5 Steelers players who made the most of minicamp
Minicamp is in the books, vacation is on the horizon for the players and five-plus weeks remain until training camp begins at Saint Vincent in Latrobe.
Before football becomes an afterthought and the calendar flips from spring to summer next week, let's look at five Steelers players who benefited from the three-day minicamp that concluded Thursday:
1. QB Mason Rudolph
The rookie third-rounder held his own during OTAs, taking advantage of Ben Roethlisberger's absence from seven sessions to get valuable repetitions under center. Roethlisberger, like most offensive starters, was given the final day of minicamp off, allowing Rudolph and second-year quarterback Joshua Dobbs to take the snaps.
Rudolph will head into training camp with a chance to win the backup job from Landry Jones. Nothing he did over the past month at spring workouts showed he isn't up to the challenge.
2. WR James Washington
Rudolph's running mate at Oklahoma State already was expected to push for playing time as the No. 3 wide receiver. With JuJu Smith-Schuster missing all spring workouts, including minicamp, because of a knee injury, Washington continued to accrue valuable practice time. Although veterans Justin Hunter and Darrius Heyward-Bey often worked with the first team, Washington was on the field for a lot of three-receiver sets. He also continued to develop a rapport with Rudolph.
3. RB James Conner
Showing he is fully recovered from MCL surgery, Conner continued to impress when the ball was in his arms. He flashed nice speed and cutback ability in the backfield. Sure, it was nothing more than football in shorts and no hitting was permitted, but Conner looked up to the task of handling the workload while Le'Veon Bell stays at home without a contract.
4. S Jordan Dangerfield
Free-agent acquisition Morgan Burnett sat out minicamp with what coach Mike Tomlin termed a minor injury. This opened playing time for a younger player on the roster.
Instead of selecting rookie first-rounder Terrell Edmunds to work alongside Sean Davis in the secondary, the Steelers went with Dangerfield, the former undrafted player from Towson. Perhaps the coaching staff didn't want to disrupt Edmunds' rhythm with the second team as he tries to learn the playbook. Or maybe they wanted to get an extended look at Dangerfield, who has played sparingly despite being around since 2014.
5. LB Tyler Matakevich
When Matakevich took first-team reps at the start of OTAs, it seemed like only a matter of time before he started alternating series with free-agent Jon Bostic. That hasn't happened yet, an indication that Tomlin is serious about giving Matakevich a legitimate shot at starting aside Vince Williams at inside linebacker.
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.