By Alex Kozora
My observations from day five of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ training camp.
– As usual, we’ll start with the injury front. Lot to talk about today, unfortunately. Three tight ends were missing today: Rob Blanchflower (left ankle), Michael Palmer (unknown), and Matt Spaeth (unknown). A fourth, Eric Waters, was injured in practice with an apparent back injury. I didn’t see it myself, and to be honest, didn’t even know it until someone told me right after practice, and they noted that he immediately went to the locker room. Not a promising sign and a big blow to a player who had a grand opportunity to pick up some valuable reps this afternoon.
Jordan Zumwalt (groin) was still out of commission but did some light work on the side with Palmer and Spaeth. LeGarrette Blount missed today’s practice as he was given the day off. Le’Veon Bell did return to practice today but was excluded from 11 on 11 drills. He participated only in position drills and 7 on 7. Do want to apologize for tweeting out the notion that he was not practicing today. I jumped the gun, and it’s my mistake.
Cornerback Ike Taylor sported a wrap on his left leg but he practiced in full today.
C.J. Goodwin (shoulder) suited up today though he seemed to do just light work. Just like Bell, positional work. Wasn’t even with the receivers in the post-practice drill Todd Haley put the group through again. Easing him back into things, I suppose.
Darrius Heyward-Bey suffered what seemed to be a head/neck injury in practice. Happened to see it happen. Dove to the ground to make a catch and rookie corner Shaquille Richardson rolled into him, appearing to make direct contact with DHB’s helmet. Heyward-Bey was visibly shaken, staying on the ground for a few moments. He walked off under his own power, I tweeted a quick picture, he talked to head trainer John Norwig for a brief moment, then walked to the sidelines next to another trainer. He would later be escorted back into the building and was obviously done for the day.
– The first player to take the field today was wide receiver Lanear Sampson at around 2:40. Will Simmons and Chris Elkins would have joined him had they not been so kind to stop and sign autographs.
– The status of the bodies in the return drill has not changed. Dri Archer, Lance Moore, Justin Brown, Jordan Hall, Martavis Bryant, and Markus Wheaton.
– Tomlin to the offense in warmups. “Bend knees and ankles, let’s move!”
– He deadpanned to Goodwin to stay off the ground in the future.
– The one upside to all the tight ends missing today? There were plenty of bodies able to trudge the blocking sled back and forth.
– Like he did on the first day, Tomlin praised David Paulson for his performance in hitting the blocking sled.
– Antonio Brown matched Markus Wheaton’s mark of catching five punts at once in the return drill. Justin Brown nearly accomplished the same, catching four, but couldn’t hang onto the 5th. I have a very short video that I’ll post later tonight or tomorrow.
– Antown Blake and Isaiah Green opened up as the second-team corners on the outside with Brice McCain in the slot.
– Will Allen spent most of the day as the first-team free safety although Shamarko Thomas definitely got a few first team reps in the fourth period of 11 on 11. But mainly, he was the second string SS.
– At first, the second-team offensive line consisted of: Mike Adams, Chris Hubbard, Cody Wallace, Bryant Browning, and Guy Whimper. But Wesley Johnson was rotated in at the expense of Adams throughout the day. Make that two days in a row Johnson was the only lineman to play two different positions.
– The third-team line. Adams, Chris Elkins, Johnson, Will Simmons, Emmanuel McCray.
– Jordan Dangerfield had an interception in 7 on 7’s. Nearly had another late in practice but he couldn’t hang on as the ball slipped through his hands as he dove to make the grab.
– Some notables with the third team. Dangerfield and Ross Ventrone as the safeties. Vic So’oto at LOLB with Howard Jones running ROLB. Daniel McCullers was the third team nose. It appeared Hebron Fangupo received more second team snaps than normal though again I caution, figuring out the DL is tricky.
– Play-by-play of the tight ends versus OLBs in a run blocking drill.
1. Heath Miller puts Jarvis Jones into the ground
2. Again, Miller is able to stick to 95.
3. Will Johnson does a nice job sticking to Jason Worilds the whole time.
4. But Worilds gets some redemption, reverse pancaking the FB/TE hybrid.
5. Again, Worilds manages to shed Johnson.
6. Chris Carter does the same against Paulson, slipping past.
7. Paulson gets himself overextended and falls off although Carter also hits the ground. So call it a wash, I guess.
8. Carter again sheds Pauslon to the inside. It should be noted that sometimes it’s ok for the tight end to let his man inside, if the play is a toss to the edge, that isn’t a horrible outcome, but Paulson had a rough day.
