By Alex Kozora
The final day of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ six straight days of practice at St. Vincent College. My notes from the day.
– The odd couple of Brad Wing and Dri Archer were the first to make their way down the stairs at 2:32 PM. A full eight minutes before anyone else appeared.
– Injury roundup. Overall, some great news. Rob Blanchflower, Jordan Zumwalt, and Mike Mitchell all returned to practice today. Zumwalt and Mitchell received reps in 11 on 11 but I did not see Blanchflower take any, the team having him go through positional’s instead. But it’s a positive sign for a guy that was in a boot just a few days ago. Eric Waters reinjured his lower back, having it looked at and taped by the trainers. He did manage to return a short time later.
In the first 11 on 11, wide receiver CJ Goodwin reinjured his left shoulder that caused him to miss earlier in the week and he sat out the rest of the day.
Hebron Fangupo returned from yesterday’s absence though I did not see him in team drills. Just in position work while running on the side throughout the day.
Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu returned from their day off. Ike Taylor sat out today. Steve McLendon missed his third straight practice. Not sure what his situation is. Jarvis Jones missed with a groin and Maurkice Pouncey was given the day off.
Ryan Shazier missed today, his right leg/knee still wrapped.
– Like yesterday, rain forced the Steelers to warm up and do individual work on the turf field before moving to the grass to complete practice. Less space to go around and harder for this blogger to watch.
– Martavis Bryant and Jordan Hall dropped punts in the return drills. Their punishment? Pushups.
– The secondary seemed to work heavily on form tackling today. Less of an emphasis on their pedal. Practiced hitting tackling dummies and some mock tackling against live bodies.
– The defensive line was the last group to make their way over from the turf to the grass field.
– Drills today. Tight ends/running backs versus linebackers in coverage and DBs working on their press coverage versus wide receivers.
Vic So’oto is tight-hipped. Le’Veon Bell continues to look strong out of the backfield. Quick out of his breaks and possesses soft hands. LeGarrette Blount dropped another pass. Receiver he is not.
– WRs and DBs also were pitted against each other again. After Ben Roethlisberger showed some frustration on an ostensibly incorrect route by Justin Brown, the two hook up the next time around. “There it is!” Ben exclaims.
– Danny Coale is slow out of his breaks. Brice McCain was able to break up a dig route because Coale wasn’t quick enough. Gave McCain space.
– During one of the special team’s periods, the Steelers were working on keeping punts out of the end zone. Coaches would throw soccer balls at them and the players had to bat them backwards out of the air.
– Some situational punting work. Punting out of the end zone.
– Wing’s hang times. Admit I did miss two of his punts. 4.87, 4.62, 4.74, 3.75, 5.02, 4.94, 4.69. Kid has a big leg. Ball explodes off his foot. Another quality day.
– Wing also served as the team’s holder on field goals.
– Daniel McCullers is playing on the field goal block unit. At nearly 6’7 with over 36 inch arms, I don’t blame them.
– Shaun Suisham was good from 57 today.
– After practice, Todd Haley again had his receivers go through two sets of curl routes. Called out to Martavis Bryant his first time through, “Better 10, better!”
– Second-team offensive line: Guy Whimper, Bryant Browning, Wesley Johnson, Chris Hubbard, Mike Adams. With Pouncey getting the day off, Cody Wallace ran with the 1’s and Johnson moved to the second team over Chris Elkins. Mike Adams also got reps at left tackle with Whimper sitting out at moments. Emanuel McCray came in as the right tackle.
– Third-team offensive line: Adams, Browning, Elkins, Will Simmons, McCray
– Play-by-play of the offensive line against the defensive line.
1. Brian Arnfelt sheds Ramon Foster.
2. Cam Thomas works Cody Wallace back into the pocket.
3. Not sure how but Ethan Hemer immediately falls to the ground against David DeCastro.
4. Howard Jones wins against Marcus Gilbert, with a nifty inside swim.
5. Gilbert responds by sealing Jones up the edge, mirroring against an inside counter, and putting Jones into the ground.
6. Mike Adams doubles over as Howard Jones wins on an inside counter.
7. Browning sticks to Josh Mauro well, getting the victory.
8. Daniel McCullers walks Wesley Johnson back, as he will to most players, but I thought Johnson absorbed it ok. Remember, defending a bull rush is rarely going to look pretty.
