I don’t want to rely too much on the phrase It’s early too long, we are well over a week in camp, but there is still a long way to go. The Pittsburgh Steelers are yet to play their first preseason game and final roster spots are far from decided. But amidst this longest stretch of camp, six consecutive practices ending today, I wanted to take a step back and talk about my favorite players – camp darlings. The guys at the back of the roster work hard and turn heads. Here are three guys who aren’t making much of a buzz but are starting the summer off quietly.
WR Tyler Vaughns – It’s a deep reception room with the focus on the two draft picks, George Pickens and Calvin Austin III, as well as news of Diontae Johnson’s new contract. Truth be told, Vaughns is fighting for a spot on the practice squad, not 53. But for a guy who didn’t test well coming out of USC, a 4.69 40 (at his Pro Day , no less), 31.5 vertical inches, and 7.15 three-taper, he’s a smooth road runner with short-distance quickness that impressed WR coach Frisman Jackson. Over the four padded drives, Vaughn has five receptions for 55 yards on team drills. Receptions are tied for third most over that span while his yards rank second among all Steelers, behind only Calvin Austin III.
He tracked the ball well through the air and displayed more body control at the climax and snatched the ball away from his body. He’s got size and has mostly worked on the outside with quite a bit of return value, including a punt return touchdown in college. Even with an injury or two, Vaughns’ path to 53 is a narrow one, but he’s preparing to stay on the team’s practice squad as long as he can continue what he’s been doing now for the rest of the summer.
OLB Delonta Scott – There is still a fierce battle for relief pass rush points behind TJ Watt and Alex Highsmith. Genard Avery, Derrek Tuszka have worked as the best substitutes while Tuzar Skipper tries to recapture the magic he had when he first played the team. Scott accomplished the most forgotten part of camp – piling up good days. Anyone can be good for a day. Maintaining is what gets you on a list. Scott has been excellent since the pads turned into a passer and defender of the run, working on blocks, making plays on or behind the line of scrimmage, educating Zach Gentry behind the backs of ‘backers’ and beating some assists on his way to the QB. I still don’t know if he’s going to make the 53, it’s still a competitive battle and the group has been strong including UDFA TD Moultry but Scott has always been strong this week. Having a full offseason instead of jumping on the bandwagon, signed last September, certainly helped.
ILB Mark Robinson – Thanks to his 7th round selection, Robinson is a bigger name than the other two on this list. But he was still seen from the outside as summer approached. He’s still on the bubble thanks to the room’s high competitiveness at inside linebackers, but Robinson has been flashing since day one. He seemed more comfortable running back into coverage and showed he can make plays on the ball, thinking like tight end or running option routes back down the middle. He has the ability to change direction quickly that good runners must possess and he can sink and drive his hips to effectively break the ball.
He filled his hole well in the running sessions playing with energy and intensity but without being too aggressive and reckless. The ILB battle will be one of the fiercest and likely won’t be decided until the final hour, although Marcus Allen is likely hoping that hamstring injury will heal soon. Unfortunately, he’s probably still at least a week away from his return and might not play the first game of the pre-season.