Steelers Training Camp Practice Report: Day Eight – Sunday

Practice notes from another rain-logged day at Saint Vincent College. Mother Nature is a fickle woman.

– Newly signed Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jawan Jamison was the first to make his way down the stairs, at around 2:35. Tauren Poole came down moments later.

– Like yesterday, the bulk of the offensive line came out as a group. Nice to see those guys don’t completely hate each other during this long stretch of camp.

– Injury roundup. Tougher for me to get a jump on today because the team began warmups on the turf field due to the rain that occurred last night. Sitting out today were Troy Polamalu and Ben Roethlisberger, likely have been given a veteran’s day off. Hebron Fangupo was a surprise inactive today. Not sure what his issue was. Mind might have been playing tricks on me but he seemed to lean on the handrail a little too heavily walking down the stairs though I didn’t spot a limp as he roamed around the field. Steve McLendon also missed today for an unknown reason.

Shaquille Richardson returned from his groin injury and practiced in full. Ike Taylor came to practice in shorts and a t-shirt, but at some point, threw on his pads and a jersey and practiced. Heath Miller was also back after a day off. Eric Waters participated but I again did not see him in any team or contact drills. Just positional and 7 on 7 as he still works his way back from a lower back ailment.

Rob Blanchflower and Jordan Zumwalt still remain out of the lineup. Blanchflower did less work today, mostly standing around, but Zumwalt was running and cutting under the watchful eye of head trainer John Norwig. Seems to be progressing well. Team may still give him tomorrow off leading into the off day, but if I had to make an educated guess, count on him returning to practice on Wednesday.

This one probably won’t be talked about and hopefully it’s much ado about nothing, but Ramon Foster got pulled in the middle of the last 11 on 11. Saw him jam his finger in a stunt pickup drill that occurred before. Believe it was the left hand/finger that was injured. We’ll see where he’s at tomorrow.

The big name injury is, of course, Ryan Shazier. He met Le’Veon Bell in the hole in the last 11 on 11, giving him a good pop to make the tackle. But got up gimpy and took himself out of the drill. Injured to his right leg/knee which Mike Tomlin called a “boo boo.” He left on a cart though I caution to not read too much into that either. Not necessarily as serious as it sounds. If you look at the picture I tweeted, there was another player – I think Cameron Heyward – next to him and no one is getting worked up over that (though I did see 97 a little shaken up after one play early in practice). Shazier walked around the practice field for a good five minutes after. Needless to say, that’s an encouraging sign and if it was something believed to be serious, the team wouldn’t have let him. We’ll see where he’s at tomorrow and go from there. Could very well be minor.

– Little bit tougher for the team to get its work done when using just the turf field. Harder to see, too. At points, parts of the defense had to stand on the side and wait for the offense, especially as the team went through its return drills.

– Because of this, there were a lot of “detail-oriented” work in individual. Wide receivers working on stalk blocking, linebackers taking on blocks with the correct hand, you get the idea. Football’s basics.

– Wide receivers and defensive backs were pitted against each other in a drill today. Shaq Richardson was about to get one of the last reps of the period, but the horn sounded to move on, and everyone walked away. The rookie stood frozen with his hands in the air, wanting one more chance to compete. Poor rook.

– Special team’s drill had a variety of things going on. Working on playing what could be considered the “wedge buster” today, although league rules have helped eliminate that role. And for the first time all camp, the team had a full fledge kick off unit. However, Shaun Suisham didn’t get to actually kick. A coach would throw the ball to simulate it instead.

Working as the wedge were the following pairs. Cody Wallace/Will Johnson, Stephon Tuitt/Brian Arnfelt, and Bryce Davis/Chris Hubbard.

Dri Archer got the first crack as the kick returner with Tauren Poole serving as the upback. Another special team’s role for Poole. Kashif Moore, Danny Coale, and Lanear Sampson got the next reps thogh I wouldn’t read a whole lot into those. Miguel Maysonet was the #2 upback.

– Second-team offensive line. Guy Whimper, Chris Hubbard, Cody Wallace, Bryant Browning, Mike Adams. Yet again, Wesley Johnson and Will Simmons received reps with this squad at left tackle and right guard in at least three of the team drills.