9. Nick Williams swims over Chris Hubbard but the guard stays with it, moving laterally and is able to seal. Nice job.
10. Good hand fighting from Stephon Tuitt and he finishes it off by dipping past McCray.
11. Mike Adams gets overextended when Chris Carter counters with an inside spin.
12. Bryant Browning sticks to Roy Philon and runs him out. Browning finishes each rep. No quit in his game.
13. Chris Elkins sticks to Al Lapuaho.
14. Will Simmons sticks to Hemer. The two jaw after.
15. McCray is able to throw Chris Carter to the ground. One of the better plays I’ve seen from the rookie.
16. Arthur Moats attempts to dip but loses his balance and Mike Adams falls on top.
17. Browning again able to stick and mirror, defeating Arnfelt.
18. This is one of those times where a lineman looked good against a bull rush. Chris Elkins, after getting abused by McCullers yesterday, gets into the DL’s pads and holds his ground. Really well done and I like the bounce back from Elkins. Didn’t shrink to the challenge. And the coaches have been throwing McCullers at him every time in this drill.
19. Battle of the 65’s. Simmons sticks to Lapuaho. More jawing.
20. Arthur Moats ends it on a high note for the linebackers, whipping McCray on a spin.
– Not a whole lot to take away from this one. Bryant Browning continues to do a nice job in almost every opportunity. As I noted, I give Elkins props for his bounce-back performance after a horrendous time yesterday. And Mike Adams continue to struggle.
– We’ll jump into the 11 on 11.
1. 11 personnel as Justin Brown opens up in the slot. Le’Veon Bell run. Mike Mitchell makes his presence known with the tackle. Full contact this period. House-keeping. Sean Spence and Lawrence Timmons opened up inside and Arthur Moats – not Chris Carter – opens up at ROLB with Jarvis Jones sidelined.
2. Lead strong with Bell getting the carry. Stephon Tuitt records the tackle.
3. LeGarrette Blount receives the handoff. Moats is immediately in the backfield, but Blount sheds him. Timmons and Tuitt are both in on the stop after a short gain. Made something out of nothing, though. Positive.
4. Terence Garvin running second team ILB with Vince Williams. McCullers the second team nose. Blount runs left side. Williams makes yet another tackle in camp.
5. Playaction. Defense bites hard and Ben Roethlisberger has an easy completion to Matt Spaeth down the seam. Shamarko Thomas makes the tackle. Defensive line had Nick Williams at left end and Ethan Hemer at right end with McCullers manning the nose.
6. Justin Brown again in the slot. Power O with Ramon Foster pulling. Vince Williams tries to bring the back down but can’t. Archer gets away and starts to run backwards, a usually ill-advised tactic. Daniel McCullers grabs his face mask but Archer stays on his feet, spinning away, and picking up a few yards. Real impressive play.
7. Tauren Poole with his first run. Doesn’t end well, Roy Philon dropping him for a loss.
8. The next one is better. Again, Power O with Bryant Browning and David Paulson opening up a nice running lane. Poole rips off a big run, juking Jordan Dangerfield in the process.
9. Eric Waters’ first snap in team drills since his injury. Ditto for Jordan Zumwalt, running third team with Dan Molls. Loud pop as Dri Archer makes contact with a host of bodies but Archer stays on his feet until Ross Ventrone nearly suplexes him down the right sideline.
10. Miguel Maysonet with a run off the left side. Broke a tackle in the process.
11. Playaction. Bruce Gradkowski hits Will Johnson open in the right flat for a nice chunk.
12. Jordan Hall with his first carry. Jason Worilds comes from the backside to make the stop.
13. Josh Harris runs left side.
14. Maysonet run up the middle. Robert Golden cuts him, forcing a fumble as the ball tumbles downfield and the defense recovers.
15. Jawan Jamison runs off left tackle. Isaiah Green sets the edge and records the tackle.
– Little kid swinging on the chairs in McDonald’s. “Adults are little humans, we’re big humans.” Ain’t that the truth man. Growing up is hard.
