By Alex Kozora
Practice notes from day eleven of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ training camp. Last one before the first preseason game.
– Dri Archer and Brad Wing again walked down together. Along with Howard Jones, they were the first onto the field at 2:32. Someone check Archer and Wing for matching BFF necklaces.
– Injury round-up. Ramon Foster once again sat out today. Antonio Brown appeared to be given the day off. He came down the stairs at 3:00 after practice had already started. Ditto with Troy Polamalu, although he was on time. Ryan Shazier missed his third straight day of practice with a leg/knee ailment. Cam Heyward also sat out today. Steve McLendon missed his fourth day due to his concussion. He ran on the side post-practice.
Biggest news on the injury front was the absence of Darrius Heyward-Bey. After returning yesterday from his concussion, he was not in uniform today. Alarming sign for a guy coming back from that injury.
Marcus Gilbert predictably returned and participated in full.
– Before practice began, Joey Porter was working with Howard Jones in coverage. Using some of the ball boys as defenders, they repped it for probably a good ten minutes before the horn sounded. Good to see a young guy like Jones work on that aspect of his game. Sure he didn’t drop much at Shepard.
– Maurkice Pouncey and Ben Roethlisberger always compete to see who can hit the cross bar from the farthest distance. Pouncey nails it from the 30, turning to the crowd and bowing. Ben responds by hitting the bar from 40 yards out, turning and bowing. He lets one more rip from the 45 and hits it again, jogging away in celebration.
– Just some quick house-keeping along the first team o-line. Chris Hubbard again got all the reps as the first-team LG. Excited to see him play on Saturday.
– Second-team offensive line: Mike Adams, Bryant Browning, Cody Wallace, Will Simmons, Guy Whimper
– In 11 on air, and the general trend throughout the rest of practice, Markus Wheaton and Lance Moore were the starting receivers in two WR sets. One of the first times Moore has played outside of the slot.
– Derek Moye and Martavis Bryant were the second-team receivers.
– During this period, Shaun Suisham had a couple field goal attempts on the middle field. Special teamers got a lot of work today. Brad Wing had 13 punts in one of the special team’s period, the most in any session.
Having said that, the team started practice with the field goal unit on the near field. Return drill went to the middle field. Suisham connected from 53 on his final attempt.
– Return drill participants. No particular order. Justin Brown, Lance Moore, Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant, Jordan Hall, Dri Archer, James Shaw. Bryant had a drop in this drill.
– Mike Sellers worked with the tight ends in positional work.
– Some more new drills introduced by the Steelers. Little hard to explain. I’d post a picture of it but the internet connection at Eat ‘n Park is much worse than yesterday. Four tackling dummies were set up with three pads in between. The player had to weave through each, stepping over the pads and coming out to make a catch. New drill, new information to process, an opportunity to see how guys handle it on the fly. Martavis Bryant and James Shaw struggled. Bryant had at least three drops in his two reps through the drill and on one occasion, started to run the wrong way. Shaw also missed a few passes. Lance Moore did a nice job through it.
– Mike Tomlin watches the tight ends hit the blocking sleds nearly every practice. Gave praise to most of the group. To Rob Blanchflower, Tomlin instructed, “See what you hit, Rob.”
I thought Blanchflower was a little too upright but it’s hard to say and I’m not going to read into it.
– Moore, Justin Brown, Wheaton, and Bryant were the “starters” group in drills.
– Dri Archer was back with the running backs throughout practice today.
– New drill for the offensive lineman. Mike Munchak also keeping things fresh. Offensive lineman would take on three defenders, each rushing from a different angle. Goal was to shoot the arms, punch, and shuffle to the next defender. Also forces the lineman to play fast and with good technique.
– Watched DBs and WRs one on one. Jordan Dangerfield and Lew Toler had rough goes at it. Dangerfield got turned around and looked lost throughout, collimating in allowing a double-move to Lance Moore for an easy completion. But Dangerfield is a safety and squaring up to receivers in that scenario is uncharted waters.
Toler looked similar, getting turned around and looking lost. Got some coaching in between reps and did finish strong, staying low in his pedal while turning and running with Lanear Sampson well.
Isaiah Green also struggled, looking tight-hipped and like he was guessing. James Shaw, who to his credit looks fluid in his cuts, had his way with him.
Markus Wheaton got great separation on one occasion versus William Gay, brushing by him to the inside as Gay opened the gate. The two were still competing after the catch and Wheaton juked back to his left, nearly causing Gay to fall, then out-running him into the end zone.
I only saw when rep from Shaq Richardson, though I’m sure there were others, but it was a good one. Showed good close on the ball that resulted in a breakup.
