13 veterans who could be challenged this summer

Ray Fittipaldo 7 years ago

After the Steelers completed their draft on Saturday, general manager Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin held a news conference to answer questions about the 2015 draft class. At the very end of the question and answer session, Colbert made it very clear some veterans will be challenged by rookies attempting to make the team.

“I think that we got eight players that will help us be a better team going forward,” Colbert said. “We have 47 guys back from last year’s team. When you add in DeAngelo Williams that’s 48 guys. Really, we didn’t have a lot of spots unless we get competition to beat out someone who was already on our team. We hope that this group of eight and whoever we pull out of this free agency class will make us better. If that means beating someone out that’s currently on this team, so be it.”

Here are 13 veterans who spent time on the roster last season who could be challenged by a rookie this summer:

B.W. Webb – Webb, a cornerback, dressed for 11 games last season, but with the addition of draft picks Senquez Golson and Dorna Grant, he appears to be a longshot to make the team again.

Ross Ventrone – Ventrone, a safety, was elevated to 53-man roster in the middle of last season after some injuries in the defensive backfield. He is strictly as a special teams player, and at 28, could be replaced by a younger player who provides more upside if the coaches can find a suitable replacement for his special teams duties.

Darrius Heyward-Bey – The Steelers re-signed Heyward Bey, who made his mark on special teams. The Steelers added receiver Sammie Coates in the third round, and he’ll be the No. 4 receiver. Heyward-Bey could be challenged for the fifth receiver spot by C.J. Goodwin, who spent last season on the practice squad, if Goodwin can play special teams with the same quality that Heyward-Bey provided.

Chris Hubbard – Hubbard, a guard, made the 53-man roster last season as the ninth offensive lineman after offensive line coach Mike Munchak expressed an interest in keeping nine linemen. He only dressed for one game, and Tomlin could change course this season if he has his sights set on improving his special teams. The Steelers did not draft an offensive lineman, but they did sign four undrafted free agents, who will get a chance to open some eyes over the next few months.

Mike Adams – The former second-round pick is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Adams, a tackle who cannot play guard or center, did OK as a backup last season, but if Alejandro Villanueva, who was on the practice squad last year, puts it all together and becomes too good to expose on waivers, Adams could be the odd man out.

Clifton Geathers – Geathers, a defensive lineman, was added to the 53-man roster late in the season after Brett Keisel was injured. The Steelers signed him back at the request of defensive line coach John Mitchell, but Geathers could be challenged by Ethan Hemer, a practice squad member last season, or rookie sixth-round pick L.T. Walton.

Cam Thomas – It would appear Geathers is in more immediate danger than Thomas because of Thomas’ ability to play end and nose tackle. However, Thomas, who was signed as a free agent before last season, was a disappointment when he was handed a starting job at the beginning of last season. He eventually lost that starting job to Stephon Tuitt.

Josh Harris – The Steelers kept only two running backs on the roster for most of last season. Harris was elevated to the 53-man roster after LeGarrette Blount was cut. With the addition of Williams, Harris could be in danger unless he proves capable of providing something to the offense or special teams.

Robert Golden – Golden, a free safety, has made an impact on special teams in his first three seasons, but the Steelers seem intent on adding playmakers to their secondary. They drafted Gerod Holliman in the seventh round, and if Holliman makes the team it likely would be at the expense of Golden.

Will Allen – Allen, who can play both safety positions, has been a dependable reserve for the past few seasons, but he is entering the twilight of his career. If Golden proves too valuable on special teams, Allen could be expendable if the coaching staff wants to keep Holliman.

Terence Garvin – Made the team in 2013 out of nowhere because he played well on special teams. The Steelers are stacked at inside linebacker and just added two outside linebackers in the draft. Garvin is versatile, but if sixth-round pick Anthony Chickillo shows he can play special teams a fifth outside linebacker could make it over an inside linebacker. In that scenario, Garvin would be at risk.

Will Johnson – Johnson, a former full back who transitioned to H-back last season, was used more in 2013 than 2014. He has played in 47 games the past three seasons with 17 starts, but the Steelers could look to keep second-year tight end Rob Blanchflower over Johnson if Blanchflower, who was on the practice squad last season, has a strong training camp.

Dri Archer – I don’t see any way the Steelers cut a third-round draft pick after only one season, but if what if keeping a specialist who doesn’t fit into the offense is deemed a luxury the coaching staff cannot afford?