By Alex Kozora
My observations from Day Four of Pittsburgh Steelers’ training camp at St. Vincent College.
I’ll save the play-by-play of the 11 on 11 for last. That makes some of the notes a little bit out of order but it doesn’t make that much of a difference.
– Some injury notes that you probably already know by now. Le’Veon Bell (hamstring), C.J. Goodwin (left shoulder), and Jordan Zumwalt (groin) were all out today. Goodwin was on the field and played catch with Markus Wheaton after practice, but you could tell he was keeping his left shoulder elevated. Zumwalt did some light work on the side before practice. The big news was Rob Blanchflower’s injury, Mike Tomlin calling it a “high ankle.” He was wearing a boot on his left leg. Check my Twitter for a couple pictures of him.
– As usual, starting with 11 on air. Saw a lot of empty set from the offense.
– Return men, in order: Dri Archer, Lance Moore, Danny Coale, Justin Brown, Martavis Bryant, Jordan Hall.
– Markus Wheaton was the first to catch more than three balls in the punt drill, somehow hauling in five. Tried to for a sixth but couldn’t hang on. Still, impressive.
– Todd Haley to his running backs as they ran routes out of the backfield. “Keep running, don’t slow down!”
– Order the wide receivers went in drills. Antonio Brown, Lance Moore, Justin Brown, Derek Moye, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Danny Coale, Kashif Moore, Martavis Bryant, Lanear Sampson.
In drills, both Browns, Lance Moore, Wheaton, and Derek Moye were in the “first” group. The rest in the second.
– I saw this throughout the drills. Bryant runs tall and is slow out of break. Especially so when trying to sell deep and then chop down. Separation is an issue and he’s going to have to rely on using his body to box out. Only works so well, however. Nice catch radius, can go climb the ladder, but I haven’t been overly impressed.
– Ben Roethlisberger was the first and only quarterback to complete a pass into the trash can, the drill that became a fan favorite last year.
– Derek Moye came out of his break wrong on a dig route. Richard Mann yelled something about his feet. Forced to repeat.
– Couple of highlights from the tight ends competing with the outside linebackers one-on-one in run blocking drills.
Heath Miller was successful against Jason Worilds all three times they went up against each other.
Will Johnson performed well against Arthur Moats. “There you go, there you go!” one of the coaches bellowed.
Michael Palmer struggled against Chris Carter. Had trouble sticking. Coaches asked to repeat it and they ended up going against each other four times, the most of anyone.
Bryce Davis had similar issue with Terence Garvin. Couldn’t stick. Not a good showing.
Matt Spaeth drove Jarvis Jones into the ground one occasion.
– And some of the highlights from wide receivers facing defensive backs one on one.
Will give Bryant credit here. Beat Lew Toler down the right sideline for a long catch. Then again, it is just Lew Toler.
Markus Wheaton got nice separation working against Cortez Allen on a comeback. As I wrote, he’s having a real nice camp. Going to continue to rave about his body control, concentration, and hands, and ability to make people miss. So far, he’s stepping up to the plate.
Antonio Brown burned Cortez on a double move but Roethlisberger overthrew him down the left sideline.
Dri Archer again with the wide receivers here and he stood next to wide receivers coach Richard Mann most of the time. Sometimes they just stood and watched, others Mann was talking to the rookie runner, giving him a few tips. All good signs from Archer. Absorbing, learning.
Odds are slim to none Kashif Moore makes this team but he really impressed me today. Extremely quick out of his breaks. Really knows how to get separation. Be it Jordan Dangerfield or Will Allen, he got open.
Derek Moye turned Toler inside out on a stop and go. Finished it with a catch, though the pass was underthrown.
All the coaches, including one mystery gentleman I’m trying to identify, are extremely vocal during the special team’s period. Danny Smith and Joey Porter were really brining the energy, as you’d expect. From Smith,
“Nice job, Devin Smith!”
“There you go, Justin Brown!”
The mystery coach. “Find the ball!”
Porter to Howard Jones. “Don’t slow down!” Referring to Jones being slow in getting off a block in a punt/kick coverage simulator. As the whistle to end the period sounded, Porter came over to Jones and showed him what he was looking for.
