Steelers Training Camp Practice Report: Day Fifteen – Thursday

By Alex Kozora

Home stretch. The final Pittsburgh Steelers’ practice report from St. Vincent College. Day two of the joint practice with the Buffalo Bills.

– By the time I got to camp at around 5:00 for the 5:30 practice, the field was already buzzing. Cody Wallace and Hebron Fangupo were already on the field and very shortly after, both teams began piling out.

– Today was even more packed than yesterday. The bleachers were completely full and the adjacent hill was littered with fans. Great support to close out camp.

– We’ll hop into the injury report. Nine Steelers did not participate at all today. Jarvis Jones, Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster, Vince Williams, Matt Spaeth, Jordan Zumwalt, Greg Warren, Will Johnson, and Will Allen.

Le’Veon Bell was in pads but continued to be held out of 11 on 11.

Justin Brown was a full participant after being limited the last two days due to a thumb.

For the good news, Michael Palmer and Ryan Shazier were full-team participants. Shazier was back running with the 1’s at Mack linebacker.

– With drier conditions, the layout today was different. From the teams, it was likely viewed as a positive thing. For a fan, it made watching practice a little bit harder. The near and middle fields were used during drills and 11 on 11, making what was difficult to watch yesterday impossible today.

The Steelers’ defense squared off against the Bills’ offense on the middle field for the entire day. I attempted to watch through my binoculars, but it proved to be too hard to glean much through that scope. For three of the four 11 on 11’s, I watched the offense on the near field. Just a heads up that I got to see less than I did today from the Steelers’ defense. Understandable but still disappointing.

Luke Ingram showed up in uniform late in practice. Must have taken the red eye last night. Long snapper wasn’t needed though today.

– With two starting lineman out today, the first-team line consisted of: Kelvin Beachum, Chris Hubbard, Cody Wallace, David DeCastro, and Marcus Gilbert.

– The second-team. Guy Whimper, Bryant Browning, Wesley Johnson, Will Simmons, and Mike Adams.

– Return drill: Justin Brown, James Shaw, Jordan Hall, Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton.

Dri Archer was actually in the other line with the ball going end over end. Think this one is for kickoff return work.

– Camp record for most balls fielded at once will be six, set by Justin Brown and James Shaw. No one could surpass four today.

– Tight ends were working on their first step run blocking. Step with the outside foot and shoot your hands as you bring your inside foot parallel.

– “Starting” WR group. Antonio Brown, Lance Moore, Martavis Bryant, Justin Brown, and Markus Wheaton.

Vic So’oto still looks tight hipped in coverage drills.

Sean Spence is a quality athlete but he has a tiny bit of tightness in his hips. Maybe that was just because he came right after Terence Garvin, who is as smooth as they come.

– In Bills/Steelers individual drills, the near field featured Steelers’ wide receivers against Bills’ DBs and the Pittsburgh backs/tight ends against the Buffalo linebackers. Some highlights, mainly from the former.

Ike Taylor had a breakup of Sammy Watkins, running a curl.

CJ Goodwin had another drop.

Derek Moye did do well to high point a pass, bringing it down in front of the corner.

– Martavis Bryant made a catch that was behind him on a corner route with the DB in front of him. Nice adjustment.

– Markus Wheaton stemmed a nine route to the outside, beating rookie CB Ross Cockrell. Cockrell, if you remember, was a player the Steelers showed a lot of interest in before the draft.

– Antonio Brown burned rookie safety Kenny Ladler and had about three steps on CB Ron Brooks on a fly route, making an easy reception.

Darrius Heyward-Bey caught a dig on the goalline for a TD.

– The Bills did have two picks in this offense-friendly drill. Cockrell plucked the ball of a bounce working against Lance Moore and Nickell Roby jumped a comeback against Bryant.

– In my brief look at TE/RB, Rob Blanchflower adjusted well to a pass thrown behind against Nigel Bradham.

– Special team’s period took place in the middle of the field. Again, making it a little difficult to see.

– Yesterday’s focus was on punts so today’s naturally centered on kickoffs. From what I could gather, the first team kick coverage unit for the Steelers was as follows. Keep in mind with the injuries to guys like Will Johnson and Vince Williams, some backups were vaulted onto the first line. This list is in no order: Shamarko Thomas, Chris Carter, Terence Garvin, Howard Jones, Antwon Blake, Vic So’oto.

LeGarrette Blount served as the upback on the first kick return.

– Looked like Stephon Tuitt and Cody Wallace were the first team wedge. Makes sense that Tuitt got the nod with Will Johnson down.

– Dri Archer, Jordan Hall, and Kashif Moore were the three Steelers I saw fielding kicks. Could have been another that I missed.

– The weather was dry and sunny all day but the fields must have still been slick. During this time, Howard Jones and Stephon Tuitt slipped on the field. Lucky no one turned an ankle or a knee.

