Steel Curtain Network: A Pittsburgh Steelers podcast

Steelers fans shouldn’t give up on these “depth” players

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for their first preseason game of the 2023 preseason, a road trip to visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Friday night, and with the upcoming game the Steelers were forced to put out an initial depth chart.

Mike Tomlin has long said to not take these preseason depth charts seriously, and the fan base will remember the “cut and paste component” last year when Kenny Pickett was “accidentally” listed at the QB3 on the depth chart behind Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph.

Nonetheless, as fans pour over the new depth chart, they are viewing some players as nothing more than quality depth. But what if they are more than that? I think there might be something to this, so I outline some of these “depth players” and how they could blossom into something much bigger than that this season.

Let’s start on the defensive side of the ball…

Defense

OLB Nick Herbig

The player who was thought to be lucky to just be a special teamer after being drafted in the 4th Round in 2023 has now turned himself into a viable candidate to rush the passer. His impressive camp so far has fans thinking bigger picture in 2023.

DT Isaiahh Loudermilk

Loudermilk is entering a critical year of his career, and he absolutely has been stepping up in a big way. Will he unseat someone like DeMarvin Leal? It’s doubtful, but he could find his way into the defensive tackle/end rotation. If that happens, it’s a big step forward for Loudermilk.

CB Joey Porter Jr.

We all likely said it when Porter was drafted 32nd overall. “He’ll take some time to acclimate, but he’ll be okay eventually.” Well, that eventually might be now. Porter has stepped up in every possible way throughout training camp, and with a big preseason he might be seeing the field a lot more than we once thought.

DB Elijah Riley

Our sources inside the organization have talked up Riley and his versatility going all the way back to mandatory minicamp. The fact he is showing up in training camp isn’t a shock to us here at SCN, but can he make plays in the preseason when the lights shine bright? If he does, he’ll likely be staring at a bigger role in the defense than anyone ever assumed prior to the season.

DT Keeanu Benton

The rookie defensive lineman dealt with a minor injury early in camp, but looks to be a very strong player along the defensive front. Will he be able to beat out a player like Loudermilk for playing time? Early signs in camp say it isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

NT Breiden Fehoko

Everyone saw Fehoko as nothing more than a player who can fill the gaps on running downs. While he can absolutely do that, Fehoko has shown to be more than just a one-trick-pony in training camp. This nose tackle position battle is getting interesting by the day.


Offense

TE Darnell Washington

“Mount” Washington is a blocker, everyone knows that, but can he be a passing threat too? Ever since the pads have come on in training camp heads have turned. Suddenly, Washington might more of a weapon than anyone ever thought.

OG Nate Herbig

When Isaac Seumalo was given some veteran days off, it was not Kevin Dotson who took the snaps at left guard. Even though Herbig is listed on the depth chart as a right guard, it was Herbig who filled in for Seumalo. That tells me he has an early edge on Dotson for the primary back-up guard. To me, that’s noteworthy.

RB Anthony McFarland

I’m not going to lie, I’m rooting for Anthony McFarland. McFarland has such a unique skill set compared to Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren I’d love to see what he can do in the Steelers’ offense. He’s been making plays in camp, but will he not just make the team, but get a helmet on game days? McFarland is at least making a case for himself.

WR Cody White

Just like Riley, we’ve been touting White since minicamp. Cody White does everything the right way. He knows the playbook inside and out, and is always in the right place. He’ll need to turn a great offseason, and a great start to camp, into production on the field if he wants to make the 53-man roster out of the gate. From what we’re hearing in the building, if it happens no one would be shocked.

WR Calvin Austin III

Can CA3 be the Steelers primary return man? Seems trivial, but will be a huge boost for Austin’s chances to make an impact on the team. Otherwise, with the depth the Steelers have at the wide receiver position, it is doubtful he makes much of an impact in that area right away, barring injury.

OL/FB Kendrick Green

Everyone loves to talk about Kendrick Green now being a fullback. Let me say, if they are practicing him at fullback, don’t think they won’t put him in that position in a game. And who cares if it is Green leading the way on the goal line for Najee Harris? I don’t. I also don’t care how players impact the roster, as long as it’s in a positive way.

WR Gunner Olszewski

While White is having a strong camp, so is Gunner O. He is catching everything thrown his way, is elusive in and out of his breaks, and is showing skills with the ball in his hands. Will it be enough? Some are finding it difficult to count Gunner out when it is time for roster cut downs.

HB/FB/TE Connor Heyward

The one constant for the Steelers throughout training camp has been how Connor Heyward just makes plays. The Steelers will have to find a way to get him more involved, but he is far from just another versatile H-back/Tight End. Get Heyward on the field, and let him cook!


This was the topic of conversation on my Monday episode of the “Let’s Ride” podcast. Check it out in the player below and hear me dive into each of these players further in the second half of the show!

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