Home stretch everybody. It makes me sad. Final day is Friday. But let’s focus on the present and leap into today’s notes.
– Injury roundup. Josh Harris, Ross Ventrone, Steve McLendon, Lawrence Timmons, Vince Williams, Jordan Zumwalt, and Cameron Clear all failed to practiced today. Ventrone did some cutting and changing direction work early on, a positive sign for his return. Williams did some light running, a good sign for him too.
The team got back Robert Golden, who was a full go and participated in team drills. Mike Mitchell finally hopped into the intra-scrimmages, too. Ditto with Bruce Gradkowski though while the QB threw the ball in warmups, did not do so in 11 on 11. Just in there to hand the ball off. Daniel McCullers, as reported by Chris Bradford, dressed but only when through individuals.
David Nelson hurt his left shoulder in WR/DB drills. I’ll explain what I saw at that point later in the post. He left practice shortly after, walking with a trainer back to the facilities.
– Jesse James, Tajh Boyd, and Roosevelt Nix were the first Pittsburgh Steelers down the steps at 2:35 PM.
– Dri Archer and Cody Wallace walked down together. Several steps behind, by himself, was Brad Wing. Oh no! What happened?! This is possibly the biggest story in camp and I will make it my life mission to update you, dear reader.
– Sammie Coates, as usual, hit the jugs machine before the first horn. Practiced one-handed grabs, just like Antonio Brown does post-practice. Mimicking him is certainly a good idea.
– Chris Hubbard worked on snaps with Landry Jones before practice, and that’s where he wound up playing in team drills. Offensive line became a Chinese fire drill. Everyone moving around.
– Cam Heyward hit the field early, working on his pass rushing moves against the blocking sled.
– Terence Garvin and Shamarko Thomas shared a brief pre-practice prayer, taking a knee on the middle field.
– You know it’s a hot one when Mike Tomlin ditches the long sleeves. Yellow T-Shirt for coach today.
– Return line: Archer, Markus Wheaton, Kenzel Doe, Martavis Bryant, and Brandon Boykin. Aside from the normal returns, the coaches threw in the wrinkle of holding a ball before your attempt. Have to throw that one up in the air, catch the ball out of the machine, and then snag the original one. Varying degrees of success.
– Greg Warren warmed up by snapping field goals. Ian Wild snapped punts.
– Matt Spaeth got some extra work in prior to practice, working on his punch on the padded field goal post.
– Ramon Foster was the leader of the stretch line, yelling out “Oorah!” as the team would call back to him. Hot take alert, but I think you can learn a lot about a team’s chemistry by how they act in the stretch line. I’ve heard in some places, it’s tense and quiet. Not in Pittsburgh. They yuck it up, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
– Tyler Murphy worked exclusively with the receivers and I’d be surprised if he went back to quarterback. With Gradkowski’s return, there’s no place for him, and there’s some quality reps to be had at receiver.
– Receiver order in individuals: Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Sammie Coates, Shakim Phillips, C.J. Goodwin, Tyler Murphy, David Nelson, Kenzel Doe.
– Cornerbacks spent part of their time in individuals working on their run defense, setting the edge to spill runs back inside.
They would later work on pattern reading, passing off underneath routes and carrying anything vertically. If the #1 and #2 routes broke underneath and the Y ran a corner, the CB would press #1, then get depth once he cut in, followed by taking the Y downfield.
– Mike Tomlin observed the tight ends on the sleds. Those guys had a lot of energy and all performed well, trying to impress coach. All except for Ray Hamilton, who is struggling with popping up on contact, not letting him generate the push he should.
Tomlin to him after his rep. “Got a little high at the end, big dog.”
– Flash forward to the ST drills. Shayon Green got chewed out by one of the coaches and/or players for not jumping on the football in the blocked kick/punt drill. “Go get it, Shayon!” someone called out.
