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Four Steelers Position Battles To Watch At 2024 Training Camp

Is QB really one of them?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ ability to slip into an AFC wild-card spot in 2023 is a testament to the consistency of Mike Tomlin, but it also isn’t totally representative of where the organization currently is at.

Pittsburgh is almost always going to be competitive, but questions are still left to be answered about its ceiling for this season.

Is Russell Wilson the best option at quarterback? Can the Steelers continue to develop wide receivers, and do they have someone ready to take on that No. 2 role behind George Pickens? Is the defensive line depth going to become a problem around an aging star?

We don’t know the answer to any of those questions right now, but finding the path toward true contention should be the primary goal of Tomlin’s group in 2024. The Steelers will start finding answers during training camp, and the inherent position battles that come with preseason football should help begin to paint the picture of what needs to change (and what can stay the same) moving forward.

Let’s take a look at those position battles, and who might have a leg up before the Steelers return to Saint Vincent College on July 25.

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Quarterback

Competitors:
Russell Wilson
Justin Fields

Wilson is the starter, and it isn’t much of a question.

The Steelers announced as much in a press release after acquiring the 35-year-old in March, but there’s no doubt they like something about Fields — who is coming off a shaky (if we’re putting it nicely) stint with the Chicago Bears. Pittsburgh seems to be enamored by the youngster’s athleticism, and that should at least be enough to give him some significant snaps in the backfield and perhaps even on special teams. Fields needs work as a passer, but if he can ever figure that out, he already checks every other box over the aging Wilson.

If the goal is to develop Fields behind an aging Wilson and eventually give him a shot at starting, what is stopping Pittsburgh from pulling the trigger in Year 1 if it deems he’s ready?

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Wide Receiver

Competitors:
Roman Wilson
Van Jefferson
Calvin Austin III

George Pickens proved he could be a top-flight option last season, collecting 1,140 yards and eight touchdowns despite catching passes from Kenny Pickett (woof), Mason Rudolph (really?) and Mitchell Trubisky (yuck). Is there anyone in Allegheny County who can help him out, though?

Diontae Johnson is gone, and despite having an inability to find the end zone, he’ll be sorely missed. The Steelers’ third-leading receiver behind Pickens and Johnson last season was — *checks notes* — running back Jaylen Warren, so they need someone to step up.

Austin was the top internal option, but he didn’t exactly inspire confidence while being buried behind Allen Robinson II on the depth chart in his rookie season. It’s much more likely Roman Wilson or Jefferson prove to be the second option early this season, especially considering the former’s likely role will mirror that of Johnson’s from the last few seasons. It’s anyone’s job at this point, though.

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Defensive Line

Competitors:
Isaiahh Loudermilk
Montravius Adams
DeMarvin Leal
Dean Lowry

The Steelers don’t need a ton of help along the defensive front. T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward, Larry Ogunjobi and Alex Highsmith is — well, it just doesn’t get much better than that. Keeanu Benton was solid as a rookie, but there are snaps to be had in that group, especially as Heyward continues to wind down.

Leal, Loudermilk and Adams all served as depth options last season and didn’t play as much as you’d expect considering how healthy the top unit stayed throughout the course of the season. It would be silly to expect Ogunjobi and Benton to both play another full season — it’s just not how the NFL works — so who steps up and earns more snaps? We should get an answer by the time August winds down.

Linebacker

Competitors:
Cole Holcomb
Patrick Queen
Elandon Roberts
Payton Wilson

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The Steelers don’t exactly have to worry about this group producing; there just might not be enough snaps to go around. Roberts’ place feels the shakiest, but he led the team in tackles. Holcomb is coming off an ACL injury, and though he might not be ready to compete during camp, there’s a spot waiting for him when he gets back. Patrick Queen and Payton Wilson were both added this offseason to upgrade the room, but will the Steelers trust a rookie (Wilson) early?

It feels right knowing Pittsburgh has options at linebacker once again, but this isn’t 1976 or 2006. You can only play one or two at a time.

Featured image via Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports Images