Another blazingly hot day in Latrobe, conditions that were hard enough to just stand in, let alone practice in full pads. The players handled the heat well, with a lively practice that didn’t have quite as much contact as Wednesday’s, but still provided plenty of entertainment.
Daily stock report…
1. RB Ross Scheuerman
I think the Lafayette product is a long shot to make the team, but he looked great in the Backs-on-Backers pass coverage drill, consistently shaking an athletic linebacker in Terence Garvin all over the field. There may not be a home in Pittsburgh for Scheuerman, but the rookie may find work elsewhere thanks to his dual-threat abilities.
2. RB Josh Harris
Harris is undeniably lighter and quicker, traits he showed while beating Sean Spence soundly several times in the aforementioned coverage drill. A hard offseason of work really seems to have paid off for Harris, who showed good hands despite not getting much work as a receiver in college. He did have one drop on a tough back-shoulder throw from Ben, but I think his spot on the team gets safer by the day.
3. OLB Anthony Chickillo
It was another strong day for Chickillo, who crashed down the LOS twice for tackles-for-loss, albeit unblocked on the one play. Now that he’s lighter, the explosive first step he always had but couldn’t bring consistently in college seems to be giving him a huge advantage. He hustled all the way down the field and tried to rip the ball free from a receiver during 11-on-11s as well. The best play he made was late in the team drills, when he identified the pulling tight end (Jesse James I think) was coming to trap him, and dipped inside the block to make the would-be tackle. That’s great recognition of the play and the block, but also an excellent job of seeing through traffic and working quickly to the football. He’s got some issues to iron out, which I’ll detail momentarily, but the kid is working his butt off and looks much quicker in his present frame.
1. LB Jordan Zumwalt
Every practice it becomes more and more apparent than Zumwalt simply does not have the athleticism to play at this level. He’s very smart and works hard, but he’s simply too light to overwhelm blockers at the point-of-attack, and too slow to keep up with receivers in the open field. He got wrecked by all comers in coverage drills, taking some terrible false steps to allow easy throwing windows for Ben Roethlisberger. I was a fan of the kid coming out of UCLA, but last year’s injury put him behind the eight ball, and the team just has too much talent stockpiled at the position to use a roster spot on Zumwalt.
2. OT Kevin Whimpey
The Utah State product got bull-rushed by Howard Jones directly back into Tyler Murphy’s throwing arm, knocking the young quarterback to the ground and causing a fumble. Not a good rep by Whimpey, who has had his issues as a pass protector.
3. QB Landry Jones
Such a nice guy, very professional, but today was another ugly day for Jones. Tough to imagine he’ll make this team unless there is marked improvement during preseason games.
No Stock-in-Limbo today. Too many fun practice notes and quotes to get to.
-Linebackers and secondary players worked on zone drops with defensive coordinator Keith Butler. Desiring the linebackers to get width quicker, Butler kept yelling, “Get to the cones!”, prompting the ‘backers to work to the sideline where the cones were aligned vertically.
–Vince Williams and Ryan Shazier were good-naturedly needling Sean Spence during warm-ups. I didn’t quite catch the start of the conversation, but I believe Spence was trying to legitimize the Miami Hurricanes organization based on the individual talent they possess, while Williams kept saying, “They don’t got no wins though!”. Spence became animated to the point that he expressed, “Man, wins don’t matter I’m talking about talent!” That sent Williams and Shazier to hooting and hollering at Spence, “You say wins don’t matter? Wins don’t matter? You’re here at training camp man, come on! Saying wins don’t matter…”. Mike Tomlin even joined in the antics as Spence tried to defend himself. Definitely a fun moment.
-Also overheard Alden Darby and Antwon Blake throwing shade at Gerod Holliman for his college stats.
“14 picks bro? Didn’t a DB the year before you have like 11? In the same conference, right? That’s all it is man, it’s that conference, it ain’t you,” Darby chirped.
–Eli Rogers and Martavis Bryant each had a drop during a drill where the receivers had to track the ball directly over their heads.
-Defense again impressed in goal-line situations, as Arthur Moats smothered Will Johnson on a throw to far out of bounds, and B.W. Webb broke up a slant pass for Markus Wheaton at the goal line. Sammie Coates did almost make an incredible one-handed grab in the back right corner of the end zone, but I think he would have been out of bounds thanks to an off-target pass by Landry Jones.
-Chickillo has undoubtedly had two strong padded practices, but there are some nuances of his game he needs to work on. He always tips off his assignment (rush or drop) by flexing his back leg in his stance. I watched him yesterday and today, and every time he rushes he bounces on that back leg like a sprinter about to leave the blocks, and every time he drops into coverage his stance is much more relaxed. Just a small tell he’ll have to work on in order to keep lineman from figuring out his plan of attack.
Chickillo also got tackling instruction from inside linebackers coach Jerry Olsavsky during a special teams drill, as the assistant told him to make sure he is not leading with his chest in an upright position when tackling, but instead dipping low to tackle and drive up through the ball carrier. Good stuff from Olsavsky, who pulled the rookie aside in a teachable moment.
-Vince Williams crushed Roosevelt Nix twice in coverage drills, right after the Kent State product had reeled in a pass. Nix didn’t hang on either time. The fullback got his revenge in 11-on-11 however, flying through the hole to meet Williams in a thunderous crash that set the defender back a few yards.
–Jarvis Jones and Shazier BLEW UP an end-around to Coates. Best Jones has set the edge in quite awhile. Tomlin loved it, running it hooting and hollering and smacking rear ends.
–Rob Blanchflower keeps showing signs of improvement, especially as a blocker. He handled Jarvis Jones on one snap, while showing great awareness to chip Chickillo and get into his route quickly on another.
–Danny Smith quote of the day (I’m sure Alex has one too), to Shayon Green: “Shayon! I said a new rotation! Get the hell out of there!”
Later, to Cameron Clear during a special teams drill: “Cameron, you gotta go get that tackle! You gotta want to hit him!”
-Best moment of the day, Blake forgot his assignment as a blocking pad holder during one special teams drill, prompting one of the ball boys to say, “Blake! Blake! You’re supposed to hold this pad!”.
I mean this kid was maybe 100 pounds soaking wet, probably 12 years old, braces and everything, yelling for Blake to get with the program. The cornerback listened to, yelling, “Oh sh*t!” and racing over to grab the pad. That kid might have a future in coaching.
-Howard Jones loses focus inexplicably at times. Twice during the special teams drill, Jones was caught spacing off and failing to give his teammates good looks holding the blocking pad. Nothing major, but could tell by everyone’s reaction that it has happened more than a few times.
–Doran Grant looked good today, especially in special teams drills. Quick and fluid, and he looks like he’s added some muscle since college.
–Bud Dupree hit a nasty spin move on Mitchell Van Dyk for a would-be sack. If he can refine those little things….
-I hope you all are ready for Arthur Moats to have a big season, ‘cause it is going to happen. Dude looks phenomenal in coverage, against the run, and as a pass rusher. True leader too.