– Third-team offensive line: Johnson, Browning, Chris Elkins, Simmons, Emmanuel McCray

David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert do a repeatedly excellent job of passing off stunts. Get it right almost every single time. Those two are in sync with each other.

– Although once in the drill, though it was passed off correctly, Ethan Hemer surprisingly got the best of DeCastro, knocking him off his base with a strong punch. Earned praise from Mike Tomlin, who was looking on.

– I paid attention to the TE/OLB for the most part but caught some of the WR and DBs competing. One thing that stuck out to me was Will Allen. Obviously, he’s at a disadvantage because he’s not a corner, but you can just see he’s slow. Observed it Friday night as I watched the DBs go through their drills. It’s understandable for a player as old as Allen, but it’s clear he doesn’t have the quick feet or explosion out of his break anymore.

– In the second team’s base defense, the cornerbacks were Antwon Blake and Brice McCain. No Isaiah Green.

– Speaking of which, a play-by-play of the TE/OLB drill. Tomlin was watching.

1. Jason Worilds starts things off by shedding Heath Miller.

2. Miller does a better job of sticking to Worilds though 93 sheds late.

3. The two go at it one more time and Miller wins farily easily.

4. Matt Spaeth and Jarvis Jones square off next. The big tight end sticks to Jones well.

5. Out on the edge, Spaeth drives Jones into the ground.

6. Make that two times Spaeth takes 95 to the ground. Spaeth is a fine blocker, no question.

7. Will Johnson sticks to Arthur Moats.

8. Next time around, Moats is too strong, getting his arms extended and working through the fullback.

9. Will Johnson holds on against Moats, winning.

10. Chris Carter sheds Michael Palmer, who can’t get his hips set and seal.

11. Palmer responds, running him out of the “lane.”

12. Palmer again seals Carter outside on an inside run.

13. David Paulson sticks Vic So’oto well.

14. So’oto gets the better of Paulson the next go around, running through and making the “tackle.”

15. But So’oto loses the war, getting himself overextended and allowing Paulson to put him to the ground.

16. Bryce Davis lunges and loses to Howard Jones, who sheds with little issue.

17. Davis is able to momentarily stick but Jones gets under the tight end’s pads and winds up reverse pancaking him.

18. Davis wins the final matchup, taking control of Jones and manages to stick.

19. Heath Miller flawlessly sets his hips and seals Chris Carter to the inside on an outside run. Miller does that better than anyone else at his position.

20. Miller again wins against Carter, taking him out of the play.

21. Chalk up another win for 83.

22. Jason Worilds is able to disengage from Matt Spaeth.

23. Spaeth responds by sticking to 93.

24. And follows it up with another win against Worilds.

25. Jarvis Jones sheds Will Johnson to the inside.

26. Jarvis gets overextended and falls down.

27. To finish it up, Will Johnson sticks well against Jones.

– I’ve been harsher on Heath Miller than most fans, but there’s no denying this team has two quality run blockers in him and Spaeth. 12 personnel will be very effective for the running game in 2012.

– I’ve been impressed by what Will Johnson can do. Jack of all trades. Can block, run routes, and catch. Can put him in an off-set I, use him as the occasional in-line blocker, place him in the slot, and even line him out wide as window dressing. That flexibility is underrated but valuable nonetheless.

– From what I’ve seen throughout practices and drills, Arthur Moats definitely has the strength to set the edge against the run. Jury still out on him as a pass rusher.

Offensive line/defensive line one-on-ones. Missed the first two plays. The team went from stunt pickup to one-on-ones and my little blogger brain couldn’t process it quickly enough. Know Howard Jones and Brian Arnfelt got the first two reps.

1. Al Lapuaho leverages Chris Elkins, working him back into the mock pocket.

2. Bryant Browning manages to seal Stephon Tuitt on an attempted rip move.

3. Mike Adams can’t move laterally to the inside. Stone feet, stands in place. Grabs at air as Vic So’oto slips past.

4. Howard Jones is too low in his dip and Guy Whimper is able to shove and seal.

5. Roy Philon can’t quite dip against Chris Hubbard.

6. Daniel McCullers owns Elkins, walking him back, and then shedding without a problem. Remember as a kid when you’d pretend to be a monster and kick over all your toys? McCullers the monster, Elkins the toy.

