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Steelers

Steelers training camp preview: Offense, specialists carry few question marks

Joe Rutter
| Saturday, July 21, 2018, 3:18 p.m.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) an NFL football practice, Tuesday, June 12, 2018, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) an NFL football practice, Tuesday, June 12, 2018, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

OFFENSE

Quarterbacks

7 Ben Roethlisberger, 6-5, 240: Entering his 15 th training camp, he will try to build on a resume that includes a 135-63 record as a starter – his .682 winning percentage ranking second among active quarterbacks (minimum 50 starts). Tom Brady is first at .781 (196-55).

3 Landry Jones, 6-4, 225: Finishing up a two-year contract as he enters his sixth season with the Steelers, Jones will face some competition for his backup spot this summer.

2 Mason Rudolph, 6-5, 235: Third-round pick out of Oklahoma State led the Cowboys to 32-9 record as starter, including 10 second-half comeback wins.

5 Joshua Dobbs, 6-3, 216: With the addition of Rudolph, Dobbs enters training camp on the outside looking in for one of three roster spots. He does have practice squad eligibility.

Running backs

26 Le’Veon Bell, 6-1, 225: Don’t expect to see him until September as he is likely to skip training camp for the second year in a row.

45 Roosevelt Nix, 5-11, 248: The Steelers thought enough of the fullback’s blocking skills that they signed him to a four-year contract in February. He had his first career rushing and receiving touchdowns in 2017.

30 James Conner, 6-1, 233: Fully recovered from December knee surgery, Conner has a chance to take on a bigger role if Bell skips camp.

22 Stevan Ridley, 5-11, 220: The Steelers thought enough of Ridley’s trial run in December after Conner’s injury that they brought him back for another season. He had 108 yards rushing in two games.

33 Fitzgerald Toussaint, 5-9, 204: He contributed mostly on special teams down the stretch. He has spent parts of three years with the Steelers.

38 Jaylen Samuels, 6-0, 225: The converted tight end from N.C. State was selected in the fifth round to provide the type of run/catch versatility that Bell displayed when he entered the league.

39 James Summers, 6-3, 210: A former quarterback at East Carolina, Summers transitioned to the backfield as a senior and led the team in rushing. He spent last season on the Arizona Cardinals practice squad.

40 Jarvion Franklin, 6-0, 239: An undrafted free agent, Franklin is a prototypical big back, tipping the scales at 239 pounds. He was the career rushing leader at Western Michigan (4,867 yards).

Wide receivers

84 Antonio Brown, 5-10, 181: Coming off the most productive five-year span by a wide receiver in NFL history, Brown enters his ninth season. For the second time in three years, he won’t have Martavis Bryant on the other side of the field to help alleviate double coverage.

19 JuJu Smith-Schuster, 6-1, 215: With Bryant gone, Smith-Schuster moved into the full-time role as No. 2 receiver. He could play in the slot if the Steelers elect to use rookie James Washington on the outside.

88 Darrius Heyward-Bey, 6-2, 210: Entering his 10 th NFL season and fifth with the Steelers, Heyward-Bey is little more than a special teams contributor at this stage of his career. He was limited to two catches for 47 yards in 2017.

11 Justin Hunter, 6-4, 203: He was inactive for seven games, plus the divisional playoff game. He was an early star of the 2017 training camp, and the Steelers brought him back on another one-year deal.

13 James Washington, 5-11, 213. He doesn’t have great size or blazing speed, but he set an Oklahoma State record with 4,472 career receiving yards – second most in Big 12 history.

10 Quadree Henderson, 5-8, 192: The path to a roster spot for the former Pitt player is via special teams. He returned four kickoffs and three punts for touchdowns during his three seasons with the Panthers.

14 Tevin Jones, 6-2, 225: The former Memphis player in entering his third NFL training camp after spending 2016 with the Houston Texans and 2017 with the Kansas City Chiefs.

15 Trey Griffey, 6-3, 192: After trial runs with the Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins last summer, the son of Ken Griffey Jr. is trying to stick with the Steelers.

16 Marcus Tucker, 5-10, 190: If the Steelers opt to keep a pure slot receiver, Tucker could earn a spot on the 53-man roster for the first time in his career. He spent last year on the practice squad.

18 Justin Thomas, 5-11, 185: A former standout quarterback at Georgia Tech, Thomas spent last year on the Steelers practice squad learning his new position.

83 Damoun Patterson, 6-2, 190: He averaged 17.3 yards per catch as a senior at Youngstown State, where he also was a special teams contributor.