– As has become a common sight, several players run sprints in between team periods. Le’Veon Bell, Mike Mitchell, and Carnell Lake ran. Bruce Gradkowski and Landry Jones jogged along. James Harrison went by himself. Later, Bell caught passes from an assistant. Everyone going that extra mile.
– Some notes from the kick return session during the ST period. Sammie Coates and Dri Archer the upback and returner, respectively. Cody Wallace and Will Johnson, your likely Week One starters, served as the wedge. Roosevelt Nix and Matt Spaeth also got work as the wedge while Matt Conrath later replaced Spaeth. Shakim Phillips served as the upback to Kenzel Doe at least once too, though obviously, all of these guys get mixed and matched.
– Like I’ve mentioned, so many guys stay late after practice. With the OL being moved around, Alejandro Villanueva practiced his kickslide as the right tackle after the final horn. Cameron Heyward, the all-star DE, and Niko Davis, a rookie UDFA, ran together. Something poetic about that. Howard Jones worked on the chutes, staying low and then exploding out on one of the pads. Shamarko Thomas stayed way late, the last DB to leave the field, working on his pedal and his turn. Just some of what happened well after the end.
– Wide receiver vs DB results.
1. Cortez Allen blankets Antonio Brown and the pass is incomplete.
2. Markus Wheaton wins off the line and beats B.W Webb inside, making the grab.
3. Martavis Bryant gains separation at the top of his route, breaking off on a curl, extending his arms away from his body and completing the reception matched up against Antwon Blake.
4. Darrius Heyward-Bey burns Brandon Boykin on a nine route. Boykin doesn’t find the ball and DHB jumps to make the catch. Wasn’t clean but still a catch.
5. Sammie Coates runs a comeback. Doran Grant breaks on it quickly but the throw is high, where only Coates can get it, and the rookie receiver skies for the grab, full extension, and pulls it down. Nice play.
6. Tyler Murphy runs an out against Alden Darby but the pass is incomplete.
7. Shakim Phillips runs a post versus Jordan Sullen but the CB makes a nice play, getting a hand in there and breaking it up.
8. Gerod Holliman is in off coverage pre-snap but still opens his hips as Kenzel Doe releases. The receiver breaks down and makes the easy catch.
9. David Nelson burns Jordan Dangerfield down the right sideline on a nine route.
10. Antonio Brown beats Kevin Fogg off the line, gets a ton of separation, and makes the catch. That’s just unfair.
11. Cortez Allen turns the wrong way off the snap. Wheaton stems outside as Allen has to spin around to try and recover. Nine route for Wheaton who reaches out in full speed to make the grab.
12. Martavis Bryant gets separation on B.W. Webb on a post, making the grab.
13. Heyward-Bey absolutely smokes Will Allen downfield. Has three steps on the guy. Drops. The. Ball. Ugh.
14. Sammie Coates again reaches up to make a nice snag on Boykin.
15. Completion to Murphy on a curl against Grant.
16. Bryant runs a sluggo against Darby. Darby is caught flat-footed and has to grab him. Pass incomplete but an obvious flag in a game.
17. Routes are now on the goal line. Couldn’t see the corner but Doe drops an out route in the end zone.
18. Nelson runs a fade against Boykin. Pass is way off the mark, Nelson must have screwed up his aiming point, as he flails and tries to turn back for the football. This was his last rep as a trainer ran over to him moments later. Her and John Norwig examined his left shoulder and deemed him unable to continue. Never went to the ground, no contact, looked so innocuous.
19. Notes get a little less detailed as I kept watching Nelson. AB can’t make a left-handed one-handed snag over Allen.
20. Wheaton scores.
21. Bryant wins on a slant and scores.
22. Heyward-Bey runs a nice route, catching a fade at the left, back pylon.
23. Coates separates against Fogg but drops the pass.
24. Phillips drops the ball leaping to high point the ball against Jordan Dangerfield.
25. Tyler Murphy makes a nice adjustment on a TD against Sullen.
26. Doe wins against Sullen on a slant. TD.
27. Brown runs a crisp out against either Allen or Grant, scoring.
28. Grant breaks quickly, cutting under Wheaton’s route and nearly coming away with an INT. Rookie is pretty instinctual. Understands when/where routes break.