– The player who probably gets the least amount of reps during 11 on 11? Al Lapuaho. Poor Al.
– With the return of Ramon Foster, the first team offensive line looked how you’d expect. Although Chris Hubbard picked up a few snaps at first team left guard while Foster sat out. Perhaps that is just a way to ease Foster in. Didn’t have the luxury of two non-contact practices like the rest of the group.
– Second-team offensive line: Guy Whimper, Hubbard, Cody Wallace, Bryant Browning, Mike Adams. Though Wesley Johnson was rotating in at center for Wallace at points.
– Missed it Monday, have it for you today. Third-team offensive line. Johnson, Chris Elkins, Wallace, Simmons, Emmanuel McCray. So that of course means, as I tweeted, Johnson was getting reps at two spots today. The team really seems to be getting a long look at him. It’s a great sign for him. Haven’t been able to point out one play that’s been impressive – though as I’ve said, it’s easy to lose lineman in the pile – but his versatility has been one of the underrated storylines of camp.
Play-by-play of the OL/DL + OLB drill that again took place today. Missed the first few, I think, but here’s the 11 I watched.
1. Kelvin Beachum is able to anchor a Jarvis Jones bull rush. Good fight and Beachum gets a little bit of redemption for the whooping 95 put on him Monday.
2. Mike Adams follows suit, anchoring against an Arthur Moats bull.
3. Bryant Browning is just able to seal the edge versus Stephon Tuitt.
4. Wesley Johnson puts Hebron Fangupo into the ground.
5. Hubbard is able to anchor against Brian Arnfelt.
6. Chris Carter beats Guy Whimper to the inside, faking a speed rush before crossing his face.
7. Moats has his way with MCray, swimming over him and past.
8. An Ethan Hemer sighting! And it bears good news as he blows through Will Simmons.
9. Chris Elkins versus Daniel McCullers. Oh man. Elkins holds on for a moment, but just before you can hoot and holler, McCullers rips through and disengages. I want to see this matchup again.
10. Josh Mauro dips and rips past Hubbard.
11. Chris Carter false starts twice against Johnson. When he finally times it right, Johnson initially seals him to the outside though Carter is able to counter with an inside spin that brings relative success.
By this point, the one-on-ones were over, and I turned my attention elsewhere. I did briefly look back at some of the two v two’s, with the team Steelers really focusing on passing off stunts.
Elkins and Johnson (Johnson working as the left tackle) got crossed up once and doubled the same player, letting Mauro loop in free.
On the flip side, Beachum and Foster picked one up flawlessly.
And now, your 11 on 11 play-by-play. I believe only the first period was full contact while the others were “half hit”, not bringing anyone to the ground. Like yesterday, there were four of them.
1. Playaction. Roethlisberger thinks better of trying to throw deep and finds his second read, hitting Markus Wheaton on a dig.
2. LeGarrette Blount gets the ball and shows a nasty stiff arm to someone, I want to say it was Ryan Shazier, as he rips off a big run.
3. Dri Archer on an outside zone.
4. Inside zone to Archer again. Nice gain before Antwon Blake runs him out of bounds.
5. Blount carries a couple bodies as he gets a decent gain.
6. Fumbled exchange between Maurkice Pouncey and Ben. No play. First botched snap of camp. All in all, that isn’t bad.
7. Miguel Mayonset gets around five to six yards before Robert Golden wrestles him down.
8. Outside zone to Tauren Poole for a short gain.
9. Poole with the handoff again. Attempts to cut back but Vic So’oto knifes in from the big side and makes the tackle for a loss. Poole seemed to take offense to something and there was the briefest of skirmishes afterwards.
10. Landry Jones stepped on by the center (think it was Wallace). No play.
11. Jordan Hall gets popped good by Lawrence Timmons. Believe the back’s mouthguard flew off. Welcome to the NFL, rook.
12. Josh Harris’ first carry is nondescript and he’s dropped for pretty much no gain.
13. Jordan Hall busts off a decent run.
14. Josh Harris has one of the better runs of the day. Appeared to be stopped for a short gain but he stayed on his feet, found an opening, and had a long run.
