By Alex Kozora
Practice notes from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ tenth day of practice.
– Hebron Fangupo was the first player down the stairs at 2:38. In tow were Jawan Jamison, Brad Wing, and Dri Archer, the latter two again walking down together. Fast friends.
– Injury roundup although Dave Bryan pretty much has you covered. Sitting out today were Jarvis Jones with a groin, Steve McLendon with a concussion, Lance Moore and Ramon Foster with unknown injuries, and Ryan Shazier with a leg/knee.
Shazier’s leg is still wrapped. Foster did jam his finger on Sunday but I don’t know if him sitting out today is related to that. He did practice on Monday seemingly without issue. McLendon ran on the middle field during drills.
Jordan Zumwalt, Rob Blanchflower, and C.J. Goodwin were full participants. It was a pleasant surprise to see Darrius Heyward-Bey return from his concussion although he did not participate in team drills. Newly signed James Shaw did not either. He will wear Danny Coale’s old number of 88.
Marcus Gilbert got hurt in an early drill but it does not look serious. He didn’t practice any more football activities but didn’t have any trainers around him following their original check-up. He stayed after practice, too, so he should be just fine.
Josh Harris got dinged during one of the 11 on 11 sets and was taken out, but he finished practice. Should be fine as well.
– I’ve been meaning to say this for the last few days. It’s impossible for me to say with any certainty, but I really think Mike Munchak is taking more time talking to his line than what Jack Bicknell Jr. did. The line may be getting less reps in positional as a whole, but the quality of them is probably a lot better. That’s obviously the preferred option. I’d rather do something right five times than something wrong ten times.
We know this team has some of the best position coaches around, but I also love the additions of Joey Porter and Mike Sellers. Their energy is sky-high and I bet the players absolutely love to play for them. Good coaching creates good play.
– Before the team broke into its stretches, Ben Roethlisberger and Maurkice Pouncey were having a competition of hitting the crossbar from 25 yards out. Ben connected as the horn sounded, putting his finger up in the air and jogging away.
– With Foster out, Chris Hubbard took over as first-team left guard.
– I meant to look in team drills but in 11 on air, Justin Brown continued to gets reps in the slot. Was there yesterday with Lance Moore playing and again today with Moore out.
– Second-team line before Marcus Gilbert’s injury: Guy Whimper, Bryant Browning, Cody Wallace, Will Simmons, and Mike Adams.
– Chris Elkins saw time at left guard and center throughout today’s practice.
– Return drill order: Justin Brown, Markus Wheaton, Dri Archer, James Shaw, Martavis Bryant, Jordan Hall
– That group will work on catching clean returns, the ball coming down in a spiral. Another line, consisting of mostly tight ends, running backs, and even the occasional defensive lineman, will work on securing end over end kicks, presumably pooch kickoffs.
– Justin Brown and James Shaw set training camp bests by catching six punts. Brown attempted a seventh and nearly caught it, but as he fell to the ground, a football squirted out. Shaw never got to even attempt a seventh, dropping a ball as he was trying to organize them on his body.
– Random side note: Heath Miller briefly walked over to the offensive line circle.
– Running backs, wide receivers, and quarterbacks had to run through a lane of players holding blocking pads. Coaches yelling, “Eyes up, eyes up!” as he directed them which way to run as they emerged. New drills being incorporated every day to focus on different areas while breaking up the monotony of camp.
– Wide receivers having to catch intentionally high passes in one drill followed up by that vertical gauntlet they showed a few practices ago.
– Dri Archer worked with the wide receivers in most of the positional drills, the first time that’s occurred all camp. He did come back to the running backs as the receivers worked on their blocking, and then came back over. I am a little worried the team hasn’t had Archer rep any blocking at all.
– Offensive line working on their pass sets along with their first punch and bucket steps. Focus points are your bend – at the knees – and keeping your feet pumping in order to mirror.
– The WR “first group” consisted of: Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Justin Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Dri Archer. Worth noting that Bryant is now working with this group when Derek Moye – not Bryant – was with this group a few practices ago. Shows he is trending in the right direction.
– Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth, Michael Palmer, and David Paulson were the “first group” tight ends.
– Got a brief couple of looks at the linebackers across the field in a weave drill, working on flipping their hips. Vince Williams still looks tight and stiff. That drill isn’t made for him.
– Rob Blanchflower had a tough day. Had trouble sticking to Arthur Moats in one-on-one drill. Believe he drew the ire of Mike Tomlin after the play. Got overextended on another occasion and ran into Bruce Gradkowski once in 11 on 11, busting the play.
