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Players Who Impressed at Steelers Minicamp

The Pittsburgh Steelers had seven names stand out at minicamp.

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers wrapped up the final day of minicamp and are now on break until they return to Latrobe for training camp at the end of July. 

The month-long break is never fun, but reflecting on the final three days of practice, the excitement for what's to come at Saint Vincent College is high. 

"The vibe of the people is super super cool," George Pickens summarized it as. "Super super ready to go, and they're super super energized too."

So, amongst a group of energized, ready, focused players, who stood out? 

Calvin Austin, WR

Is burning a future Hall of Famer enough for Calvin Austin to make the list? The second-year wideout has put it all on the field, and those from Kenny Pickett to wide receivers coach Frisman Jackson have raved about his electricity during OTAs and minicamp. 

"We've got Calvin back. I'm excited about that," Najee Harris said. "Calvin's kind of a unicorn you can put anywhere. Put him in the backfield, the slot, everywhere. I think he's gonna be featured a lot. He's gonna put a lot of pressure on defenses that'll help us all out." 

Fans got a taste of Austin last training camp and the rookie didn't shy from the exposure. In year two, his Latrobe performance could be even more exciting to watch. 

Alfonzo Graham, RB

"That guy gets better every single day because he’s getting coached with detail and those things,” running backs coach Eddie Faulkner said on Graham's development. "And so if we just continue to build on that, you might have something there."

The Steelers are letting a two undrafted rookies in Graham and Darius Hagans compete with Jason Huntley and Anthony McFarland for the final running back spot. So far, it appears McFarland holds the upper hand, but Graham is making a case for himself. 

Outside of getting leveled by Minkah Fitzpatrick, he's impressed. And even calling out an All-Pro was gutsy enough to respect it. 

Keep an eye out for the next rookie runner to explode onto the scene in Pittsburgh. 

Elijah Riley, DB

The Steelers have three players competing for the slot cornerback role this season - Elijah Riley, Chandon Sullivan and Duke Dawson. While Sullivan may be the favorite heading into training camp, Riley is putting on a show, and could find himself as the leader by the end of the summer. 

"Nickel has been my priority this offseason," Riley told All Steelers. "Obviously, I want to know all the positions in the secondary. Be a utility guy wherever they need me. But it's something I've been honing in on, detailing, and really taking the time to try and step into a role where hopefully they expect me to take on."

He's had a few impressive nickel blitzes that reminded you of Mike Hilton, and if he continues to get those opportunities, he could put himself on the map for the coaches and the fans. 

"[Blitzing is] new to me in the system, but back in college, I was big off the edge blitz. I pride myself on it," Riley said. "I think blitzing is something I do well, and it's great being here in the system where we do get the opportunity to blitz off the edge often as a nickel."

Luq Barcoo, DB

A sleeper in the cornerback room, Luq Barcoo has stepped up big in the final few days of phase one. Not only did he have a pick-six on Mitch Trubisky, but he's recorded a few pass breakups each day that followed - ending the week with four on the final day of practice, he told All Steelers. 

"I feel like I've gotten a lot more comfortable since I've been in here, with the playbook and around the locker room, stuff like that," Barcoo said. "As we head into training camp, I feel like I'll be able to continue to get more comfortable and make more plays and put myself in better position to make plays." 

Beating out Cory Trice and James Pierre won't be easy, but it's a challenge Barcoo has set himself up nicely for. At just 24 years old, there's plenty left in the tank for this former XFL star, and we'll see if it comes to fruition at training camp.

Keanu Neal, DB/LB

Keanu Neal may be labeled as a safety, but fans should expect to see him playing all over the field this season. 

"I’ve been moving around quite a bit," Neal said. "Down in the box, I’ve been in the deep part of the field. Getting a feel for each aspect has been good. Here, they are about having chess pieces to move around. I’m not the only one doing that, and it’s good to learn that way of playing."

Neal is in the mix at safety and inside linebacker and has shown he's ready to play a pretty big role for the Steelers defense. What makes him special is his physicality, which was the team's bread and butter this offseason as they looked to return to bully ball football. 

With Neal impressing early, he should be in the mix to make some plays this season - and maybe have a few jaw-dropping hits. 

Nick Herbig, LB

The fourth-round rookie made headlines because he joined his brother and had an emotional opening conference call. But since stepping on the field at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, Herbig has made plays, and has been rather impressive during minicamp. 

"He's been great so far," Alex Highsmith told All Steelers. "He's a hardworking guy. Just excited for the value he's going to add to our defense, our outside linebacker room. He's out here rushing hard and learning rushes consistently, so he's going to bring juice."

Behind Highsmith, T.J. Watt and Markus Golden, Herbig is likely a lesser-used commodity off the edge this season, but if he's capable of making the most out of his limited time now, he should be able to turn that into production during the season. 

And if the Steelers found something in him they can use for the long run, fans should get excited about the team's next pass rusher. 

Darnell Washington, TE

Washington took over during the final week of phase one, showcasing his receiving ability after already grabbing people's attention with his blocking. 

"I feel like I have a full route tree," Washington told SteelersNow. "At Georgia, I ran a lot of different routes in practice. If I had made a practice highlight tape, it would look like I had 2000 yards. But when the game happened, those plays were not called, or Brock Bowers is doing Brock Bowers things out there. But I feel like I have a lot of upside."

There's still more development to come for the rookie tight end, but it's hard not to be impressed by anyone with his size doing good things. If it works out, he's going to be a scary football player for the Steelers offense. 

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