Steelers Training Camp Diary: Day 15


Back at it for, sigh, the next-to-last day of Pittsburgh Steelers’ training camp, 2017 edition. They’ll be out there tomorrow and then break for camp, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex for the remainder of the preseason. Let’s dive in.

Quick aside: want to thank our training camp sponsor, Touring Plans, who is supporting the meals throughout camp. Actually had a sitdown dinner tonight at Sharky’s. Got a gyro, one of my favorite foods. Thanks again to Touring Plans, who you should check out if you’re ever planning a trip to Disney, the second most magical place on Earth (SVC being the first, of course). You can hit up their website here.

One other thing. Didn’t do a Ask Alex today but will post it tomorrow at 11:30. Run it for an hour before I leave.

– Injury roundup: Again, getting healthier. Out fully today were: Mike Mitchell (leg/ankle), Keion Adams (left shoulder), Senquez Golson (taking his talents to South Beach), David DeCastro/Ramon Foster (rest), Ryan Shazier (hamstring), William Gay (rest), and JuJu Smith-Schuster (bone bruise).

Partial participants were: Maurkice Pouncey, Landry Jones, Cam Sutton, and Demarcus Ayers. Jones was the closest to “full,” throwing in individual/one-on-ones and taking run snaps in team periods. He didn’t throw in team periods. Pouncey went through the very initial, quarter-speed warmups and then sat out. Ayers, oh Demarcus Ayers. One tiny step closer today. Had his shoulder pads on today, fielded punts in the beginning return line. But still, didn’t go through team or even individual WR drills. I don’t know who is more frustrated, you or I.


The injured players did some jogging on the side. Mitchell, Golson, and Ayers threw big medicine balls over their head and dribbled them around as part of their rehab program.

Practice injuries. B.J. Finney was carted off with dehydration. So that’s obviously good news, nothing more serious than that. James Conner limped around after the second team session, the run, live tackling period. I saw him work as the left wing in the punt session but he didn’t get work in 7 on 7 or the rest of team period, sitting on a cooler away from the offense and briefly talking to trainer John Norwig, who I’m guessing pulled him out. We’ll check in with him tomorrow.

– Despite being out today, Smith-Schuster was on the field early and stayed in Hines Ward’s hip pocket for most of the afternoon. Mental reps.

James Harrison, who hasn’t been spotted recently, came down the stairs with the team and went through individual work with the rest of the OLBs, soaking his grey sweatshirt. Did sprints across the middle field during the special teams periods.

– Before Finney’s injury, the first team offensive line with no Foster/DeCastro. Villanueva-Feiler-Finney-Hubbard-Gilbert

After Finney’s injury, it was. Villanueva-Feiler-Hubbard-Milton-Gilbert

Alejandro Villanueva crop-topped DeCastro’s 66 jersey all practice, which I’ll include a picture of at the bottom.

Sammie Coates caught the ball well today, starting off well with a one-handed snag with his right hand on air.

– As you should expect for Week 1, Stephon Tuitt/Jesse James served as the wings on the field goal unit. Chris Boswell nailed them all.

– WR/DBs working on stalk blocks, their version of an Oklahoma drill. Tomlin amping up Brian Allen. “Come on, BA!” he yelled out to him, a few feet away, as it was his turn. Allen responded by taking on Coates’ block and tossing him down. Tomlin was happy.

“Thank you! Thank you!”

Cam Sutton did go through this drill but I don’t believe he worked in team.

– Charting the OL/DL reps.

OL/DL

1. T.J. Watt tried to dip under Villanueva, starting his rush outside before dipping in. Villanueva sealed him…again. Still can’t figure him out.

2. Matt Feiler a strong rep versus Cam Heyward, sealing him up the arc.

3. Javon Hargrave gets his arms extended and his lower half driving, running back Kyle Friend.

4. L.T. Walton can’t rip under Chris Hubbard.

5. Marcus Gilbert good rep against Anthony Chickillo, sealing him upfield.

6. Jerald Hawkins a good rep too, sealing Austin Gearing upfield.

7. Ethan Cooper anchors Johnny Maxey, who is only able to rip under and through him late. Give the win to Cooper.

8. Lucas Crowley doesn’t look pretty handling Daniel McCullers bull rush but he does good enough.

9. Walton can’t shed Milton.

10. Farrington Huguenin fails on this rep pretty badly. Tries to run the arc against Brian Mihalik, Mihalik seals him. Huguenin tries to spin back inside but Mihalik slides laterally shoves him down.

