he will show something this preseason.

I believe all of these four will make the team, three being on the 53 and the other on the practice squad. That’s of course if these four prove themselves and the Steelers don’t make moves.

Cornerbacks

Cornerbacks seem to always get attention in camp. This year it seems Artie Burns is a lock on the outside and Ross Cockrell opposite of him, but there will be open competition for that slot role. William Gay is back, but is older so he might be slowing down. Rookie Cameron Sutton and, who is basically a rookie in Senquez Golson, will provide competition. We will see who wins this battle throughout camp, but at the very least, it’ll only make the team better. Also, I’m very interested in watching Brian Allen and see what he does.  He’s a tall, rangy corner. He’s raw and has good skill. Hopefully, he can develop and show the coaches something on special teams.

Running Backs

Running back doesn’t have the question of who the starter is, but where the depth shakes out. Knile Davis adds experience and special teams ability, where as James Conner adds toughness and a great one-two punch with Le’Veon Bell. Everyone will be watching to see if Bell holds out of camp because of his contract situation. If he does hold out, then pay close attention to Conner. I think he is a great story, but a even better football player. He runs hard and is a team player. I think Fitzgerald Toussaint will push Davis for the last spot, but I think Davis gets it with his special teams ability.

Wide Receivers

Everyone will be watching this overly-talented and impressive group. All eyes will be focused on Martavis Bryant and how he is after coming back from suspension. Watch and see if his chemistry with Ben Roethlisberger picks up where it left off, or if there is an issue there. Bryant made some comments recently saying how he didn’t like Ben’s comments about him recently. Also watch JuJu Smith-Schuster and other young guys like Demarcus Ayers, Sammie Coates, Cobi Hamilton, and others like Darrius Heyward-Bey and Justin Hunter. This is a crowded group, but with all the talent that’s there, I expect great competition for those last spots available.

Linebackers

First off, watch Bud Dupree. He might be making a huge jump this season. He has showed us glimpses, but now he could become something to watch. He had a great offseason and might make a huge step forward this season. Of course, all eyes will be on T.J. Watt, as they should be, considering he was this year’s first round pick, but pay close attention to another rookie in Keion Adams. He was getting good reviews during minicamp so keep your eyes and ears open for him. He has good size and had good productivity during his college ball. He wouldn’t surprise me if he made the final 53.

Backup Quarterback

Landry Jones got a two-year deal this past offseason, but the Steelers also did something rare in drafting a quarterback in Josh Dobbs. He intrigues me in that he’s new, he’s young, and is very smart. He has some good abilities, but still has a ton to learn. I’m very excited to watch Dobbs and see if he can win that backup job. Lets not kid ourselves because Dobbs will probably not be the successor to Ben, but could be a much more reliable backup then Jones could be.

Jerald Hawkins

This guy is another player I’m very excited to watch. He got hurt early in his rookie year last year and was getting great reviews before then. He is still extremely young, so he has a lot more coaching up to do, but if he picks up where he left off last year and continues to grow, then you have a great backup to Alejandro Villanueva. Hopefully one day he will have starting potential, and with Al having contract issues, then maybe Hawkins is your next starting left tackle for the Steelers.


There always seems to be stories that come out of each training camp. Sometimes it’s injury or maybe it’s a diamond in the rough. Or maybe, everyone will compete and create a championship level team with both or neither of the scenarios happening. So enjoy the next week of build up, because Steelers season is here. Enjoy what is to come of building what we all hope is a championship season.


Please consider checking out my new blog. I write about everything Pittsburgh sports, including Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates. I, of course, will continue writing for Let’s Talk Steelers and Penguins, but on the side I will be making articles on this website.

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Post-Draft Final 53-Man Roster Predictions

The Steelers added depth and skill to positions of need and to already skilled groups. The Steelers are 2 wins away from their 7th trophy, but each super bowl teams begin with cuts and these are my first predictions for those final cuts.

Quarterback (3)

Ben Roethlisberger, Josh Dobbs, Landry Jones

The QB position is locked in after cutting Zach Mettenberger. The only thing to be seen is the battle for the 2nd string QB. With how Ben Roethlisberger gets hurt every year, this competition will be extremely important. Expect Josh Dobbs to be the favorite going in even though the Steelers usually don’t like rookies starting. But with Landry Jones not developing at all, then Dobbs could bring some freshness behind Ben.

Running  Back (3)

Le’Veon Bell, Knile Davis, James Conner

Le’Veon Bell will get most of the touches as expected and will be a great player as per usual. With his own injury issues in the past, the Steelers have some good depth here. James Conner was an amazing pick and will be a great role player on this team. He will add extra power to that room. Knile Davis adds good special teams competition and speed to the backfield. All in all, this backfield complements each other nicely.