– After practice, Ross Ventrone – always one who is good with a crowd – came over to talk to a kid, probably about ten years old, and wish him a Happy Birthday. Signed some autographs. Very cool to see.

– Chris Carter and Arthur Moats always work on their first step after practice and today did so with Joey Porter.

Heath Miller was running sprints after practice. Ditto with Dan Molls and So’oto.

– Play-by-play of the Steelers’ offensive line versus the Bills’ defensive line. Nice that they were close today since I watched the opposite yesterday. Missed some numbers for the Bills, unfortunately. Guys were being sent one after another. My brain has short-circuited after 15 practices.

1. Kelvin Beachum has no issue sealing DE Bryan Johnson.

2. Chris Hubbard faces Kyle Williams and while Hubbard does anchor for a moment, Williams swims over him late.

3. Cody Wallace does well to anchor against Alan Branch.

4. David DeCastro handles Marcell Dareus with ease. Stones him.

5. Mario Williams works over Marcus Gilbert. Initially wins to the inside, gets his arms extended into the tackle, and runs to the mock QB.

6. Jerry Hughes slips off the ball against Beachum but it actually works in his favor, letting him get up and rush inside as Beachum was kicksliding.

7. Kyle Williams dips Hubbard.

8. Cody Wallace mirrors Alan Branch’s spin. At 325 pounds, Branch should not be trying to spin.

9. David DeCastro looks like he’s going to beat Dareus again but the DT rips late to win. Good battle, though. Couple of talented players going at it.

10. Marcus Gilbert makes up for his loss to seal Williams up the arc.

11. Jacquies Smith slips off the ball against Guy Whimper. Gets up a tad bit slow and goes back to the line.

12. Bryant Browning is walked backed but does manage to stay engaged. Don’t know who the rep came against.

13. Wesley Johnson won his matchup. Again, don’t have a number. I prefer the Bills’ blue numbers on white as they wore yesterday. Today was white numbering on blue jerseys.

14. Will Simmons has his best rep of the drill, mirroring against an attempted swim by Corbin Bryant.

15. Mike Adams seals Manny Lawson.

16. Guy Whimper has a nice showing here, sealing the edge against Jacquies Smith and then mirroring as Smith counters with an inside spin.

17. Stefan Charles blows through Browning. Must be that Canadian strength. Charles played college ball in Regina.

18. Damien Jacobs swims over Wesley Johnson.

19. Bryant wins inside versus Simmons.

20. Mike Adams’ feet go dead and he’s beat around the edge.

21. Jacobs beats Johnson again with a swim.

22. Don’t have who it is against but Emmnauel McCray holds his own.

23. McCray wins again against short-lived Steeler Ike Igbinosun.

24. Will Simmons initially absorbs Landon Cohen but doubles over and the DT sheds him.

The rest of the drill consisted of stunt pickup.

– Play by play of the final 11 on 11’s of camp. Like yesterday, only the first period was full contact. The three others were ramped down.

First Installment

– Watched the Steelers’ offense against the Bills’ defense.

1. Inside zone to LeGarrette Blount. Nice step in the hole, showing off those quick feet of his, for a pretty big gain. Probably close to 15 yards

2. Ben Roethlisberger goes through his progressions but still overshoots David Paulson.

3. Blount is stopped near the line on a run off left tackle.

4. Outside zone to Dri Archer. Landon Cohen gets penetration and spins the back to the ground for a loss.

5. Tauren Poole is the next back up on this run. Cody Wallace stuck to his block well, clearing a path.

6. Inside zone to Josh Harris. He makes one or two miss for a short gain.

7. Josh Harris off right tackle. Gets upfield, as Mike Tomlin barks out to make his cut – though I’m sure the back didn’t hear it – for a nice gain.

8. Jordan Hall is stuffed at the line by Jacquies Smith.

9. Sea of bodies on a dive up the middle. Jordan Hall had the run.

10. Biggest play of the day, perhaps the biggest of camp. Bruce Gradkowski finds Darrius Heyward-Bey down the right sideline, burning rookie corner Sam Miller, for an 85 yard touchdown.

11. Miguel Maysonet bursts through the first level until Leodis McKelvin comes up and pops him pretty good.

12. Inside zone to Tauren Poole.

13. Stephon Houston carry off the left side. There’s penetration and he’s stopped at the line.

14. More penetration on an inside zone. Josh Harris back in the game.

15. There’s a hole for a moment. Don’t have the runner. Nose tackle closes the gap quickly for the tackle.

– Greg Warren’s jersey was hanging from atop the crane in the middle of the field. A nice gesture.

Second Installment

1.  Ryan Shazier is starting as the ILB. Chris Carter starting at ROLB, though he’s pushed up the edge. EJ Manuel hits Sammy Watkins on a curl.

