The Pittsburgh Steelers have now been at Latrobe for six days and Wednesday was their fourth practice of training camp. As we do everyday, here is your recap of the big events and observations from the day.
During lunchtime, linebacker LaMarr Woodley talked about his health as well as his desire to rush the quarterback more in 2013 like he did in 2011 when James Harrison was sidelined in the early part of the season with a fractured orbital bone. Whether or not Woodley will get his wish is yet to be determined, but like it or not, he will dropping some into coverage just as does every year.
During a Wednesday morning radio interview, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders talked about how uncomfortable it was in the offense last year. He said offensive coordinator Todd Haley is a lot more player friendly this year as opposed to last and that the receivers have been allowed to give their thoughts on what they would like to see more of in 2013. In addition, Sanders also said that Antonio Brown will be playing the “X” receiver spot that Mike Wallace played for so many years in the offense and that he would be playing the flanker position.
As far as practice on Wednesday, live tackling was the theme of the day and its debut this year is much earlier than previous years. Head coach Mike Tomlin said after practice that it is necessary due to all the days off and the state of the NFL since the new CBA was ratified a few years ago. You can expect much more of this moving forward.
Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported early in the day that Tomlin has mandated that all his offensive linemen wear knee braces. It sounds as if the decision was made to better protect them for injury as the team certainly is void of depth on the offensive line.
Early in practice it was also reported that the quarterbacks performed the drill where they try to land the ball in the garbage can. Bruce Gradkowski was the winner of the day as Ben Roethlisberger chose to heckle Haley, who also took some shots at the can.
Kaboly reported that the offense opened up by going no-huddle and this matches what Dick LeBeau said in regard to getting his defense prepared for it more in training camp. LeBeau is using shorter terminology this year via keywords so that the call get in quickly and spread around the rest of the defense.
There were some solid one-on-one lineman battles that took place on Wednesday which was highlighted by tackle Mike Adams pancaking defensive end Ziggy Hood once. Defensive end Al Woods had a nice battle with center Maurkice Pouncey and Kaboly called that one a draw. Undrafted tackle Mike Farrell also reportedly got the best of undrafted defensive Brian Arnfelt during the drill as well.
Roethlisberger had a good day passing it appears as did Gradkowski, who hit Plaxico Burress on a deep post pattern for a touchdown late in practice. Mike Prisuta of DVE Radio reported that rookie safety Shamarko Thomas got suckered big-time on the play by play-action.
Tight end David Paulson continues to have a good camp and Wednesday included him making a nice twisting one-handed catch.
Brown beat cornerback William Gay deep on one play during a team drill.
Rookie running back Le\’Veon Bell had a good day and it was so good that Kaboly tweeted that he thinks if the fast progression continues that Tomlin will be hard pressed to keep him out of the starting lineup.
The complexities of the Steelers defense may finally be catching up to rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones as Prisuta reported the young linebacker was slowed by some indecision on Wednesday. He thinks Jason Worilds still has a firm grip on the starting right outside linebacker job and adds that the Steelers former second-round draft pick is having a good camp. Prisuta also thought second-year linebacker Adrian Robinson had some mental mistakes on Wednesday as well.
Undrafted outside linebacker Alan Baxter has been getting some good press as of late as he is apparently flying all over the field. He will be hard pressed to make the 53 man roster, but could be a candidate for the practice squad if he keeps it up. He is a former defensive end, so there are bound to be some speed bumps for him forthcoming.
Unfortunately there was a new injury to report on Wednesday as rookie defensive end Nick Williams suffered a knee injury of sorts that required further evaluation. Tomlin said the status of both Cortez Allen (knee) and Terry Hawthorne (knee) hasn\’t changed as they remain day-to-day. The news, however, got worse for conerback DeMarcus Van Dyke as Tomlin said the hamstring injury he suffered on Sunday could be significant.
As far as the four players on the PUP list, Jim Wexell reported early in the day that tight end David Johnson needed another surgery done on his knee and that he could remain sidelined for at least another few weeks.
That\’s it for the highlights from Wednesday, so feel free to add your own observations in the comments below if you were able to attend the practice.