9. Eric Waters gets his first opportunity and sticks well to Arthur Moats.
10. Waters does get put on his heels a little but again, is able to stick to Moats.
11. Little bit better this time for the rookie out of Missouri, sticking and driving Moats.
12. Howard Jones sheds Bryce Davis almost immediately. Davis flails to the ground.
13. Davis has a better go at it the next time around, sticking to 34.
14. Vic So’oto puts Waters into the ground on the next play.
15. Waters returns the favor to So’oto right ater.
16. Miller shows his dominance yet again, planting Jarvis Jones into the ground.
17. Terence Garvin jolts Will Johnson backwards.
18. Chris Carter blasts through David Paulson, putting him to the ground.
– Final thoughts on that drill. Heath Miller is a grown man, but you already know that. Lucky he didn’t go down today. Paulson and Davis struggled. Waters held his own even if he wasn’t spectacular. Will Johnson could probably be considered average, perhaps a little bit below.
Play-by-play of the DL/OL matchups.
1. David DeCastro absorbs a bull rush well from one of the lineman. Don’t know who it was. Wrote it down as him going against “66” which is totally wrong. Not even DeCastro is that good.
2. Cody Wallace momentarily anchors versus Steve McLendon but gets overextended and falls off.
3. Stephon Tuitt begins to walk Ramon Foster back but also gets overextended and falls to the ground.
4. Kelvin Beachum slides well laterally working against Jarvis Jones.
5. Vic So’oto slips past Guy Whimper.
6. Tuitt tries to rip Bryant Browning but the right guard responds by putting him into the ground.
7. Hebron Fangupo shows some surprising athleticism, dipping past Wesley Johnson with relative ease.
8. The two go at it again and Fangupo’s short frame leverages Johnson, walking him back a little bit.
9. Howard Jones shows well in this drill. Starts by swimming inside against Mike Adams.
10. Jones wins convincingly against Adams. Swims over Adams who loses his balance and falls to the ground. Joey Porter was amped.
11. Jason Worilds dips past Emmanuel McCray with ease. Huge mismatch.
12. Will Simmons uses his strength to anchor against Roy Philon without issue.
13. McCray fares slightly better against Worilds but 93 quickly slips past. McCray claps his hands in frustration, a recurring theme for the lineman.
14. Chris Elkins shows good technique, absorbing Al Lapuaho’s bull rush. Tomlin calls out, “Nugget!” Which means a grown man is calling another grown man “nugget” which is the most hilarious thing I’ve ever heard.
15. Josh Mauro swims over Chris Hubbard. Porter again is jacked up. Guys have to love playing for him.
16. Arthur Moats’ speed bull rush is pretty effective versus Wesley Johnson, who seems to double over.
17. Happened plays later but Ethan Hemer had a good punch against Guy Whimper that knocked the veteran lineman off his base.
After that, there were mostly 2 v 2 with the line working to pick up stunts. Didn’t see it all but a couple highlights.
1. Marcus Gilbert and David DeCastro passed off each stunt I watched near flawlessly.
2. Kelvin Beachum was once beat by Cameron Heyward looping around but in another instance, Beach and Ramon Foster pass it off well.
3. In one of the snaps, Foster was faced with a McCullers bull. The guard anchored and stood his ground.
4. Few plays later but Stephon Tuitt apparently ran over the assistant coach acting as the QB. He’s hungry, Steeler Nation.
– As usual, a play-by-play of the 11 on 11.
1. Dri Archer lined up as the running back. Zone run, stuffed at the line.
2. Steve McLendon gets penetration on this next run, but Archer uses his speed to reach the edge and pick up a few.
3. Playaction. Ben Roethlisberger finds Antonio Brown on an out route to the left sideline. Ike Taylor with the coverage.
4. Power run to the right, looked like DeCastro and another lineman were pulling. Tauren Poole’s first carry results in a fumble that I believe the offense recorded (there was a bit of a pileup on the far sideline so it was hard to tell). Not positive, but I think Vince Williams forced it.
5. Toss right to Miguel Maysonet for a short gain.
6. Dive to Maysonet. Dangerfield meets him in the hole and pops him good. The first of many hard hits #30 was forced to absorb today.
7. Jordan Hall gets his first crack at it. Runs right side. Nowhere to go, however. To confirm what people saw yesterday, Landry Jones was running with the second team. Happened often today.
