Halfway home! Day nine of Pittsburgh Steelers’ practice is in the books. Team is back on Thursday and Friday before gearing up for their first preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings. Let’s get into the notes.
– Injury roundup: Several players returned today. Ben Roethlisberger, Steve McLendon, and Cam Heyward were all basically rested – McLendon may have been dealing with a minor right shoulder injury – and practiced in full today. Josh Harris was in uniform but very limited today – didn’t even have his shoulder pads on. Ramon Foster returned from a shoulder injury. Ryan Shazier was a full participant. DeAngelo Williams was in pads but didn’t partake in team drills.
Shamarko Thomas, Mike Mitchell, Markus Wheaton, and Daniel McCullers were not in uniform today. Thomas with the shoulder, Mitchell, Wheaton, and McCullers hamstring injuries. James Harrison remains out with old age. Rob Blanchflower missed with an unknown injury. Didn’t even see him on the field. He can’t afford to miss much time.
Jarvis Jones and Cortez Allen were in pads but barely did anything today. Ross Ventrone is still doing some light running, working on that right ankle/lower leg injury that occurred several practices ago. Heath Miller got his usual day of rest while Matt Spaeth was back in pads.
Chris Hubbard left with a toe injury while Robert Golden injured his leg late in practice.
– As Mike Tomlin announced, Bruce Gradkowski should come off the PUP relatively soon. Saw him on the field well before anyone else, jogging around on the far field from the bleachers.
– Dri Archer and Brad Wing walked down. I know you’re dying to know these things. Give the people what they want!
– C.J. Goodwin spent a solid 10-15 minutes with Gradkowski on the far field, going over routes. Liked to see the receiver put in some extra work. He caught passes (along with Kenzel Doe) after practice from Landry Jones. Hard working guy.
– Must be tough on a guy like Doe to hop on in the middle of camp. He talked a lot with wide receivers coach Richard Mann in warmups and carried around a playsheet between team periods in practice. Looked like a guy on his first day of high school. What is this place? Where’s the cafeteria!?!
– Archer and Doe were in the return line. Brandon Boykin was not. Don’t go crazy over that fact. Just something to file away.
– Sammie Coates, still working in the “upback” line, didn’t track the ball well on one rep, assuming it’d land where the others had. Coaches must have adjusted it, keeping those guys on their toes, and it fell to the ground five yards in front of him. Have to always focus. Treat everything with the uptmost seriousness.
First team offensive line had the usual suspects with Foster’s return. Before Hubbard’s injury, here is how the lines went.
Second Team: Villanueva-Hubbard-Wallace-Finney-Van Dyk
Third Team: Whimpey-Dieffenbach-Dismukes-Finney-Palmer
– Complete random side note. Ross Ventrone was standing next to McCullers. Two things. Oh my goodness the size difference. And with Ventrone’s fisherman’s hat and healthy looking beard, he totally looked Amish. Like he had just wandered off the farm.
– Wide receiver order in opening drills: Antonio Brown, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Devin Gardner, C.J. Goodwin, Shakim Phillips, Sammie Coates, Kenzel Doe.
– They ran through a variety of drills. One had the ball intentionally thrown over their head, forcing them to sky up and make the grab. Antonio Brown went through this the second time, the pass glancing off his one-handed attempt. Went back to the line and plucked the next one with both hands.
– Defensive backs were working on playing goal line route concepts. One notable one was defending the smash (corner/curl) route. It’s a solid Cover 2 beater, putting the corner in conflict and stressing the safety. Goal is to jam the curl at the line, sink to squeeze the smash, and break on the curl.
– Tyler Murphy ran a route or two in warmups, a precursor to the work he would get today at wide receiver.
– Watched the running backs catch a couple passes. Immediately jumps out is the difference between guys like Roosevelt Nix and Cameron Stingily, far from natural pass catchers, and Jawon Chisholm, who caught 85 passes at Akron. Chisholm is a natural, make a one-handed snag with his right hand on a fade.
– Return line during one of the special teams period. Brown, Archer, Doe.
– Punters hangtimes!