– In the TE/OLB drill, Eric Waters was up and down. Didn’t see what happened but heard Tomlin shout his praises – 8-0!” once. But then he got overextended the next play and later immediately went to the ground against Vic So’oto. But they went at it one more time and Waters stuck well. Mike Sellers got about two feet from him, screaming into his earhole, “There you go! There you go!” I love Mike Sellers.
– Special team’s period. Tauren Poole first team upback, Cody Wallace and Will Johnson the “wedge,” and David Paulson and Matt Speath the next two up. Important to note the team used their #3 and #4 tight ends – Paulson and Palmer – in that role last year. It’s subtle but another sign the team will keep only three true tight ends.
– Next group: Miguel Maysonet the upback, Stephon Tuitt and Brian Arnfelt the wedge, and David Paulson and Josh Mauro the next two.
– Later in practice but caught one play of the 7 on 7. Ben hit Wheaton on the money on a go route down the sideline. Wheaton burned Isaiah Green but the ball slipped through his hands at the goalline.
– After practice had concluded, the DL and TE went one-on-one for the first time post-practice all camp. Poor Bryce Davis had to face Daniel McCullers. It did not end well for the tight end. Took a short video featuring one of those matchups along with Eric Waters and Rob Blanchflower that I’ll try to post later tonight.
– Tons of players were staying after practice today. Think the realization that the first game is just days away is starting to set in, especially for the younger guys. Marcus Gibert worked with Emmanuel McCray and Wesley Johnson after practice, practicing their kickslide. Johnson would then walk away, stand in front of the padding on the goalpost, and practice his first punch against it.
It was a tough day for the rookie so I appreciate him working on the details post-practice. Let’s see how he rebounds tomorrow.
– Play-by-play of the DL/OL one-on-ones. The team would run a couple and then go into a team portion of three offensive and defensive lineman, again working on stunt pickup. Again, hard to say how it compares to previous years, but it seems to be a welcomed component of the Steelers’ daily practice.
1. Kelvin Beachum wins versus Howard Jones. Jones is too tall and skinny and is an easy target for the tackle to get his hands into.
2. Jones does get his arms extended into Beachum’s pads the next snap but he appears to slip and fall down.
3. Third matchup. Jones tries an inside spin but again falls. That’s a 3-0 showing in Beachum’s favor on the scorecard.
4. Arthur Moats gets extended into Mike Adams’ pads and walks him back.
5. The two square off again. Adams lets Moats win to the inside and claps his hands in frustration as he walks away.
6. Chris Carter successfully dips Wesley Johnson around the edge. Well done.
7. Wesley Johnson is able to get his hands into Carter’s pads as he again dips but the outside linebacker is able to slip past and turn the corner.
8. Vic So’oto showcases a quality first punch and then swims over the doubled-over Emmanuel McCray.
9. So’oto spins inside, beating human turnstile McCray again.
10. Johnson starts to double over for a moment but does manage to stick to Josh Mauro.
11. McCray does get some redemption, sticking and winning versus Ethan Hemer.
12. Terence Garvin does Wes Johnson dirty. Nasty inside spin and the rookie flops to the ground.
13. Garvin easily wins again. Inside/out move that causes Johnson to bend at the waist.
14. McCray anchors a Jason Worilds’ bull rush but 93 disengages and wins by countering with a spin.
15. Another spin from Worilds makes quick work of McCray.
Play-by-play from the four 11 on 11 periods.
1. Mike Adams replaces Marcus Gilbert as the first-team right tackle. So I guess that’s a positive sign that Guy Whimper isn’t running over him. Of course, Whimper was working at left tackle today so perhaps we shouldn’t read much into it. Chris Carter opens up at ROLB for Jarvis Jones. Sean Spence at ILB for the injured Ryan Shazier. Ran off right tackle to Le’Veon Bell for a long gain. The drill didn’t start out as full contact, though.
2. Outside zone to LeGarrette Blount. He cuts back to his left but receives from friendly fire from Markus Wheaton, who elbows him and knocks the back to the ground.
3. Le’Veon Bell to the right side for no gain.
4. Playaction. Roethlisberger hits Heath Miller on a 15 yard out. Sean Spence allowed the catch, but I watched him the whole way and thought he flipped well.
5. Blount off tackle to the left. Sean Spence with a real nice play. Seals the edge and takes Blount to the ground. Reacted to the flow well.
6. Bell with the carry.
7. Power O, Chris Hubbard pulling. Dri Archer run off the right side.
8. Tauren Poole is dropped for a loss.
9. Playaction, boot right for Bruce Gradkowski. Scrambles.
10. Around this point, Tomlin calls out for the team to start tackling. Will Simmons false starts. Arthur Moats blows up Tauren Poole in the backfield while Terence Garvin helps to clean it up.