8. Hall again on the run. Nothing really of note there but was paying attention to Daniel McCullers. He walked Bryant Browning several yards into the backfield. Grown man strength.
9. Playaction. Jones rolls out to the left and accurately throws on the run to David Paulson. Ross Ventrone makes the initial hit and a couple other Steelers’ bring the tight end down. It was a nice play from the quarterback. Sold the fake well. Helps whenever this is a run-minded period where the defense isn’t expecting pass.
10. Josh Harris gets in on the action. Draw play. Roy Philon makes the tackle before Harris can do much with it. First of camp for Philon, I believe.
11. Mayonset run to the left. RG and the tight end, Paulson, pull. Good gain. Dangerfield brings him down.
12. Poole with the carry. Jarvis Jones holds the POA well, forcing the back to make a cut. Results in a minimal gain.
13. Jordan Hall totes the rock. Steve McLendon blows the play up. He had a nice practice.
14. Harris with an inside run for a short pickup.
15. Harris with a final run to end the period. Arthur Moats blows it up, dropping the back at the line.
1. Will Allen working as the first team free safety. Roethlisberger hits Miller in the left flat, who makes a one-handed grab and takes off down the left sideline.
2. Defense in their nickel with William Gay in the slot. Ben hits Lance Moore on a curl, who dives to make the catch. Good coverage from the corner, just a well-placed ball (outside shoulder) and a sure-handed catch.
3. Ben complete again to his safety net, Heath Miller. Ryan Shazier was sent on a blitz. David DeCastro handled it with ease.
4. Vince Williams blitzes but the line picks it up well. Roethlisberger fires incomplete on a deep out right to the left side, intended for AB. Pass was a little short. Brice McCain on the coverage.
5. Cat blitz off the left side. Ben tries to hit Lance Moore but the throw is a little too far in front, falling incomplete.
6. Blitz with the secondary playing soft, off coverage. Easy completion from Big Ben to Antonio Brown on an out route to the left sideline.
7. Pressure. Bruce Gradkowski tries to throw deep down the left sideline but the pass seems to hang. Intended for Derek Moye but Isaiah Green has the best shot at it though it clangs off his hands and incomplete.
8. Devin Smith logging time as the nickel corner. Gradkowski fires a quick hitter to Moye. Shaq Richardson on the coverage.
9. Gradkowski finds Bryant but he can’t bring the ball to the ground and the pass falls incomplete. Lew Toler applying the coverage.
10. Gradkowski finds Dri Archer in the left flat on a hot. Defense was extremely aggressive this period.
11. Watched Shazier on this play. Started off in his traditional ILB spot but shifted over to play ROLB and blitzed off the edge. Jarvis Jones lined up inside. Shazier wasn’t able to get to the QB though, sealed up the edge by an unknown player (it may have actually been Mike Adams, who was working as the left tackle). Gradkowski gets some bad luck again with Danny Coale dropping a pass.
12. Cat (corner) blitz from Cortez Allen. Free rush, would’ve been a sack. But the play continues and Gradkowski finds Kashif Moore near the right sideline.
13. Brendon Kay throws incomplete to Justin Brown. Wasn’t even that close.
14. Another DB blitz that would’ve resulted in a sack had it been allowed. Kay’s throw to Will Johnson is dropped.
15. Kay complete to Bryce Davis, his first catch of camp. Roy Philon lined up as the nose tackle bookended by Nick Williams at left end and Josh Mauro on the right side.
– This one ended up being a no huddle drill, the first time all camp the Steelers have run it despite how much it’s been discussed in the media. Wanted to attempt and do something different for this one instead of the play-by-play. So that is pretty light in this section. Instead, I timed the amount of time it took from the whistle that ended the last play to the snap of the ball on the next.
I don’t know how well this worked out or what we can really discern from it. Also, there were times when the team was ready at the line but the QB had an audible or check that added time. It’s hard to get a read on these numbers. Let me know if you like the concept or not, and what you could see to improve it.
1. The first team offense in the game. Draw to Archer. From the whistle to the next snap, it took 24.86 seconds.
2. The next snap was Ben finding Miller. I screwed this one up, writing down the play before I restarted my watch. So the number is probably pretty off. I have 12 seconds and though the snap felt like it came quick, I don’t trust it that much.
3. The next play was a run with Archer. It took 26 seconds to get the next play off, from whistle to snap. Which was…
4. …a pass that I don’t have any other information listed about. It took 27.13 seconds to run the next play.
5. Roethlsiberger threw a middle screen. This is one of those where Roethlisberger had a lot of checks his next time at the line, making the final total 39 seconds from the end of the screen to the next snap.
