Top 5 winners from Steelers Minicamp

PITTSBURGH — Steelers minicamp is officially in the books and the team is now focusing on Latrobe in July. However, let’s look back one last time. Who were the winners from the week of minicamp and who seems to be catching really well?

Darnell Washington

I wrote two days in a row that I thought Washington was the star of the camp. That makes him the star of the mini-camp. To me, you can certainly beat his route running, but nothing I saw took away from what his defined role will likely be. This guy should be a redzone monster, a seam threat and a ferocious blocker. I think that role is very much going to happen. During the week we confirmed through him and various other players that he caught five touchdowns this week.

I will say the one thing that really struck me about Washington is how much better he got each week. Whether it was him becoming more familiar with the playbook and his quarterback or something else, I’m not sure. What I do know is that he is really starting to show why he can be a viable weapon for Pittsburgh this year. If you’re going to ask me who will have the biggest impact on day one from this group of rookies, Washington is mine pick.

Marcus Golden

You should have been excited when the Steelers signed Markus Golden. For good reasons, this team needed another behind TJ Watt and Alex Highsmith. But more than that, Golden has just been really good so far. He’s not that explosive compared to most other guys in the NFL. Look at his NFL Combine numbers, they are not flashy. But you can just see why he’s lasted so long in this league despite that.

He is workmanlike, has power and finesse movements and has a certain hunting mentality. For a guy nicknamed ‘Junk’, it’s a fitting nickname. Golden is a guy who can have 5 or so sacks while putting a lot of quality pressure on quarterbacks. He will be a quality addition to this team’s outside linebacker room.

Alphonso Graham

I think some people are really rejecting some of these UDFAs at this point because what can you really tell? Well, when you’re trying to identify some standout UDFAs, I look for three things. One is the basic athletic traits. Two is the player’s mentality. Three are the strengths a player has that give them an inside track to perhaps earning a roster spot. If you knew last year, I said I thought the team had something in Jaylen Warren. Now I think they have something in Alfonzo Graham.

Graham has athletic features. He is fast and has instant acceleration that is truly something to behold. I’m not sure I knew he had it based on the tape, but he has a few extra gears than most guys in this league. Second, his mentality is quite rare. This is the guy who moved up and challenged Minkah Fitzpatrick as a minicamp tryout player who signed after the rookie minicamp. He’s just wired the right way. Third, his attributes as a receiver and experience on the special teams aspect of the football will give him an edge. I’m not sure if Graham will make it. The pillows still need to be put on. But I know he has the three things I look for that could make the recipe for a sleeper to make the team.

OT Dan Moore Jr.

Alright. I’m just not sure what else I could have asked from Dan Moore Jr. in the spring. First, he comes in with a brand new body after a rigorous off-season program. Second, he learns real tackling on his own without a prompt from the coaches. Third, he’s taking Broderick Jones under his wing, though the Steelers have clearly drafted Jones to take over at some point.

And I’ll tell you what, Moore looks solid. That extra strength adds a new layer to his game that doesn’t really pop until the pads come on. But he moves better in space. Moore is a true professional and team player. The stock is rising on him, especially for his long-term future with this team. Even though he’s just a quality swing tackle, Moore has done everything to show that he’s all about the team and what’s best for them, all while maintaining a healthy, competitive spirit for the left tackle job.

CB Levi Wallace

I think a lot of people seem to be giving up on Levi Wallace and what he brings to the table for the Steelers’ secondary. But he was underrated last year and the guy is a fighter. So it’s really not a surprise to see him have a good spring. If you think one of those rookies is going to come in and take Wallace’s job right away, I just don’t see it happening out of the gate. He is fluent, has good ball skills and is one of the smarter players in the team.

His athleticism isn’t as edgy as Cory Trice or Joey Porter Jr, but Wallace has a polished technique that has allowed him to stick in this league as a rock-solid player you can rely on. Going forward, I think everyone should appreciate a little more what Wallace brings to the table.

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