By Alex Kozora
My practice notes from the Pittsburgh Steelers first training camp practice of 2014. Lot to take in and I clearly don’t have all the answers yet – not that anyone does anyway – but my observations from day one.
– Ryan Shazier was the second player on the field, roughly a half hour before the start of practice. Couldn’t tell who was the first. Players weren’t wearing their jerseys.
– Mike Adams, Kelvin Beachum, and Landry Jones walked down onto the field together. The two lineman were working on their kickslide before practice. Adams could definitely use the reps.
– It was a fun environment, as usual. Much louder though than previous years. A drum line greeted fans as you walked into the campus and played near the field before practice. Music blared over speakers in front of the bleachers until 20-25 minutes before practice. I thought the team might be pumping in music to simulate a loud environment as is the trend, but that obviously didn’t turn out to be the case. Better on my ears anyway.
– Before breaking into positional drills, the offense began by running 11 on air. The first team offensive line, of course, had no surprises. Cody Wallace was filling in for Ramon Foster while he’s away due to the death of his mother.
– Throughout the entire practice, it was clear Lance Moore will exclusively play in the slot. I don’t think he saw a snap outside the numbers the entire day. Markus Wheaton spent his time strictly on the outside.
– There may have been reports that claimed Antonio Brown was participating in the initial punt return drill, but he was not. Worked on the side catching passes. The players that did participate were: Dri Archer, Lance Moore, Kashif Moore, Jordan Hall, Martavis Bryant, and Justin Brown.
– Twice did Markus Wheaton manage to field a punt with a ball already in hand. Hall pulled it off once. The trick? Throw the ball you’re holding in the air shortly before you catch the punt. After the punt is secured, make the second catch.
– Don’t want to make too big of a deal out of it, but Mike Tomlin yelled at Mike Adams to “bend your knees and ankles” as the offense went through their warmup drills through the ladders and over the pads.
– As I tweeted, Will Johnson was working exclusively with the tight ends in positional work. Archer was with the running backs.
– The Kent State alum got some teaching after running a curl, ostensibly incorrectly. Think he turned the wrong direction.
– Tomlin paid close attention to the tight ends hitting the blocking sled. As David Paulson approached, Tomlin quipped, “Let’s see what you’re working with DP!” Paulson hit it well and drove it back, much to the delight of the head coach.
– The crowd erupted in cheers when Heath Miller drove the sled back without a problem. “Heeeath!”
– Bryce Davis is not strictly a long snapper. He worked with the tight ends, catching passes and running routes, like the rest.
– As I tweeted a few times, Darrius Heyward-Bey seems to be running towards the back of the pack. All day he was working with camp bodies. C.J. Goodwin, Lanear Sampson, Kashif Moore, Brendon Kay at quarterback. Still plenty of time but it wasn’t an encouraging sign.
– It’s already been reported by plenty of sources, I’m sure, but Will Allen got the nod at FS over Shamarko Thomas with Mike Mitchell sidelined by a groin injury.
– The second team offensive line was as follows: Mike Adams, Chris Hubbard, David Snow, Bryant Browning, Guy Whimper.
– To no one’s surprise, Arthur Moats and Chris Carter served as 2nd team outside linebackers. Howard Jones and Vic So’oto were 3rd teamers.
– Speaking of the linebackers, Joey Porter drew a roar from the crowd as he once came near the bleachers.
– As Mike Tomlin confirmed, Snow suffered a lower leg injury in 11 on 11. Cody Wallace replaced him at center. It was interesting to see Snow working as the second-team center over Wallace to begin with.
– Tauren Poole got 3-4 reps with the first team at various points during today’s practice. He didn’t do anything notable with them but it appears he’s a guy the team wants to get to know a little better. He better take advantage of the opportunity.
– Third team offensive line: Adams, Chris Elkins, Wesley Johnson, Will Simmons, Emmanuel McCray.
– Spotted Alvester Alexander on the field in his jersey, wearing a white cap. Was walking around without issue. If I had to guess, his injury in minor and he should return in the next few days. I do caution that is strict speculation.
