By Alex Kozora
Practice notes from the Pittsburgh Steelers first day back at training camp following Saturday’s game.
- Cody Wallace, Kelvin Beachum, and Chris Hubbard were the first players onto the field at 2:37 today.
- Dri Archer and Brad Wing did not walk onto the field together. I hope they didn’t have a fight.
- Injury report roundup: Overall, the team was surprisingly healthy for a group coming off a game. Ramon Foster was back in full swing after getting poked in the eye Saturday. Two welcomed additions were Steve McLendon and Darrius Heyward-Bey, rebounding from concussions. Both participated fully.
Ryan Shazier put the pads back on today although he was limited to some light work. Wasn’t in team drills and with the team beginning practice on the turf field away from me, I’m not positive what work he got in individual. But the wrap is off, the pads are on, and the goal is for him to play Saturday.
Matt Spaeth, Mike Mitchell, and Michael Palmer sat out. Mike Tomlin indicated Palmer is dealing with an ankle injury.
Le’Veon Bell did not participate in 11 on 11 though he did get work in 7 on 7’s. Ran on the side during one special team’s period. Something very minor, I’m sure.
- Practice was a little more subdued today. Maybe it was just because they were on the field away from me, but there individuals were a little less intensive than usual. The grounds crew didn’t begin to clear water from the tarp covering the near field until 2:30. Perhaps they were just waiting for the rain to let up.
Tomlin did refer to practice as a “good afternoon” and he’s the authority figure to that, but I did see some sloppiness. False starts, dropped passes, muffed punts.
- No new faces in the return drill: Martavis Bryant, Jordan Hall, Markus Wheaton, Lance Moore, James Shaw, Dri Archer.
- Second team offensive line: Guy Whimper, Bryant Browning, Cody Wallace, Chris Hubbard, Mike Adams.
- Third team line: Still status quo. Wesley Johnson, Bryant Browning, Chris Elkins, Will Simmons, Emmanuel McCray.
- The first team drills were coverage drills for linebackers on tight ends and running backs. Wide receivers and defensive backs briefly worked on playing tight coverage before moving into one on ones against off coverage.
Rob Blanchflower didn’t look gimpy the way he did at the end of Thursday’s practice.
Lawrence Timmons hasn’t been able to run with Dri Archer so today he tried to reroute him. Didn’t work either. Fails, Timmons slips and falls, and Archer scoots past with the reception.
Howard Jones again showed positive glimpses in coverage. Ran with Will Johnson on a corner, played the pocket, and batted it away.
Tomlin to Terence Garvin after getting beat. “Get your hands on him Garvin!” 57 finished the drill better than he started it, recording one or two breakups in an offense-friendly drill. Not bad.
- WRs vs DBs. Heyward-Bey burns Lew Toler on a nine route and the pass is spot on in the end zone. But true to form, he lets the pass slip through his hands.
Shaq Richardson and Devin Smith had interceptions in this drill. Richardson’s came mostly to James Shaw slipping on a still slick field. Smith’s was nice though, jumping an out route intended for Kashif Moore.
Cortez Allen always does a nice job in these drills, even though we don’t talk about it very much. Very quick feet. A guy who can handle double-moves. Fluidly, he’s able to start to break on the ball after seeing the receiver chop, get back into his pedal, and then break on the actual throw.
Brice McCain did the same on the final play of the drill. Showed quick feet while staying low in his pedal.
- Brad Wing’s hangtimes. Missed one or two but like the other day, he was given a lot of reps. 4.24, 4.38, 4.75, 4.85, 4.87, 4.46, 5.08, 4.80, 4.74, 4.99, 4.51, 5.05, 4.68. A couple of his punts came up a little short but there were a few he really got ahold of, backing up the return man 5-10 yards. Still, as I’ve said, special teams play is hard to evaluate in practice. All about the games.
- Return men today were Markus Wheaton, Antonio Brown, Dri Archer, and Jordan Hall. Wheaton started the drill and got the majority of the work today. We’ll see if they decide to use him on Saturday.
- Archer let one drop in front of him and Hall muffed one.
- The first special teams period was particularly intense today. First day back and really the first opportunity for them to work on this aspect of the game. Danny Smith was heated. You could see the vein in his neck from space. He rode Howard Jones hard in the first drill, getting right in his face. Think he was yelling about Jones not filling his lane correctly in punt coverage.
Yells to him, “I want it perfect every damn time.”
Friend of mine said later in the drill, Mike Sellers played the role of good cap, patting Jones on the helmet and saying, “All day, 34.”