2. Manuel hits Scott Chandler on an out route. Forearm shivers Mike Mitchell.

3. There’s pressure on this play from Jason Worilds, swimming inside Erik Pears. All I have written, unfortunately.

4. Cam Thomas and Stephon Tuitt open up in the nickel. Sean Spence and Terence Garvin open the second-team inside linebackers. More pressure from Arthur Moats and Stephon Tuitt apply it. Pass is complete.

5. EJ Manuel complete to Sammy Watkins against Isaiah Green.

6. Scott Chandler false starts. Screen to CJ Spiller. It’s snuffed out by Sean Spence. Daniel McCullers is also barreling down on him up the middle.

7. Jeff Tuel throws incomplete to Robert Woods in the left flat.

8. Jordan Dangerfield blitz. Tuel throws into the right flat but the pass is dropped.

9. Complete on an out route for a nice chunk of yardage. Lew Toler on the coverage. Ethan Hemer did a nice job of collapsing the pocket.

10. Kevin Elliott catches a pass in front of Ike Taylor.

11. EJ Manuel completes on an out route to the right side.

12. Blitz. Pass is fired but dropped by Caleb Holley.

13. Pass is complete to TJ Graham.

14. Curl complete to the right side.

15. Defensive line consisting of Cam Thomas, Steve McLendon, and Cam Heyward. Terence Garvin blitz.  Manuel throws a hot to Sammy Watkins.

– As you can see, I learned a lot less by trying to watch across the field. For that reason, I stuck with watching the offense the rest of the 11 on 11’s. Better to learn something than nothing.

– Couple other notes on the offense.

1. Justin Brown did have a drop.

2. CJ Goodwin had two catches.

3. Swing pass to LeGarrette Blount for a big gainer. Of course, no tackling, but it looked like Blount made a few guys miss in the open field.

4. Derek Moye couldn’t hang onto a pass and it resulted in CB Bobby Felder nearly picking it off.

5. Stephon Houston missed in blitz pickup on the final play of this session.

Third Installment

1. Ben Roethlisberger fires a slant to David Paulson.

2. Roethlisberger has another completion, a curl to Antonio Brown that he plucks just above his head.

3. Steelers come out in empty set with Tauren Poole lined up in the slot, but he’s motioned into the backfield. Draw to him. He bounces off a collision in this relatively non-contact play.

4. Bills run a stunt and pressure Bruce Gradkowski. Markus Wheaton appears to drop the pass.

5. In a rare showing, Markus Wheaton and Lance Moore line up on the outside with Antonio Brown in the slot. Gradkowski hits 11 on a drag. Real story here is what took place after the play.

Hard to say for sure but I think Cody Wallace slide over for support and pushes Bills’ DT Landon Cohen down. Cohen immediately hops back up and gets in Wallace’s face, the two starting to shove each other. Then the fight breaks out and players from each side form a mob. As you saw in the video I took, Antonio Brown appears to try and punch DT Kyle Williams.

Things you don’t want to do to 301 pound Kyle Williams.

1. Offer him an all you can eat buffet.
2. Punch him.

After a little over a minute, the scrum is finally separated.

6. Safety blitz from Buffalo. Gradkowski hits Justin Brown on a backshoulder throw down the left sideline working against Ron Brooks. Brooks had a rough day for the Bills.

7. 5 checks down to Jordan Hall.

8. Empty set. Gradkowski’s throw is behind Justin Brown, who offers up one hand and only bats it down. But not really a catchable ball with Brown on the move.

9. Draw to Miguel Maysonet. Cohen was quick off the ball and got good penetration. Play didn’t go for much, if anything.

10. Ross Cockrell comes free on a blitz for a would be sack. Landry Jones finds David Paulson on a curl over the middle.

11. Jones to Kashif Moore. Mike Adams gets upright here but is able to stay engaged. The third team line is in but Mike Adams is still at RT instead of Emmanuel McCray for this play.

12. Then Adams moves over to LT and McCray enters. Heyward-Bey goes to the ground to make a catch from the arm of Landry Jones.

13. Landry Jones hits David Paulson on an out route.

14. T/E stunt is picked up well by the Steelers. Jones to Eric Waters but it goes through his hands. Waters came out of his break just as the pass was whizzing by.

– Guess I did miss a play in there. Unless the fight cost them a play.

– Bryant Browning ran as 2nd team LG this series. Chris Elkins ran as third team left guard while Wesley Johnson continues to get reps at center, running with the 2’s and 3’s.

Fourth Installment

– Again, me watching the offense.

1. LeGarrette Blount with the carry. Met near the line. Rob Blanchflower may have fallen off his block.

2. Landry Jones running with the 1’s. Playaction. Kelvin Beachum is beat to the inside, probably by Jerry Hughes. Nothing really open but Jones chucks it downfield for Antonio Brown. AB never finds the ball, breaking his route off and it falls harmlessly incomplete.