11. Hawkins anchors against Roy Philon.

12. Cooper shoves Francis Kallon upfield.

13. Nose tackle Christian Brown drops his eyes on contact, doesn’t keep his lower half moving, and falls to Crowley’s feet. One of those guys you don’t need to see his jersey to know who it is. The technique he plays with, or lack thereof, tells you. It’s like Matt Conrath’s infinite rip moves that never worked a few camps ago.

14. Jake Rodgers wins versus Lavon Hooks.

First Session

1. Seven shots. Shotgun handoff to Fitzgerald Toussaint. Defensive line swarms and stops him at the one.

2. Mike Hilton getting the start in the slot with Gay having the day off. Brown and Eli on the outside, Martavis Bryant working in the slot. Dupree/Watt the OLBs. James Conner up the middle, Feiler pulling left to right. Good blocks up front and he practically walks in untouched.

3. Fun play. Shotgun handoff to James Conner to the right, who flips the ball to Martavis Bryant on a reverse. Defense totally fooled and Bryant has a free path to his right, Roethlisberger as the “lead blocker,” hands in the air as Bryant jogs in.

4. Brown zig-zags in motion as we’ve seen before. Burns mirrors him well and covers Brown in the flat. Roethlisberger pviots to his left to look for an open Jesse James in the back of the end zone. I thought he caught the ball, already had my eyes down to start writing my notes, but read after on Steelers.com – who always posts good accounts of 7 shots – says Ross Cockrell popped the ball out at the end. So change of course, call this a win for the defense and a nice play by Cockrell.

5. Bart Houston the second team quarterback. Fires a fade to Justin Hunter in the left corner but the pass is way over his head, even for him, incomplete. Greg Ducre with the coverage.

6. Coates/Hunter the second team WRs. Houston has his eyes locked in on Coates on a slant. Ducre is pressing him the whole way, there’s no space, but Houston fires it anyway. Ball woefully behind, incomplete. Should’ve moved to his next read.

7. Houston looks for Cobi Hamilton, floating to the back right corner of the end zone. Pass missed, Jordan Dangerfield in coverage. Ethan Cooper jumped up to 2nd team left guard.

Second Session

1. Run period. Landry Jones in at QB. Toussaint dive into the middle, no running room. Pile up stands Toussaint up, Dupree pushing him backwards and away.

2. Toussaint up the middle again. Another pile, Watt bear-hugging him this time.

3. Tyler Matakevich holds the edge and forces James Conner to cut upfield. Sean Davis, having a couple of good practices, makes a diving ankle tackle near the line of scrimmage.

4. Conner again up the middle. Blown up by Matakevich again flying in for a TFL. Davis right there with him, too. Backup linemen getting worked by the first team defensive line.

5. Now it’s Artie Burns turn to fly in off the edge and drop Terrell Watson for a loss. Defense going crazy, Burns getting props.

6. Finally a little breathing room for the offense. Conner gets the edge to the right and picks up a chunk of yards before Burns finally rides him out.

7. Second team line in. Josh Dobbs out of pistol. Playaction, and throws a dime to Sammie Coates, running a flag (corner) route to the left sideline. Pass came in right over Ducre’s head and Coates extended out to grab it.

8. Watson with a strong run up the middle. Steps out of a Matakevich ankle tackle before Jordan Dangerfield takes him down in the third level.

9. Dobbs hits an open Justin Hunter on a deep out to the right side. Taps his toes and then steps out of bounds. Brian Allen playing off coverage.

10. Botched handoff between Houston and Watson. Watson falls and turtles over the ball as the defense piles on top.

11. Trey Williams with the rare carry up the middle. Daniel McCullers one of a couple defenders in there to stand him up around the LOS.

12. Brandon Brown-Dukes off the right side. Johnny Maxey sheds his blocks and makes a nice diving tackle near the LOS.

Third Session

1. Hubbard in at center, Keavon Milton right guard. Ben Roethlisberger hits Antonio Brown on a dig, Burns covering.

2. Empty set, Roosevelt Nix split out. Turns his body on a bubble screen but Roethlisberger throws a fade down the left side to AB. Ball placement is only where Brown can get it but it grazes off his finger tips.

3. Davis free on a blitz. Roethlisberger bomb down the right side. Bryant may have given Cockrell a little shove, hard to tell but Cockrell face planted into the ground. Bryant tracks the ball and catches out in stride, out in front, for a huge gain.

4. Tyler Matakevich ILB blitz. Tuitt reads Ben’s throw and jumps up both hands raised in the air, batting down the pass.

5. Cover 2 hole shot, Brown running to the right corner between Artie Burns and Robert Golden. Throw looked on the money from Ben. Brown, I guess, never found it and it bounced two yards next to him, incomplete.

