We all hoped it would be a great day of practice and wow, it was. So much happening today, even if a lot of it was sloppy. But days like today remind you of the quantam leap of the team in pads compared to the first two days in shorts. Without any more delay, let’s jump into it.
– As he was on Monday, Cameron Stingily was the first Pittsburgh Steeler on the field at 2:24. He again worked on catching passes, this time on the jugs machine.
– Dri Archer and Brad Wing walked down together. The highlight of the day.
– Prior to practice, on opposite ends of the near field Michael Egnew and Sammie Coates snuck in some reps on the jugs machine.
– Injury report. James Harrison, Will Allen, and Heath Miller all sat out. The former two for the third straight day although they lightly went through drills with their position, continuing to indicate there’s nothing serious and to give the younger guys additional reps. Harrison had sweated through his clothing by the end of the day. Miller seemed to be just rest, too, as Mike Tomlin did to Matt Spaeth Monday. Spaeth was back in full today.
Ross Ventrone wore a grey boot on his injured right leg. He watched practice on the sideline and chatted up Alden Darby before practice.
– Offensive line groupings were again initially the same. Only difference is Miles Dieffenbach playing second and third team right guard after B.J. Finney reportedly got sick.
– Real minor point but Tyler Murphy was standing sandwiched between Todd Haley and QBs coach Randy Fitchner. Nice to see a rookie listening and absorbing as much as he can. Obviously, he was still with the QBs while Devin Gardner was with the WRs.
– Return drill order: Eli Rogers, Archer, Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant.
– Sammie Coates had one drop in the “upback” line he’s been moved to.
– Several Steelers had their usual friendly competition of who could catch the most footballs at once. Wheaton, Rogers, Archer, and Antonio Brown all tied with four, failing to catch that crucial 5th one.
– Players who got work long snapping. Greg Warren, Ian Wild, Cody Wallace, Reese Dismukes, and Matt Spaeth.
– Offensive line got a good bit of work pulling, to either side, in warmups. Later on, they worked on their initial steps in zone concepts, drilling that bucket step to get your hips set. They’d do that left and right, then do a half turn and explode out of their stance, followed by one-on-one with a “defender” (another offensive lineman) to work on their punch and slide.
– One thing I really liked to see while the tight ends worked in invidudals. Instead of everyone working on the sled, they combined that with some drive blocking drills or for Spaeth, pass protection (since he’s the only one who will do it). Maximizes reps for those guys instead of players standing around to wait their turn in line.
– Tight ends didn’t show good hands early on, dropping several passes despite working on air. Michael Egnew had back-to-back drops while Cameron Clear double-caught one and dropped another. Even Spaeth couldn’t hang onto one.
– Eli Rogers continues to run with the starters in the first group. All positive signs for #17 early on in camp.
– Tomlin was extremely active with the defensive backs in indviduals. Was basically the DBs coach. Animated and vocal, showing even veterans like William Gay the technique he wanted. As much as I don’t want to stir the pot, looked like some Cover 2 concepts. Punch, slide laterally, drop, and then plant and break when the coach told you.
– Later on in the day, the team worked on special teams drills, including blocking punts/field goals. The punter would stretch the ball out, the players run in and knock it away, then recover it in the end zone. Heard a coach yell out, “We gotta score!”
– During that time, spotted Landry Jones working on his drops and sliding on the middle field.
– Several guys got work at gunner/jammer as the team squeezed in a few reps today. Gunners included: Isaiah Lewis, Shakim Phillips, Doran Grant, C.J. Goodwin, and Gerod Holliman. Phillips and Grant looked good on their reps, Grant looked partiualrly explosive, while I thought Holliman struggled.
Some of the jammers: Coates, Goodwin, Antwon Blake, Darrius Heyward-Bey.
Rogers and Dri Archer were the return men. Rogers had one drop. Didn’t get under it and tried to grab it over his shoulder. Went through his hands.
– Danny Smith quote of the day: “Keep those hands inside where they belong!”