Full Back/Tight End (5)

David Johnson, Roosevelt Nix, Ladarius Green, Jesse James, Xavier Grimble

Full backs and tight ends are extremely important to this team. Both blocking and downfield targets create a huge advantage to the offense. Guys like Roosevelt Nix and David Johnson add great blocking dimensions and are unsung heroes. Jesse James has started to become a fringe starter and is continuously improving both as a blocker and in his catching ability. As long as Ladarius Green is healthy, then he will add a huge target down the middle of the field. Grimble showed flashes of a good role player on this team. If he keeps improving from last year, then he will help this team more and more.

Wide Receiver (6)

Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Eli Rogers, Sammie Coates, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Darrius Heyward-Bey

Antonio Brown speaks for himself, but if Martavis Bryant could stay clean and play the whole season, then he will make a huge impact. He is the perfect compliment to AB and creates the offense even more dynamic. Darrius Heyward-Bey will make the team as a special teams gunner. He can continue his role as a lesser role player. JuJu Smith-Schuster will fight for playing time with Sammie Coates and Eli Rogers. I believe he will be put in during red zone scenarios more often than anything else. Rogers needs to continue off of his performance last year. He will probably end up third on the depth chart. i believe Coates will lose out during training camp and will fall behind JuJu on the depth chart this year.

Offensive Line (8)

Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster, David DeCastro,  Alejandro Villanueva, Marcus Gilbert, B.J. Finney, Chris Hubbard, Gerald Hawkins

The starting O-line will remain intact and keep improving on their past seasons together. They’re one of the best o-lines in the league and will improve on that. B.J. Finney and Chris Hubbard played well when they needed to fill in and play so if their numbers are called this year, expect good backup plays. Gerald Hawkins was playing extremely well in camp last year until he got injured. Hawkins will continue to improve and has starter potential.

Defensive Line (6)

Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Javon Hargrave, Daniel McCullers, L.T. Walton, Tyson Alualu

Cam Heyward is one of the best 3-4 ends in football and will be on a mission after being injured for most of the season last year. Stephon Tuitt raised his level of play last year after Cam went down due to injury. I expect him to pick up where he left off. Javon Hargrave played extremely well as a rookie by setting up the run defense and applying pressure during pass scenarios. Daniel McCullers adds good depth to the nose tackle position because he is a good run stopper. L.T. Walton played well when he helped fill in for Heyward last year and I think is a easy make for this final roster. Tyson Alualu was a great small move in free agency. He adds another dimension of depth to the D-line and allows the ability to give Tuitt and Cam breaks.

Outside Linebacker (6)

Bud Dupree, James Harrison, T.J. Watt, Anthony Chickillo, L.J. Fort, Arthur Moats

I personally liked how Bud Dupree played after coming back from injury. I expect big things from Bud this year. Deebo is a experienced guy and a ageless wonder. He speaks for himself. T.J. Watt is a inexperienced guy but I expect him to come up huge in the latter stages of the season compared to the beginning of it. Anthony Chickillo is usually good at the start of the season and can help with snaps before Watt is ready. He is a good special teams player. L.J. Fort plays good during training camp and during the preseason, but he will make this team off his special teams ability alone. Arthur Moats still adds experience and some pass rush ability. I know he will have to fight for his roster spot, but I do believe he will make it.

Inside Linebacker (4)

Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams, Tyler Matakevich, Steven Johnson

Ryan Shazier is turning into a top ILB in this league, especially after his first pro bowl season this past year. Vince Williams is a tough and physical player which will define this defense. Tyler Matakevich is going to make a big jump this year and I believe will create some snaps on defense this year. Primarily though, he will make the team through special teams. Steven Johnson will also make the team off of special teams alone. I expect him to be the 4th ILB on the depth chart.

Cornerback (5)

Artie Burns, Ross Cockrell, William Gay, Cameron Sutton, Senquez Golson

Artie Burns will add onto his successful season last year and learn from his mistakes. Ross Cockrell will continue to be the starter opposite of Burns until someone beats him out for that job. William Gay is the leader of this group, but it’s a real possibility that Sutton challenges for his job from day one. Senquez Golson makes the team after finally staying healthy and playing the way they expected him to when he was drafted.

Safety (4)

Mike Mitchell, Sean Davis, Robert Golden, Jordan Dangerfield

Mike Mitchell is still the leader in this group. He plays physical and is a big part of this defense. Sean Davis was their best player in the second half of the season for the secondary. He played very well and he also learned a lot. Robert Golden will still be a role-player on this team, but him and Jordan Dangerfield will be mostly special team guys.

Specialists (3)

Chris Boswell, Greg Warren, Jordan Berry

Chris Boswell is still a great kicker after his sudden emergence in the league. Jordan Berry is still one of the best punters we’ve had in years. Greg Warren beats out the rookie we drafted for this job.