Tough love but sometimes that’s required. Means they know he can do it. They want to see more of it.
- Robert Golden and Tauren Poole still served as the first and second team upbacks.
- After practice, Ike Taylor and Markus Wheaton spent time on the jugs machine. Taylor’s poor hands are not for a lack of effort, I can confidently say that much.
- Danny Smith gave a couple guys pointers before walking away. Sean Spence and Vince Williams put in extra time after practice.
- Lance Moore is the consummate veteran. Stays after every practice, either working with the young camp bodies or running routes himself. Caught passes from Brendon Kay and Landry Jones following the final whistle.
- Today was the first time since near the start of training camp where Todd Haley didn’t put his receivers through one last set of drills.
- Will Allen was working on the far field well after practice. Veteran that knows he’s coming off a tough game.
- Defensive line/offensive line one-on-ones. The group would mix in stunts too, but I don’t have anything recorded for those.
1. Marcus Gilbert absorbs Arthur Moats’ bull rush. Moats tries to spin and turn but it fails. Gilbert able to stick and win.
2. David DeCastro handles a Cam Thomas bull and swim counter well.
3. Steve McLendon welcomes himself back by easily disengaging Cody Wallace, who stopped moving his feet.
4. Cameron Heyward bullies Ramon Foster, getting his arms extended into the guard and running through him. Think Tomlin made a joke to Foster after but couldn’t hear what it was.
5. The two go at it again and Foster redeems himself some. A better battle.
6. Nice battle between Howard Jones and Kelvin Beachum. Jones tries to swim and find the edge but Beachum slides with him. Jones gets his long arms into Beachum’s pads and gets under him but the left tackle holds his ground well, anchoring the rush.
7. Vic So’oto burns Mike Adams on an inside spin.
8. And wins again by bull rushing Adams, getting him upright, swapping hips, and breaking through.
9. Ethan Hemer shows a good punch to knock Chris Hubbard off base.
10. Chris Elkins initially sticks to Al Lapuaho but doubles over and the seldom-seen DT wins.
11. Bryant Browning anchors against Josh Mauro. I really, really wish Browning was eligible for the PS. He might be considered the front runner if he was.
12. Guy Whimper actually does a nice job sealing Chris Carter up the edge and then mirroring as the OLB counters with an inside spin. Of course, going against Carter, you know those are the only two moves you’re ever going to see.
13. Daniel McCullers shows a good burst off the ball, winning without issue against Will Simmons. Side note: Simmons is a huge guy himself at 340 and looks like me on the first day of my freshman year compared to McCullers. Small and afraid. The latter might have just been me.
14. Simmons does look a little better next time as the coaches match the two up again.
15. Wesley Johnson mirrors against a Howard Jones outside step/inside rush. Kept his legs moving while maintain a sound base. Knees bent, butt down.
- Play by play for today’s 11 on 11. No live tackling at any point though that doesn’t mean there weren’t any hits.
1. Will Allen lined up opposite of Troy Polamalu to replace Mike Mitchell. Inside zone to LeGarrette Blount who obviously got the nod with Bell not participating.
2. Outside zone to Dri Archer.
3. Your defensive line with McLendon back: Cam Thomas, McLendon, and Cam Heyward. Power O with David DeCastro and Will Johnson. Blount run. Spence thud.
4. Daniel McCullers and Cam Thomas in the nickel. Second-team defense in. Antwon Blake and Isaiah Green on the outside with Brice McCain in the slot. Blount inside run.
5. Toss right to Dri Archer. Shamarko Thomas and Robert Golden have entered as second-team safeties.
6. Second-team defensive line: Stephon Tuitt nestles back in as the secon-team left end. Daniel McCullers leapfrogs Hebron Fangupo at nose tackle and Josh Mauro comes in at right end. Josh Harris with a nice run, finding a crease. But again, no tackling.
7. Third-team secondary in. Lew Toler and Shaquille Richardson are on the outside with Devin Smith in the slot. Harris gets the handoff on an inside zone.
8. Third-team defense: Ethan Hemer at LE, Fangupo at NT, and Brian Arnfelt at RE. Vic So’oto at LOLB with Howard Jones opposite. Dan Molls and Jordan Zumwalt inside. Jordan Dangerfield and Ross Ventrone at safety. Outside zone to Tauren Poole. Saw Chris Hubbard drive Hemer down the line.
9. Inside zone to Poole.
10. Jordan Hall gets his first carry off the left side. Not a good one though with the first team defense in. Jarvis Jones knifes in to wrap him up for the TFL.