– Cameron Clear looked visibly gassed throughout a lot of practice. Hands on his hips, head down, kneeling. Guy just doesn’t look in shape. There are five more practices in as many days. They expose guys who aren’t in great shape. I bet the team gives him a day off just because I really doubt he can get through all five.
– Once during 7 on 7’s, Vince Williams ran over Clear. Ouch. No hitting, #98.
– After practice, Alejandro Villanueva and Cody Wallace worked on their punch on the field goal unit.
– The team ran backs on ‘backers and ‘backers on tackles at the same time and I only watched the latter group most of the time. Jon Ledyard watched the other and should have all that in his report, if it isn’t up already.
Did hear Tomlin scream out in the backs on ‘backers drill, “Eyes up, see what you hit!”
Anyway, the full play-by-play of OL/DL+OLB
1. Stephon Tuitt manages to dip David DeCastro.
2. Cody Wallace does a good job to get leverage and absorb Steve McLendon.
3. Ramon Foster stones Cam Heyward.
4. Kelvin Beachum starts off strong, absorbing Shayon Green with little issue.
5. The two square off again and Beachum gets the overall win, despie Green swimming over late. Ball would’ve been long gone in a game.
6. Clifton Geathers was eventually able to counter inside against Foster though it took some doing.
7. Wallace and McLendon go at it. Someone on the field yelled out, “Good fight,” so consider this a draw.
8. DeCastro absorbs Cam Thomas’ bull rush.
9. Anhony Chickillo’s first rep is shut down by Marcus Gilbert who showed a powerful base and was in control from the beginning.
10. Couldn’t see who the OLB was, there’s always a half-circle of players in the way, but Villanueva buried whoever it was into the ground.
11. Chris Hubbard mirrors and slides to the inside, beating Ethan Hemer on this rep.
12. Daniel McCullers runs right through Reese Dismukes. No contest. Very similar to Big Dan vs Chris Elkins last year, right on down to both centers wearing #61.
13. L.T. Walton shows active hands but B.J. Finney has a proper base and doesn’t give up a lot of ground.
14. Mitchell Van Dyk shows up first round pick Bud Dupree, sealing him to the edge.
15. Chickillo shows a high football IQ. Facing Van Dyk, he briefly starts outside before countering inside. The right tackle oversets and has no chance to mirror. Chickillo wins with ease.
16. Finney defeats Matt Conrath, who never really got square and led with his shoulder. Not much hand use. Maybe it was a rip move that failed.
17. Mike Thornton way out in front of himself, gets overextended, and falls down in front of Dismukes.
18. Hubbard mirrors Joe Kruger.
19. Villanueva shows every bit of his size. Shayon Green tries to bull rush, the two lock up, and then Ali goes into Hulk mode, coiling up and shoving Green five yards back, behind where Green lined up. Wow. Villanueva gets a high five from Foster walking back to the line.
20. Looked like Geathers was somehow able to dip Collin Rahrig.
21. Thornton keeps his feet under him this time around but Dismukes still wins.
22. Miles Dieffenbach locks up Hemer before Hemer slips through at the very end. Still a win for the OL.
23. Bud Dupree’s punch is too late, needs to show it sooner, and Kelvin Palmer is able to handle it and seal him as the OLB tries to get upfield.
24. Chickillo shows off impressive bend and flexibility, dipping his inside shoulder and turning upfield to get under Palmer and to the “QB.”
25. Dieffenbach overextended, leaves his feet, and Kruger wins.
26. Niko Davis is sealed by one of the OL. Couldn’t tell who. Maybe Rahrig.
27. Kevin Whimpey anchors against an unknown OLB.
28. Whimpey finishes it out by winning against Hemer.
Chickillo, Hubbard, and Villanueva were the “winners” here. Chickillo looks like a really strong athlete with a great first step and the ability to win. Just a first impression but hey, a good one.
First 11 on 11
Again, these started on the two.
1. Possible a run/pass option out of the gun in 11 personnel. Ben Roethlisberger fakes the draw to Le’Veon Bell, sees Arthur Moats crash, sprints to his right and hits Matt Spaeth open in the end zone.
