Steelers Training Camp Practice Report: Day One – Saturday

By Alex Kozora

My practice notes from the Pittsburgh Steelers first training camp practice of 2014. Lot to take in and I clearly don’t have all the answers yet – not that anyone does anyway – but my observations from day one.

Ryan Shazier was the second player on the field, roughly a half hour before the start of practice. Couldn’t tell who was the first. Players weren’t wearing their jerseys.

Mike Adams, Kelvin Beachum, and Landry Jones walked down onto the field together. The two lineman were working on their kickslide before practice. Adams could definitely use the reps.

– It was a fun environment, as usual. Much louder though than previous years. A drum line greeted fans as you walked into the campus and played near the field before practice. Music blared over speakers in front of the bleachers until 20-25 minutes before practice. I thought the team might be pumping in music to simulate a loud environment as is the trend, but that obviously didn’t turn out to be the case. Better on my ears anyway.

– Before breaking into positional drills, the offense began by running 11 on air. The first team offensive line, of course, had no surprises. Cody Wallace was filling in for Ramon Foster while he’s away due to the death of his mother.

– Throughout the entire practice, it was clear Lance Moore will exclusively play in the slot. I don’t think he saw a snap outside the numbers the entire day. Markus Wheaton spent his time strictly on the outside.

– There may have been reports that claimed Antonio Brown was participating in the initial punt return drill, but he was not. Worked on the side catching passes. The players that did participate were: Dri Archer, Lance Moore, Kashif Moore, Jordan Hall, Martavis Bryant, and Justin Brown.

– Twice did Markus Wheaton manage to field a punt with a ball already in hand. Hall pulled it off once. The trick? Throw the ball you’re holding in the air shortly before you catch the punt. After the punt is secured, make the second catch.

– Don’t want to make too big of a deal out of it, but Mike Tomlin yelled at Mike Adams to “bend your knees and ankles” as the offense went through their warmup drills through the ladders and over the pads.

– As I tweeted, Will Johnson was working exclusively with the tight ends in positional work. Archer was with the running backs.

– The Kent State alum got some teaching after running a curl, ostensibly incorrectly. Think he turned the wrong direction.

– Tomlin paid close attention to the tight ends hitting the blocking sled. As David Paulson approached, Tomlin quipped, “Let’s see what you’re working with DP!” Paulson hit it well and drove it back, much to the delight of the head coach.

– The crowd erupted in cheers when Heath Miller drove the sled back without a problem. “Heeeath!”

Bryce Davis is not strictly a long snapper. He worked with the tight ends, catching passes and running routes, like the rest.

– As I tweeted a few times, Darrius Heyward-Bey seems to be running towards the back of the pack. All day he was working with camp bodies. C.J. Goodwin, Lanear Sampson, Kashif Moore, Brendon Kay at quarterback. Still plenty of time but it wasn’t an encouraging sign.

– It’s already been reported by plenty of sources, I’m sure, but Will Allen got the nod at FS over Shamarko Thomas with Mike Mitchell sidelined by a groin injury.

– The second team offensive line was as follows: Mike Adams, Chris Hubbard, David Snow, Bryant Browning, Guy Whimper.

– To no one’s surprise, Arthur Moats and Chris Carter served as 2nd team outside linebackers. Howard Jones and Vic So’oto were 3rd teamers.

– Speaking of the linebackers, Joey Porter drew a roar from the crowd as he once came near the bleachers.

– As Mike Tomlin confirmed, Snow suffered a lower leg injury in 11 on 11. Cody Wallace replaced him at center. It was interesting to see Snow working as the second-team center over Wallace to begin with.

Tauren Poole got 3-4 reps with the first team at various points during today’s practice. He didn’t do anything notable with them but it appears he’s a guy the team wants to get to know a little better. He better take advantage of the opportunity.

– Third team offensive line: Adams, Chris Elkins, Wesley Johnson, Will Simmons, Emmanuel McCray.

– Spotted Alvester Alexander on the field in his jersey, wearing a white cap. Was walking around without issue. If I had to guess, his injury in minor and he should return in the next few days. I do caution that is strict speculation.

