The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the fields of Saint Vincent College on Monday for their third training camp practice of the 2013 season. The team wore their pads for the first time on Monday and below is recap of the practice.
On Monday, the pads were on and at center stage was the inaugural "backs on backers" drill that always gets everyone excited. The drill, which most of you should know by now, is heavily slanted in favor of the linebackers, as they get a running start at the running backs, who are not allowed to cut block. Mike Tomlin, however, tried to balance things out this year by at least letting the running backs know which linebacker was coming at them.
Center stage within the drill was of course linebacker Jarvis Jones and running back Le\'Veon Bell, the Steelers top two draft choices. The two went at each other four times with each winning twice. Jones uses his hands more than the other linebackers, according to an interview Bell gave to Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider and it apparently caught him off guard a few times. In total, Bell participated in 11 battlers and Mike Prisuta of DVE Radio scored the rookie running back as winning five of those.
As far as the other combatants, Will Johnson, Isaac Redman and Matt Spaeth all faired well overall in their battles, while David Paulson and Baron Batch were the disappointments. On the linebacker side of the drill, Marshall McFadden reportedly had a good showing as did LaMarr Woodley. McFadden beat Batch on one of the reps and the running back took exception. There might have been a pretty good scuffle had running backs coach Kirby Wilson not intervened, according to several reports on Twitter.
In the end, Prisuta had the defense winning 30-17, which isn\'t overly surprising as they win the drill every year.
While the drill is certainly fun to follow and talk about, there is always too much focus put on who won or loss. I like to think of the drill as one that measures "want to" and there were no signs via any of the reports that any of the players involved didn\'t "want to."
As usual, you can probably expect the next round of "want to" to take place Friday night under the lights during of Latrobe High School.
In addition to Jones "wanting to" during the backs on backers drill, there were several reports suggesting he his doing well when it comes to his drops into coverage. This is something that Jones has said in the past he didn\'t do a lot of at Georgia, so it\'s good to hear that he is potentially making some strides in that area of his game. In addition, Jones also got his hands up and on a few passes, so through the first three days of practices, nearly all of the reports have been positive on him and you have to like that.
Bell was reportedly rewarded with some first team reps in the offense for the work he put in earlier in the day, according to Ken Laird of Trib Live Radio. Laird also reports that Bell said he\'s picking up the playbook just fine and only pre-snap reads are causing him problems. That of course is to be expected right now.
Wrapping up what Laird had to report, he said backup nose tackle Hebron Fangupo picked up rookie undrafted backup center Joe Madsen and swung him thru the air, which prompted a funny response from Tomlin.
Both Paulson and Johnson continue to show their ability to make plays with their hands, according to one of my readers, who did add that Paulson got popped pretty good on one passing play.
With the pads on, the defensive backs were allowed to be more physical on Monday and they used that to their advantage not only when jamming off the line but in coverage as well.
Later in the day, Bob Labriola of Steelers Digest heaped a lot of praise on McFadden as he compared him to James Harrison. I am a huge McFadden fan, but am not ready to go that direction just yet. McFadden of course plays an entirely different position than Harrison, but it is good to finally hear more and more people get on his bandwagon.
A few names you are not hearing about thus far in camp are the names of linebackers Chris Carter, Adrian Robinson and Stevenson Sylvester. That\'s not unusual as most tend to only focus on the draft picks. We will get a better idea as to were those three players are at in their development as soon as the preseason games get rolling.
Labriola did report the second team offensive line as being Malecki at center, Chris Hubbard and Kelvin Beachum at the guard spots, and Joe Long and Guy Whimper at the left and right tackle spots respectively. How much should we read into that right now? Nothing, but I do stand firm in my belief that only Beachum and Malecki are the serious contenders to be the backup centers and guards.
Speaking of the offensive linemen, David DeCastro talked to the media on Monday and actually showed a little personality as he seems to be warming up to talking more. Me, I like the last year\'s angry and quiet DeCastro better.
Jonathan Dwyer also had his turn with the media on Monday and talked about losing 25-30 pounds during the offseason after training once again down in Florida. Man, that weight fluctuation can\'t be good for the heart, can it? Regardless, Dwyer is in shape and he said he hopes to lose five more pounds by the time the preseason games get rolling.
Tomlin wrapped up the events from the day in a bow during his afternoon Q & A with the media and he appeared to like what he saw during the first day in pads. As far as injuries go, cornerbacks Cortez Allen (knee) and DeMarcus Van Dyke (hamstring) remained sidelined and rookie Terry Hawthorne (knee) was sidelined for the first time during training camp, as that surgically repaired knee must be bothering him. Tomlin, as usual, would not speculate about when any of the three will return to practice, but according to Wexell, Van Dyke\'s hamstring injury might very well sideline him for a while. Should another young cornerback be signed between now and Wednesday, it\'s a pretty good sign that one of the three, if not more, will be down a while.
Of course Heath Miller (knee), David Johnson (knee), Sean Spence (knee) and Alameda Ta\'amu all remain on the PUP list and all are limited to work on the side with the trainers.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger talked to the NFL Network after practice to once again discuss his knee and relationship with Todd Haley. Knock yourself out watching the video if you have time to spare out of your life.
The Steelers will be off on Tuesday and will return to practice on Wednesday. I know several of you readers attended the Monday practice, so add what you observed during the practice in the comments below should you feel so inclined.