Training Camp

Training Camp Diary: Day Eighteen

The last one. I promised myself I wouldn’t cry. I also might have had my fingers crossed when I said that..

– It was a low-key practice. Looked like the team had the option to practice in shorts, most choosing to don them instead of the pants with thigh pads. A few though, including Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, and Antwon Blake, kept their regular football pants.

But a day that had next to no contact, similar to the first two. No one-on-ones, not a lot to note in today’s practice. Not like the first two when you at least wanted to see who was playing where and on what team.

Mike Tomlin addressed the injury situation today. All the players he ruled out obviously did not practice today. Cameron Clear still isn’t dressed. He traced the sideline on the middle field, doing some light rehab. Matt Spaeth wasn’t on the field for the second straight day. Someone said his wife was about to give birth so that makes sense. Heath Miller had his left ring finger taped but practiced in full. Cortez Allen was back in team.

Vince Williams dressed and got at least a couple of team reps. Ryan Shazier and Will Johnson returned to team work as Mike Tomlin indicated. Ross Ventrone still not in team. Have to think he’s out of Sunday’s Green Bay Packers game.

Dri Archer and Brad Wing, along with Chris Hubbard, Braylon Heard, Mitchell Van Dyk, and Jordan Berry, were the first players on the field at 2:41.

Reese Dismukes wore some NBA 1980 looking shorts today. Showing a lot of leg. Trying to impress the coaches anyway he can.

– Fans were going crazy as the players walked down, sensing that it was for the last time. Several players enjoyed the moment. Kelvin Beachum spread his arms wide into the air, getting the crowd to roar once more.

– Steelers started with a special team drill. Checked all the boxes. Working on kickoff coverage, onside kicks, punt coverage, and a brief look at the kick return lineup.

– Antwon Blake and Shamarko Thomas, perhaps a little surprising to see your starting safety there, were the first team gunners.

– During the stretch line, David Nelson took a knee in the corner of the end zone. No one puts David Nelson in a corner.

Sorry, I know that was stupid. But today was dry, even by my optimistic, boy scout mentality.

– I’ll miss Ramon Foster leading the stretch line. Could this be the last time…ever? He calls out to players, “What’s up, Ian!?” and then screamed to James Harrison, on the other side of the line, “DEEBO!”

Harrison flexed his arms in response.

– Not much to note in warmups. Jarrod West and Jawon Chisholm each had drops.

– Special teams period. Cody Wallace and Jesse James were the wedge with Sammie Coates the upback for Archer. Wallace and Will Johnson were the wedge team in 2014.

– Steelers practiced a live onside kick once. Garrett Hartley skipped the ball along the ground. Alden Darby dove for it but couldn’t fall on it, as it skipped up off of him and into Kenzel Doe’s awaiting arms. Darby laid on the ground for several moments. Jordan Dangerfield came over and grabbed his right leg, attempting to literally drag him away.

After practice, Darby threw 60 yard bombs to C.J. Goodwin. Darby was one of the most entertaining players in camp. Would be a shame if he got cut.

– On punt return duty, only Dri Archer and Kenzel Doe caught.

– Darby continued to serve as the backup upback to Robert Golden.

– Even though it was the final practice, Ian Wild still got some pointers from Danny Smith.

– Danny Smith…what a guy. I think I’ll miss you most of all, Scarecrow.

First 11 on 11

1. Ben Roethlisberger tries to hit Markus Wheaton on a drag but Sean Spence knocks it away. Ryan Shazier starts right away as the ILB opposite #51.

2. This time, Roethlisberger completes to Will Johnson in the left flat. Spence touches the fullback up.

3. Big Ben goes to his second read, finding an open Roosevelt Nix in the flat.

4. Mike Mitchell blitzes off the defense’s right and would’ve had the sack. Could have destroyed Ben. Checkdown from Ben to DeAngelo Williams.

