For the first time during the Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 training camp we had rainfall, albeit very little. The drops and the threat of impending lightning were enough for security to evacuate the bleachers, but that didn’t deter Alex and I much, as we simply relocated to the hill overlooking the field for the last half-hour of practice.
Several players returned to practice on at least a part-time basis, while Shamarko Thomas, Matt Spaeth, DeAngelo Williams, Daniel McCullers, Mike Mitchell, Josh Harris, and James Harrison remained out of the lineup. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger received a maintenance day as well. None of the injuries are believed to be serious, and it is worth noting that Mitchell’s hamstring appears to be on the mend as he ran with Markus Wheaton and Senquez Golson on the far field during practice
Jarvis Jones left practice early and walked to the locker room with trainers. Eli Rogers suffered a sprained right foot and left early by way of the cart, while Isaiah Lewis tweaked a hamstring and sat out the rest of practice.
Maurkice Pouncey coming off the PUP list was the big news of the day, as he returned to center the first team offense. Ryan Shazier and Cameron Heyward were both limited today.
Your daily stock report…
1. LB Shayon Green
Mike Tomlin got an extended look at Green with the starting defense at ROLB, and the youngster did more than hold his own. With Jarvis Jones sitting out the 11-on-11 and Green apparently vaulting Howard Jones (at least for the day), the Miami product made his mark felt again. He flew into the backfield unblocked to blow up one running play, and came down the line of scrimmage to shed Will Johnson’s block and help stop Cameron Stingily for a minimal gain on another. Camp is about making the most of opportunities, and Green has undoubtedly done that.
2. LB Terence Garvin
I love the Steelers backups that play with energy and violence, and Garvin fits that bill. The undersized inside linebacker flew through the A-gap for a would-be sack of Tyler Murphy, before later stripping Stingily of the ball and then recovering his own forced fumble. Late in practice Garvin shed a block and laid the wood to Stingily in the hole. This team’s inside linebackers are set.
3. S Robert Golden
With so many safeties sidelined, we’ve gotten to see extra doses of Golden, and I’ve been really impressed with his level of play. He’s another backup that brings it every snap, helping to set the tone for the defense with so many guys out with injury. Golden made a great play to crash down the line of scrimmage and ward off Darrius Heyward-Bey’s block with his outside shoulder, keeping his inside arm free to bring down the ball carrier for a loss. Later Golden elevated to knock away a touchdown pass from Heyward-Bey in the back of the end zone. Strong day for the high-effort special teams captain.
1. RB Cameron Stingily
The Northern Illinois back has had a rough go of it in practice of late, showing too much hesitancy at the line of scrimmage and even fumbling once today (may have been twice, couldn’t tell on another play). Stingily whiffed on Garvin to allow a sack, and failed to reach the end zone on a couple of runs when it appeared he had the space to score.
2. QB Tajh Boyd
Not sure what he’s done to deserve it, as all three backup quarterbacks have had plenty of rough moments, but Boyd is losing second team reps to Murphy. Boyd hasn’t been great, but he definitely hasn’t been worse than Landry Jones or Murphy in my opinion. Yet there he was, playing with the third team almost exclusively, while Murphy worked with the second team in what is becoming a heavy trend at this point.
3. S Gerod Holliman
Holliman has received very few reps throughout camp thus far, but in coverage drills he got beat consistently, looking sluggish and stiff in his movements. On one rep he lost his feel for the receiver despite not even turning to find the ball, then didn’t play the pocket as the receiver came down, instead slowing up. Then in 11v11, which technically was not a tackling drill (I think the ball carrier was tackled or at least popped on every play preceding this one however), Holliman came unblocked into the backfield and literally two-hand touched the running back. It was so comical when contrasted again the explosive hitting of Garvin and the fight that had just broken out a few snaps earlier, that Alex and I immediately began laughing. If you have a perceived weakness and want to remove all doubt, you have to take advantage of every opportunity to do so.
1. CB Brandon Boykin
Boykin, whose stock is only in limbo because of how new he is to Pittsburgh and their defense, made several nice plays in coverage today, knocking away a slant pass for Sammie Coates at the goal line. He also had an excellent tackle at the line of scrimmage to wrestle Jawon Chisholm to the ground. Many have said he’s not much of a run defender, but I’ve observed a kid who is fearless at the point of attack and doesn’t hesitate to mix it up in traffic.
2. CB B.W. Webb
After a strong start to camp for competitor Kevin Fogg, it is Webb who has looked like the superior corner throughout most of camp. He’s a smart, physical corner who can press receivers at the line of scrimmage and is a wiling tackler. I feel confident about his chances to make the team.
3. LB Howard Jones
Jones is a tough player to make sense of right now, as he flashes playmaking abilities, but will also look lost at times. Someone asked Alex and I if we think Anthony Chickillo has passed him up, and I think the answer is easily yes. Just from a cerebral and consistency standpoint, Chickillo seems to read the game better at this point. Having said that, Jones still shows some dynamic traits as a pass rusher, with much-improved hand usage and some blow-by ability. I think he’s good enough to play in the NFL, but I don’t know if he’ll ever string it all together and I don’t know if Pittsburgh is a long-term home for him.
-Another fight today, as Chris Hubbard blasted Green with a ferocious blindside block that infuriated the linebacker. He and Hubbard wrestled on the ground while several other players piled on. The altercation was quickly broken up and play resumed without a hitch.
-Boykin looked smooth in return reps, very natural tracker and fielder of the football. Someone around me alertly observed, “It looks like he’s done that before.”
–Jesse James had some issues catching the ball early on in practice, but looked like he righted the issues quickly as the session went on. He, Cameron Clear, and Rob Blanchflower all have to improve on getting their head around and hands up coming out of their break. This is the NFL, expect the ball to be there right on time.
-Heyward-Bey was targeted five times in receiving drills on air early in practice. He dropped three of them (a slant, a fade, and a post-corner route) that were all right on the money. Present without additional comment.
–Le’Veon Bell might be the best back in the league at blitz pickups. He stoned Green on a rep in 11v11 to give Landry Jones time to thread the needle to C.J. Goodwin.
–Antonio Brown is ridiculous.
-Coates had some issues today still, but he did make an excellent leaping catch in the back of the end zone before toe-tapping both feet in bounds for the nifty score.
-Chickillo continues to impress in one-on-ones against the backup tackles, showing excellent bend around the edge. When his hand usage and counter moves develop…I also want to see more reps against the starters. Marcus Gilbert gave him issues on Sunday, when Chickilo couldn’t win with his first step thanks to the strong footwork of the veteran tackle. Can he counter when his first step doesn’t win? He’s strong and quick enough to at his current weight.
-Landry Jones had another solid session today, for him anyway. There are always going to be plenty of misfires and bad reads, but Jones made some good throws as well. He’s definitely quicker in his decision-making, but his decisions themselves are still lacking.
-I continue to be very impressed with the Steelers defense, especially against the run. Aside from that one session a few practices ago, the group has been highly competitive and physical, playing gap-assignment football and really setting the edge strong. There has been almost nothing for backs on anything off tackle, a credit to not only excellent outside linebacker play, but also great run defense from the cornerback spots. The group is young, but there is tons of energy and physicality here, from the starters to the backups.