3. Pocket collapses. Jones’ arm appears to be hit. The ball flutters to the ground.

4. Screen to Dri Archer. He’s sprinting down the right sideline and then immediately stops to cut back. Nigel Bradham slip ‘n slides right on past.

5. Hughes is called for offsides.

6. Archer on a draw. Gets popped by Aaron Williams.

7. Jones complete to Martavis Bryant, who leaps and high points the ball over Ron Brooks running down the left sideline.

8. Jordan Hall receives the carry.

9. Landry Jones overshoots a wide open Martavis Bryant. Would have been an easy six. Probably miscommunication by the Bills’ secondary.

10. Draw to Josh Harris.

11. Bruce Gradkowski tries to hit Derek Moye backshoulder. The wide receiver saw it at the last moment and it either hit off his hands or was deflected. Too close to know for sure.

12. Gradkowski screen to Miguel Maysonet. Linebacker Xavius Boyd ends it with a thud.

13. Think I remember Brendon Kay being under center his play though I don’t have it listed in my notes. Plenty of time on this play though no one is open. QB rolls to his right and finds Martavis Bryant working back to the ball. Somehow keeps both feet in bounds as he makes the catch and rolls into the group of Bills’ players standing on the sideline. Ref never signaled it incomplete so must have been a catch and the rookie receiver was even being congratulated by Bills’ players after the fact. This might have been the best play from Bryant in his entire camp.

First, love him working back to the ball. And then the concentration to make the catch while getting both feet in bounds.

14. Josh Harris is stood up near the LOS. Eric Waters wound up on the ground at the bottom of it all.

15. Draw to Josh Harris for the final play of camp. Rookie linebacker Preston Brown a little overzealous and takes Harris to the ground. Then Landon Cohen starts shoving people again and a mini scrum begins. Appropriate way to end the two day practice.

– Two quick notes from what I saw on the defensive side.

1. Daniel McCullers got first team reps at nose tackle. Don’t know if the team was holding Steve McLendon out since he is just a few days removed from his concussion or if they wanted to let McCullers have a chance to roll with the 1’s.

2. On one play, Stephon Tuitt chased EJ Manuel out of bounds. The rookie can really run.

Final (final) Thoughts

– When I watched the Steelers’ defense versus the Bills’ offense, I thought the Steelers won fairly handily. Of course, the Bills hurt themselves with a few drops. The Steelers’ first team offense fared much better. With the backup unit, it was hit and miss. More miss than hit.

– Did look like Tauren Poole jumped over Josh Harris in the pecking order. But the fact LeGarrette Blount was working as the upback isn’t the best sign for Poole, whose chance to make this team is through Danny Smith.

– Will Johnson had a disappointing end to camp after a really good start. Didn’t receive as many looks and he dropped the few he did. Nagging injuries didn’t help matters either.

– Darrius Heyward-Bey took heed to Mike Tomlin’s serious words of needing to make a move. Fantastic practice today, even if his long TD came against a bottom of the roster corner. Still a longshot, but he’s doing everything he can to make that last push.

– David Paulson continues to make the most plays of any TE in camp, including Heath Miller. That’s obviously not to say he’s better than Miller, just that the ball is finding 81 more often. And Paulson is making them count.

– Mike Adams had a two steps forward, one step back kind of day. Think he’s a guy who just has a lot of bad habits engrained in his skull and it’s a major work in progress to try and break them. It’s like quitting smoking. Relapse rate is high.

– Cody Wallace had a nice day today in both team drills and one on ones.

– Wes Johnson did not have his best day in one on one’s. Hard worker but have soured on him some compared to where we were at a week ago.

– Didn’t see a lot out of Ryan Shazier, not that I paid a whole lot of attention to the defense. But from what I did see, he moved around just fine. Expect him to suit up Saturday.

– Another Sheetz run in lieu of McDonald’s. And now Syfy’s website won’t let me go back and see what was on. So we’ll cheat a little bit and tell you what’s playing right now at about 12:30 AM. Spartacus: Blood and Sand.

– I plan on talking about this more in an upcoming article, but a sincere thank you to the entire Steelers’ nation for their support these last 15 practices. From my personal friends, to those who have donated (too many to list), to those who have followed along. It’s been one heck of a ride. Blows my mind what has happened the last three weeks.

Met some really great people at camp. Thank you to everyone who stopped and say hello. It truly does mean a lot to me.

– Number of combined words written in all my training camp articles: 49,189 (that’s the actual number, did the math). Number of calories of McChicken’s eaten: 3600 (10 total). Number of hello’s from Missi Matthews: 0

I know, I’m bummed too. I tweeted at her this morning and didn’t get a reply. I think we scared her off. Her husband probably doesn’t like me very much. But I tried.

Let’s do this again next year, yes?

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