29. Pass to Bryant incomplete. Webb had good coverage.
30. Pivot route from DHB results in a touchdown against Will Allen.
31. Boykin breaks up a pass intended for Phillips.
– OL/DL results.
Missed the first couple.
1. L.T. Walton can’t rip under B.J. Finney but swims over him late. Walton has a lot of tools. Just struggles to get off blocks as early as he needs to.
2. Shayon Green beats Alejandro Villanueva, the tackle working on the right side for the first time, as Ali doubles over. Natural though, given the flip for him.
3. Green dips/rips Villanueva.
4. Niko Davis can’t rip under Finney.
5. Mike Thornton gets under Chris Hubbard’s pads but the center shows a decent anchor.
6. Joe Kruger with a good punch and arm extension on Cody Wallace.
7. Kelvin Palmer looks to mirror Anthony Chickillo to the inside. Palmer is on the left side.
8. This time, Chickillo’s inside counter works as the tackle doubles over.
9. Howard Jones destroys Kevin Whimpey, at right tackle, to the inside. Again, don’t be alarmed that the guys who are asked to flip are struggling their first time out.
10. Miles Dieffenbach sticks to Niko Davis but the former Nittany Lion is doubling over. Has to keep his base.
11. Mike Thornton literally runs over Reese Dismukes, putting the center on his back as they both tumble to the ground.
12. Ethan Hemer swims over Collin Rahrig.
13. Bud Dupree shows a great get off on the snap but Mitchell Van Dyk appears to recover and seal him. Van Dyk at LT.
14. Dupree tries a speed bull rush and gets into Van Dyk’s pads. They got locked up but then Van Dyk appears strikes with his inside arm, sending the rookie linebacker to the ground. Just schooled that first rounder.
15. Impressive job by Rahrig to mirror Kruger’s inside spin. Nice feet.
16. Don’t have the OL but it’s the same story with Davis. Nice first step, swims over, but loses his balance upfield and falls to the ground.
17. Dieffenbach does a good job anchoring versus Joe Okafor, who hasn’t made a peep since he’s been signed.
18. Whimpey puts HoJo into the ground as the OLB tries to win the edge.
19. HoJo responds by countering with an inside spin to beat Whimpey.
20. Van Dyk looks to shove Chickillo up the arc.
21. Finney seals Hemer.
22. Chickillo dips Van Dyk, and the former Hurricane wins easily. Those two had nice battles.
23. Chickillo stutter steps, outside, in, and back outside again, to beat Van Dyk.
First 11 on 11
1. Seven shots. Ben Roethlisberger initially looks to his right but comes back to the left, finding AB. Looks like the receiver catches it but from the body language from the players on the field, I guess he didn’t get his feet inbounds.
2. Brown with a rub route underneath Heath Miller, similar to the two-point conversion play in the Jacksonville Jaguars game. But Cortez Allen plays it well and breaks it up.
3. Ben again tries to find AB but the third time isn’t the charm. Can’t for the life of me see who broke it up. Either Dupree or Sean Spence.
4. Robert Golden’s first rep. Power O, Ramon Foster pulling from the backside. DeAngelo Wiliams follows him and plunges across the goal line.
5. Second-team offensive line. Changes nearly across the board. Palmer-Wallace-Hubbard-Finney-Villanueva. Only Finney played in a familiar spot, though obviously Wallace has played LG before and Hubbard has seen time at center in his short NFL career.
6. Tyler Murphy lined up in the slot. Landry Jones finds Jesse James open in the middle of the end zone for a touchdown.
7. Doran Grant at RCB, Sullen at LCB, and Kevin Fogg in the slot. Jones to Murphy on a seven route to the left back pylon. Fogg doesn’t find the ball but Murphy only gets one hand on the pass and it clangs off incomplete.