11. Shamarko Thomas and Will Allen come in at safety. Short run by Miguel Maysonet.
12. Maysonet fumbles and the defense recovers. Kept a close eye on Jordan Zumwalt and he had a big collision on Cody Wallace. Didn’t make the tackle but the pop sure was loud. Welcome back, Jordan.
13. Jordan Hall shimmies his way through a small crease and busts off a good gain. Dan Molls and Jordan Dangerfield combine to collect the tackle.
14. Molls stands up Josh Harris who fumbles. Also was shaken up on this play, likely contributing to the turnover.
15. Harris tries to return to the huddle but the coaches sent out Jawan Jamison to replace him. It may have been Jamison’s turn anyway based on the last couple of practices. The back runs for about five yards to the left side. Molls with his third tackle in a row.
– As the rain let up early in practice, I momentarily totally forgot how to close my umbrella. Training camp madness is setting in.
Thud tackling period.
1. Ben Roethisberger kicks things off with a completion to Markus Wheaton on a curl. Mike Mitchell was sent on the blitz. Le’Veon Bell might have it picked it up. Heard one of the coaches praising him after the play.
2. Ben Roethlisberger fires down the right sideline, his receiver (who I don’t have listed) on a nine route. Ball is thrown well but it is off the receiver’s hands. I want to say he was intending it for Antonio Brown, but I’m not really sure.
3. Defense is in nickel. Tuitt at LE and Cam Heyward at right end. Ben completes to AB who quickly turns, causing Ike Taylor to grab air. Gets upfield and the two chase each other into the end zone.
4. Cam Thomas at LDE and Josh Mauro at RDE in the nickel. Arthur Moats at LOLB and Vic So’oto opposite. Garvin and Vince Williams your second-team inside linebackers. Ben scrambles. Kelvin Beachum seals So’oto without issue here.
5. Shark and Golden come in at safety. Dri Archer starts in the backfield with Bell and then is motioned out wide, outside the numbers to the right side. Miller comes across the middle and Ben looks his way but the normally sure-handed TE drops the ball.
6. Defensive line consisting of: Brian Arnfelt, Hebron Fangupo, and Josh Mauro. Second team corners: Antwon Blake and Brice McCain. Antonio Brown makes a fingertip catch on a drag route working against McCain.
Vince Williams comes flying in on a blitz resulting in an enormous collision between him and Tauren Poole. To his credit, Poole stands tall and takes it on. Wasn’t pretty but it got the job done.
7. Landry Jones’ first attempts sails over the head of Derek Moye. Shaq Richardson provided the coverage.
8. Ross Ventrone and Jordan Dangerfield come in at safety. Jones fires a quick slant to Derek Moye. Richardson can’t close in time to break it up nor is he able to punch the ball away as he tries to play the pocket (swipe through the WR’s hands).
9. Jones missed Kashif Moore on a curl.
10. Landry Jones completes to Rob Blanchflower in the left flat. Mike Mitchell shoves him to the ground.
11. Jones fires a bullet to Michael Palmer on a curl. Cody Wallace is at center and Chris Elkins is seeing time at left guard.
12. Lawrence Timmons with a real nice play here. Turns and runs with Justin Brown down the seam, breaking up Brendon Kay’s pass sent that way.
13. Kay completes to Lanear Sampson on the right side.
14. Couldn’t get a good grasp of the personnel but the Steelers definitely rolled out some sort of “Big Nickel” with three safeties: Shark, Will Allen, and Golden. Kay hits Bryant deep down the right sideline over Antwon Blake. Bryant makes the grab but only gets one foot in bounds.
15. Kay checks down to Josh Harris to end the period.
– A blogger’s worst nightmare. When players have their jerseys rolled up and it’s difficult to see their number. So annoying.
1. New defensive line pairing with Cam Heyward out. Stephon Tuitt still at LE, Hebron Fangupo ascends to first team nose, and Cam Thomas shifts to RE. Le’Veon Bell on the run and Timmons makes the tackle.
2. Arthur Moats is now getting his turn as being the first-team ROLB. Playaction. Ben forces a throw to Antonio Brown and the two may have not been on the same page. Should’ve been an easy INT for Ike Taylor but it bounces right off his hands. Taylor does pushups right on the field.
3. Roethlisberger playaction. Overshoots Justin Brown.
4. Blount run, Garvin with the thud. Chris Carter is the 2nd team ROLB.
5. Ben checks down to Poole. Josh Mauro, working at RE, was looped over on a stunt.
6. The Steelers fake an end around to Markus Wheaton and Poole gets the carry. Garvin again on the stop.
7. Dangerfield and Ventrone the safeties. Playaction. Quick pass as Bruce Gradkowski hits Palmer down the seam.
8. Gradkowski checks to Dri Archer. Howard Jones dips Wesley Johnson with ease on this play. Bryant Browning had to give help to bail Johnson out.
