Friday, May 17, 2013

Adrian Robinson And Several Others Face Do-Or-Die Training Camp



Winners, I am convinced, imagine their dreams first. They want it with all their heart and expect it to come true. - Joe Montana

The draft class has now experienced their first minicamp and are now starting to be signed. Shamarko Thomas signed his four-year deal and we can project that the Steelers will start to sign more of the lower-round picks soon. With the $5.5 million Salary Cap space freed up by the release of Willie Colon set to kick in June 2nd, the Steelers will need about $1.63 million in Cap space to sign them.

There are players already on the team, though, that will need to state their cases very loudly at Latrobe in late July. Both the offense and defense carry several players who will make for a competitive Training Camp. And competition breeds contempt - just ask Antonio Brown and Ike Taylor.

Competition also will help the cream to rise to the top. This Training Camp will provide many such opportunities as there are several players who will be battling for positions. Primarily positions at linebacker and in the defensive backfield.

One name that is resurfacing this offseason is that of Adrian Robinson. The 6'1", 250-pound defensive end-turned-outside linebacker out of Temple University, who went undrafted last year, caught the attention of Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler last offseason. We said of him then that he would look to make the transition to standing up as an outside linebacker in the Steelers' 3-4 system, which is always a tough adjustment - learning the technique and learning to play the position without his hand(s) on the ground.

So, what applied then applies now, for Robinson to make the 53-man roster he would have to outplay Chris Carter on special teams and show that he has more long-term upside than Carter as an outside linebacker.

Three qualities, however, that Robinson has in favor are his motor, his desire to compete and is character. Just what his college head coach at Temple, Steve Addazio, said about him last year.

"Adrian plays relentless," Addazio said. "He flushes the quarterback out of the pocket and chases him around like a crazy man....Without a doubt, Adrian Robinson is truly one of the finest young men I have ever had the pleasure to coach. Adrian has been the quintessential role model for our program and has set the standard for which all players should follow." - http://tinyurl.com/cx6ysb5

Simply put, the qualities of a winner. Qualities that could very well earn him a roster spot this August.

As for the others on the roster who will be fighting for spots, there are Sean Spence, Stevenson Sylvester, Marshall McFadden, Kion Wilson and Brian Rolle, with only Sylvester and Rolle having real game experience. Although, McFadden has a good chance to make the roster because he can play either the Buck or the Mack position.

The Spence situation is a curious one to figure out, though, because of his injury. The latest word on his rehabilitation was delivered by Steelers GM Kevin Colbert.

"Sean is progressing. When you have as serious a knee injury as he unfortunately had, it sometimes is a very long process. Sometimes it takes over a year to fully rehabilitate," Colbert said. "But the good thing is we are seeing signs of progress, albeit small steps. But it is progress. Sean's attitude is off the charts. He wants to rehab. He wants to be a great player. He is working hard to get there. He is making small progress, and as long as he is making progress, we will be patient with him and hopefully get him back at full speed at some point."

As for Sylvester, he should not only have pushed incumbent starter Larry Foote for the position, but should actually be the one who starts next season. As is stands, newly drafted Vince Williams has already shown that he will be pushing both Sylvester and Foote. In fact, Williams could push Sylvester right out of town.

The defensive backs competition is also going to be interesting. Shamarko Thomas could very well quickly pass Robert Golden and Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith as the first safety off of the bench. That's almost a given, though. The real competition is among the cornerbacks.

The last three cornerback positions, if the Steelers do decide to keep six, will undoubtedly be a heated battle. With Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen slotted as your starters and William Gay as the Nickel/slot guy, Curtis Brown would seem to lead the list of those who will be the Big Nickel and Dime positions.

In a previous blog, we focused attention on Isaiah Green and his desire to secure a roster spot. There are also Justin King and Ross Ventrone who are currently on the roster, but those two are just camp bodies. Terry Hawthorne is most likely your fourth cornerback and one of the next two should fill the last cornerback spots.

DeMarcus Van Dyke was drafted in 2011 by the Oakland Raiders and waived by them in 2012, and at that point came to the Steelers just before the season started. Head coach Mike Tomlin said when he was signed that he had been on their radar and that he has real potential.

"He’s got big-time upside, he’s an extremely fast guy," Tomlin said. "It was an opportunity for us to put a young cornerback in the mix and continue to work with him and develop his skill and see if maybe he can help us at some point."

Hopefully, for his sake, that is this season. He may have great speed (4.28/40), but he must eliminate the mistakes. On five occasions last season he was flagged for holding and for running out of bounds while covering punts. If he cleans that up, he may have a chance to make the final 53. If not, he would be on the street without any longer having practice squad eligibility.

The other is Josh Victorian, whom Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake spoke highly of at his press conference to introduce draft pick Illinois cornerback Terry Hawthorne. Lake's attention turned briefly to Victorian in describing how he came to be with the team.

"Josh really was a surprise for us," Lake said. "We needed some bodies really to work the look team for our offense and we brought Josh in specifically for that. He was on a developmental team and because of the amount of injuries we had, Josh was it. He was our starter by default.

"Like I said before, I had probably two weeks with him to get him ready and his first start was against Dallas in Dallas. I have to give my hat off to him for coming in and really concentrating and getting ready specifically because we didn’t have much time with him before that."

Victorian has an honest chance at making the Steelers 53-man roster out of training camp this year. If not, he, unlike DVD, still has practice squad eligibility.

While the competition doesn't necessarily mean we'll see fights in Training Camp like we did last year (twice) between AB and Ike, we can safely say that those who make the final cuts will have run the gauntlet and will have proven that they want to be winners.

~

TIDBITS: The 2013 version of the NFL Network's annual Top 100 Players revealed that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wound up all the way down at No. 61 spot this year. He was No. 30 last year. A joke both times.

~

The offseason program that officially began on April 15th set the stage for the OTAs, the dates of which are: May 21-23, May 28-30 and June 3-6. Minicamp will be held on June 11-13, and after that the dates for Training Camp will announced.

~

The $5.5 million Willie Colon money will be freed June 1st and officially available June 2nd. I have a feeling I know how the Steelers will use some of that money: OL depth.