Brice McCain finished the drill on a high note for the defense, sticking with Sampson as the two ran down the left sideline. Sampson briefly made the catch but McCain – like any good corner should do – played the pocket, swiping his hand through the ball. Popped it out. Well done.
– Brad Wing’s hangtimes. Missed the first one so I only have 12. Hang my head in shame for that, I know. 4.68, 4.53, 4.92, 4.81, 5.17, 4.79, 4.47, 4.83, 4.84, 4.68, 4.79, 4.50, 5.00. Another nice day.
– One of the coaches got on Greg Warren to snap the ball, yelling just that multiple times. “Snap the ball, snap the ball!”
– Dri Archer, Lance Moore, and Jordan Hall fielded Wing’s punts. Archer had one drop, drawing the ire of Coach Tomlin. “Come on 1-3, get in front of it!” It was a poor angle by the rookie. Hall also bobbled one and let it hit the ground. Trust is the number one factor to Tomlin a return man. And that means taking care of the football.
– 1st team kick coverage from L1 to R1. Isaiah Green, Robert Golden, Shamarko Thomas, Vince Williams, Terence Garvin, Shaun Suisham, Sean Spence, Will Johnson, Antwon Blake, Brice McCain, Justin Brown.
– Blanchflower had a tough time getting off press coverage from the linebackers in 7 on 7. He went through all the drills today but watching him walk back to the line, you saw a noticeable limp. Playing through some discomfort, I’m sure. Just doesn’t look healthy.
Play-by-play of the OL/DL one on ones. Didn’t get the best look as they held it in the middle field today behind one of the lifts. Had to scurry up to the top row of bleachers to watch. I’m sure people looked at me weird for that.
1. David DeCastro sticks to Stephon Tuitt well as he tries to dip the edge.
2. Chris Hubbard wins versus Cam Thomas.
3. Kelvin Beachum staves off an Arthur Moats speed bull rush.
4. Howard Jones gets his arms extended but Beachum holds him off.
5. Guy Whimper stuffs Vic So’oto, who showed poor hand fight.
6. Mike Adams mirrors versus a Howard Jones outside spin. Jones ends up on the ground again.
7. Stephon Tuitt dips Emmanuel McCray around the edge, McCray doubling over.
8. Good battle between Wesley Johnson and Howard Jones. Jones does catch the edge but both of them got overextended.
9. McCray seals Chris Carter well.
10. Johnson slides vs Jones to the inside, winning.
11. Hard to tell but looked like McCray won against Carter.
12. Beachum shoots his arms into Terence Garvin, getting good extension. Garvin tries to coutner inside but Beachum slides well while keeping his base.
13. Missed the matchup between McCray and Ethan Hemer. Plane flying over plus my poor attention span is a dangerous combination.
14. Johnson shows a good punch against Garvin and then mirrors inside. Garvin may have gotten a step, hard for me to say, but I consider Johnson to be the winner of that in an in-game moment.
– Play-by-play of the 11 on 11.
1. Ben tosses it to Markus Wheaton on an end around to the left side.
2. Defensive line the same as late yesterday. Tuitt at LDE, Hebron Fangupo at the nose, and Cam Thomas at RDE. Handoff to Le’Veon Bell.
3. Will Allen opposite of Mike Mitchell at first team safety. Inside zone to LeGarrette Blount. Allen stands him up. Thud tackling for part of this drill.
4. 13 personnel. Lance Moore the lone receiver which is a little surprising, even with AB getting the day off. Lead Strong away from Moore by Blount. Shows quick feet, stepping through a crease for a sizable gain.
5. Lance Moore and Wheaton the two receivers. Playaction. Roethlisberger thinks about throwing ong to Moore on a curl but checks it down with a floater over a jumping linebacker to Heath Miller.
6. Three receiver set with Wheaton, Moore, and Justin Brown. Moore to the slot. Sean Spence knifes in to pop Dri Archer at the LOS, taking him to the ground.
7. Defensive line consisting of Tuitt, Daniel McCullers, and Thomas. Run off right tackle to Bell. Lawrence Timmons with the thud.
8. Inside zone to Tauren Poole for 2-3. Full tackle at this point.
9. Second-team defense has Blake and McCain at CB. Shamarko Thomas and Robert Golden at safety. Power O with Browning and Bryce Davis leading the way. Browning makes quick work of Blake. Poole may have run into his own man 3-4 yards downfield.
10. Dri Archer in the slot and Jordan Hall in the backfield. Fake the end around to Archer, give to Hall on a dive. Howard Jones flies into the backfield to make the TFL. Hebron Fangupo is in the mix as well. Nice play by the defense.
11. Justin Brown lines up in a two point stance right next to the right tackle. Boot action to the right. Landry Jones hits Brown peeling off into the flat. Brown gets taken to the ground and gets up a bit slowly. The trainers would check out his left shoulder but he would be fine. Just a bump.