9. Broken play. Rob Blanchflower runs into Gradkowski. QB forced to eat it. Teaching moment.
10. Gradkowski complete to Derek Moye on a drag. Moats back in at ROLB.
11. An Archer run. Moats works off a Bryce David blocking, sticking his hand out to clog the lane. Another linebacker, I think it was Timmons, also helps to fill.
12. Maysonet on a screen from Gradkowski. Sean Spence snuffs it out before it can go anywhere. Looks like Chris Elkins was slow to release into the flats.
13. Draw to Jordan Hall. Thought Elkins held his own vs McCullers.
14. Third-team line: Wesley Johnson, Bryant Browning, Chris Elkins, Will Simmons, Emmanuel McCray. Inside zone to Jamison. Good vision to find the hole. McCain shoves him down late in the play.
15. Good coverage by the defense and Brendon Kay appropriately scrambles. Johnson does find a little bit of redemption, sticking to Carter well.
– Moral of the story for anyone who was at camp today. If you yell and scream your head off at Antonio Brown for two hours, he’ll give you a football. Bleh.
1. Carter back in at first team OLB. Defensive line still consists of Tuitt, Fangupo, and Thomas. Dri Archer motioned out. Team throws a screen with Archer coming to the ball on the move, something they ran in drills.
2. Screen to Bell from Ben Roethlisberger. Bell drops it, the first time there’s been an incompletion on a pass his way. Was 9/9 previously.
3. Bell run left side.
4. Another screen, this time from Ben to Blount.
5. And yet another screen to Blount though this time, it’s snuffed out and the pass incomplete.
6. Big Ben finds Brown on a curl. Like earlier, Brown immediately turns on the jets and spins past Ike Taylor, making the cornerback look real slow. Brown has predictably bested Ike Taylor throughout camp though the matchups have been fun to watch.
7. Landry Jones hits Dri Archer on a swing pass.
8. Jones shows good touch on an out route to Derek Moye. Complete.
9. Archer draw.
10. Offsides on the defense, free play. Jones chucks up a jump ball to Martavis Bryant, who makes an easy catch working against Isaiah Green.
11. Jones fires to Moye on an out route to the left side but the pass glances off the receiver’s hand.
12. Vince Williams works off a block and makes the “tackle” on Tauren Poole.
13. Outside zone to the left and Jordan Hall is stood up at the line. One of the defensive lineman knifed through. Couldn’t tell who, though.
14. Jordan Zumwalt the Buck and Dan Molls the Mack as 3rd team linebacker. Draw to Hall.
15. Jamison draw. Blanchflower had a tough time sticking at the second level.
– Martavis Bryant continues to flash some more “big guy” plays each practice. Team has rewarded him by appearing to move him past Derek Moye.
– As I noted already, Rob Blanchflower had a tough day. Eric Waters was up and down. Ways to go for both of those guys.
– Wes Johnson struggled mightily today. Like Chris Elkins the other day, want to see how he responds tomorrow after getting punched in the mouth.
– The inside linebackers as a unit had a strong day. Sean Spence made some nice plays while Terence Garvin and Dan Molls were always around the ball. Timmons staying step for step with Justin Brown again showcases his athleticism. Even though contact was limited, the run defense was much better today.
– Saw Brice McCain make a couple of plays on the ball in team drills and even in 7 on 7’s. I still see him as running over Shaq Richardson. McCain has played in the slot and on the outside while Richardson is strictly a LCB and hasn’t made many plays.
– With Mike Mitchell back, one safety ends up being the odd man out each 11 on 11. One time it was Will Allen, another Robert Golden. Just too many bodies to give adequate playing time to.
– Howard Jones needs to work on using his hands better as a pass rusher, but I saw flashes from him against the run in drills. Showed a swim move to shed a block. When we talk about quick hands, we’re not just talking about pass rushing ability. Also talking about how you shed against the run.
– Your M̶c̶D̶o̶n̶a̶l̶d̶’̶s̶ Eat ‘n Park Syfy movie of the day: In The Name Of The King 3: The Last Mission. Good Lord that’s a long name.
– Number of fluid ounces of water consumed: 16.9. Number of banana foster pies had: 1. Number of hello’s from Missi Matthews: 0.
But I’m confident about tomorrow, you guys.
If you enjoy Alex’s reports, you can make a direct Paypal donation to his account by clicking the button below: