Door is wide open for Steele

All any player trying to make an NFL roster, or move up the depth chart during training camp, can hope for is an opportunity. Tight end Ben Steele has been handed a big one.

With Bubba Franks negotiating a new contract and David Martin sidelined with a groin injury, Steele is working with the first-team offense in training camp with mixed results. In order to make the next step up he has to consistently show that he can catch the ball. Since Steele was promoted to the active roster last fall, that has been his biggest downfall.

Steele has shown an ability to block, play well on special teams, and get open downfield. But he has dropped passes that are catchable and made the mistake of lining up on the wrong side of scrimmage during today's morning practice. However, Steele is making progress, according to Packers coach Mike Sherman.

"He lined up in a third-and-two on the wrong side, which kind of bothered me," said Sherman. "That's something we went over last night. When you miss align and the quarterback has to tell you to go somewhere, that's not a good play. So, I was a little bit upset about that.

"But in his defense, since the first day (of training camp) when he had a tipped ball that caused an interception – a pass he should have caught – and everybody was on his butt, he's come back and done an excellent job of catching the football, getting open and making plays. There was one over here on a seam route that would have been a great catch, but we expect that out of him.

"I'm pleased with where he is, but consistency … he's got to go back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back (catching the ball), and then we get excited."

Steele realizes he has to consistently catch the ball better. To his credit, he worked daily catching passes during July with his good friend, San Francisco 49ers tight end Eric Johnson. The two practiced with other players near Johnson's home in San Francisco Bay area. Steele and Johnson each caught about 150 balls a day from Niners quarterback Ken Dorsey.

"Just working with him has made me that much better," Steele said. "He should have made the Pro Bowl last year from catching balls. That's something that he's really good at. He's helped me focus and key the ball, and worry about making moves after.

"We challenge each other. We hold each other accountable. We're both competitive and we both like to work hard."

Steele's window of opportunity is tight. If he is unable to show consistency, the Packers may turn to free agents Sean McHugh, a former fullback who was promoted to the team's active roster late last season, or Steve Fleming. But Steele realizes the chance and is doing the best to capitalize.

"I'm not just trying to make the team. I want to make this team better. I've just got to focus and make the plays when I get a chance to."

Todd Korth

Note: Todd Korth is managing editor of and Packer Report. E-mail him at

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