The Pittsburgh Steelers training camp is already three days old and on Sunday they had their second practice and thankfully the weather was nice. Below is a recap of the major highlights from the media.
Sunday morning was pretty much boring and void of any real news, so we will jump ahead to things that happened during practice.
Emmanuel Sanders has been making plays during the first two practices and he\’s using his speed to do it, according to Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider. Sanders explained that now he\’s playing outside instead of in the slot, where he is forced to be more controlled, and that\’s probably why he seems so much faster. More than anything else, Sanders says he is fully healthy now and that the problems with his feet and knee are way behind him.
As far as the other receivers not named Sanders or Antonio Brown, it was a pretty inconsistent day for the backups as even Markus Wheaton had a couple of drops. It seems like we hear this every year about the bottom of the wide receiver depth chart and it usually takes until the first preseason game or two before we start seeing one player separate from the pack. Last year it was David Gilreath, but even he still failed to make the 53 man roster out of camp. While Plaxico Burress isn\’t going to catch 50 balls in 2013, at least he is experienced and a big target in the endzone. He doesn\’t play special teams, so the Steelers will just have to make sure they have another young body at another position that can in order to accommodate him. That\’s where Baron Batch might come into play. It\’s still way early, but unless one of these young kids behind Wheaton starts setting the practice field on fire, Burress will be the fifth receiver.
At the beginning of practice, Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that four of the five starters on the offensive line were wearing knee braces during drills. Only Mike Adams was without one. Kaboly later reported that Maurkice Pouncey and Marcus Gilbert both removed their braces after individual drills were over and that he knows the Steelers center is not found of wearing them.
Speaking of the outside zone, Kaboly posted a video that was shot from behind that shows one of the drills used during practice. Offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. could reportedly be heard doing a lot of coaching on Sunday as the team continues to work on the outside zone which requires the linemen to get down field.
One thing I have noticed is that Joe Long appears to only be getting reps on the left side per the reports. If indeed this is true, it does not bode well for him making the roster, in my opinion. I would much rather hear about him getting his fair share of right side reps, because that would mean he is challenging Guy Whimper for the spot. I have a bad feeling Whimper might already be a lock to make the roster. We shall see.
Kaboly also said he thinks backup quarterback John Parker Wilson has the strongest arm in camp, but that it might actually be too strong at times. Strong arm or not, it would be shocking if the Steelers kept Wilson over fourth-round draft pick Landry Jones.
As far as the running backs go, Kaboly thinks Isaac Redman is looking very impressive so far. Redman of course worked with a speed trainer over the course of the offseason and on one outside zone play, Kaboly noted Redman as showing some burst.
During the return drills, Reggie Dunn put on a show catching balls with balls already in his arms. He was able to catch the first four and held onto all of them before finally having problems with the fifth. While the undersized Dunn might have impressed catching the ball that way, he reportedly had a few drops as a receiver. If Dunn is going to make the roster, he will need to have a heck of a preseason returning kickoffs. However, even doing that might not be enough.
In addition to running with the first team at right outside linebacker, Jason Worilds also received reps with the third team at the left outside spot. Presumably, Chris Carter is getting the second team reps behind LaMarr Woodley on the left side and the use of Worilds on that side with the third team will keep him sharp should injuries happen. It\’s way too early to get caught up with which player is playing on what unit. Instead, I like to focus more on what side a player lines up on so I can adjust my own personal depth chart accordingly. Worilds, by the way, appears to be moving around pretty good as Wexell reported that he chased Redman down some 40 yards down the field.
According to Will Graves of the Associated Press, backup tight end David Paulson made a series of diving catches in traffic. Paulson, along with Matt Spaeth, are of course receiving extra reps in practice because both Heath Miller and David Johnson are on the PUP list. As I mentioned in an earlier post, both Paulson and Spaeth need the work, so it\’s not necessarily a bad thing. It\’s good to hear that the Steelers second-year tight end is making plays.
It should not be a big surprise that Will Johnson is off to good start in camp. Yes, the team hasn\’t put the pads on yet, but this kid is making plays with his hands like he did last year. I would almost consider putting Johnson in bubble wrap right now until the start of the regular season if not for the fact he could use some improvement as a lead blocker. Sure, he\’s only a fullback, but if used correctly, he could be a main cog in the offense in 2013, especially if Miller is not ready to go early on. What an amazing find by Tomlin and Kevin Colbert.
Mike Prisuta of DVE Radio reported the punt returners during the live drill as being Brown, Sanders, Wheaton, Dunn and Gilreath and that none of the five dropped one. That\’s certainly encouraging.
As far as injuries go, cornerback Cortez Allen left practice with right knee discomfort and he watched the rest of practice with an ice wrap attached to him. Allen said the injury isn\’t serious, however, and considers himself day-to-day right now. Cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke suffered a left hamstring late in practice and while Tomlin refused to speculate, we can only hope that it doesn\’t sideline him for very long. Van Dyke is fighting for a roster spot and being as he wasn\’t with the team last year in training camp, he can\’t afford to miss many snaps this year.
The Steelers released their first depth chart of the 2013 season Sunday and while it is fun to look at, I would advise not to read too much into it this early on.
Things will get serious on Monday as the Steelers will put the pads on for the first time. Backs on backers, perhaps? We can only hope.