15. Maysonet off the left side to end it. Big collision but couldn’t see what parties were involved.
1. Empty set with Blount in the slot. Markus Wheaton catches a curl route, makes the corner miss, and darts upfield for a long gain. Ton of YAC. Watched Shazier loop over Jarvis Jones on a stunt.
2. Empty. Big Ben’s short throw to Blount in the left flat falls incomplete. There may have been miscommunication.
3. Empty. Shazier breaks up an attempted quick hitter from Ben to Matt Spaeth.
4. Under center. Blake blankets AB down the right sideline. Blake running as the second team corner again.
5. Roethlisberger completes to Brown on a dig. At this point, Hubbard is in at left guard over Foster though Foster would eventually return.
6. William Gay plays the pocket of Brown and breaks it up. Brown on a drag.
7. Landry Jones goes through his reads and ends up finding Derek Moye coming across the field.
8. Jones completes to Justin Brown, working against Devin Smith.
9. Dan Molls would have gotten Jones on a sack had they been allowed, rushing in free. Jones scrambles.
10. Ryan Shazier rushing off the edge with Jarvis in the “B” gap, just as what happened yesterday. Comes in free off the edge, forcing Jones to check down to Bryant on a curl.
11. Jones holds onto the ball for too long and the coaches blow the whistle. Think that’s the first time it’s happened all camp. Bleh.
12. Troy Polamalu jumps a curl and picks Jones off. Tough sequence for the second year quarterback.
13. Brendon Kay’s first pass is complete to Harris in the left flat.
14. Kay rips it deep down the right sideline to Bryant. But it falls off his hands. Blake again with the coverage.
15. Empty set, Harris in the slot. Kay hits David Paulson in the flat with Vince Williams coming free on the blitz. One of the first times I’ve called Paulson’s name all camp long. Been quiet.
1. Playaction. Curl to Antonio Brown from Ben hits off his chest.
2. Empty. Roethlisberger with a quick hitter to Miller. Shark on the “tackle (no taking player to the ground).
3. Draw play to Archer. Jarvis Jones with the tackle.
4. Big Ben complete to Will Johnson on some dig/crosser. Marcus Gilberts stymies Moats trying to work around the edge.
5. Roethlisberger hits Moore wide open down the left sideline. Think there was some sort of combination route between him and the outside receiver. A curl/wheel concept that fooled the defense.
6. Amoeba look from the defense. Stephon Tuitt was the lone DL and everyone, including Tuitt, had their hand up. Pass is complete to a wide open Antonio Brown for a nice chunk via Ben Roethlisberger.
7. Handoff to Poole for a minimal gain.
8. Bruce Gradkowski checks down to Brown for a short gain. Garvin with the stop.
9. Gradkowski again forced to check down, this time to Maysonet. Again, Garvin makes the tackle.
10. Gradkowski overthrows Moye deep down the left sideline. Ike Taylor providing the coverage.
11. Draw to Hall before Thomas pops him.
12. Linebacker blitz but Gradkowski is able to get it away complete to Lanear Sampson working versus Cortez Allen.
13. Landry Jones checks down to Maysonet. Watched the offensive line and Will Simmons was able to anchor solo on McCullers.
14. Jones fires incomplete to Michael Palmer. Broken up by Vince Williams.
15. Jordan Hall for a short gain over left end. Eric Waters was able to initially stick to Sean Spence but does get overextended and eventually falls off.
1. Blount left tackle. Jarvis Jones makes the stop.
2. Dri Archer the same direction. Jones appears to be in the mix on the tackle along with another player or two.
3. Roethlisberger complete to Brown on a curl. Allen again on the coverage.
4. Inside zone given to Archer. Blake with the stop.
5. Ben complete to Matt Spaeth down the right seam.
6. Roethlisberger complete yet again. This time he finds Lance Moore.
7. Tauren Poole runs off right end for minimal yardage. Didn’t have as good a day today as yesterday.
8. Miguel Maysonet with arguably his best run of camp. Nice cut in the hole and runs for a respectable gain.
9. Landry Jones finds Justin Brown on a crosser. Aggressive look from the defense. Howard Jones lined up over center. Defense stunted and the line passed it off well.