7. Arnfelt walks Browning back, but the guard is able to anchor and not let the end shed.

8. Vic So’oto’s speed bull rush puts Adams on his heels. So’oto gets his arms extended and into the pads of the tackle.

9. Wesley Johnson does a fine job mirroring versus an attempted inside swim from Howard Jones.

10. Hubbard and Josh Mauro have a good battle. Hard to say who was the winner here.

11. Lapuaho gets the best of Elkins again. Dips and rips past.

12. Nick Williams swims Will Simmons, getting the coaches all riled up in Williams’ favor.

13. Tuitt with some good hand fighting and eventually he dips past Emmanuel McCray. Joey Porter: “I like the hands!”

14. Chris Carter can’t dip Johnson and the rookie puts him into the ground.

15. Browning anchors against Arnfelt well. Browning very unlikely to make the team but he isn’t having a bad camp.

16. Daniel McCullers makes quick work of Elkins, one again. Elkins is getting exposed.

17. Will Simmons does manage to stick to Ethan Hemer but is doubling over and barely holding on.

18. Arthur Moats around the edge and sheds McCray.

19. Johnson again puts Howard Jones into the ground as he tries to dip the edge.

20. Browning seals Roy Philon’s dip move.

21. Elkins gets a tiny bit of redemption, winning against Lapuaho.

22. Stephon Tuitt swims over but Chris Hubbard is able to mirror and seal the rookie.

23. McCray does win here against Moats, sliding with the outside linebacker as he tries to pull off an inside spin.

24. Howard Jones with a speed bull rush that puts Wes Johnson on his heels.

25. Missed who it came against but Brian Arnfelt won this battle.

26. Wes Johnson mirrors versus a Chris Carter spin.

27. Roy Philon sheds Elkins and slips past.

– Continue to like what Wes Johnson is doing. Does a very nice job of keeping his base and is athletic enough to slide. Maybe I pegged this guy wrong.

– Like Browning, I don’t have much bad to say about Hubbard. Don’t see how he makes the roster either but there’s a couple of guys fighting for possibly just one spot on the practice squad.

– Howard Jones has to work on not getting too low on his dip, making it easy for lineman to drive into him and push him into the ground. But I liked seeing the speed bull rush. Converted that first step into power and it proved to be effective.

– Al Lapuaho did well. Feel bad for a guy who gets so few snaps so I want to at least sing his praises here.

– I don’t want to knee-jerk in the other direction either, everyone has off days, but Chris Elkins looked exposed. I know it’s McCullers but you’re going to face similar size disadvantages at the next level. And Elkins is just overmatched. Lapuaho whooped him, too.

– Chris Carter continues to be a lot like the Chris Carter of old. Not a compliment.

– We’ll get into the play-by-play now.

First Installment

Keep in mind it absolutely poured during this period. Have a video that I’ll put up later. Little hard to hold an umbrella, take notes, and try to use binoculars. Still though, have the breakdown.

1. Like yesterday, Cam Thomas starts at the nose with Stephon Tuitt running as first team LDE. Bruce Gradkowski as the first team QB with Ben sitting out for the day. Outside zone to Le’Veon Bell but all the lanes are filled.

2. Will Allen the FS with Shamarko Thomas the SS. Will Johnson is lined up in the slot. LeGarrette Blount makes a defender miss in the backfield and cuts back for a nice gain.

3. Outside zone run to Blount. Shazier makes the tackle. Full contact this period.

4. Robert Golden and Ross Ventrone come in at safety. No Dangerfield. Draw to Archer. Starts to his right but he cuts back across the grain to his left. Golden can’t get to him even with the benefit of an angle and Archer flashes downfield. Makes another cut and defender miss before finally going down. It was a 35 yard gain. One of the first times we’ve gotten to see Archer flash that speed in a full-contact drill. It was great to finally see.

5. Playaction. Gradkowski tries to hook up with Justin Brown on a skinny post. But Antwon Blake plays the pocket and breaks it up.

6. Outside zone to Tauren Poole. Cuts back from the left to the right. Pickup of about five.

7. Poole finds another crease and has the longest run of the day down the right sideline. About a 40 yard gain. Hard to tell but credit to the line, I’m sure. DeCastro and Gilbert.

8. Le’Veon Bell slips out of the grasp of Vic So’oto and picks up a couple.

9. Inside zone to Miguel Maysonet, his first carry of the day.

10. Outside zone to Jordan Hall. Nick Williams gets off his block to make the tackle. Well done.

11. Playaction. Landry Jones’ pass to Bryce Davis is high and it tips off his outstretched hand. Incomplete.

12. Jordan Hall run. David Paulson lined up in the backfield. Watched Roy Philon get knocked down by the flow of the line.

13. Inside zone to Josh Harris. Vince Williams, as he’s done all camp, blows it up in the backfield. Commence congratulatory head slaps.

14. Power O with Harris getting the carry. Think he ran into his own player and ends up getting dropped in the backfield.

15. Run to the right, Jawan Jamison toting the rock. McCullers gets blown off the ball but stays with the play, shedding. Wasn’t involved in the tackle.

– The people a few rows in front of me had umbrellas the size of studio apartments. Made it hard to see. I was a disgruntled blogger.

Second Installment

1. Landry Jones running with the first team. Skips a pass to the right flat intended for Archer.

2. Jones should have completed this pass to Matt Spaeth but it hits the tight end square in the chest and he drops it.

3. Shark and Golden blitz. Would’ve been a sack. Jones completes it to Lance Moore.

4. Jones throws a deep ball to Antonio Brown. Broken up by I believe Isaiah Green. May have also been Brice McCain.

5. Fire X with Vince Williams and Sean Spence. Jones complete along the right sideline. Blake on the coverage.

6. Jones complete to Antonio Brown this time. McCain providing the coverage.

7. Gradkowski hits Moore. “That’s it!” Tomlin exclaims to the wide receiver as he jogs back.

8. Gradkowski flushed out of the pocket before finding Justin Brown. Miguel Maysonet did a nice job in blitz pickup.

9. Another “big guy” play from Martavis Bryant. Gradkowski launches deep down the left sideline. It’s a tiny bit out in front and Bryant dives to make the nice grab.

10. Bruce checks down to Jordan Hall. Will Simmons froze, looking lost on the play. Didn’t attempt to block anyone.

11. Gradkowski tries to check down to Josh Harris but the running back drops the pass.

12. Blitz. Gradkowski misses to CJ Goodwin one a deep out to the left side.

13. Blake knocks away an attempt from Brendon Kay to Goodwin.

14. Brice McCain picks Kay deep down the left sideline.

15. Kay scrambles to end the period.

– As I left practice, a kid who couldn’t have been older for five, asked his dad for a sip of beer later on. Kids say the darndest things…

Third Installment

Red zone situation. Ball was placed around the 18.

1. Looked like Jason Worilds loops inside, putting pressure on Bruce Gradkowski. Quarterback checks it down to Bell.

2. Gradkowski tries to hit Antonio Brown. But Cortez Allen is pressing and the pass falls well incomplete.

3. Draw to Archer. Shazier with the thud. No full contact.

4. Ross Ventrone makes a nice play, high-pointing the foobtball and breaking up an attempted corner route to AB in the back of the end zone

5. Brian Arnfelt provides pressure on Gradkowski. The QB’s throw is low but Matt Spaeth goes to his knees to ensure the completion.

6. Draw to Bell.

7. Landry Jones looks Justin Brown’s way and 15 makes a beautiful catch, grabbing the ball away from his body and falling down on his back in the end zone.

8. Another one of those half tosses to the left for Dri Archer. Good stalk block from Bryant. Archer gets a nice gain down the left sideline.

9. Mike Adams false starts. Make matters worse, when the Steelers do get the play off, it’s a fumbled exchange between Wallace and Jones.

10. Will Simmons supplants Bryant Browning as second-team right guard. Cortez Allen presses Bryant on a fade from Landry Jones and the pass is incomplete. Best way to beat size is to get physical. Especially when they’re aren’t any refs to yell at you for it.

11. Wes Johnson comes in for Guy Whimper at left tackle the next play. Power O to Miguel Maysonet. Chris Hubbard and David Paulson leading the charge.

12. Slant/flat between Danny Coale and Bryant on the left side is a bust. Jones is going to just eat it but the coaches seem to remind him to get rid of it. Can hear one of the coaches yell afterwards, “Let’s go Martavis!”

13. Jordan Hall for a nondescript run.

14. Brendon Kay throws a screen to Hall for a good gainer.

15. Jump ball from Kay to Goodwin falls incomplete.

– My mom told me this morning about a story on Untold Stories of the ER where two people suffered horrific injuries in a skydiving accident. Good morning to you too, mom. I think I’ll skip breakfast today.

Fourth Installment

1. Landry Jones taking all the first team reps. Start things off with a screen from Jones to Bell.

2. This is the play where Ryan Shazier’s injury took place. Outside zone to Bell and the rookie linebacker meets him in the hole, laying a big pop. But as you know, he comes up gimpy and comes off the field. Did not return.

3. Landry Jones’ pass is a tad behind Markus Wheaton but make makes the catch.

4. Jones pass is slightly high to Lance Moore but the vet receiver hauls it in. Jones did a good job of going through his progressions on this one.

5. Ramon Foster is pulled out of the drill due to the injured finger/hand. Replaced by Chris Hubbard. Landry Jones scrambles.

6. Tauren Poole drops a pass as he looks out. Jones still at QB.

7. Outside zone to Mayonset on the left side.

8. Offsides on the defense. “Next snap!” Tomlin proclaims.

9. Handoff to Jawan Jamison. Dan Molls locates him and makes the “tackle.”

10. Gradkowski finds Bryce Davis on a drag. Guy Whimper did a quality job sealing Arnfelt, who can’t bend the edge.

11. Possible G-Lead here. Will Simmons leading the way. Don’t have the runner listed. Sean Spence on the tackle.

12. Justin Brown in the slot with Bryant and Derek Moye outside. Lot. Of. Size. All for naught though as Gradkowski’s back shoulder fade to Moye falls incomplete. McCain with the coverage.

13. It looked like Vince Williams replaced Shazier. But I know Nick from Depot, one of our charters, tweeted Spence was in. Regardless, screen from Kay to Josh Harris.

14. Power run to the left. Harris with the carry.

15. Pocket begins to break down. Kay tries to find Danny Coale. But whoever the defensive back is, may have been Devin Smith, gives him a shove and picks the pass off. Definitely would have been interference.

– Final thoughts.

– Antwon Blake continues to impress me. Great close on the ball and not afraid to challenge anybody. Capable of playing the pocket and knocking the ball out.

– I’m happy I got to say positive things about Nick Williams today instead of the usual, “He rarely played” line I’ve been forced to give.

– We need to start having a serious discussion about Mike Adams. I just don’t see the progress. We’ll see where the rest of the preseason takes us, but I don’t know…

– After a quiet last few practices, Tauren Poole was probably the best of the back end of the depth chart running backs today.

– Martavis Bryant takes one step forward and two back each practice, it seems.

– Justin Brown had a strong practice after lying dormant for a little while. Heard he also had a nice diving catch in 7 on 7 though I didn’t personally see it.

– Still waiting for this team to give Howard Jones reps with the second team. Want to see it happen. Give him the chance. To me, he’s earned at least the opportunity.

– Cortez Allen was very physical and aggressive today. Probably would’ve drew a penalty or two but at least I saw him making plays.

– Your McDonald’s Syfy movie of the day. Sharknado.

– Number of McChicken’s consumed during camp: 8. Number of rain-soaked socks: 2. Number of hello’s from Missi Matthews: 0.

Hoping to be at practice tomorrow. Can’t guarantee it though. If not, I’ll definitely be back at it Wednesday. Enjoy your night, Steelers’ nation.

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