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If healthy, the Pittsburgh Steelers could have the most potent offense in the NFL

In breaking down the offense, SCI's Jim Wexell found only one unstable position group

We're still buried somewhere in the middle of the 40-day football offseason, but let's take a break from the profiles of the more unknown Pittsburgh Steelers and review spring workouts and preview training camp in relation to the 53-man roster.

Today we'll look at the offense. The number in parenthesis is the number of players I believe have a roster spot reserved.

QUARTERBACK (3) -- Ben Roethlisberger at 34 is fit and throwing well and Bruce Gradkowski at 33 showed a revived arm after spending last season on IR. The only question is whether Landry Jones has passed Gradkowski into the No. 2 spot, and the preseason games will be used to determine that. Dustin Vaughan is the best No. 4 they've had since Dennis Dixon in 2011.
 
RUNNING BACK (4) -- Le'Veon Bell is so focused he took to taunting the NFL test-takers on April 20, and probably at 4:20 in the afternoon that day. I might be the only person in town who laughed at rumors of a failed drug test and at this point I think it's safe for all to have a good chuckle. Bell showed up a couple of days this spring to test his injured knee and he looked sharp. But he'll receive plenty of down time in Latrobe as the team readies its star runner for the opener. Bell's backup, 33-year-old DeAngelo Williams, looks just as quick as he did last year at this time. The No. 3 back is Fitzgerald Touissaint, whose fourth-quarter fumble last season in Denver is forgotten by all but media and probably fans. He's a favorite of both coaches and teammates. The fourth back is fullback (bullback) Roosevelt Nix in his second year with the team. Among the competitors to watch for a potential fifth job, or are first in line as an injury replacement, are shifty, speedy 5-8 Mercyhurst rookie Brandon Brown-Dukes, former Rams reserve Darryl Richardson and the guy who started the Hall of Fame Game 11 1/2 months and 30 pounds ago, Cameron Stingily.

WIDE RECEIVER (4) -- Just saw a stat that Antonio Brown has caught 152 passes for 2,039 yards in Roethlisberger's last 16 games. The just-turned 28-year-old is no doubt in his prime. However, the best offseason of the group is being turned in by Sammie Coates, who felt the need to get in better shape after an up-and-down rookie season. Coates is making a move on Markus Wheaton and Darrius Heyward-Bey for more playing time. Wheaton ended the spring with an unspecified injury that appeared serious enough for some camp concerns. The leader for the No. 5 spot has to be seventh-round pick Demarcus Ayers due to the reason he was drafted: punt-return skills. That gives him the edge over similarly sized Eli Rogers, who spent last season on IR and came on strong in the spring. Another small, shifty slot player, Marcus Tucker, is in this group vying for a rare No. 6 receiver spot or a job on the practice squad: 6-6 Issac Blakeney, Levi Norwood (Baylor return specialist, Baylor basketball player, Penn State transfer), last year's practice-squad member Shakim Phillips and intriguing undrafted 6-2 rookie Canaan Severin. It was mere coincidence, the Steelers say, that Severin was given Heath Miller's No. 83. Both came out of the University of Virginia.

TIGHT END (1) -- This could be the most unstable position group because the alleged anchor, Ladarius Green, the 6-6 free-agent acquisition, looked shaky while rehabbing his surgically repaired ankle. The No. 2, Matt Spaeth, should be a lock due to his veteran presence in a room full of newcomers but he's 32 and didn't practice at all in the spring. The one lock is Jesse James, who made all eight of his receptions in the second half of his rookie season and then a 22-yarder in the postseason in Denver. Xavier Grimble looks like a playmaker without pads and has his best chance of making a roster since playing at USC in 2013. Retread David Johnson has everything the Steelers like in a No. 3 at this position. The soon-to-be 29-year-old can play all of the spots including fullback and at 245 is in the best shape of his life. Late rookie addition Paul Lang is a 260-pound blocker out of Michigan State.

OFFENSIVE LINE (7) -- Four starters, two competitors for the left tackle job (Alejandro Villanueva, Ryan Harris) and the top interior backup (Cody Wallace) are the lucky seven locks. The near-lock is fourth-round rookie tackle Jerald Hawkins, but he'll split some camp reps on the second line with 6-9 Brian Mihalik. We'll have more on Mihalik soon. The top interior reserve candidates behind Wallace are B.J. Finney and Chris Hubbard. That's 11 names. Last year's practice-squad tackle, Matt Feiler, received work along the interior this past spring, along with undrafted rookie Quinton Schooley and futures pickup Cole Manhart.

SPECIALISTS (3) -- The long-snapper for the 12th consecutive season will be Greg Warren and the placekicker for a second season will be Chris Boswell. I'm going to call  last season's punter Jordan Berry a lock over quality rookie Will Monday because a rest really seemed to have revived the Aussie's strong leg.

Tomorrow: Defense


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