6. Empty set. Low snap from Hubbard. Roethlisberger hits Johnson on a screen to the right.

7. Dobbs pass on a drag to Marcus Tucker goes through his hands, incomplete.

8. Second team DL in (Alualu, Walton, Maxey). Dangerfield/Hagen the safeties. Justin Hunter with a strong combat catch running a go route down the right side, crumpling to the ground but hauling the pass in as Coty Sensabaugh is unable to swipe it out.

9. Huguenin comes in free off the edge. Swing pass from Dobbs to Watson, making a slight adjustment back for the ball, while L.J. Fort is the first man to tag him up.

10. Johnson/Fort the ILBs. Houston in at QB. Screen right to Watson. But the back takes his eyes off the ball and looks upfield before hauling in the pass. Drops it.

11. Brandon Dixon/JaCorey Shepherd at CB. Good pocket. Houston finds Jake McGee on the right side, a short completion. Hilton eases up and hops around him. No tackling.

12. Empty set. This time, Houston hits Nix on the bubble. But like Watson, Nix drops this one too. Took eyes off the ball.

Fourth Session

1. Toss right to Knile Davis.

2. Davis up the middle. Defensive line holds the POA and there’s nowhere to go.

3. Small hole for Watson over right guard but Vince Williams quickly fills his gap. Watson trips and falls, Bryant tumbling overtop of him.

4. Williams and Chickillo gang up to stop Watson near the LOS.

5. Dobbs quickly fires to Johnson in the right flat. Tuitt got some pressure but fell down to Dobbs knees, I assume, tripped/pushed by one of the linemen.

6. Dobbs hits McGee on an out. Matakevich tags him up.

Fifth Session

1. 2nd team DL in. Playaction, Dobbs rolling to the right. Off his back foot, getting the ball away quickly, but shows really good arm strength to hit AB on about a 15 yard comeback.

2. Walton gets A gap pressure. Dobbs throw to Phazahn Odom on a dig is high, incomplete. Hilton in the area.

3. Dobbs throws down the right seam to Johnson. Vince Williams trailing him well, gets his head around, but the ball slips through his hands. Ball pops up in front of Johnson and Golden. Good play by Vince but should’ve had the pick.

4. Dart scheme, Marcus Gilbert pulling right to left. Davis behind. Matakevich works through the trash to tag him up, “Way to go, Dirty!” someone called out.

5. Huguenin/Moats the OLBs. Watson meets a pile of bodies off the right side.

6. Dobbs throw to Eli Rogers is a bit high but catchable. Clips off his hands and incomplete. Consider it a drop.

7. Offensive line grouping: Hawkins-Cooper-Friend-Milton-Mihalik. Nix and Milton pulling right to left, Toussaint behind. Sensabaugh flies in from the backside to trip Toussaint up.

8. Swing pass from Houston to Davis. Hagen quickly arrives with the tag/stop.

9. Philon/Kallon the DTs. Hurried throw by Houston against pressure, the pocket collapsing, hitting Brown-Dukes along the right side.

10. Another trap run. Trey Williams gets the carry. Big collision on the left side, Keith Kelsey taking on the block strongly. Ditto with a couple of others.

Final Thoughts

– Josh Dobbs will wow with a throw a day. The dime to Coates was really pretty and his back foot completion to Brown was equally as good, even if it didn’t gain as many yards (and Brown was pretty open).

– Injury bug hitting these rookies pretty good. Conner in and out, ditto JuJu. Sutton has missed almost the entire camp. Keion Adams has been out two weeks. Give credit to Brian Allen, the only rookie (not counting Dobbs and Holba since they don’t really see contact), who is the only one to miss no time.

– Like Tomlin said after practice, the second team OL got beat up by the first team OL in run session.

– Don’t have a good feel for what he did in team but I thought Hawkins had one of his better days in OL/DL. Hoping he does well against Atlanta.

– Hunter making that combat catch was encouraging. Wasn’t just him having the physical tools and ability to leap over someone, or making a nifty looking adjustment on air. Physical at the catch point because he had to be.

– That physicality at catch points is still something I’m searching for from Jesse James. Or any tight end not named David Johnson, who while a non-athlete, has really good hands and makes some tough grabs.

– Quiet day for Mike Hilton working with the starters, though that’s not always a bad thing.

– Sean Davis keeps putting together some solid practices. Been happy with the way he’s come on since a brief shoulder injury caused him to miss a practice or two.