11. Inside zone to Harris. Sean Spence with the thud tackle.
12. Inside zone to Miguel Maysonet. Vince Williams gets him.
13. James Shaw getting his first reps in team drills. Jordan Hall dashes into a pile but stays on his feet and bounces off.
14. Power O from left to right, Browning pulling. Maysonet is stopped at the line.
Only have 14 plays written down. Guessing it’s more likely I forgot to write one down than them only running 14 instead of the usual 15. I’m slipping…
- Thought that hit me today. This is my last summer “vacation” ever. From now on, summer is just another day. That’s unsettling.
1. Ben Roethlisberger hits Heath Miller in the left flat. Lawrence Timmons bumps him to the ground.
2. Will Johnson lines up in the right slot. Roethlisberger goes through his reads, coming across the field to find Antonio Brown on a curl. Ike Taylor had the coverage.
3. Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward are in first team nickel. Ben scrambles. Timmons and Jason Worilds stunted, with 93 crashing inside and Timmons looping over.
4. Antwon Blake cat blitz. Ben hits Markus Wheaton on a curl.
5. Looked like Josh Mauro was the lone defensive lineman – an amoeba defense. Beautiful throw from Big Ben to Wheaton over Antwon Blake down the right sideline. Money. Went for about 30.
6. Tuitt/McCullers/Mauro at DL. Roethlisberger to Josh Harris in the flat. No clue how it happened but McCullers was only a few steps behind the catch.
7. Landry Jones comes in and hits Derek Moye on a curl. Double A gap blitz from Jordan Zumwalt and Dan Molls.
8. Jones overshoots Derek Moye on a nine route down the right sideline. Shaq Richardson on the coverage. The two might have gotten tangled up as Richardson fell to the ground before the ball did.
9. Jones again to Moye on a out route to the left sideline. Looked like it was incomplete. Toler provided the coverage. I feel like Jones locks onto Derek Moye on every play. Might try to do a small study on that.
10. Rob Blanchflower is lined up in the slot. Eric Waters is in a three point stance as the in-line tight end. Jones fires a quick curl to Heyward-Bey.
11. Nick Williams and Brian Arnfelt are the two defensive lineman in the team’s nickel. Jarvis Jones loops from the defensive left to right to pat Jones pass down at the line.
12. Same DEs but Al Lapuaho comes in as the nose. Jones finds an open Bryce Davis in the right flat.
13. Brendon Kay throws high to CJ Goodwin. Miguel Maysonet had solid blitz pickup.
14. Kay hits Blanchflower on a screen. Chris Carter lined up over the middle with Terence Garvin at ROLB.
15. To no one’s surprise at this point, Arthur Moats whips Emmanuel McCray off the right side. Kay hits Bryce Davis. Vince Williams on the coverage but he falls down on the throw, the coaches urging him to “get up.”
- Putting cheese sticks and marinara sauce on a burger. So good. The things this country comes up with.
- All of these plays came with the offense working on its own goalline. The ball placed on the one or two.
1. LeGarrette Blount with the handoff to start us off.
2. Antonio Brown false starts. After they get reset, it’s play action that sees Ben hitting Blount in the flat. No tackling but Will Allne gets Blount under the chin and pops him to the ground. Big hit.
3. Draw to Josh Harris. Jarvis Jones does a nice job working off Kelvin Beachum, who gets his arm on the back but Harris spins off. Again, no full tackling though.
4. Bryce Davis false starts. He’s pulled out of the drill for the moment and replaced by Eric Waters. Lead Strong to Josh Harris, running behind Will Johnson.
5. Draw to LeGarrette Blount. Friend said David DeCastro took Arthur Moats off the ball and drove him downfield. Nice block.
6. Roethlisberger completes a curl to Antonio Brown despite a contested play by William Gay, who broke well on the throw. Good grab from AB.
7. Archer drive. Blanchflower lined up in a two point in the backfield.
8. Bruce Gradkowski hits David Paulson on a skinny post. 81 was pretty open.
9. Gradkowski fires deep down the right sideline to Martavis Bryant. Good coverage from Shaq Richardson.
10. Inside zone to Jordan Hall.
11. Wes Johnson now getting second team reps at center. Chris Hubbard pulls and I think he whiffed. Hall with the carry off the left side.
12. Nick Williams, Roy Philon, and Brian Arnfelt man the defensive line. Landry Jones hits Paulson in the flat.
13. Brendon Kay has one of his better throws in camp, hitting Will Johnson in stride on what might have been a wheel. But the fullback drops it. Right off his hands.