5. Bubble screen to Dri Archer. But Roethlisberger decides against it, coming backside to the isolated Antonio Brown running a streak down the sideline. Has a step on B.W. Webb but the pass slips right through his hands. Only AB’s second drop of camp.

6. Ian Wild and Terence Garvin at ILB. Comeback from Ben to AB. Webb gets a hand on it, knocking the ball up and in front of the two, and Brown – never breaking strides – keeps working downhill to catch it. Webb was so mad.

7. Landry Jones complete to Ray Hamilton versus Robert Golden.

8. Jordan Dangerfield and Gerod Holliman, the real life Mork and Mindy, paired at safety. Jordan Sullen LCB, Doran Grant RCB, Kevin Fogg in the slot. Draw to Braylon Heard. Bud Dupree wraps him up.

9. Garvin and L.J. Fort at ILB. Garvin blitzes off the edge and dips Hamilton but the tight end is able to seal him. Jones nearly complete to Darrius Heyward-Bey along the left sideline, but naturally, he can’t bring it in and drops it as he goes out of bounds. Never had complete control.

10. Draw to Archer. Anthony Chickillo chases him nearly the whole way downfield.

11. Bruce Gradkowski tries to find Sammie Coates on a dig. Jordan Sullen plays the pocket and breaks it up. Alden Darby gives the corner a congratulatory head slap.

12. Gradkowski near throwaway down the right sideline. Sammie Coates was in the area but the pass wasn’t intended for anyone.

Second 11 on 11

1. Ball on the offense’s own 34. First team offense against third team defense. Le’Veon Bell gets the carry. Ian Wild keeps his inside arm free to work off a block but again, no tackling.

2. L.T. Walton and Mike Thornton the nickel players. Dive to DeAngelo Williams.

3. Walton/Thornton/and Niko Davis as the RE in the defense’s base set. Outside zone to Bell who finds a crease.

4. Draw to Williams. Maurkice Pouncey pulls and sticks to Ian Wild at the second level.

5. Joe Okafor cycles in at left end. Bell with the carry, nearly high-stepping as he broke into the second level.

6. Power O. David DeCastro and Heath Miller pull right to left. Bell follows them through and runs off the inside hip of the tight end.

7. Dive to Jawon Chisholm. Chris Hubbard is uncovered and gets to the second level with ease, reaching and sticking to Fort.

8. Jawon Chisholm follows Roosevelt Nix through the hole on Lead Strong.

9. Archer carry. Hamilton does a nice job to stick to Howard Jones. Darby, the competitor that he is,  chases the back all the way downfield, turning, running, turning, running.

10. Split zone zone run. Heard carry. Dangerfield explodes through the alley to fill and could have blown him up had they been allowed to hit. But he lets the back through.

11. Davis/Thornton/Joe Kruger at RE. Chisholm draw up the middle.

12. Kelvin Palmer in for Mitchell Van Dyk at LT. Line went: Palmer-Wallace-Hubbard-Finney-Villanueva. Fort works off his block on this Heard carry. At the end of the run, Tomlin pulled Heard aside and talked to him for a few moments. Just coaching, no yelling or anything like that.

Third 11 on 11

1. Chisholm on the carry.

2. Alden Darby blitzes. Gradkowski complete to Kenzel Doe on an out. Jarvis Jones dropped into coverage.

3. Heard with the tote. Collin Rahrig pulls and seals his man. But Reese Dismukes gets blown up at the LOS.

4. Cam Heyward is playing in a hoodie underneath his uniform. Gradkowski overthrows his receiver and Mike Mitchell dives to the ground and picks him off.

5. Third-team line. Palmer-Rahrig-Dismukes-Dieffenbach-Whimpey. Draw to Chisholm.

6. Slant/corner concept between West and Hamilton. Fogg steps in front of the tight end and picks Gradkowski off. Fogg’s 5th INT of camp.

