By Alex Kozora
Practice notes from a rain-shortened day two of Pittsburgh Steelers’ training camp. Before I begin, some good news. A friend from out of town was gracious enough to give me a ride to camp tomorrow so I will be there. So you’ll have to thank him for making tomorrow’s notes, the first day in pads, possible.
– Stephon Tuitt and Shaquille Richardson were the first Steelers on the field, walking on at roughly 2:35.
– Kelvin Beachum and Landry Jones again walked onto the field together. Best friends forever? Somebody get a beat writer on that story.
– Like yesterday, the offense warmed up by running 11 on air.
– With Ramon Foster still away, Chris Hubbard – not Cody Wallace as was the case yesterday – ran as the first team left guard all afternoon.
– As I tweeted out early in the day, Martavis Bryant did not practice. Showed up to the field in a cap and without a helmet and it quickly became evident he wasn’t going to go. The rookie receiver stood with Richard Mann most of the time. Mike Tomlin said he has a groin injury, the third one of camp.
– In order, the players that participated in the team’s first return drill, fielding punts out of the jugs machine: Dri Archer, Lance Moore, Danny Coale, Jordan Hall, Justin Brown, and Markus Wheaton.
– Special team’s coach Danny Smith gave Archer a brief instruction on how to cleanly field a punt while running it down from an angle as opposed to standing still under it. Once, Archer slightly let the ball slip down as he brought it in. But he still held on.
– As the horn sounded to begin sprints, Maurkice Pouncey attempted to throw a football over the goalpost from about 25 yards out. His throw hit the crossbar and bounced into the end zone, no good. Got some ribbing from teammates about that as they began to run.
– More fluff info: Antonio Brown getting the crowd pumped up during the stretch line.
– Onto the important things. First team offensive line: Beachum, Hubbard, Pouncey, David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert.
– Second team offensive line: Guy Whimper, Wesley Johnson, Wallace, Will Simmons, Mike Adams.
– Obviously, the team was rotating its second string lineman around, giving them experience at multiple spots. Seeing Johnson getting reps at center and guard is big for him.
– Just some quick house-keeping, the last time I’ll make note of these unless there is a change. Will Johnson with the tight ends in positional groups and Archer with the running backs.
– Tight ends coach James Daniel to Rob Blanchflower on the blocking sleds. “Lower, lower, lower.”
– Offensive line putting in some good work during positional drills. Working on the bucket step in the zone blocking scheme (open your hips, prepare to move down the line) and combination blocks (chip, work to the second level).
You can just tell how detail-oriented of a coach Mike Munchak is. As the line worked on picking up stunts, Munchak would stop them after nearly every “snap” to talk to a couple players or the group as a whole. Love to see it. And as much trouble as stunts gave the Steelers’ offensive line in 2013, every rep is critical.
– Had a pair of binoculars today so I was able to get a slightly better look at the defense as they went through drills. Nothing major I could take away though and I really only watched the defensive backs. Jordan Dangerfield looked high in his pedal though that’s natural for a safety.
– Coale didn’t look particularly fast out of his breaks. Not good for a player of his slight statue, listed at 6’0 187.
– Like yesterday, Darrius Heyward-Bey was working with camp bodies in positional drills. In Bryant’s absence, Derek Moye was working on the same side as Antonio Brown, Wheaton, and Lance Moore. Bad sign for the former first rounder. If I had to make one change to my roster right now, it’d be to take Heyward-Bey off. But again, caution it still is early. Let’s put on the pads first.
– Wide receiver Kashif Moore definitely has quicks to his game. Tiny but quick-twitch. Still, unlikely to make the team, especially since he isn’t even getting work as a return man like he did last year.
– In the first installment of 11 on 11, the team opened in 12 personnel on the first two plays. Called one run and one playaction where Ben Roethlisberger was forced to check down to Le’Veon Bell.
– More housekeeping. Cam Thomas starting at LDE, Cameron Heyward at RDE.
– Your second team defense. Chris Carter at ROLB, Arthur Moats at LOLB. Stephon Tuitt at LDE, Brian Arnfelt at RDE, Daniel McCullers at the nose. Sean Spence and Vince Williams at inside linebacker. Shamarko Thomas as strong safety, Robert Golden opening at free. The corners rotated but in this installment, Brice McCain and Isaiah Green appeared to be the two once William Gay came off.
– Howard Jones did not see many snaps but when he did, he lined up at ROLB. Vic So’oto at LOLB. 3rd team defense, of course.
– Also on the third team defense: Ross Ventrone at FS, Dangerfield at SS. Ethan Hemer at left end, Hebron Fangupo at nose, and Josh Mauro at right end. Big, figuratively, for McCullers to already be working over Fangupo. Terence Garvin and Jordan Zumwalt were your inside linebackers.
– Nick Williams and Roy Philon played sparingly, rotating in as the final ends. This isn’t helping my dream of Philon making the team.
– Again, Tauren Poole saw a couple of first team reps. Miguel Maysonet received at least one too though, so maybe there isn’t as much to read into it. Not sure if these reps came before or after Le’Veon Bell’s hamstring flared up.
– In one 11 on 11 play, Heyward-Bey was surrounded by Lanear Sampson, Coale, and Maysonet in the backfield. Not to harp on it but that tells you what you need to know.
– Shamarko Thomas did get a couple reps at free safety late in practice but at one point, Thomas lined up at SS with Dangerfield at FS. I think the team isn’t planning on Shark having to play free safety this year. Backup SS, potential slot work, and special team’s duty. Backup free safety appears to be Will Allen, who again received first team reps. That’s the early indication, at least.
– Last play of the first 11 on 11. Emmanuel McCray – I’m not sure where he was lined up – ended up on the ground again. Clapped his hands in frustration. Can’t make the team on the ground.
– The defense was a lot more exotic today compared to the vanilla looks yesterday. Tons more pre-snap movement, some safety blitzes, late safety rotation. Going from 0-60 in a hurry. I love it.
– Richardson and Lew Toler reps were far and few between in team drills. Not many opportunities to make an impression. Maybe five snaps, total? Richardson was working at left corner, Toler on the right.
– Still primarily looking at where players are lining up as opposed to what happens during the play, but a couple notables: Markus Wheaton beat William Gay on a fly route down the left sideline for a long completion. David Paulson made a nifty one-handed grab against Spence.
– Brad Wing’s hangtimes. As was the case yesterday, have all but one of his punts. 4.91, 5.10, 5.18, 4.92, 3.97. Quality performance. Four of the five were “quality” according Danny Smith’s 4.2 hangtime benchmark as our guide.
– I want a Danny Smith jersey. He’s quickly became my favorite person to watch in practice. Some notable quotes he yelled out today while the team worked on punt protection and coverage.
“All I want is protection and redirection!”
“Get those hands high, Sean [Spence]!”
“Let’s work that release now!”
“Right there, ‘bang’! Now we gotta go hunt.”
“That’s it right there, very nice!”
Not even the planes taking off at the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport are as loud as Smith.
And he nearly got taken out by Jarvis Jones. Jones ran the coach over running down a punt. From his knees, Smith put his hands up and looked at Jones, giving him a bear-hug as Jones trotted back to the line.
– Robert Golden and Tauren Poole were the two players I saw working as the upbacks. Poole is a guy that continues to interest me. Team is giving him chances.
– On the return unit for the punt coverage drill in order as they appeared. Archer, Moore, Archer again, Wheaton, and Archer one final time.
– Tuitt got some reps with the first team nickel. Believe they came at right end.
– Jordan Zumwalt and Terence Garvin received snaps at right outside linebacker on back-to-back plays, with the other moving inside. Trying to generate some positional flexibility in case of emergency. Hopefully, it never happens.
– Last installment of 11 on 11 today. Every play was considered to be a third down.
– Here, Green and Antwon Blake were the first to enter as the second team corners.
– Last play of practice. Team showed Power O with DeCastro pulling right to left, LeGarrette Blount running behind.
– …and then we were forced to evacuate campus about 20 minutes early due to incoming severe weather. The players were still on the field when I left but apparently quickly left as practice was canceled early. Weather never got too bad, though. A couple spurts of a downpour and a few lightning strikes, but nothing as severe as radar seemed to indicate. Still, bad enough to justifiably end practice.
– As Mike Tomlin stated, on the injury front, Bryant is dealing with a groin, Bell a hamstring, David Snow with a broken foot, and C.J. Goodwin a shoulder. I remember Goodwin landing hard down the left sideline late in practice, stretching his arms out but failing to bring down the pass. That probably caused the injury. Snow will likely be waived/injured and revert to IR once he clears.
– I could have very well missed it but I don’t think Archer was split out into the slot once in practice.
– I watched Dinoshark in the McDonald’s after practice. Terrible CGI, even worse acting. Good for a cheap laugh, though.
– Let me know the one position you want me to try and focus on the most for tomorrow. Want your input.
– Ounces of water consumed: 25.2. Number of times I was startled by the practice horn: 1. 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.