6. Which was a completion from Roethlisberger to Wheaton.
7. The second team comes onto the field with Landry Jones supplanting Bruce Gradkowski, who didn’t take a snap in this period. The first play is a give to Miguel Maysonet who gets lit up by Shamarko Thomas. 33 seconds to the next snap.
8. Shark does it again (Shark-nado, say it with me everyone). Big hit on Maysonet again. He’s probably not going to feel too good tomorrow. 36 seconds to get the next play off.
9. Jones scrambles. 35 seconds.
10. Jones fires incomplete to Derek Moye. 37 seconds.
11. Jones complete to Will Johnson. 32 seconds.
12. Short run to Jordan Hall to wrap things up for the second team.
13. The third team comes one for three plays. Brendon Kay at QB. Pass complete to Bryant. 32.73 seconds.
14. Another Hall run. 27 seconds
15. Kay finds Will Johnson on a completion. Howard Jones had pressure, beating Mike Adams to the inside.
Average whistle to snap for each team.
1st Team: 25.80 (the 12 second play skews it so 30 seconds seems safer and more accurate)
2nd Team: 34.6 seconds
3rd Team: 29.87 (only two plays, however)
Final one of the day.
1. Tauren Poole opens as the running back. It’s a called pass but the coverage is sound and Ben Roethlisberger is forced to scramble up the middle.
2. Draw to Poole. Chris Carter spent the entire period as the 1st team ROLB. Jarvis Jones was on the sidelines and appeared to be find so much ado about nothing, probably.
3. Ramon Foster false starts but Tomlin “doesn’t see it” and they let the play go on. Fake the handoff to and Ben again hooks up with Heath Miller on a quick hitter.
4. Miguel Maysonet gets the rock. Nice cut that turns into a decent gain. Half-hitting this period though so the backs naturally look better.
5. Screen pass from Ben to Jordan Hall on the left side.
6. Roethlisberger finds Will Johnson. Moats on the coverage.
7. Landry Jones hands off to Maysonet who falls trying to make a cut to his left.
8. Jones with a bubble screen to Martavis Bryant on the left side. Lucky call versus a blitz.
9. Jones complete again, this time finding Justin Brown on an “out” pattern. Devin Smith with the coverage.
10. Josh Harris with the carry off the right side.
11. Harris again with the carry. Bruce Gradkowski is in the game, running with the third team.
12. Gradkowski complete to Sampson.
13. Kay hits Harris in the right flat. Will Allen knocks the back down.
14. Brian Arnfelt lined up at left end, Roy Philon at the nose, and Nick Williams right end. Jordan Hall gets the ball but slips, falling at the LOS.
15. Josh Harris with a run off the right side to end practice.
– A couple loose ends to tie up. Landry Jones served as Shaun Suisham’s holder as the team kicked field goals for the first time all training camp. Later in the practice, Suisham was working on onside kicks on the far field. That took place around 5:00.
– Cody Wallace and Will Johnson received action as the first team “wedge” players on kick returns during the one special team’s period. Stephon Tuitt and Brian Arnfelt were used next.
– Jones accuracy still seems inconsistent to me. Even missed pretty badly once or twice in seven on seven. Team was getting a good look at him today and the Paulson throw withstanding, it was just an ok – at best – day.
– No one really separated themselves at running back. Of course, they were pretty thin. Maysonet may have had the best day of all of them.
– As I noted, Shamarko Thomas was a wrecking ball today. He and Dangerfield must be best friends.
– Shaq Richardson needs to work on his first punch. It’s pretty weak. Doesn’t have any effect against receivers.
– Chris Elkins is very technically sound. Gets good bend and shows arm extension. I’m a fan.
– Howard Jones showed off some of his speed and swim move today. It was a positive showing.
– There were a couple penalties today. I specifically remember Brice McCain getting called for holding once.
– Ben Roethlisberger stayed after practice, throwing fade routes to the corner of the end zone to Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton.
– Your McDonald’s Syfy movie of the day: Pandorum. Two astronauts wake up in a space shuttle with no idea what has happened or why they were on board. IMDb gave it a 6.8.
– My mother informed me that I should try and find a girlfriend. I responded that training camp was the only thing on my mind. She walked away.
– Number of muscles Mike Sellers has in arms: 1476 (probably). Number of McChicken’s consumed during training camp: 6. Number of hellos from Missi Matthews or Aditi Kinkhabwala: 0.