7. Landry Jones tries to throw this pass over the middle but the tall Matt Conrath bats his down. Several batdowns for Conrath in camp, his most positive asset.

8. Jones picked by Fort in the end zone. Third INT by the defense in this session.

9. Jones complete to Jesse James in the back of the end zone. B.J. Finney lined up as a tackle eligible and ran the most lethargic drag route ever.

10. Fullback dive to Rosy Nix.

11. Finney against tackle eligible. Handoff to Heard on the goal line.

12. Rahrig now tackle eligible on the left side. Jones hits Nix in the left flat for the touchdown.

Fourth 11 on 11

1. Roethlisberger kicks things off by hitting Antonio Brown deep down the left sideline over Jordan Sullen.

2. Third and one. Bell hits the hole and Tomlin praises the back. Ramon Foster had a good block on Kruger.

3. Ben complete to Brown on a curl.

4. Ball moved to the goal line. Dive to Bell. Run plays in a shorts practice doesn’t bring the most exciting news.

5. Lead Strong with Nix paving the way for DeAngelo Williams off the right side. Niko Davis did a nice job to get off his block.

6. Williams gets the carry up the middle. D-Will is the rebel, always wearing silver shots while everyone else sports black.

7. Roethlisberger hits Martavis Bryant on a crossing route coming across the field and into the end zone, catching the pass in front of Darby. Touchdown.

8. Jones finds Will Johnson in the right flat.

9. Jones complete to a receiver, but I missed who it was.

10. Tyler Murphy and Sammie Coates on the outside with DHB in the slot. #3 finds Heyward-Bey on a slant in front of Holliman.

11. Playaction. Jones’ throw is over Miller’s head in the back of the end zone.

12. Nix next to Jones in the shotgun. Gets the carry.

Fifth 11 on 11 

1. Heard kicks things off with a carry.

2. Gradkowski complete to Doe. Don’t know how but Miles Dieffenbach ended up on his butt.

3. Heyward pressures Gradkowski. Jarrod West makes a leaping catch between Mike Mitchell and Antwon Blake.

4. Empty set. Brucy complete to Jesse James underneath on a drag, the tight end moving right to left.

5. Heyward whips poor Rahrig. Heard on the carry.

6. Blake at LCB, Cortez Allen at RCB, and Brandon Boykin in the slot. Arthur Moats wins the edge. Gradkowski complete to Shakim Phillips, Shamarko Thomas in coverage.

7. Chisholm on a draw off left tackle. Finney did a nice job to set his hips, sealing Garvin.

8. Inside zone to Chisholm.

9. Heard in the pistol behind Gradkowski. He gets the carry up the gut. Darby flies in and touches him up.

10. Catch of the day from West, hauling in this pass in the right corner from Gradkowski adjusting to the ball in-flight and getting both feet in bounds.

11. Webb breakup on this Gradkowski attempt to Coates on a slant.

12. Phillips with a pretty catch on this fade in the end zone. Covered well. Don’t know how he pulled it in.

Sixth 11 on 11

1. Split zone. Bell carry.

2. Vince Williams at ILB. Walton/Thornton/Davis along the DL. Ben complete to Wheaton along the right side.

3. Roethlisberger hits Martavis Bryant on a skinny post. Bryant extends and high points the football. Jordan Sullen had coverage but no chance to disrupt this play.

4. Roethlisberger finds Archer on a screen.

5. Will Johnson with one of his few reps at FB. Inside zone to Bell. Bell and Darby again chase each other downfield.

6. Chisholm in pistol behind Ben. Roethlisberger finds Brown on a quick slant in front of Grant.

7. First team offensive line starts high-fiving each other on the sideline. Gradkowski complete to DHB down the left sideline and into the end zone. DHB leaps and takes the ball off of Fogg’s face. Fogg has to time his jumps better.