– Offense went 2/7. One of their scores being a rush.
Second 11 on 11
1. Shamarko Thomas/Mike Mitchell the first team safeties. Ryan Shazier/Sean Spence at ILB. Zone run to the right but Bell quickly sticks his foot in the ground to cut to the left. Shazier does a nice job not overpursuing and wraps him up in the hole. Non-tackling drill.
2. Bell carry. Nice block by Spaeth on Spence, though judging by the tight end’s reaction, he wishes he could have held it a split second longer. Bell gets tripped up in the hole.
3. Blake a LCB, Allen at RCB, Boykin manning the slot. Bruce Gradkowski in. Heath Miller lead block for D-Will.
4. Terence Garvin and Sean Spence at ILB. Bud Dupree and James Harrison at OLB. Marcus Gilbert does a good job sealing Dupree, opening up a big hole for Williams.
5. First-team defensive line. Stephon Tuitt, Cam Thomas, Cam Heyward. Bell dive up the middle. Thomas sheds a second late, only getting his left arm on the back.
6. Three receiver set. Heyward-Bey, Coates, Goodwin out there. Landry Jones in the pistol. Foster falls off Heyward, who swoops in to help swallow up Williams.
7. Same second-team OL. L.T. Walton and Ethan Hemer at DE. Hubbard fails to block anybody, in part to why Roosevelt Nix was stuffed at the line.
8. Ian Wild moved to ILB because the team has been so thin there. Guy really can do it all. Alden Darby and Robert Golden at safety. Alden Darby tackles Braylon Heard. Naturally, because that’s what Darby does.
9. Run off the right side to Jawon Chisholm for a short gain.
10. Chisholm finds a hole and explodes through it, a big run up the middle. Jordan Dangerfield gives chase behind and nips his ankles to bring him down.
11. Third-team DL unchanged. Matt Conrath/Mike Thornton/Joe Kruger. Wild sheds someone and makes the tackle on Heard. Naturally, because that’s what Wild does.
12. Looked like a bad snap between Boyd and the center. An all-too reoccurring theme.
Third 11 on 11
1. Ball on the offense’s 28. One step drop from Ben to Wheaton is complete.
2. Stephon Tuitt the only Steeler with his head down. Mike Mitchell blitzes off the defense’s left edge. Ben throws hot to Wheaton. William Gay wraps him up.
3. Roethlisberger completes to AB on a skinny post. An A gap blitz. Throw was high, Ben yelled out “Gosh dang it!” (he really is a parent) thinking he’s totally missed his mark but Brown leaps and makes the grab.
4. William Gay bails to act as the safety with Shamarko Thomas. Sky coverage, the safety buzzing down. Jones complete to Bryant on a skinny post.
5. Double A gap blitz. Pocket collapses nearly immediately. Tomlin speaks out, “It’s over” and blows the play dead.
6. Will Allen and Robert Golden second team safety. Dupree/Harrison. Gay drops to the deep half. Tyler Murphy down the seam and makes a nice grab against Shazier.
7. Playaction. Ben dumps off to Williams underneath.
8. Roethlisberger uses a hard count to expose a Wild/Fogg blitz. The defense doesn’t check out, sending both anyway, and Ben calmly hits Bell, who takes a couple steps past the two defensive backs and snags the ball.
9. Big Ben complete to Wheaton over the middle. Matt Conrath gave good chase, running after the receiver.
10. Attempted throw by Boyd to hit Phillips on a curl but Holliman reads the QB the whole way, nearly jumping the route and picking it off. Got a hand on it.
11. Boot to the right for Boyd. Good coverage and he throws it at Nix’s feet.
12. Wild and Spence at ILB. Dangerfield and Holliman at safety. Boyd forces a pass down the right seam to Ray Hamilton. Garvin has excellent coverage and knocks it away. Rough day for Boyd.