– If you’d like to leave something in the tip jar for the camp reports we do, you can do so right here. Of course, only do so if you’re willing and able to. No biggie if you don’t/can’t. We’re just happy to have your support and be apart of this awesome community.

History Through A Lens

Franco following Rocky. Webby in the background.

I’m not crying, you’re crying.

St. Vincent Snapshot

Villy in DeCastro’s jersey, as promised.

Ron Swanson Quote Of The Day 

“April was supposed to be the moat that kept the citizen barbarians away from Swanson castle. Instead she blew up the castle and stabbed me in the face.”

About the Author

Alex Kozora
Full-time blogger from mom's basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.
  • Chad H

    Need Shazier to get back big time. Only guy I’m worried about right now.

  • Steelers12

    I hope Hilton plays with the starters for a little while on Sunday

  • falconsaftey43

    What’s your overall impression of Brian Allen after having watched all of camp?

  • falconsaftey43

    Hey Alex, I know it would be really time consuming, so maybe better for next year, but it would be really helpful to get a break down of each ST unit in terms of what players typically fill the various ST spots on each unit. I.e. Kick coverage L3 is usually a linebacker etc. Would help when thinking about roster numbers, and would also just be interesting.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    the Steelers unite password for this weeks 10 yards is PLAY.

  • Alex Kozora

    I do have some of those in my Giants/Steelers game notes, if you want to take a look.

  • Alex Kozora

    Improving. Much better end to camp than he started.

  • will

    How did operation go? All good?

  • Michael Mosgrove

    pretty rough. but im recovering.

  • Jaybird

    Godspeed bro.

  • Alex Kozora

    Hagen and Danger probably pretty equal.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    I don’t know what it is but rookies on all teams get injured like crazy every year.

  • Steeler Nation!

    Over the last decade or longer since the Underwear Olympics craze has gone bananas, some say this has actually led to more rookie issues. They play a long college football season, then immediately begin combine training, then pro days, etc etc. And they are basically training for stuff that doesnt necessarily translate to football.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    interesting. ive never been impressed by hagen but i suppose there is a chance he has turned it on this year. youd be a better judge for this year seeing as how i couldnt get to camp.
    do you think danger has taken a big enough step from last year in this camp? have you seen good progression from him?

  • will

    Way to hang in there. Still lifting you up to the Lord for complete healing. Lots of Steelers news to focus on as you recover.

  • Conserv_58

    I love seeing Tyler, Dirty Red, Matakevich is having a great camp. He was my selection last season to win the under dog award and make the team. He has not disappointed. For him to be given the nod above Johnson and Fort to take significant reps with the first team speaks volumes about what the coaches see in him.

    From what I’ve seen and from Alex’s break downs, Huston can’t hit the broad side of a barn if he stood within feet of it. He might have a strong arm, but what good is having a strong arm if he’s consistently sailing passes over and away from the receivers?

    I sure hope that the walking wounded find their way onto the practice field before the start of the regular season.

  • NW86

    Love the Golson injury comments every day Alex. “Taking his talents to South Beach” LOL. Just didn’t want you to think nobody notices those.
    So it seems like the only ones likely to miss Sunday due to injury are Golson, Mitchell, Shazier, and JuJu. And even those 4 aren’t so serious that they don’t have a chance at the following week. I can live with that. (Knocks on wood for a healthy final camp practice today)

  • george

    I’m not sure about Shazier coming back in one week. I have a feeling his preseason is over. Let’s hope he’s ok for the opener against Browns.

  • george

    That’s what Belichek said. Too much emphasis on running the 40 and not enough on playing football.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    I can get onboard with that. I guess they come into camp in track shape, not football shape.

  • Alex Kozora

    Dangerfield has played like the same guy, which isn’t a bad thing. Tomlin praised how vocal he’s been and you can hear him at camp. Especially since he’s been the “guy” 2nd team with Mitchell out and Golden getting bumped up. So from a leadership, take control standpoint, Dangerfield has improved.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    i’ll take it. he wasnt doing much of that last year.

  • Besd1

    Hi all, long time reader first time poster here. Firstly, many thanks to Alex for these diaries. They give a fascinating insight into the Steelers off season preparations and, certainly this year, whet the appetite for the season to come.

    Secondly, as a UK fan of many years and little knowledge I’m afraid I will be asking dumb questions, demonstrating my ignorance and making rash, ill informed statements. Please bear with me.

    Finally, does anyone else think we should all club together and buy Alex a fruit basket? From the sound of his menu choices he hasnt touched a vitamin in weeks.