2. Ben throws a fade in the right corner to Martavis Bryant, who skies over Antwon Blake and makes the leaping, twisting grab.
3. 3×1 formation. Slant/flat to the backside. Defense does a nice job to take it away. Pocket starts to collapse so Ben rolls out to his left in a full-on scramble drill. DeAngelo Williams gets an inch of separation and Ben finds him near the front left pylon for six.
4. Tajh Boyd jumps over Landry Jones as the #2 QB. Slip screen to Rob Blanchflower. Nearly scores, at least from my vantage point, but a pile of tackler form. Clifton Geathers huge presence is enough to bring the TE down.
5. Side note: B.W.Webb lined over Eli Rogers in the slot. Boyd finds Jesse James over the middle for a TD.
6. Boyd throws a fade, like Ben to Bryant, to DHB who leaps over Kevin Fogg for the TD.
7. Botched snap between Dismukes and Boyd ends the session.
– Offense scored on 5 of the 7 plays, including the bad snap. Much improved over the first two days.
Second 11 on 11
1. DeAngelo Williams with the 1’s. Will Johnson at FB. Landry Jones with the starters, too. Williams gets the carry. McLendon works off the block well and makes the tackle. Full contact here. Hooray!
2. Handoff to Williams on the right side. Moats sheds Jesse James and brings the back down for a loss. Welcome to the league, rook.
3. Josh Harris run to the left. Cut down by someone, possibly William Gay, for a short pickup.
4. Carry goes to Williams up the middle but there’s no hole so the back bounces it to the left and gets a crease. Cortez Allen dives and bumps him out of bounds.
5. Playaction. Blitz and Jones is smart, getting the ball out quick in the left flat to Will Johnson. He runs over Robert Golden and the two jaw as they regain their feet.
6. Isiah Lewis and Alden Darby seem to be at second-team safety. Usual third team DL of Cam Thomas, Mike Thornton, and Ethan Hemer are in with the 2’s. Harris with the carry, Vince Williams cleans him up.
7. Williams on the tote. Hubbard with a key block on Hemer, opening up a crease as Williams sprints down the left side.
8. Harris on the carry. Sean Spence seems like the first guy in on the stop. Inside zone up the middle.
9. Dismukes and Boyd have their second bad snap of the day.
10. Archer inside zone. Howard Jones makes the tackle with a couple others around the pile. Tyler Murphy had checked in at QB.
11. One play before the third team OL enters, Villanueva is taken out for Kevin Whimpey. Ross Scheuerman gets the carry but Anthony Chickillo comes storming in from the backside to make the TFL. Maybe overran it a little bit, I’d definitely boot off of that if I was a coach, but I love the first step and motor.
12. Doran Grant and Kevin Fogg at LCB/RCB, respectively. Third team corners. Scheuerman again can’t find much room and is dropped for a loss. Wasn’t the backs fault. Jesse James is pulling across the formation but couldn’t get in front of the back, making him a useless “blocker.”
13. Ian Wild/Gerod Holliman third team safety. Cameron Stingily up the middle.
14. Stingily again on the carry, lowering the shoulder over Garvin for a short gain.
Third 11 on 11
1. Le’Veon Bell in with the 1’s. 21 or “regular” personnel. Playaction. Ben fires it deeeeep down the right sideline in Wheaton’s direction, who can’t quite seem to find the football. It falls incomplete. Cortez Allen had the coverage.
2. Fire X twist up the A gap with Ryan Shazier and Lawrence Timmons. Roethlisberger throws a curl to Bryant but Will Gay plays the pocket like the veteran he is, knocking the pass away.
3. 11 personnel with Eli Rogers manning the slot. Gay blitzes from his nickel back spot but Spaeth picks him up in pass protection. Ben checks to Bell.
4. Landry Jones hits Heyward-Bey on a dig but the receive – ugh – jumped to make it when he definitely didn’t have to. Dupree whipped Van Dyk off the edge.