Fourth 11 on 11
1. No huddle, third down installment. Ben in the pistol. Complete to AB on a quick out to the left sideline.
2. Checkdown from Ben to Bell. Tuitt works hard to chase the back down, making Tomlin happy.
3. Money throw from Roethlisberger to Brown over the linebackers and underneath the safeties. Gorgeous.
4. Spaeth stones Harrison in pass protection. Underneath pass to Williams from #7.
5. Roethlisberger decides against throwing a bubble screen and goes backside to Brown one-on-one on 3rd and 4. Blake has great coverage and the ball was overthrown, incomplete. “Good work, Zilla,” Tomlin yells out.
6. Defense jumps offsides. Free play, Ben complete to AB on a backshoulder throw against #41. Came on a third and five. Tomlin is pissed and jumps into the defense’s huddle. “Don’t give them free first downs!” Makes Dupree run a lap on the middle field.
7. Chickillo stunts up the middle but is picked up. Jones to Murphy on an out.
8. Webb blitzes. Pass to Jones from DHB on a drag is a little behind but still catchable and the receiver drops it.
9. Jones hits Coates on a skinny post. Chisholm lunges in pass protection against Garvin, struggling to pick him up.
10. Howard Jones dips Kelvin Palmer around the edge. Landry’s pass to Ray Hamilton is dropped.
11. Tyler Murphy makes a leaping catch down the seam, adjusting to the throw behind him from Landry.
Fifth 11 on 11
1. Ben to Brown on a screen. Kelvin Beachum gets out in space in a hurry.
2. Toss right to Dri Archer. Nix seals well as the lead blocker.
3. Harrison stunts inside. Ben complete to Miller.
4. Antwon Blake and Brandon Boykin second-team base corner. Jones makes a nice throw on the run to Wheaton.
5. Will Johnson as the tight end. AB in the slot. Draw to the right to Bell.
6. Now Wheaton is in the slot. Drag to him from Big Ben. Sean Spence tries to wrap him up but Wheaton spins off.
7. Van Dyk in team drills at LT. Hubbard drives Thornton out of his hap to open a hole for Chisholm. Darby knocks the back to the ground. Naturally.
8. Green nearly jumps offsides. Draw to Heard. Grant pops him pretty good.
9. Boyd complete to Chisholm. Van Dyk shoved Green up the arc.
10. Doe tells Phillips where to line up, pointing to him to line up on the other side of the formation. Finney and Jesse James pull on a Power O. Garvin tackles Heard near the LOS.
11. Boyd fires quickly into the right flat to Nix. “Go Rosy! Go Rosy!” someone yells out.
12. Pistol. Boyd at QB, Chisholm at RB. Pass down the seam to Murphy. Receiver tries to one-hand it but can’t come down with the pass. Has to go up with two hands.
Mitch Hedberg Joke Of The Day
“I wanna hang a map of the world in my house. Then I’m gonna put pins into all the locations that I’ve traveled to. But first, I’m gonna have to travel to the top two corners of the map so it won’t fall down.”
Let’s Talk About…
…wasps. They’re terrible. Objectively awful. There was one in my bedroom last week and I nearly burned the whole house down. There are some bugs that we need in nature. Bumble bees can sting to but without them, there’s no more honey (And I assume there’s a whole ecosystem disruption thing too, but really, it’s about the honey). If wasps went away, absolutely nothing bad happens.
There’s no comparison. Bumble bees are cute and fuzzy looking. Wasps look like the living incarnation of Dante’s ninth ring of hell. The story of “the birds and the bees” is supposed to be cute. Turn it into “the birds and the wasps” and I promise you will end teen pregnancy forever. That’s some scary imagery.
Wasps are just the worst.
Twitter Fan Question
@ShawnHarden asks… “When are first cuts?”
Went with a quick answer since I’m running late with this today (sorry!). But still a good question and one that we easily forget. The first cuts are September 1st, after most team’s third preseason game or for the Steelers, their fourth. Roster trimmed from 90 to 75.
SVC Is Beautiful Picture
Team right before they get into their stretch line.