1. Dri Archer motioned from the backfield to the slot. Roethlisberger completes to Markus Wheaton on curl. Cortez Allen with the “thud,” no full tackling. That’s usually reserved for the first period, as was the case today.
2. Chris Carter is in at ROLB with the first team. With Ike Taylor out, Antwon Blake gets first team reps at RCB. Ben hits Le’Veon Bell on a screen.
3. Checkdown from Ben to Bell. Lawrence Timmons lines up at LOLB with Jason Worilds sitting in the “B” gap.
4. Roethlisberger tries to hook up with Wheaton on a dig but the receiver drops it. Robert Golden is sent on a blitz but Matt Spaeth, lined up in the backfield, picked it up. Tauren Poole also had quality pass protection. Couldn’t see who it came against.
5. Roethlisberger looks Wheaton’s way for the third time in this period. But the pass is too tall and falls incomplete.
6. Fire X blitz. Miguel Maysonet does a nice job picking up Terence Garvin. Roethlisberger heaves one down the left sideline towards Antonio Brown but it clips off his outstretched arms.
7. Landry Jones comes in with the second team. He scrambles.
8. Screen from Jones to Archer on the right side is snuffed out by the defense. Jones throws it into the ground. Smart play.
9. Middle screen from Jones to Michael Palmer.
10. Jones dumps it off to Archer. That’s four pass plays and not one throw has traveled more than three yards past the line.
11. Inside zone to Jordan Hall. Troy Polamalu makes the “tackle.”
12. William Gay now in as the RCB. Jones connects with Danny Coale, who does a nice job getting his feet in bounds along the right sideline.
13. Brendon Kay completes his first pass to Kashif Moore, running a drag.
14. Empty set, Josh Harris split out. Kay finds Coale on a curl. Isaiah Green with the tackle.
15. Howard Jones actually lines up on LOLB. Think that’s new, normally see him on the right side. Would be sack and Kay is flushed out. Coaches blow the whistle and get on the QB’s case. “That’s a sack, gotta throw it away!”
– Science says the human body is 70% water. I’m positive the other 30% of my body is McChicken.
– More red zone work.
1. Le’Veon Bell inside zone.
2. Antwon Blake again the right corner with William Gay in the slot. Roethlisberger tries to squeeze it in to Wheaton on a dig on the goalline but it falls incomplete. Mike Mitchell nearly picked it off, arriving a tad late.
3. Will Johnson lined up in the slot on the right side. No one open for Ben who chucks it away.
4. Quick out from Ben to Antonio Brown. He turns upfield and runs into the end zone.
5. At this point, I notice Cody Wallace is wearing long, black basketball shorts instead of pads. Not sure when that happened. He certainly didn’t walk down the field that way. I am dying to know the story behind that. Onto the play, Roethlisberger tries to hit Spaeth but the pass is broken up.
6. Tauren Poole on a draw. Cuts back to the right for a short pickup.
7. Another draw to Poole, this time going for a nice gain. Wes Johnson held his own solo against Daniel McCullers.
8. Bruce Gradkowski hits Martavis Bryant on a bubble screen. Lew Toler works off the poor block from Lance Moore, and makes the tackle, taking Bryant to the ground out of bounds. One of the coaches: “Way to go, Lew!”
9. Gradkowski throws a fade to Derek Moye, who high-points the football and scores. Believe the coverage came against Shaq Richardson. Not positive.
10. Half toss to the left for Maysonet.
11. Jawan Jamison outside zone to the right. Nothing available. Don’t get very excited about this guy though carries have been sparse.
12. Martavis Bryant runs a flat/fade sort of route. Gradkowski fires but the pass is incomplete at the near left pylon. Antwon Blake had good coverage.
13. Boot right for Brendon Kay. Eric Waters is open but Kay misses and he scrambles.
14. Empty set, Josh Harris split to the right. Kay throws a post to Bryant for the score.
15. Inside zone to Josh Harris to end the period…nearly. Will Simmons and Cam Thomas jaw for a few seconds with Thomas pushing Simmons. Fight breaks out between the two and Simmons lands a big right hook off Thomas’ helmet. Great way to break your hand. Simmons did not, thankfully. I think these guys are ready for a day off.