Brad Wing: 4.69, 4.74, 4.34, 4.34, 4.53
Jordan Berry: 4.59, 4.66, 4.41, 4.36, 5.37
Wing had the better distance. Much closer “battle” than the other day, and realize the true winners come in games – not practices. Wing by a nose today because of his distances. But a much better day from Berry.
– Only saw one pair of gunners, I probably missed some others, but they were DHB and B.W. Webb. Robert Golden was the starting upback. Ian Wild the #2. Wild had a heady play as he counted the box and motioned Brandon Boykin from his outside gunner spot to come tight to the line to block. Role of the upback, quarterback of the punting unit.
– Other players Jon and I spotted on the first team coverage unit. Terence Garvin, Vince Williams, Will Johnson, Sean Spence, and Roosevelt Nix.
– Wheaton spent a lot of times on the jugs machine during this period. Glad he’s staying active.
– Also during this time, Josh Harris, AB, Williams, and Bell ran sprints across the width of the middle field. Just daily work for those guys. Harris and Bell, Chisholm would eventually join in, ran following practice, too.
– WRs vs DBs in one-on-one results.
1. Heyward-Bey double-move who gets separation from Webb but the corner gets a little grabby in return. Holding the back of his jersey most of the way.
2. Devin Gardner made a heck of a play, jumping over Doran Grant in the end zone. Way to get up and fight for that ball. Was really surprised he caught it.
3. Pass is too high for Coates, hitting off the top of his hand. Boykin on coverage.
4. Shakim Phillips too slow breaking on his dig and Jordan Sullen easily gets under the route, batting the pass away with his left hand.
5. Kevin Fogg playing off coverage vs Doe. Doe just breaks down given the cushion but drops the ball. Bad first impression.
6. Goodwin runs a speed out against Antwon Blake, also giving a cushion. Easy pitch and catch.
7. AB with a gorgeous adjustment on this backshoulder throw, making the grab and toe-tapping in bounds. Webb provided the coverage and there wasn’t much more he could do to stop it.
8. Despite being rolled up, Grant allows a free release to DHB. Receiver slips coming out of his breaks and the pass is incomplete.
9. Don’t have who the receiver is but Kevin Fogg is tight to the hip of him and breaks this nine route up.
10. Doe runs a dig but the timing is predictably off. Incomplete.
11. Devin Gardner sits down on a curl versus Blake. Easy catch but really liked to see Gardner work to get his hands away from his body. A lot of guys will let that into their chest, get a little lazy, knowing it’s an easy completion. Minor detail but liked to see it from Gardner.
12. Webb is pretty grabby with Goodwin on this comeback but does break up the throw. Probably a flag in a game. He needs to be a little less physical.
13. Boykin and AB in a primetime matchup. Brown gets a little separation fading away but the pass is out of the back right corner of the end zone. Too bad. Wish I could have seen a play on the ball.
14. Another overthrow, this time to DHB working on Doran Grant.
15. Goodwin gets on Fogg’s toes, separating and making the grab on an out route.
16. Sullen is grabby on Shakim Phillips but the receiver makes the catch on a corner route.
17. Sammie Coates slips out of his break on a curl. Throw never even happens because of that.
18. Doe easily wins on a quick slant versus what I believe is Sullen in my notes.
19. Gardner runs a dig against Boykin but the corner gets under the receiver’s route and swats it away.
20. Webb is holding onto Coates’ right arm the whole way. Definitely pass interference.
21. Grant doesn’t allow a free release and flips his hips and Phillips breaks inside/out. But the tall receiver leaps over the rookie corner to snatch the ball away in the end zone.
22. Brown catches a fade over Kevin Fogg. Fogg is pulled aside by a coach – not Carnell Lake – and it looks like the coach is reminding him of pressing with the opposite hand on the receiver’s release. Not letting AB be totally free. Good advice.
23. Heyward-Bey slips coming out of his breaks.
24. Boykin is all over Doe, who knocks the ball away.
25. Gardner slips running a comeback against Grant and the corner seizes the opportunity, knocking the ball away.
26. Coates on a fade versus Fogg. Ball goes through his hands as the receiver dives for it. Rookie receiver is frustrated, pounding his fist into the ground.
27. Brown wins with no issue against Webb, the receiver running a slant.
28. Sullen way too grabby versus Phillips and he lands on top of the receiver. Phillips comes up gimpy with a right leg injury but seemed to eventually walk it off.
29. Doe runs a pivot route away from Blake, scoring. Nice route.
30. Grant plays the pocket versus Goodwin, breaking the throw up. Good play.
31. Gardner fade versus Boykin. Boykin lets the receiver’s eyes take him to the ball, sticks to him in coverage, and the ball hits off the corner’s back.
32. Fade to Coates versus Blake. Coates reaches out for it but the pass is in front. Receiver lands hard on his right shoulder. Definitely got dinged but finished out practice.
33. Fogg finds the ball and picks it off against Goodwin.
1. Kelvin Beachum absorbs vs Howard Jones’ bull rush. Linebacker loses his footing at the end.
2. Center Cody Wallace with good anchor and slides laterally working on Ethan Hemer.
3. Cam Thomas swims over Reese Dismukes.
4. Wrote about how impressed I’ve been with him yesterday. Stephon Tuitt again showing those quick, violent hands, slipping past David DeCastro as the guard doubles over.
5. Right tackle Mitchell Van Dyk wins against Arthur Moats, putting the OLB on the ground.
6. They go at it again. Moats rushes upfield and Van Dyk stops moving his feet for just a moment. Struggles to seal the edge as a result.
7. DeCastro doesn’t let Tuitt knock away his hands and the guard gets some revenge.
8. Clifton Geathers gets full extension versus Dismukes, creating a lot of separation before swimming over the center.
9. Wallace anchors against Joe Kruger.
10. Outside linebacker Shayon Green wins inside against Beachum, the left tackle forced to hold him to not let him through.
11. Rookie guard Miles Dieffenbach’s hands are a little too high but he shows good anchor to absorb against Niko Davis’ rush.
12. Geathers bullies Dismukes around. Real strong punch to shove him back. No McCullers today but Dismukes’ consolation prize is a 6’7 lineman with a 37 inch reach.
13. Rookie B.J. Finney with good hand placement and slides laterally versus L.T. Walton.
14. Outside linebacker Bud Dupree is slow off the snap and Kelvin Palmer has no problem sealing him.
15. Palmer also seals Anthony Chickillo up the edge. Chickillo counters with an inside move and the right tackle pretty much holds him. Very James Harrison off the edge looking.
16. Finney anchors Matt Conrath’s bull. I’m just happy did something other than trying to rip under somebody. Hooray!
17. Howard Jones does outleverage Alejandro Villanueva, getting into his chest, but Villanueva is so strong – and Jones isn’t – that the tackle able to anchor. Jones does swim over him very late in the rep and the big tackle nearly does a split as he goes to the ground.
18. Villanueva does a real nice job to mirror against Jones as the OLB tries to win to the inside.
19. Collin Rahrig does a good job to mirror Davis.
20. Left tackle Kevin Whimpey anchors against Shayon Green, whose inside spin move failed.
21. Whimpey opens the gate as Green starts upfield. Outside linebacker plants and ducks inside, winning with relative easy.
22. Rahrig does a good job to anchor Geathers.
– Offensive line mixed in some stunt pickup (they’re good about not always running stunts to keep defenders on their toes, not letting them cheat and expect it). Don’t have a lot to note but Marcus Gilbert missed the looper twice. Finney also doubled-over when he couldn’t pick up the crashing Chickillo.
First 11 on 11
1. Your usual seven shots series. Empty set. Defensive line of Heyward/McLendon/Tuitt. Low snap from Maurkice Pouncey but Ben Roethlisberger bends down to get it and calmly throws a rope to Le’Veon Bell on a corner route for the score Robert Golden had the coverage.
2. 11 personnel. AB and DHB on the outside with Goodwin in the slot. Ben quickly fires the ball to Bell on a slant for a TD.
3. Roethlisberger is forced to target Cameron Stingily as his third read, the back releasing on a short out route from the backfield. Arthur Moats pops him really good and separates player from ball.
4. Dieffenbach jumps in as second-team left guard. Jones hits Cameron Clear on a slip screen for a touchdown.
5. Tyler Murphy gets his first rep at receiver in team drills, lining up in the slot. Tight between him and Gardner. Jones tries to hit Gardner in the right flat but the pass is thrown behind.
6. Third-team defense. Chickillo and Shayon Green. Terence Garvin/Jordan Zumwalt. Ian Wild/Gerod Holliman. Doran Grant/Jordan Sullen. Jesse James standing up in the slot. Jones looks for Archer in the left flat, the back releasing on an arrow route. Archer reaches out with just his left hand, should’ve reached with two, and the pass hits off him incomplete.
7. Empty. Chisholm split out. Goodwin in the slot with Fogg covering him. Jones complete to Jesse James for a TD.
– Offense scored three times in seven chances.
Second 11 on 11
1. Nix and Stingily lined up in the backfield. Stingily gets the carry off the right side. Shazier and Alden Darby meet him and lay pretty big hits.
2. Shayon Green running first team ROLB. Robert Golden comes flying in to tackle Stingily in the backfield for a 3-4 yard loss. DeCastro pulled and cleared out William Gay on the edge but it didn’t matter.
3. Steve McLendon with a nice play in my eyes, working off whoever was blocking him to tackle Stingily. But Mike Tomlin is impressed with the back. Yells out twice, “I like the way you run that, three oh!”
4. Playaction with Hubbard pulling. Play never seems to work well. Shazier and Moats collapse the pocket on Landry Jones. Jones throw is well off the mark, at the feet of his receiver. He knows he can’t get hit. Make the throw. Pressure isn’t an excuse. Not in this environment.
5. Chisholm gets the carry. Not sure who made the tackle, sorry!
6. Defensive line: Walton/Thomas/Geathers. Ian Wild and Isaiah Lewis paired up at safety. Villanueva uses that mammoth size to seal HoJo. Geathers two-gaps and sheds his man but can’t make the tackle. Isaiah Lewis fills the alley with a big hit. Not positive who the back was. Stingily or Chisholm.
7. Gardner/Coates at WR. Murphy in at QB. Dismukes at center, Dieffenbach LG, Finney RG. Villanueva again seals his man, this time it’s Green, but Sean Spence fights through the trash and comes in free. Stingily can’t hop out of the linebacker’s ankle tackle.
8. Defensive line: Conrath/Mike Thornton/Hemer. Outside zone to Chisholm. I was watching Jesse James and he had a nice block on Garvin. Lost sight of him for a moment and I don’t know who had the tackle. I didn’t think it was Garvin, thought he never was able to shed James, but Jon told me the players were slapping the linebacker’s helmet after the play. Not sure what happened.
9. Murphy playaction, boot to the right. Hits Nix in the flat. Zumwalt and guess who, Gerod Holliman! collide with him. Loud pop. The defense goes crazy, hoping all over the rookie safety like he just won the Super Bowl. But hey, credit to him. Dude laid a pretty big hit.
10. Nix is rewarded for his efforts with a fullback dive. Full head of steam, it looks like Danny Bateman running the ball but Terence Garvin gets low and stops Nix. And I mean, stops him. Dead in his tracks. These linebackers are something else.
11. Tajh Boyd at QB. Offensive line for the third team. Whimpey/Rahrig/Dismukes/Finney/Palmer. Stingily gets the carry but Thornton and Chickillo blow it up with great penetration.
12. Chisholm on the carry. Will Johnson pulling as the lead blocker. Shakim Phillips, still maybe shaken up or just not paying attention, hard to say, but doesn’t even try to block Boykin, who crosses his face and forces the back to cut upfield.
13. Grant at LCB, Boykin at RCB, Fogg in the slot. Kruger and Davis the two down lineman. Dismukes did offer a good run block, tossing aside Zumwalt as he came on a run blitz. Carry is to Archer off the right side. Broke a tackle and got a couple extra yards down the right sideline.
Third 11 on 11
1. Cody Wallace in at left guard with the ones with Foster apparently out and Hubbard injured. Roethlisberger finds Spaeth over the middle.
2. Heyward/Tuitt in nickel. Webb blitzes off the offense’s left side. Screen is to Bell on the right. C.J. Goodwin never gets his eyes upfield, he’s too worried about where Bell is at, and never blocks the corner – think it was Blake. Who was in on the “tackle” (thud tackling at this point).
3. Good coverage and Ben has to hit an open Archer over the middle. Goodwin makes up for it with a good block on Will Allen.
4. Darby/Lewis at safety. Fogg LCB, Grant RCB, Webb in the slot. Sean Spence and Fogg blitz off the offense’s right side. Seems like Cameron Clear screwed up his assignment, failing to pick up the outside rusher in Fogg. James Daniel talked to him after the play. Would be sack but Jones completes it to someone. Gardner, I believe.
5. Dieffenbach second-team left guard. Dismukes at center. Jones smartly sees there isn’t a flat defender and gets the ball out quick to Will Johnson leaking that way.
6. Walton/Thomas/Geathers along the defensive line. Wild/Darby at safety. Williams comes in free and would have had the sack. Three rookies running routes, Gardner, Coates, and James, and absolutely no one comes back to the ball. Jones has to scramble. Teachable moment for all three.
7. Sullen at LCB, Grant at RCB, Boykin now in the slot. Couple practices in and Boykin has played all three positions. Wild/Holliman the safety pairing. Ben tries to hit Goodwin on a shallow cross over the middle. Wild, who started in the box, finds the receiver and separates him from the ball. Really nice play in coverage. Jon pointed out to me that Jerry Olsavsky runs up and gives him a hug.
8. Grant blitzes off the right side. Bubble screen to DHB to the blitz. Complete and Heyward-Bey takes off downfield. Wild nudges him out of bounds.
9. Angle route to Archer. Green tracks it well and allows the catch but sticks out an arm, grabbing Archer’s jersey and stopping him.
10. Murphy quick screen to Phillips. Clear misses the block (thanks Mark, who sat next to us and pointed this out!) and gets another talking to from Daniel.
11. Murphy forces a throw to Coates on an out. Moats, dropping into coverage, bats it away. Murphy needs to be reading defenders, learning to get off his second read.
12. Murphy tries to complete the pass to Clear on a dig. Throw is low and away and Lawrence Timmons had excellent coverage.
Fourth 11 on 11
1. Love this play by Shayon Green. Disciplined, doesn’t over pursue the Bell run away from him, but once he knows there’s no chance of a cutback, he closes in and wraps up the back.
2. Roethlisberger tries to hit Heyward-Bey on a post. DHB goes up with one-hand but can’t haul it in. Tough play. Webb on the coverage.
3. Green throws Archer to the ground on this draw to the back.
4. Defense has fantastic coverage all around. Ben tries to hit Archer but the throw is low and the back can’t get under it. Incomplete.
5. Shazier rushes off the right edge. Ben complete to Clear in the middle of the end zone. Timmons with the coverage. Kinda surprised the linebacker didn’t break this one up.
6. Again, blanket coverage in the secondary. Nothing there for Ben. Will Allen would’ve had the sack on a safety blitz. Checkdown to Bell.
7. Clear responds with a positive play as a run blocker, sealing Geathers to the inside and helping to spring Stingily on a long run. Darby makes the tackle short of the goalline.
8. Murphy lines up in the slot. Two way screen. Landry hits Archer. Darby hits him right away, lowering the shoulder and sending the tiny back sprawling to the ground.
9. Jones to Gardner on a drag. L.T. Walton dropped into coverage.
10. Tyler Murphy now in at QB. Handoff to Stingily.
11. Murphy now lined up in the slot, back and forth we go. Green spins off of Villanueva and brings Chisholm down. Technique isn’t ideal but hey, he’s making plays out there.
12. Murphy at QB. Keeps the ball, pulling it out of Chisholm’s belly. Quick whistle from the coaches.
Fifth 11 on 11
1. Two minute period with the first team offense, who were given only one timeout by Tomlin.
2. Ben complete to DHB. Ryan Shazier lined up like he was blitzing off the right edge but dropped into a hook zone.
3. Ben throws this pass off his back foot and it hangs in the air. Blake knocks it down. Moats beat Gilbert real bad off the edge.
4. Roethlisberger makes up for it by throwing on a rope to DHB down the left side, who has two steps on B.W. Webb. Should be a catch and score. Ball lands in Heyward-Bey’s arms, he almost has it, and then it somehow pops out. Ugh.
5. Ben complete to Brown on a short dig.
6. Roethlisberger pulls a Dan Marino, faking the spike and hitting AB on a quick speed out.
7. Ben’s throw is too high for Goodwin, who leapt as high as he could for it. You know it’s overthrown when the 40+ inch vertical Goodwin can’t get a fingernail on the ball.
8. Ben complete to Brown on a quick curl.
9. Roethlisberger spikes it. Tomlin calls out to him, “Way to hold onto that TO, 7!”
10. Webb and Blake outside with Gay in the slot. Pocket collapses on Ben, whose pass is behind Goodwin.
11. Ben fires 25-30 yards downfield to Goodwin, running a skinny post down the seam. Just couldn’t get his feet in. Incomplete in the back of the end zone. Jon told me Howard Jones had great hand use against Beachum, and in a rare moment, the left tackle fell to the ground.
12. 4th down. Ben to Brown over the middle, colliding with Robert Golden. Golden crumples to the ground and right away, it looks bad. Players audibly upset, several F bombs, including I think from AB. Golden was able to walk off under his own power, though in a great leadership moment, Cam Heyward had his arm under him just to make sure he got back to the sideline ok. He did and Heyward pivoted away to job back to the huddle. All class. Golden would be carted off moments later.
13. Roethlisberger throws it on the money to AB on an out route to the left front pylon. Ball there just as Ab got his head around. Webb had no chance to make a play on the ball. The first team is successful.
Sixth 11 on 11
1. Second-team offense’s turn in the hurry up. Tomlin informs to Landry Jones he has two timeouts.
2. Jones’ pass to Murphy on a drag is incomplete. Boykin broke it up.
3. Blitz. Screen to Stingily. Walton with a heads up play, seeing screen and following the runner, immediately making the tackle for a loss.
4. Dupree beats Kelvin Palmer, who is running with the two’s – Van Dyk looked fine on the sideline – off the edge. Jones checks to Stingily who gets LIT UP, and I mean a bone-crushing NFL Blitz type hit, on the rookie back.
This is why I don’t play football. Because people like Vince Williams play football. And they will hurt me.
5. To his credit, Stingily got back up and stayed after practice, working on getting a few extra reps. Dude took some blows and didn’t duck out. Just kept working.
6. False start. Don’t know on who.
7. It is 4th down but Jones just chucks one up in triple coverage. Kevin Fogg leaps and picks the pass off.
– If you’re counting, the first team offense marched downfield to score. The second-team offense lost 7 yards and threw a pick. Yuck.
Twitter Fan Question
“Hey guys, how has Isaiah Lewis looked at Safety?”
Lewis is your classic in-the-box thumper who has strung together several physical practices. Question if he’s a good enough athlete to make the practice squad. Remember Ross Scheuerman beating him to the edge and when I see Lewis in drills, I see a safety who is pretty stiff. Lewis is Jordan Dangerfield-like and that isn’t a glowing compliment. Maybe Lewis makes the PS but I’d take Wild and Darby over him right now. Things could still change.
Mitch Hedberg Joke Of The Day
“Wearing a turtleneck is like being strangled by a really weak guy.”
Let’s Talk About…
…politics. Ok, let’s not actually do that because that is an objectively terrible idea. But I want to tell you about who I plan on voting for in the 2016 Presidential Election.
The one and only Michael Bickelmeyer.
I say this for one powerful reason. Only Bickelmeyer has the Presidential footballs to bring peace back to this world.
How? With his invention, “A Gift For Children.”
That is literally what it’s called. A. Gift. For. Children. It’s right there in the patent.
Sounds…interesting? What does this do?
At least it’s well intentioned. “Keep families together without separation” seems oddly specific but “guard the free world.” I’ll bite, (future) Mr. President. How does it work?
In the same way you killed that ant with a magnifying glass because you and your friends got bored, Bickelmeyer wants to combat terrorism with lasers beamed down from the freakin’ sun.
I have…no words. It’s so bizarrely stupid devoid of any logic that I actually want to see it work. There’s your typical off the wall political stories and then there’s…this. It’s magical. I bet the concept was originally scribbled on a napkin in crayon.
Bickelmeyer ’16! Let’s make this happen, people!
SVC Is Beautiful
View walking into the campus today. Absolutely gorgeous. Perfect weather, too.