It’s that time of the year again!
The first day of practice was a memorable one at Chuck Noll Field on the campus of St. Vincent College, complete with an afternoon ceremony honoring 50 years of training camp being held at the facility. It was a gorgeous and sunny day, with stifling humidity that did nothing to deter James Harrison from donning sweat pants and a sweatshirt throughout the afternoon. Harrison, along with safety Will Allen, are simply having their usage limited due to age and wear and tear over the years.
Outside of those on the PUP list, the rest of the Steelers roster was out in full force for Sunday’s practice, a high energy period with plenty of competitive play. The players wore just helmets and shoulders pads today, but full pads should be coming on Wednesday.
Kicking off a new series for Steelers Depot, I’ll be offering three players whose stock is up, and three players whose stock is down after each practice and preseason game. I’ll also let you know whose stock is in limbo right now by naming three players who showed some positive and some negative traits each day. I’ll be alongside Alex Kozora every day at Steelers practice, so feel free to let me know what your observations have been in the comment section below.
Another thing to keep in mind, we’re through one day of training camp practice, one that wasn’t even a full-contact practice. As Alex and I discussed at length today, the hardest part of our jobs is making sure we accurately convey a player’s abilities or inabilities, without turning it into a hype convention. We want to give you the most honest and in-depth look at each Steeler that we can, but we want you to keep in mind that this is just practice. Only so much can be gleaned from today, preseason contests and full-pad practices will be a much better indicator.
- WR Eli Rogers
Not much will be asked of the young Louisville product out of the gate, but I was impressed by Rogers’ footwork and explosiveness in-and-out of route breaks. He’s got really clean technique, and the ability to sink his hips and gain separation at the top of his route. Nice day for Rogers today.
- CB Kevin Fogg
Fogg showed great ball skills to pick off an under thrown fade route to the left corner of the end zone by Landry Jones during red zone practice, looking explosive in the air all day long. He made C.J. Goodwin really work to pull in a nice reception by closing quickly on a throwing window, and was very competitive at catch points. It was a good start for a player with a decent uphill climb to make the roster.
- LB Arthur Moats
Moats looked like he was in phenomenal shape as usual, showing a ton of energy and more explosiveness off the edge. He busted into the backfield for a would-be tackle-for-loss of Le’Veon Bell, expertly taking on Marcus Gilbert’s block with his inside shoulder once he had established penetration. I continue to be encouraged by what Moats brings off the edge.
- TE Jesse James
Wasn’t a bad day by any means for James, who looked generally sure-handed, but his lack of explosiveness was apparent when running routes. He needs to show a greater sense of urgency if he wants to have consistent success against man coverage.
- QB Landry Jones
Back-to-back poor throws in the end zone during red zone drills was a bad way to start the day for Jones, who continues to force passes and struggle when under pressure. His throws to the boundary consistently came too late, and he still doesn’t put much zip on passes to the numbers. Constantly checking down, and with his results throwing down the field, tough to blame him.
- WR Darrius Heyward-Bey
Body catches have become a really bad habit for Heyward-Bey, as they do for a lot of guys who don’t trust their own hands. Heyward-Bey’s catching technique continues to need tons of work, but at this point there is little hope for progress as a receiver.
- OT Alejandro Villanueva
Villanueva’s length was a huge asset against pass rushers like Howard Jones, who couldn’t initiate contact or get into the big offensive tackle’s frame because of the Army product’s reach. Villanueva was the first player out on the practice field today, and looked very competitive in drills. He gets overextended at times and has to continue to be a knee-bender and not a waist-bender, but the tools appear to be developing.
- WR Sammie Coates
Coates looked very unnatural fielding punts, but he did show much-improved catching technique to reel in a number of throws away from his frame with relative ease. He looked comfortable catching fastballs, and while his routes will need refined, his footwork was smooth today. I think he’s more developed than Martavis Bryant was at this point last year, for what that is worth.
- TE Cameron Clear
I’ll give Alex’s guy Clear a shout-out here, because he had an extremely up-and-down day. His footwork was a mess and his routes are incredibly raw, but he moves really easily for a big man. I wouldn’t describe him as explosive, but Clear has some sneaky athleticism to slip away from coverage. He tries to make too many one-handed grabs rather than laying out with two hands, but Clear did show deft concentration to reel in a fastball on a curl route today. He’ll be an interesting watch moving forward.
Other Notes and Observations:
–Shakim Phillips looked explosive today too, and caught the ball well.
–B.J. Finney saw time at guard and center, and used his leverage and hands well throughout the day. He’s a grinder.
–Michael Egnew is long and looked smooth snagging passes well-above his head, but his routes were rough all day. Very little precision and lots of rounding-off at the stem of his pattern.
–Bud Dupree showed the explosive first step we’re all well-aware of, but still has very limited awareness on the field. I want to see him crash down the line of scrimmage in pursuit of plays away from him. He’s athletic enough to make things happen if he doesn’t take such an upfield path off the snap. Too often his routes to the backfield are very circuitous, effectively eliminating himself from the play by positioning. Little things that will undoubtedly be coached up.
–Antonio Brown looked, simply, amazing. He might even be quicker. No one can cover him.
–Tajh Boyd winged a MONEY throw to Devin Gardner on a crisp corner route that dropped neatly over the cornerback’s head and arrived on target before the safety came down. One of the best tosses of the day.
–Ryan Shazier was very vocal today.
–Ross Scheuerman didn’t show much today like most of the running backs, but his feet looked quick and smooth when he was navigating through the open field with the ball in his hands. He does look smaller than his listed 6’0, 204-pound frame.
–Stephon Tuitt beat up Reese Dismukes to blow up a play in the backfield.
–Shamarko Thomas and the other safeties weren’t asked to do much today in terms of playing the run, but he did close nicely on an end-around to Bryant, working through a block for a probable would-be stop.