Robert Golden, Will Allen, William Gay, and Poole all saw reps as the upback. Golden served there last season. Always good to keep an eye on who could back him up, however.

– The hangtimes I recorded for Brad Wing: 4.82, 5.12, 4.34, 2.98 (low liner), 4.03, 4.63. Last year, Danny Smith commented that an NFL punt should be in the air for at least 4.2 seconds. By that metric, four of his six punts I recorded (I missed one) were “NFL quality.”

Sean Spence ran as the second team inside linebacker paired with Vince Williams. Great sign for him but I want to see how he responds over multiple days. Once his knee starts taking a beating.

– Shazier was getting work on the punt coverage unit. Even first rounders have to do some of the dirty work.

– Dri Archer got the first rep as the return man catching Wing’s punts. Lance Moore was next followed by Antonio Brown.

– I love special team’s coach Danny Smith. High energy, you could probably hear him from the airport. Yelling at the team, “We’re losing, come on!” to simulate the energy the team needs to play with.

– Will Johnson received work out of the backfield as a traditional fullback. Don’t think I saw him get a rep as an in-line blocker.

– There may have been some rotation at nose tackle between Hebron Fangupo and Daniel McCullers as the second-team nose tackle, but it appeared the second team defensive line had Stephon Tuitt at left end, McCullers at the nose, and Brian Arnfelt at right end.

Terence Garvin ran as the 3rd team inside linebacker, getting reps next to either Jordan Zumwalt or Dan Molls.

– It’s just the first day so no reason to overreact, but McCray was on the ground too often for a padless practice. Not a good sign for a lineman. Have to stay on your feet. Can’t compete from the turf.

– Shazier got in the way of a Ben Roethlisberger pass during one of the 7 on 7’s. Roethlisberger applauded it, exclaiming “Five zero, five zero!”

– Garvin did get a couple reps at outside linebacker in 7 on 7’s, not that he could put that to use. They passively rush in this situation.

– One of the coaches yelled at Martavis Bryant to adjust his split during the same drill. He did, and then responded by catching an out route over the significantly smaller Isaiah Green.

– Poole wasn’t looking for a pass in the 7 v 7. Jarvis Jones bumped him and the pass fell incomplete from Landry Jones. Head on a swivel.

Devin Smith broke up a deep fly route from Kay intended for Kashif Moore late in practice.

– Heyward-Bey offered quick pointers to Bryant after practice. Might have been about how to react in a scramble drill, as what happened on the last play of 7 on 7.

– Getting a read on what “team” a player on the defensive line is running with can be difficult. There were times where the linebackers and secondary had the first team in, but the defensive line consisted of Tuitt, McCullers, and Arnfelt, presumably the second team.

Nick Williams appeared to be running as the third team right end.

– Kay seemed to hold the ball on for too long. Poor internal clock. Never a good sign.

– After practice, Beachum worked by himself on his initial step for his kickslide four or five times. Hard worker.

– Also after the final horn, Antonio Brown spent a solid five minutes on the jugs machine with a host of players behind waiting their turn. Started with some routine catches before making one-handed catches above and away from his body. Don’t think he dropped one.

– He saw time in the backfield and in the slot, at times being motioned from wide receiver and into the backfield, but it’s fair to say the Steelers are treating Dri Archer more like a running back than wide receiver. Oh by the way, it may have been a no-tackling drill, but his speed and explosion is evident. He’s as advertised.

– Saving this guy for last. Justin Brown had a strong practice. Don’t know if he dropped a pass the entire time, he made a one-handed grab on a go route in QB/WR drills, and most importantly, he was running with the “first class” wide receivers. Brown, Wheaton, and Moore. If you wanted to draw a line between the two groups, those three and Justin Brown make up top tier. Martavis Bryant, Darrius Heyward-Bey and the rest make up the bottom one.

– Ounces of water consumed: 33.8. Number of bee stings: 0. Number of hello’s from Missi Matthews: 0.

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.

Senior in college, blogging from mom's basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.
  • gdeuce

    How did Shamarko look with the second team dbs?