8. Heard follows Will Johnson on the fullback’s lead block.

9. Checkdown from #5 to Heard in the left flat.

10. Landry Jones complete to Roosevelt Nix in the right flat. L.J. Fort in coverage.

11. Split zone. Heard ducks inside on this inside zone.

12. Chisholm receives a draw.

Seventh 11 on 11

1. Gradkowski complete to Doe on an out to the right side.

2. Heard on the dive.

3. Matt Conrath and Joe Kruger as the nickel ends. Screen off the right side to Chisholm.

4. Power O. Rahrig pulling. Chisholm follows him through the hole.

5. Playaction. Gradkowski hits James near the right sideline.

6. Okafor/Thornton in the nickel. The first step difference between them is remarkable, Thornton obviously being much quicker. Jones complete to James over the middle.

7. Inside zone to Chisholm.

8. Hamilton seals Bud Dupree. Chisholm with another carry.

9. Jones threads the needle, barley – but completing – this pass down the seam to Hamitlon. It finally worked. Split Darby and Ian Wild.

10. Power O, Dieffenbach pulling right to left. Heard with the tote.

11. Inside zone to Chisholm. Daniel McCullers sheds Reese Dismukes. Not even a fair matchup.

12. Jones throw to the left side on the goal line. Can’t tell the receiver but Grant nearly picks #3 off, the pass bouncing off his hands. Would’ve been a fitting end.

Mitch Hedberg Joke Of The Day 

“I opened up a yogurt and it said, please try again. They were having a contest I was unaware of. But I thought I might have opened the yogurt wrong. Or, maybe Yoplait was trying to inspire me. Come on Mitch, don’t give up. Please try again. A message of inspiration from your friends at Yoplait. Fruit at the bottom, hope on top.”

Let’s Talk About…

you. I’ve spent enough words on myself in this section. And there’s no amount of words I can give to you, the readers, that would adequately express my gratitude to you all following, reading, commenting, or saying hello in person.

I need to make special mention of the donation. I”m not even sure what the final tally was but it was a lot. A lot more than I ever could have expected. I never went into it with any expectations and didn’t want to put any pressure on anyone for donating. But I’m floored at the outpouring of response. I made sure to send a unique thank-you to everyone who donated.

I can tell you that part of that money is going to buy the McLumina a new set of tires. You realize how quickly you need to get those replaced when you try to drive the bald, leak in the left front tire set, through a torrential downpour on a windy road.

When writing these articles, I like to put on something in the background to listen to. Big fan of stand up comedy so usually I’ll throw on somebody’s set. Over the last week, I’ve fallen for the show/online series This Is Not Happening. It’s a raunchy, raw show (ask your parents for permission!) but absolutely hilarious.

At the start of each episode, the host comes out and sums up what the show is about.

“If you’ve never been here before, this is just a show where comedians come up and tell funny stories about things that happened to them.”

That’s it. That’s the whole premise. And it works so well. Funny people + funny stories. Nothing more needed than that.

To me, that’s our approach at this site. Not in comedy – try the veal! – but in football. We’re just a couple of dudes who love football and talk about what we see. Nothing more. No fluff, no hot takes, just the best insight we can offer each day. That makes us unique. It’s a great group here, Jon Ledyard, Matthew Marczi, all led under the oracle himself, Dave Bryan.

I know camp is over and the access we have will dissipate. But as long as we can watch the games, and have a pen and paper, that’s all the access we need. I’ll miss camp terribly but stick around. The fun is just getting started.

Twitter Fan Question

@SteelersGal86 asks…

“Does Fogg make team over Webb? Or PS?”

This might have become the most interesting question of camp. As I’ve written, Fogg is making as strong a case as you can. But when it comes to how you make the roster as that 52nd or 53rd player, it’s about special teams. And I think Webb is stronger there. If Webb isn’t practice squad eligible, and I don’t think he is, and Fogg obviously is, it makes sense to keep Webb on the 53 so you can keep both.

SVC Snapshot

Steelers in drills today. Man, I’m going to miss this place.


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