Steel Curtain Network: A Pittsburgh Steelers podcast

Who are the Steelers top camp darlings for 2023?

On the most recent episode of The Scho Bro Show podcast, myself and Big Bro Scho (Rich) each came up with a list of five potential camp darlings for the 2023 season. As our lists rolled on, we had repeat players to bring the grand total to seven potential darlings.

To clarify what we mean by “camp darling,” it really comes down to players who are getting more discussion by Steelers’ fans than anything else. These players are not the superstar players, or even the starters. A player can become a darling simply by elevating their expected status for the 2022 season. Whether it be someone who was thought to be among the first cut and end up making the practice squad, someone who wasn’t expected to make the 53 and appears to be able to squeeze onto the roster, or someone thought to be a role player that may end up with significant playing time, exceeding expectations is the key. Additionally, we eliminated players who were previous starters for the Steelers or another franchise, or were drafted on Day 1 & 2 of the NFL draft.

So without further ado, here are the seven players selected to possibly be the biggest camp darling of 2023 followed by a brief explanation of the choice. The choices only picked by one of us will be listed first along with what place we selected them followed by the players we both had.


Rich:

Chris Wilcox (5th)
Rich was looking for a dark horse for his final spot, so he went with a different cornerback who not many are talking about. A seventh-round pick of the Buccaneers last season, Wilcox spent time on the Colts and Cardinals practice squads last year before signing a futures deal with the Steelers.

Hakeem Butler (3rd)
Many Steelers’ fans have been hyping Butler after his big season in the XFL. The big question will be if he is still in the conversation based on his play with the Steelers. After missing his rookie season of 2019 due to injury, Butler failed to stick with multiple NFL teams in 2020 and was not on a practice squad in 2021. In 2022 he couldn’t stick with multiple CFL teams before coming on strong in the XFL.

Dave:

David Perales (4th)
The edge rusher out of Fresno State is an interesting prospect as an undrafted free agent. With 11.5 sacks his senior season, Perales should be in the mix for the practice squad at least but if he can get to the quarterback in camp and the preseason Steelers’ fans will quickly fall in love with him.

Alfonzo Graham (3rd)
With over 1,100 rushing yards and eight touchdowns his final year at Morgan State, Graham is already on the fans radar after he was signed to the team after a tryout at rookie minicamp. Add in uncertainty at the third running back position, Graham will have a lot of fans attention in the coming weeks.

Both:

Jordan Byrd (Dave: 5th; Rich: 2nd)
Listed as a running back in college at San Diego State, the Steelers have Byrd listed as both a wide receiver and a return specialist. With three kickoff returns and one punt return for a touchdown in college, Steelers fans would clamor for Byrd if he flashes in the return game at training camp.

Calvin Austin III (Rich: 4th; Dave: 2nd)
Since he didn’t even take the field in a preseason game last year, Austin is still eligible to be a camp darling in 2023. On his way as a darling last year before injury, fans will still be paying attention to the speed and shiftiness of Austin as a 2022 fourth-round draft pick. But with Byrd and Austin both being undersized players with speed, which “skidaddler” will be the talk of training camp?

Cory Trice Jr. (Both 1st)
Already a big focus by Steelers’ fans throughout the offseason, Corey Trice has been turning heads since he was selected by the Steelers in the seventh round of the 2023 NFL draft. When it comes to seeing what Trice can do on the field, it wasn’t a question as to if Steelers’ fans would be looking, but when they would finally get the opportunity.


So there are our seven players we feel could be the darling of the Steelers 2023 training camp. Which player do you feel will get the most buzz now that the pads are coming on? Is there someone else you feel is the top candidate who was not listed? Make sure you leave your thoughts in the comments below.

To hear the entire show and more of a breakdown for each player, the episode of The Scho Bro Show can be heard here:

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