Tight ends

81 Jesse James, 6-7, 261: Entering the final year of his rookie contract, James has averaged 41 catches for 355 yards and three touchdowns the past two seasons as a regular contributor.

89 Vance McDonald, 6-4, 267: He was inactive for six games last year but had the best game of his career in the divisional playoffs, catching 10 passes for 112 yards.

85 Xavier Grimble, 6-4, 261: As the No. 3 tight end, he made modest contributions of five catches for 32 yards and one touchdown in 15 games.

82 Ryan Malleck, 6-4, 219: He was signed in OTAs after a season-ending injury to Jake McGee. He spent time with the Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans last season.

87 Pharoah McKever, 6-6, 248: Spent one year at Florida International after transferring from N.C. State where he played behind Jaylen Samuels.

49 Christian Scotland-Williamson, 6-9, 274: A member of the International Pathway Player program, Scotland-Williamson is a former rugby player who is eligible for the practice squad.

Offensive linemen

53 Maurkice Pouncey, 6-4, 304: He was named to the Pro Bowl for the sixth time in eight seasons and has started 15 games in back-to-back seasons.

66 David DeCastro, 6-5, 316: A third Pro Bowl berth and a second selection as first-team All-Pro were honors compiled by DeCastro. Until he sat in the season finale, he had made 71 consecutive starts.

Ramon Foster, 6-5, 328: Will his 10 th training camp in Latrobe be Foster’s last? His contract expires after the season, and the Steelers could go with a younger player in 2019.

77 Marcus Gilbert, 6-6, 330: He’s played a 16-game schedule just twice in seven seasons. Injuries and a suspension limited him to eight games last year.

78 Alejandro Villanueva, 6-9, 320: The Steelers gave Villanueva a long-term deal and he responded by becoming a Pro Bowl left tackle. He has started 47 consecutive games.

67 B.J. Finney, 6-4, 318: The versatile Finney started four games last year – two at left guard, one as a blocking tight end and the season finale against Cleveland at center.

76 Chuks Okorafor, 6-6, 320: The rookie third-round pick may be the swing tackle given Jerald Hawkins’ season-ending injury. Teammates raved about his play in spring practices.

71 Matt Feiler, 6-6, 330: Joined Steelers in 2015 to provide depth on the practice squad at tackle but has taken snaps at guard. With Hawkins out for the year, Feiler could be a backup at multiple spots.

69 Bryce Harris, 6-6, 300: Harris is entering his seventh season but hasn’t been on the field regularly since 2014, and he’s with his fourth team in as many years.

68 Jake Rodgers, 6-6, 320: He had two stints on the Steelers practice squad last year and was re-signed in May after the Houston Texans cut him.

60 Parker Collins, 6-3, 295: At Appalachian State, Collins was a guard for two years before switching to center. He spent time with Jacksonville Jaguars last summer and was in camp with the Los Angeles Rams.

62 Patrick Morris, 6-3, 300: At TCU, Morris started as a center as a senior after playing guard as a junior. At the Alamo Bowl, he limited Stanford’s first-team All-Pac-12 Harrison Phillips to three tackles.

74 Chris Schleuger, 6-4, 305: An undrafted free agent out of UAB, Schleuger played left guard in his one year at the Conference USA school. He had prior stops at Northern Iowa and a junior college.

64 R.J. Prince, 6-6, 311: Signed out of rookie minicamp, Prince started 23 games over his final two seasons at North Carolina.

61 Larson Graham, 6-5, 292: At Duquesne, Graham was a four-year starter at right tackle and made 46 consecutive starts. He spent the 2017 summer with the Atlanta Falcons.

72 Joseph Cheek, 6-7, 311: An undrafted free agent, he spent the past two seasons on the practice squads of the Texans and Chiefs.

SPECIALISTS

Kicker

9 Chris Boswell, 6-2, 185: He had four game-winning field goals in the final minute, including three on the final play of regulation – all in the second half of the season. Boswell set a franchise record with 142 points.

Punters

4 Jordan Berry, 6-5, 195: He finished No. 23 among punters with a 39.8 net average and was No. 31 with a 43.2 gross average, but he had only two touchbacks, no blocks and dropped 26 punts inside the 20.

6 Matt Wile, 6-2, 215: Since 2015, he has been with four teams: the Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys, Atlanta Falcons and Arizona Cardinals. He was not with a team last season.

Long snapper

57 Kameron Canaday, 6-4, 245: Beat out sixth-rounder Colin Holba for the job last summer and didn’t have a botched snap all season. He returns for a second year.

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at jrutter@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.

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