5. Sammie Coates forgets that he has to go in motion, lining up in the wrong spot. Landry Jones has to get his attention to line up on the other side, then be motioned to where Coates was. Second-team defensive line of Walton, McCullers, and Geathers. Jones checks to Harris, who receives a good pop courtesy of Vince Williams.
6. Third-team DL, maybe? Kruger, Thornton, Davis. Lot of mixing and matching, of course. Bad all around on the offense. Coates should’ve run underneath linebacker Sean Spence, not over the top. Richard Mann pulls him aside and gives instruction after the play.
Despite Coates’ mental mistake, Jones makes the throw anyway and fires it into Sean Spence’s back.
7. Double A gap twist from Timmons/Shazier. Picked up well by Bell and Ben finds AB on a comeback.
8. Same blitz from Timmons/Shazier, the third of this 11 on 11. Not picked up well this time, Timmons comes free and would’ve had a sack. Play gets to continue and Ben finds Wheaton on a drag.
9. Defensive line grouping: Thomas/McCullers/Hemer. Ben again tries the nine route down the right sideline to Wheaton. Doran Grant provided good coverage but Wheaton may have dropped it. Couldn’t tell for sure.
10. Half-hearted playaction by Boyd. Anthony Chickillo must have stunted and comes in free up the middle. Boyd scrambles to his right and hits Bryant.
11. Best throw from Boyd. Drops it in on a deep out route to the left sideline over Shayon Green. C.J. Goodwin slides to the ground, making the catch.
12. Then Boyd goes back to looking like a #4 QB. Does go to his second read but skips a pass to Scheuerman. Gimmie throw you gotta complete.
13. It gets worse. Seemed like a decent enough snap from Dismukes but Boyd drops it. Play is dead.
14. Murphy comes in. 7 step drop from under center and he looks pretty clean, getting away from center quickly and gathering himself at the top of his drop. No one is open initially and no one works back to him. McCullers blows things up over the middle for a “sack.”
15. Howard Jones comes in free off the left side, nice check by Sean Spence to adjust to whatever he was seeing. Another would be “sack” but the play goes on. Pass to Gardner is incomplete.
Fourth 11 on 11
1. Deep out from Ben to AB. AB ran out of room and couldn’t hang onto the pass.
2. Draw to 26. William Gay and Shamarko Thomas come on a blitz. Think Keith Butler is going to get the DBs more active in blitzes than Dick LeBeau has done.
3. Ben does find Bryant but according to Jon, Heyward had busted through the line. OL held him and Heyward slowed up, allowing the completion.
4. Antwon Blake and Kevin Fogg appear to be the second team corners. Alden Darby and Isaiah Lewis the safeties. Draw to Williams. Small scuffle after between some players I couldn’t identify. But had that “fight in the cafeteria” semi-circle going on.
5. Walton and Conrath in nickel. Dupree might have been offsides but hey, we’ll just give him credit for the get off. Boyd hits Rogers down the right seam.
6. Bad snap between Dismukes and Boyd. Blah.
7. Cortez Allen making plays, stepping in front of an intended Antonio Brown comeback from Ben, picking it off. You do you, 28.
8. Roethlisberger tries to squeeze one between Ryan Shazier and Blake but misses Will Johnson. Saw Blake in a cover 2 look, jamming at the line and then sinking. Jon also said Tuitt walked DeCastro back.
9. Draw to Archer who slips through Timmons’ arms.
10. Landry Jones hits Cameron Clear on a drag.
11. Grant/Webb outside corners with Fogg in the slot. Dismukes snaps it before Jones is ready and the play is a bust.
12. Wild/Holliman at safety. Jones horribly misses to Egnew in the right flat. Upset with himself after the play. As he should be. Like I wrote about before camp, Jones has to consistently complete these “gimmie” throws. No excuse.
13. Draw to Stingily.
14. Lewis comes in on a safety blitz. Stingily can’t stick to him and the safety wins inside. Murphy is forced to scramble.