10. Jordan Hall stuffed at the line.
11. Playaction. Pressure applied by Jason Worilds off the edge and Gradkowski is forced to take off.
12. Screen complete to Bryant. What’s notable on this play is Stephon Tuitt. Lined up at right end with the pass being thrown to the opposite side. Came across the field to help chase the play down. Recognized it immediately. Showed his athleticism and mental aptitude.
13. Short run by Josh Harris. Watched Chris Elkins pull and stick to Spence. Another good play from Elkins, another Power O by the Steelers. You still will see it this year albeit in smaller doses.
14. Harris gets about five off the left side. Jordan Dangerfield on a backside blitz though he didn’t record the “tackle.”
15. Finish the day by Brendon Kay hitting Harris in the flat. Tuitt stunted over Moats, who slanted to the inside with 91 looping overtop.
– As I’ve mentioned, thought Wheaton was the star of the show. Having a very strong camp. Considerably less skeptical about him acting as the #2 than I was a week ago.
– Josh Harris shows some burst as a runner. Like him more than I do Hall or Maysonet already. Remember that Alvester Alexander joined the team mid-way through camp last year and made the practice squad.
– Bryant had another drop in 7 on 7’s. Consider me less than impressed by his performance. And as a few of the wideouts were working out after the coaches let them leave, Bryant didn’t seem to be included. Don’t want to make a huge deal out of it, it was family day and perhaps his folks came up, but it would’ve been nice to see. Kashif Moore was again one of those guys working hard with nobody around.
– You can see Stephon Tuitt’s fluidity in individual and team drills. I’m excited.
– Jarvis Jones was around the ball a good bit today. A nice showing.
– Antwon Blake is showing himself to be apt in coverage. Not afraid to challenge the team’s top receivers.
– The rotation at safety has been pretty heavy. Troy Polamalu didn’t start in 11 on 11 though he would eventually be inserted in. Will Allen opened at SS and Robert Golden at free, making it appear that Shamarko Thomas was running behind. But throughout practice, Thomas was rotated in and received snaps as the first team strong safety. Heck, I’m pretty sure one of the pairings had Thomas as strong and Golden at free over Allen. So it’s really hard to get a read on the battles. Think the team is really pushing Thomas to earn his role.
– After most of the players had been dismissed, walking up the stairs to head back inside, Haley had the receivers go through one more drill, running curl routes, before he broke the squad down and dismissed them. The OC was preaching knee bend and called out, “Eyes up, chest down!” Couldn’t quite make it out but he was saying something about playing tired. Think it was to get the receivers to still be technically sound even when they’re gassed.
– Even though he’s mainly working with the linebackers, Joey Porter was giving some pointers to the defensive lineman after the OL/DL drill today.
– Devin Smith was working on the jugs machine after practice, getting in some extra work.
– I do hope to have some short videos and pictures from camp today. Be on the lookout for that. Hope to get them up tonight.
– Kelvin Beachum signed autographs along the fence behind the goalposts for nearly 10 minutes today.
– Bruce Gradkowski’s mom was on the field. He introduced her to Heyward-Bey, who gave her a hug. A kid called out to the backup QB from the bleachers and he came over and signed autographs. Great guy.
– Your McDonald’s Syfy movie of the day: Sharknado. Say what you will but the CGI is good for a Syfy movie. Sequel is on tonight. Sharks in New York, what a plot twist!
– Number of tabs my mother had open on her cell phone this morning: 73. Number of pens that exploded in my hand: 1. Number of hello’s from Missi Matthews: 0.
Please be nice to her on Twitter, Steelers’ nation. It will happen. Patience.
Thanks for reading everybody. The support has been fantastic. I’ll be back at it tomorrow.
Editor Note: Feel free to ask Alex a few questions in the comments below and he will try to answer them tonight. We will have a mini podcast up later tonight as well.