  • ApexSteel

    I heard Ike got torched a few times today. Any truth to that?

  • Superdriller316

    Just curious what Mel Blount sees in CJ Goodwin? Is it his work ethic or that he worked for Mel? I don’t see someone like Mel step out on that limb unless there is something there.

  • Burgh Ball

    Howard Jones sighting? One player I am interested in hearing about – I see that he is currently running with the 3’s…. and agree – will be interesting to see How Sean Spense holds up. Might See Coach T give him a day off here and there..

  • Iron Cadet

    You’ve gotta get that hello from missi! I believe in you alex!

  • afrazier9

    What did bryant look like in team drills and did j.jones look like he learned any new pass rush moves?

  • D.j. Hoy

    Great notes. As long as you post these, I will be reading them. The information is great to hear for someone who is unable to make the trip to camp!

  • http://www.tumblr.com/divini0r 太阳

    ayo Mike adams, I think it’s time to switch to sativa… lol that indica got you in that sit on the couch shxt
    Brown, Wheaton, Moore, Brown & Bryant sounds lethal if they congeal on offense, add in Bell and Archer.. Look out.
    Brad Wing, please keep up the good work.. much needed

  • StrengthOfVictory

    Is it too early to say the #4 WR spot is Justin Brown’s to lose? I saw no mention of Derek Moye. Is he not there, or there, but doing nothing special?

  • Dorian James

    Alex, congrats on the assignment hope you do very well. did they show any subpackage on defense and who did it consists of?
    Thank you

  • Frank Whanger

    How did Dri do catching punts?

  • johnhoien

    Fair to say then that Laundry Jones played much better than Kay? Was there any extra coaching w/ McCullers .. Keep low ? Etc.

  • tombolaboy

    Great job, Alex – already looking forward to the next report.

    Do you think the placement of Justin Brown and DHB (higher tier and lower tier receivers) is down to how the coaches really evaluate them – or a product of the buzz coming out of OTA’s and the minicamps?

  • Frank Whanger

    Did Dri Archer look sure handed fielding punts?

  • frednash

    Who’s more animated

    joey or danny?

  • Dom

    Do you think the long-snapper playing tight end could have any bearing on the final roster?

  • Carlos

    Heard Landry Jones had a good day?

  • Alex Kozora

    Dri was fine. No issues. But in the enviroment, without a rush, it’s a lot easier, obviously. Talk to me once the bodies start flying in front, when you have to judge whether to call fair catch or let it bounce, when you have to make the “Peter” call. Difficulty starts when you’re asked to multi-task. Right now, it’s just catching a ball and getting back in line.

  • Alex Kozora

    Goodwin looks like a good athlete who has a nice vertical. ST value at Cal helps. But he won’t make the 53. PS seems unlikely too. Too many players, not enough spots.

  • Alex Kozora

    Yeah, didn’t see a lot out of Howard. But defensive players tough to judge in no-contact.

  • Alex Kozora

    My #1 Goal!! I won’t let you down!

  • Alex Kozora

    Bryant looked like you’d expect. Big guy who can dwarf smaller corners, like he did Green. Yelled at once for having a wrong split. Growing pains will happen and he has to earn his keep, just like anyone else.

  • Alex Kozora

    Moye is there in that “lower tier” group though obviously above the new guys like Sampson and Goodwin. But nothing special today. I wouldn’t go so far to say that Brown’s job is his to “lose” yet, it is just one day after all, but he is entering as the #4, no doubt. And did well today.

  • Alex Kozora

    Little bit of subpackage. Gay coming in as the nickel corner. No dime.

  • Alex Kozora

    Yeah, probably fair to say, but you know I’m not a fan of keeping Jones as the #3. Nothing on McCullers but in positional drills, they are on the other field. I can’t hear anything, no matter how much John Mitchell’s voice may boom..

  • Alex Kozora

    They go hand in hand. How he looked in practice is how you can evaluate a young guy trying to latch onto a roster spot. He’s being given the opportunity. It’s a process, it’s taking steps. Show well, you get a better chance. Show well in that chance, and you move up more. Rinse, repeat.