– Robert Golden, Will Allen, William Gay, and Poole all saw reps as the upback. Golden served there last season. Always good to keep an eye on who could back him up, however.
– The hangtimes I recorded for Brad Wing: 4.82, 5.12, 4.34, 2.98 (low liner), 4.03, 4.63. Last year, Danny Smith commented that an NFL punt should be in the air for at least 4.2 seconds. By that metric, four of his six punts I recorded (I missed one) were “NFL quality.”
– Sean Spence ran as the second team inside linebacker paired with Vince Williams. Great sign for him but I want to see how he responds over multiple days. Once his knee starts taking a beating.
– Shazier was getting work on the punt coverage unit. Even first rounders have to do some of the dirty work.
– Dri Archer got the first rep as the return man catching Wing’s punts. Lance Moore was next followed by Antonio Brown.
– I love special team’s coach Danny Smith. High energy, you could probably hear him from the airport. Yelling at the team, “We’re losing, come on!” to simulate the energy the team needs to play with.
– Will Johnson received work out of the backfield as a traditional fullback. Don’t think I saw him get a rep as an in-line blocker.
– There may have been some rotation at nose tackle between Hebron Fangupo and Daniel McCullers as the second-team nose tackle, but it appeared the second team defensive line had Stephon Tuitt at left end, McCullers at the nose, and Brian Arnfelt at right end.
– Terence Garvin ran as the 3rd team inside linebacker, getting reps next to either Jordan Zumwalt or Dan Molls.
– It’s just the first day so no reason to overreact, but McCray was on the ground too often for a padless practice. Not a good sign for a lineman. Have to stay on your feet. Can’t compete from the turf.
– Shazier got in the way of a Ben Roethlisberger pass during one of the 7 on 7’s. Roethlisberger applauded it, exclaiming “Five zero, five zero!”
– Garvin did get a couple reps at outside linebacker in 7 on 7’s, not that he could put that to use. They passively rush in this situation.
– One of the coaches yelled at Martavis Bryant to adjust his split during the same drill. He did, and then responded by catching an out route over the significantly smaller Isaiah Green.
– Poole wasn’t looking for a pass in the 7 v 7. Jarvis Jones bumped him and the pass fell incomplete from Landry Jones. Head on a swivel.
– Devin Smith broke up a deep fly route from Kay intended for Kashif Moore late in practice.
– Heyward-Bey offered quick pointers to Bryant after practice. Might have been about how to react in a scramble drill, as what happened on the last play of 7 on 7.
– Getting a read on what “team” a player on the defensive line is running with can be difficult. There were times where the linebackers and secondary had the first team in, but the defensive line consisted of Tuitt, McCullers, and Arnfelt, presumably the second team.
– Nick Williams appeared to be running as the third team right end.
– Kay seemed to hold the ball on for too long. Poor internal clock. Never a good sign.
– After practice, Beachum worked by himself on his initial step for his kickslide four or five times. Hard worker.
– Also after the final horn, Antonio Brown spent a solid five minutes on the jugs machine with a host of players behind waiting their turn. Started with some routine catches before making one-handed catches above and away from his body. Don’t think he dropped one.
– He saw time in the backfield and in the slot, at times being motioned from wide receiver and into the backfield, but it’s fair to say the Steelers are treating Dri Archer more like a running back than wide receiver. Oh by the way, it may have been a no-tackling drill, but his speed and explosion is evident. He’s as advertised.
– Saving this guy for last. Justin Brown had a strong practice. Don’t know if he dropped a pass the entire time, he made a one-handed grab on a go route in QB/WR drills, and most importantly, he was running with the “first class” wide receivers. Brown, Wheaton, and Moore. If you wanted to draw a line between the two groups, those three and Justin Brown make up top tier. Martavis Bryant, Darrius Heyward-Bey and the rest make up the bottom one.
– Ounces of water consumed: 33.8. Number of bee stings: 0. Number of hello’s from Missi Matthews: 0.
Editor Note: Feel free to ask Alex a few questions in the comments below and he will try to answer them tonight. We will have a mini podcast up later tonight as well.