– I think my friend and I were the only people under the age of 55 this morning at King’s. It was weird.
Two minute drill for the first team offenses and defenses.
1. Will Allen is at free safety opposite of Troy Polamalu. Roethlisberger fires high to Justin Brown. Incomplete.
2. Vic So’oto lines up at LOLB with the first team this play. Ben connects with Wheaton.
3. Chris Carter lines up at LOLB the next snap. Stephon Tuitt puts his hand up as he rushes and Ben is forced to check down to Heath Miller.
4. Roethlisberger throws a nine route deep down the left sideline for Wheaton. He makes the grab. Carter dipped Marcus Gilbert on the play.
5. Quick dig route from #7 to Antonio Brown.
6. Ben to Wheaton on a curl.
7. Dri Archer lined up outside the numbers and Antonio Brown is in the slot. Empty set. Post to Brown, but the pass is slightly behind and incomplete.
8. Ben hits Archer on an angle route out of the backfield. Objectively, it was a fumble, recovered by the defense. But Tomlin calls it incomplete and the head coach gets his way.
9. Markus Wheaton lines up in the slot for one of the first times all camp. Justin Brown lined to the outside. Roethlisberger scrambles.
10. 4th down, the ball on the two. Ben Roethlisberger completes it to Antonio Brown in the end zone. Blake with the coverage.
11. Second team enters, Gradkowski over Jones. Terence Garvin lines up at LOLB. Devin Smith breaks up a curl intended for Kashif Moore. Good click/close.
12. Shark is the SS, Golden the FS. Gradkowski checks down to Poole
13. Third down. Mike Adams has shifted to left tackle in place of Guy Whimper. Emmanuel McCray slides in at left tackle. Gradkowski complete to Lance Moore. Brice McCain had the coverage.
14. Kashif Moore climbs the ladder and makes a great catch going to the ground on a dig. I have a soft spot for this guy.
15. Gradkowski throws a smoke screen to Derek Moye.
16. Gradkowski’s pass falls harmlessly incomplete. Derek Moye may have screwed it up, not looking for the ball on a hot. Hard to say.
17. Checkdown to Maysonet. McCain on the “tackle.”
18. 4th down. Terence Garvin smacks Lance Moore over the middle but the veteran receiver hangs on.
19. Gradkowksi runs up and spikes it.
20. Time for one more play. Bruce throws a back shoulder fade to Derek Moye but it falls incomplete. Isaiah Green contests it, contributing to the incompletion. Garvin again lined up at LOLB.
– Again, the offense/defense ends in a tie. One score, one stop.
– Liked Dri Archer’s toughness between the tackles. We know he’s fast. We know he’s dangerous in open space. But he’s going to have to show he can run between the tackles and still pick up positive yards in confined space. Saw glimpses of that today.
– Based off carries and where he’s running, Poole and to a slightly lesser extent, Maysonet, are starting to pull away from the pack of running back. We’ll see if one of them can latch onto the 53.
– As I said in yesterday’s podcast and have alluded to in this write up, Bryant Browning has had a nice camp. Looking forward to the battle between Hubbard, Simmons, Elkins, and Browning for the practice squad. At most, the team will keep only two. Someone is going to have to get cut.
– As other reporters have mentioned, Justin Brown got plenty of work out of the slot today. He is the clear #4 despite the big plays Martavis Bryant has been making. Having that second year under your belt is critical.
– Ben Roethlisberger really zeroed in on Markus Wheaton today. Believe he targeted the wide receiver seven times.
– Still don’t see much separation out of any of the backup defensive ends. Hemer, Mauro, Philon, Arnfelt. No one is sticking out.
– That’s six straight practices for Sean Spence. Enough said. He’s making this team.
– Jordan Dangerfield has gone quiet the last two days. Haven’t even seen many reps from him. Will becomes scarcer with Mitchell back in the fold.
– Your McDonald’s Syfy movie of the day: Red: Werewolf Hunter. Not received well. 4.4 rating from 1,340 ratings.
– Number of McChicken’s eaten: 9. Number of practices remaining: 6. Number of hello’s from Missi Matthews: 0
Day off tomorrow for me and the team. Back at it on Wednesday. First game is just five days away.
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