15. Murphy with an angle route to Scheuerman, releasing out of the backfield.
Fifth 11 on 11
1. Power O, Foster pulling left to right with Bell on the carry.
2. Screen to the right from Ben to Williams. Liked the hustle from McLendon.
3. Draw to Bell. Heyward sets the edge, giving Bell nowhere to go. Moats also comes in from the backside. Half-contact at this point.
4. Another bad snap between Dismukes and Boyd and I’m so frustrated. That’s six, folks. All with Dismukes at center.
5. Run off right tackle with Harris. Antwon Blake knocks him down.
6. Walton and Geathers are the nickel ends. Villanueva shows off his long arms to keep Howard Jones at bay and Van Dyk shoves Dupree into the ground as the OLB tries to dip upfield. Jones fires a 15 yard dig to Bryant who takes his eye off the ball just a bit, causing him to bobble the catch. But he ultimately makes it.
7. Ben hits AB on a comeback. Jarvis Jones dropped into coverage. Gives it away by changing his stagger, switching which foot was in front, right before the snap. Easy way for the tackle to know what you’re doing. Want to hide everything.
8. Dive to Bell. McCullers holds the POA vs Wallace. Golden fills whatever lane 62’s huge body isn’t occupying.
9. Bryant leaps and gets fully extended for a catch from Ben over B.W. Webb. Webb isn’t happy with himself.
10. Dieffenbach, now in for Finney, and Dismukes opens up a big lane for Harris. They fist bump after the play.
11. Cameron Stingily receives the handoff.
12. Landry Jones tucks and runs. Villanueva again gets those long arms extended. He’s like Inspector Gadget.
13. Murphy back in. Finds Egnew over the middle. Garvin ends the play with a loud THWAK.
14. Playaction. Murphy boots to his route, hitting Rob Blanchflower – a little behind mind you – as the tight end adjusts and makes the grab.
15. Mike Thornton gets some penetration. Ethan Hemer plays with good technique, keeping his outside arm free. Doran Grant comes in off the edge to clean things up. Don’t have who got the handoff.
– Coates is of course going to struggle, just like Bryant did last year. Want to see him correct and improve. Not making a huge deal out of it but it’s painfully obvious he’s super raw.
– Six botched snaps. That’s six wasted plays. Unacceptable at any level. Maybe that’s why they ran an additional 11 on 11 session. Four is usually the standard. Boyd and Dismukes worked on their snaps after practice.
– Sloppy day all around. Dropped passes, botched snaps, guys not knowing if they were in or out (at one point, Joe Kruger came onto the field, realized he wasn’t supposed to be in, and then jogged off. Awkward).
– Love seeing the secondary get after the football. Five interceptions in three practices.
– Dupree needs to develop a better punch and counters. Not always going to win the edge.
Mitch Hedberg Joke Of The Day
“I want to be a racecar passenger. Just a guy who bugs the driver. Say man, can I turn on the radio. You should slow down. Why do we gotta keep going in circles? Man, you really like Tide.”
Let’s Talk About…
…yogurt. Good snack. I pick up the 39 cent cups from Aldis. Cheap food, good yogurt, but man, the packaging costs really show. The lid is impossible to remove. It’s like a Jigsaw game created to make me earn my snack. You wind up peeling off only a quarter at a time, exposing aluminum shards that you’ll need stiches from if it cuts you. Prom dates have had an easier time removing a bra than I have with my yogurt.
I know you probably don’t care. But this is my place to vent. And vent I shall.
Fan Question Of The Day
Matt Shaw asks, “Holliman make any tackles today?”
I didn’t see any. But his opportunities are very limited. Even with the injury to Ventrone, snaps are still difficult for third-stringers to receiver. Most of those guys have been quiet. If Holliman is going to get game time at gunner like he got today, he’s going to have to embrace tackling in a much different way than he did at Louisville.
Your SVC Beautiful Picture
Taken yesterday along Route 981. Love the view. If the sun ever sets just right, it’ll be the prettiest picture on Earth. This one has just a little too much brightness from the sun.