  • Alex Kozora

    Yes. No problems. But again, as I wrote, it’s a relatively easy environment to succeed in.

  • Alex Kozora

    There is no one louder at St. Vincent than Danny Smith.

  • Superdriller316

    Keep up the good work.

  • Alex Kozora

    Unlikely though not a bad thought, Dom. I can see your reasoning. Bryce Davis would never see the field at tight end anyway. But it’s at least interesting.

  • Alex Kozora

    Eh, it’s hard to judge a QB when he knows he won’t get hit. And when his receivers know they won’t either. My stance on Landry is pretty clear. I think he should be on the PS this year, nothing more.

  • DoctorNoah

    Great stuff, Alex! Thank you!

  • Alex Kozora

    You got it. Thanks for reading everybody!

  • Carlos

    Thanks Alex, great work.

  • kev4heels

    Fantastic job Alex!

  • Crowned

    Awesome notes. Keep em coming.

  • dirtbag66

    Alex — thanks for posting these. Much appreciated.

  • Myster E

    Great report Alex. Thank you!

  • lou muenz

    very informative, thank you alex!

  • Iron Cadet

    Thanks man. Im just another poor college kid with the same dream. I’m gonna live it through you haha

  • Darryl Watkins

    How is my long-shot but favored Derek Moye coming along? He has long arms and toughness. Is it really a far cry from reality for him to make the 53 this year?

  • cp72

    Thanks Alex for the excellent breakdown. Finally real football news.

  • Steelers@2010

    They traded a 3rd round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft to grab a guy in the 4th round in the 2013 NFL Draft. You would think this guy would be up to speed by now to at least be the top reserve. If they (Colbert/Tomlin) felt as though he was that special, what is the hold up?

  • Steelers@2010

    Hmm! I’m not really sure, never heard of this guy before; I’m going to assume it probably is just a favor to Mel Blount. The Steelers WR Corps is loaded with youth and speed, may be headed to the practice squad.

  • joed32

    Please don’t let let your pre-camp opinion of him affect your reporting on how he performs.

  • steeltown

    Awesome reporting, thanks!

  • Ike Evans

    lets not forget they drafted cam heyward in the first round and let him sit on the bench 3 years behind ziggy friggin hood…2 of those 3 years ziggy was clearly not doing a good enough job to not give cam some run…business as usual with this team in my opinion…picking the vet over the young guy unless there is an injury or a TREMENDOUS lock of depth at a position

  • Steelers@2010

    I’m with you 100%! If LeBeau’s scheme is that difficult, why not simplify it just a little to allow these rookies and first yr players some playing time. I’m just another fan talking out of the side of his (BLEEP), but what sense does it make to sit these guys for three years, play them for one year and then allow them to walk via F.A?

  • Steve

    Shazier is starting this year and Jones and Williams played last year. Some people pick stuff up quicker than others. Thomas is being brought along to take Troys spot IMHO and with them training together in the offseason, this should be telling us something. Shark has said he was out of place and didn’t know the playbook last year. Some players play on their athletic abilities and are hard headed towards learning the system and plays, Vince Young is a prime example.

  • Steve

    Who was the other DE opposite Cam with the 1st team D? Was Will Johnson working on the line as a blocker or catching passes out of the backfield?

  • Madi

    Presumably Cam Thomas.

  • Madi

    The hold up is three things:
    ~~~~~
    1. Although I’m sure he’s learning both, and they like position flexibility, Shamarko is more of a SS guy than a FS guy. I’d like him to beat out Will Allen for FS too, but it’s more of a stretch for him. It will take time for him to learn it as well as the veteran.
    ~~~~~
    2. Tomlin LOVES Will Allen. He just does. He feels safe with him, and Tomlin likes to feel safe. Shamarko will have to play considerably better than Allen to win the spot, not just marginally better.
    ~~~~~
    3. It’s only day one of practice!!!

  • Steve

    What?

  • Madi

    I’m assuming Cam Thomas was the DE opposite Cam Heyward for the 1st team.