14. Will Simmons pulls right to left. Vince Wiliams reads that key well, follows, and fills the lane on this Miguel Maysonet run.
15. Kay’s throw down the left sideline is just too far for Heyward-Bey. Isaiah Green on the coverage. Wes Johnson seals Chris Carter.
- 3rd down situational with no huddle or muddle huddle.
1. Playaction off a fake draw. Ben hits Will Johnson in the flat. Troy Polamalu with the thud.
2. Draw to Blount.
3. David DeCastro false starts. Roethlisberger hooks up with Heath Miller on a dig. Kelvin Beachum seals Chris Carter up the arc.
4. Dri Archer is lined up in the slot. Both Cam Thomas and Cameron Heyward had their hands up. Ben checks out of the original play and motions Archer into the backfield. Outside zone to the rookie before he runs right into Cam Thomas’ belly.
5. Ben hits Heath Miller on a curl.
6. One of the best throws from Ben all camp. Great touch to throw over Cortez Allen to Antonio Brown on a corner route. Small window. Brown makes the catch along the right sideline. Appropriate way to end practice for #7.
7. Screen from Bruce Gradkowski for Josh Harris. Daniel McCullers comes from behind to engulf him. This guy may be big but he runs to the football.
8. Draw to Harris. Vince Williams on the thud.
9. Gradkowski does go through his reads and looks away from the single high safety that was rotating to the strong side but forces a throw to Derek Moye on a weakside dig. Pass is incomplete.
10. Outside zone to Tauren Poole. Terence Garvin meets him at the line.
11. Gradkowksi complete to Martavis Bryant on a curl.
12. Gradkowski connects with Bryce Davis in the flat. Big collision as Thomas hits him helmet-to-helmet. Thunderous pop. Ouch.
13. Bubble screen from Brendon Kay to Darrius Heyward-Bey.
14. Vic So’oto appears to come in free to tackle Miguel Maysonet at or near the line.
15. Brendon Kay does a nice job of going to his second read and firing a bullet to Kashif Moore between two defenders. Another NFL-type throw from the UDFA but again, catches a bad break. Moore looks upfield before securing the catch and drops it.
Not that we needed to see it from him but a real strong performance today by Ben Roethlisberger. Couple of beautiful throws. Brendon Kay had one of his better practices in team drills too, even if the stats won’t show it due to the drops.
Running back became an interesting position today. Josh Harris running as the next man up after Archer came out of nowhere. Dominated the touches today. Not like he did anything special in the preseason game. Even had a drop. I guess the coaches really were not pleased with how Poole performed Saturday out of the backfield. And they’re right – he struggled. But if the same carries over to tomorrow, I feel like we’ll be back to square one of trying to figure out who has the “lead.” I was ready to write Harris off. Now, I’m not so sure.
Not a whole lot from the wide receiver group today. At least Heyward-Bey’s drop I saw was the only one of practice. No small name player made much noise today.
David Paulson did have the benefit of being open but at least he had one or two chunk pickups. More than we can say for Eric Waters or Rob Blanchflower.
Wesley Johnson got work at second-team center and third-team left tackle today. Kelvin Beachum had another fine practice. Mike Adams didn’t look terrible in team drills even if he got beat up in the brief one-on-one reps.
Brian Arnfelt continues to run third team right end. What happened last Thursday or in Saturday’s game is definitely not a fluke. Josh Mauro is ahead of him. Stephon Tuitt is running behind Cam Thomas in base but is still getting some first team reps in nickel.
As I mentioned, I really like Daniel McCullers ability to run to the ball. That separates him from most other nose tackles. And he was second-team over Fangupo despite 92 playing over the rookie on game day. Still see the situation as fluid but I have to think McCullers has the upper hand.
To use a cliché, Howard Jones has all the tools in the tool belt. First step, a good swim, and long arms that he knows how to use. But he’s raw and understandably rough around the edges. Want to see how Danny Smith responds to him tomorrow on special teams.
Quietly, Jarvis Jones is having a nice camp against the run. Strength and is getting off his blocks.
No splash plays stick out but seeing Cortez Allen’s overall game still has me excited for him this season. Coaches are going to have to tell Shamarko Thomas to take it easy before he hurts somebody.
- Went straight home from practice, why this report is in a little later, but did stop at Sheetz. So I guess this can be your Sheetz Syfy movie of the day. The Matrix Revolutions. Never really got into Keanu Reeves. Except in The Replacements. So cheesy but such a good movie.
- Number of hello’s from Missi Matthews today: 0
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