The injury bug has befallen the Pittsburgh Steelers in training camp, and although none of the issues are reportedly very serious, the team was short a few bodies for Sunday’s practice. The team also said farewell to Michael Egnew (who was one of mine and Alex’s first 15 expected cuts, so boom), as he was released to make room for cornerback Brandon Boykin on the 90-man roster.
Any dwindling enthusiasm was certainly replaced by the arrival of some new faces however, as both Boykin and running back Jawon Chisholm joined the team for their first training camp practice in Pittsburgh.
Your daily stock report…
1. RB Jawon Chisholm
At 6’1, 205 pounds, Chisholm has a long, lean frame, and I could see how his upright running style would concern teams a bit. But watching him get plenty of reps during Sunday’s practice, there is no doubt that he is more effective than Cameron Stingily out of the backfield. Chisholm showed good vision and little hesitation in his rushes, finding the hole quickly and pounding the rock inside for maximum yardage. He’s not the type of back that will create much more than what is blocked for him, and I don’t know if he’s a tackle-breaker yet, but there is value in a guy who gets north and can pick up a couple yards per tote.
2. DL Cam Thomas
I know this isn’t what any Steelers fan wants to hear, but Thomas has actually had a pretty good camp. I’m not ready to say he’s locking down a roster spot quite yet, but he’s looked much more explosive off the snap, even knifing into the backfield to help drop the ball carrier short of the goal line near the end of practice. The Steelers just aren’t loaded along the defensive line, and with nobody deeper on the depth chart really showing out, Thomas’ job could be safe.
3. CB Doran Grant
With all the talk surrounding Boykin’s arrival and Senquez Golson’s injured shoulder, Grant quietly has had a very solid camp, and looked explosive in coverage today. Grant jumped a C.J. Goodwin curl route to intercept Tajh Boyd’s throw for a would-be pick-six, showing tremendous anticipation on an excellent read. Grant also made an excellent play to high-point a fade pass to Sammie Coates in the end zone, getting just enough of the ball to re-direct it through the receiver’s hands.
1. C Reese Dismukes
The snaps were better from the Auburn product today, but Dismukes was thrown around like a rag doll in one-on-ones, a trend that is becoming far too common. Daniel McCullers ran him over on his way to the quarterback, as Dismukes simply doesn’t have the length or the anchor to handle NFL defensive linemen. Can’t see him hanging on to a spot if his first week is any indication.
2. WR Darrius Heyward-Bey
I hate to beat a dead horse with DHB, and while he probably had his best practice yesterday, saying today’s session was a mess for him would be kind. The victim of a couple drops and several other misplayed balls, Heyward-Bey continues to struggle with the simple art of catching the ball. He failed to high-point a long pass down the sideline as well, instead hoping the ball dropped into his bread-basket. I promise I won’t list him in here again…I think.
3. RB Cameron Stingily
It was painfully obvious watching Stingily get heavy reps today, just how far the running back is from being an effective NFL ball carrier. He’s tough and works hard, but the big back is way too hesitant and doesn’t run with as much power as you’d hope to see. Stingily’s vision is sub-par, often struggling to find the crease quickly and get north. With he and Chisholm alternating carries, it was the newbie who had a far better day.
1. TE Cameron Clear
Clear is making progress, albeit slowly, showing much better form and pop on the blocking sled to start practice. His effort even drew praise from Mike Tomlin, who shouted, “Whew! That sounds good!” when the tight end hit the pad. He’s made some tough catches in practice lately, and his effort as a blocker has been much more consistent.
2. LB Shayon Green
Green has not had a good camp, but today he showed up with some extra pep in his step, at one point driving Jesse James into the backfield to disrupt a hand-off. A few plays later Green and Anthony Chickillo both converged on the ballcarrier for a big collision in the backfield. There’s almost no way Green makes the team, but he’s making progress.
3. OT Kelvin Palmer
There have been good and bad moments a-plenty for Palmer this week, but he looked good mirroring the quicker Bud Dupree today in one-on-ones. He let Chickillo slip by him for a sack later, but made up for it with some tougher reps later in the drill. He’s too inconsistent, but at times he’s shown some active feet and a good punch.
-Defensive backs spent awhile working on getting out of their backpedal quickly at the beginning of practice. Coaches had them backpedal several yards, then quickly change directions and accelerate forward while throwing them a pass. The simulation is a fairly common one, but it has shown up several times in practice last week on click-and-close situations with William Gay, Cortez Allen, and Grant. Very important trait for a cornerback to possess.
-Coates is going to take awhile to be ready for regular NFL action I think. Not that I didn’t expect that, but I’m letting you know now, temper your expectations.
–Will Johnson doesn’t get a lot of love, well, anywhere really, but the fullback is one of my favorite players to watch in camp. He’s a self-made man who has whipped his body into fantastic shape and goes 110% every snap. He plays physical, and he plays as fast as he can, two traits I love about the four-year veteran. Johnson’s personality is easy-going and fun off the field, but tenacious and competitive on it. He brings a lot to this team, even if most of his impact flies under the radar.
-Having said that, Arthur Moats did dip nicely by Johnson for a sack, as the fullback was actually lined up as an in-line blocker down near the goal-line. Moats continues to impress me.
-Noticed a lot of wasted movement from safety Alden Darby today doing cone drills with the defensive backs. Upright as he reached each cone, didn’t sink his hips and explode in the opposite direction. A lot of head movement and upper body gyrations, while taking several steps to throttle down and several more to reach top speed again. He’s a limited athlete in space most likely, with below average change of direction skills.
–Marcus Gilbert had a nice practice, fending off a ferocious Moats’ bull rush and handling Chickillo twice in pass protection drills. It was good to see Chickillo get reps against a starting tackle, but Gilbert quickly made it clear the youngster is going to have to perfect counter moves for when his first step doesn’t win.
-Another strong day for Eli Rogers, although he did have trouble fielding a few punts. He had a nice route to separate vs. Antwon Blake near the goal-line for a touchdown. A couple other nice catches on the day as well
–Devin Gardner took a shot on a skinny post and held on for the catch. He’s not explosive in his routes, but he has the hands and length to make contested catches despite contact.
–Antonio Brown introduced Boykin to Pittsburgh by going up over the corner for a catch, despite tight coverage from the former Eagle. Boykin had his back to the ball however, and couldn’t get his head around in time to deflect the pass.
-Wasn’t much to see today from Boykin in practice. Team did a lot of rushing plays, and while Boykin got his snaps, rarely saw any action to his area of the field.
-McCullers bullied Dismukes in one-on-ones, bull-rushing the center about ten yards back on the first rep. They ran it back, and McCullers slipped to his knees trying to power through Dismukes again. The Auburn center got his hands up a little high for McCullers’ liking, and the big defensive lineman responded with a blow to Dismukes helmet. The stunned offensive lineman fought back, but the altercation was soon broken up and they ran it back again. This time McCullers, undoubtedly pissed off, fired off the ball and walked the undersized Dismukes about 15 yards back, effectively ending that face-off. First training camp fight, in the books.