12. Miguel Maysonet motors through a lane up the guy.
13. Maysonet stopped at the line, running into a pile of bodies on the left side.
14. Third-team line. Wesley Johnson, Bryant Browning, Chris Elkins, Chris Hubbard, Emmanuel McCray. Josh Harris is stopped by Ross Ventrone at the line.
15. Appears Jordan Zumwalt has a big pop on Jawan Jamison. Hard to tell, bodies colliding everywhere. Sounded like a thunderstorm.
– Pro-tip: Don’t be that guy that screams for Antonio Brown’s attention the entire practice. Not cool.
– No huddle period.
1. Steelers’ defense opens up in the nickel. Tuitt at LDE and Thomas at RDE. Mitchell and Will Allen at safety. Screen to Heath Miller. Maurkice Pouncey gets out to the flats in a hurry and sticks to Sean Spence.
2. Mike Mitchell comes on a blitz. Roethlisberger hits Justin Brown on a hot via a slant. Stretched out to make the catch. Nice grab.
3. Coverage forces a scramble. Brown on the outside with Moore in the slot.
4. Ben and Wheaton hooks up on a completion. Cortez Allen had the coverage. Tuitt and Thomas stunt.
5. Empty set. Dri Archer lines up in the slot. Blitz and Ben gets the ball out quickly to Wheaton.
6. Cam Thomas at LDE and Tuitt at RDE. Playaction, Roethlisberger to Lance Moore. Ike Taylor blitzed. Only caught a glance but Dri Archer seemed to let Taylor through without attempting to pick it up. I don’t need Archer to become a good blocker but he needs to get reps and show some effort there. Unless you’re planning on force-feeding him the ball every time in 2014.
7. Bruce Gradkowski throws a screen to Tauren Poole for a short gain. Ethan Hemer ran to the ball well. The first time I’ve said anything about this backup defensive line that didn’t consist of me just shrugging my shoulders and saying, “I don’t know.” Hooray for that.
8. Thomas and Golden in at safety. Poole does a nice job picking up a Vince Wiliams blitz. Gradkowski fires to Derek Moye but he drops the pass. Tomlin chirps out, “Come on D-Moye!”
9. Gradkowski to Martavis Bryant on a deep post, beating Antwon Blake. Terence Garvin sugars the “A” gap but Cody Wallace picks it up very well, stuffing him into the ground right after snapping the ball. Not an easy task.
10. Arthur Moats is at ROLB while Howard Jones gets his first crack with the second-team at LOLB. Gradkowski hits Bryant on a curl.
11. 5 to 10 for the third time in a row. Again at the expense of Antwon Blake. Miguel Maysonet badly whiffs on picking up a Garvin blitz. Would’ve gotten his QB killed.
12. Gradkowski completes to Moye on a deep out. Side note: One verbiage for an audible is, “Black Cadillac.” Awesome.
13. Lanear Sampson has to go the ground to haul in this pass from Brendon Kay. Vic So’oto LOLB, Howard Jones ROLB with the 3rd team. Ross Ventrone and Jordan Dangerfield at safety.
14. Screen to Jawan Jamison from Kay. Complete but snuffed out by Jones. Tomlin calls out to Daniel McCullers, “Way to run Big Dan!”
15. Kay complete to CJ Goodwin on a curl.
– Another banana foster pie at Eat ‘n Park. So delicious. Then again, my standard of food the last 10 days have been faux-chicken based.
– Third down based series.
1. Mitchell and Will Allen again open up at safety. Inside zone to Le’Veon Bell for no gain.
2. Ben Roethlisberger hits Justin Brown on a backshoulder throw vs Ike Taylor. Three receiver set with Moore again positioned in the slot.
3. Jet sweep to Dri Archer. Cam Thomas runs to the ball well and knocks him down.
4. Cat blitz with Isaiah Green coming off the edge. Screen from Ben to Bell. Shark does a nice job to get off Markus Wheaton’s block but it’s just thud tackling.
5. Defensive line consists of: Ethan Hemer, Hebron Fangupo, and Josh Mauro. Roethlisberger checks down to Blount. Chris Carter on the coverage. Hemer is stuck to Gilbert, the defensive end looking lethargic as a pass rusher.
6. Draw to Blount. Vince Williams with the thud tackle.
7. Cody Wallace comes in for Maurkice Pouncey. Jones finds Moye on a dig.
8. Attempted screen from Jones to Poole but it’s snuffed out, forcing the QB to chuck the pass into the Earth.
9. Miguel Maysonet run. Missed most of it while I was searching for Pouncey. Found him and he looked fine. Forget if he was in the 4th installment through.
10. Jones to David Paulson on an option route, the tight end cutting across the middle.
11. Stephon Tuitt jumps offsides. Landry Jones hits Robert Blanchflower. Wesley Johnson mirrors vs Arthur Moats well.
12. A stunt creates pressure, and I think Adams got walked into the pocket. Jones tries to hit Lanear Sampson but the pass is off the mark towards the right sideline. Lands out of bounds.
13. Brendon Kay fakes a draw. Pumps fake a pass to Eric Waters then immediately darts up the middle. Don’t think that was by design but perhaps that is part of the team’s 3rd and short package. I hope not.
14. Pull to the left and Dri Archer follows for a nice gain, a trail of defenders in tow.
15. At this point, I notice Mike Adams is in a RT for Emmanuel McCray with the rest of the third team line. McCray was healthy. Only caught a glance at it but Daniel McCullers appeared to have batted down Kay’s pass at the line.
– Tommy Reamon Jr is serving as an intern at camp. Mike Tomlin attended Reamon’s dad’s training camp as a kid because it was the only one Tomlin could afford.
– Two minute offense for the third and fourth teams. The other day the first and second team got their shot.
1. Ethan Hemer and Josh Mauro open up as the DEs as the Steelers are in nickel. Landry Jones fires a slant to Moye versus a safety blitz and the receiver makes a nice grab in front of Antwon Blake. Thud tackling.
2. Jones finds Justin Brown on a drag.
3. Chris Carter is running second-team ROLB with Moats opposite. Jones to Paulson on a curl.
4. Vince Williams lines off the right edge and blitzes free. Jones hocks the ball into the ground. Probably would’ve been grounding in a real situation.
5. Wheaton and Moye line up outside with Justin Brown in the slot. Jones throws a screen to Jordan Hall. Timeout is called.
6. Jones throws a seemingly catchable ball Moye’s way, and despite the receiver diving, he misses and the pass falls incomplete.
7. Some confusion if this was 3rd or 4th down on the field but in the end, it appears it is 4th down. Jones hits Waters wide open on a curl but it apparently isn’t enough to move the sticks. Turnover on downs.
8. Brendon Kay comes in. Richardson and Lew Toler are the CBs. McCullers and Nick Williams are the two defensive lineman. Toler holds Lanear Sampson down the right sideline and the coaches flag it, marching the offense downfield.
9. Draw to Josh Harris.
10. Kay locks onto Sampson and forces a throw. Falls incomplete.
11. Al Lapuaho and Roy Philon are the two DL. Kay hits Bryant in the end zone for the touchdown, working over Toler.
– At this point, Tomlin puts :35 seconds on the clock and brings the offense back to the line. They run a draw to Jawan Jamison and then rush out the field goal unit to get a mock kick off in time, which they appear to do. Practice then concludes.
– LeGarrette Blount hasn’t been given a ton of work but he’s having a very strong camp. Love his feet and as I mentioned in a recent podcast, shown some more power than I anticipated. Should have a fine season.
– Gun to my head, David Paulson has the advantage to be the third tight end kept. All subject to change, though. Very fluid situation.
– Lance Moore had some favorable matchups in drills, Lew Toler, Will Allen, and Jordan Dangerfield, but he does a nice job of getting separation. Still don’t think he’s much of a threat after the catch.
– I don’t think Wesley Johnson had a great day, but it was a bounce back performance.
– David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert continue to work well passing off stunts.
– I could have missed it but I did not see Brian Arnfelt log many snaps today. Felt like everyone else was working over him. That’s either a really good sign, the team has liked what they’ve seen and want to look at others, or a really bad sign where they want to look at others because they don’t have confidence in Arnfelt. We’ll find out.
– Happy to witness Howard Jones get some 2nd team reps. He’s earned them. One area he really needs to work on though. Staying off the ground as a pass rusher. Happens too much. Gotta stay on your feet to compete.
– Sean Spence’s stuff of Archer at the line showed me that he still has his explosion. And now we’ve seen him run on the first team punt and kick coverage. He’s going to have a significant role for this team in 2014, even if it won’t be as a starter.
– Don’t panic on Ryan Shazier’s status. If he doesn’t play Saturday or practice Monday, then I’ll raise my concern a little bit. Until then, remain calm.
– Still holding pat that Brice McCain will make this squad over Shaquille Richardson. Play and where he’s running in the lineup speaks to that.
– Your Eat ‘n Park Syfy movie of the day: Defiance.
– Number of cheese sticks consumed: 3. Number of banana foster pies eaten during camp: 2. Number of hello’s from Missi Matthews: 0.
I’m really disappointed by that last one, you guys.
If you enjoy Alex’s reports, you can make a direct Paypal donation to his account by clicking the button below: