Final three days. Day Sixteen and I’ll tell ya what, today was a weird one. We’ll cover it throughout the post but with the rain, new plays, quarterbacks getting hit in the eye, and fights, this day had it all.
– Injury roundup. Vince Williams, Lawrence Timmons, Josh Harris, David Nelson, and C.J. Goodwin all remain out. Heath Miller seemed to get a day of rest. Didn’t practice but spent part of practice jogging on the middle field. Jordan Zumwalt was on the field to start practice., still out with his groin injury. The team would later announced that he’s been waived/injured, the second time he’s been sent to IR in as many years.
Cameron Clear is still out with his knee injury. He’s off the one crutch he was reportedly on, but walking with a noticeable limp and a black compression sleeve running down his right leg.
Steve McLendon, Stephon Tuitt, and Ross Ventrone all were back in pads. Ventrone was not in team drills while Tuitt participated. Not sure about McLendon. I don’t think he did. Bruce Gradkowski was a full go, throwing in team drills for the first time in camp.
– Rookie running back Braylon Heard was officially the first player onto the field today, walking out at 2:38 PM.
– Brad Wing, Dri Archer, and Greg Warren all walked down together. The three best friends that anyone could have, the three best friends…
– Return line: Kenzel Doe, Brandon Boykin, Jarrod West, Dri Archer, and Markus Wheaton.
– Watching the tight ends on the chute/sled again. Ray Hamilton still doesn’t generate much power but he does seem to be doing a better job of staying low.
– For house-keeping purposes, since the team is down to three quarterbacks, Tyler Murphy stuck with the receivers all day. No reps in individual or team at QB.
– Punter hangtimes!
Brad Wing: 4.01, 4.66, 4.64, 4.84, 3.36, 3.99, 4.67
Jordan Berry: 5.00, 4.07, 4.60, 4.66, 4.84, 4.99, 4.44.
Wing continued to get better distance and Berry shanked one of his but the rookie punter is consistently generating better hangtime.
– The returners in this drill. Archer, Doe, West, and even Brandon Boykin fielded one.
– Darrius Heyward-Bey, the special team demon that he is, chased a ball down and swatted it back before it could roll into the end zone. That’s where his speed wins. Gets downfield in a hurry and can do things like that.
– The rain kicked us all out of the bleachers, leaving many people to go back to their cars for the storm to pass. The benefit to this is you can hear the coaches on the field so much better.
– Punters were all over the place. Working on kicking out of their own end zone and at the opponent’s 49, attempting to pin the ball deep. Heard Mike Tomlin say to Jordan Berry, “29 yard net, I don’t like,” making it very clear that he didn’t want to see a touchback.
– Danny Smith…man, you just have to be in awe of this guy. No one around, you can hear him like it’s a personal conversation.
Doran Grant sprinted down the field as a gunner but slowed up too early, leading Smith to call out, “Go get it! Don’t break down!”
Gerod Holliman was in the area when this next exchange happened but I’m pretty sure Smith’s comments were directed at Grant. They’re talking at a distance, Grant apparently is trying to get Smith off his case, saying he understands, leading the Steelers’ special team coach to respond.
“You ain’t got s*** ’till you do it!”
– Robert Golden continued to run as first team upback. Alden Darby, not Ian Wild like yesterday, was the second-teamer. Could just be rotating those guys since they’ve done a good job. We’ll see who gets the spot against the Green Bay Packers. It’s hard to ignore how vocal Darby is – might have to give the spot to him.
– Anthony Chickillo did please Smith, the backside defender while running down a punt. Smith compliments him like a true special teams coach.
“Way to stay square on the backside Chic. That was beautiful. That’s what s*** looks like.”
– OL/DL spent a lot of time in stunt pickup and I normally don’t log those play-by-play. The whole Bud Dupree fight also sapped them of valuable time and reps, so there’s only a couple notes of one-on-one I have today. Much less than the usual.
1. Kevin Whimpey did a pretty good job to mirror Chickillo’s counter to the inside.
2. Miles Dieffenbach initially absorbs Daniel McCullers but gets overextended. Angry, or just because he can, McCullers tosses the rookie down. Makes it look so easy.
3. They reset and McCullers gets overextended, falling to the ground. Nice revenge for Dieffenbach.
4. Howard Jones wins inside against Kelvin Palmer.
– Took some time to watch the first set of one-on-ones. Just a couple of notes.
– Will Johnson sets his hips well as a run blocker. Always playing with correct technique. Gets low and keeps his feet moving on contact. Allows him to win against bigger defenders.
– Bud Dupree made Ray Hamilton look silly on their first rep, the tight end lunging and Dupree swimming over to win easily. But Hamilton responded well on the next two reps, riding him out on the second rep and holding his own on the third.
– Howard Jones just has no strength at the POA. The best he can do is stalemate. Which isn’t the worst thing in the world but you know he’ll get knocked around a lot and won’t produce a lot of positive plays as an edge defender. Jesse James stuck to him without issue, though the rookie tight end has to be careful of not getting overextended.
– Was impressed by Chickillo, who held his own against Matt Spaeth on three straight reps. Once, as Spaeth tried to seal the outside, Chickillo dipped under to the inside and won to get the edge.
– Then I looked at the receivers for a few moments. Jordan Sullen plays the pocket well, broke up a fade to Shakim Phillips in the end zone, but he’s slow and stiff, bad qualities for a corner.
– On the last rep, Alden Darby knocked away the ball from Kenzel Doe, running a short out to the front, right pylon. Doe took exception to it, looking to start a fight. Keep in mind Doe is 5’7 175. Darby is…a little bigger. It’s like me fighting McCullers. You just don’t do it.
First 11 on 11
1. As the defensive backs came together after individual work, they – I think led by William Gay – broke down their huddle like it was a real game. Every guy was amped. I’m not sure what led them to become so spirited but I loved to see it.
The team went through their seven shots series, which is totally normal. The plays, however, were anything but. Definitely felt like these were two-point conversion only plays.
I saw Alejandro Villanueva in the huddle, his 6’9 frame is impossible to miss, and immediately thought he was replacing Marcus Gilbert. Then I see Gilbert and realize Villanueva is lining up as the EMOL, even outside Matt Spaeth, as the tackle eligible. The Steelers shift and Villanueva is split out wide along the right sideline with Roosevelt Nix in the slot next to him. Jesse James is out wide to the left side with Le’Veon Bell in the slot. No Antonio Brown, no Markus Wheaton, no Martavis Bryant. Absolutely wild formation.
What we’re all hoping for happens. Ben Roethlisberger throws the fade to Villanueva, covered by Will Allen. The 6’9 340 pound tackle tries to leap over Allen but can’t quite haul the pass in, and Allen bats it away.
2. Roethlisberger with a half roll to the right and shovels it to Will Johnson, who scores. Another wrinkle. Touchdown.
3. DeAngelo Williams split out wide to the right. Roethlisberger rifles a slant to Darrius Heyward-Bey, who makes the grab. William Gay can’t knock it out in time. Touchdown.
4. Villanueva again comes in as a tackle eligible. Looks like Lead Strong with Nix blocking to his side as Villanueva seals down but Williams cuts left and runs into a pile. Ian Wild was one of the first to meet him, well short of the end zone.
5. Bruce Gradkowski in at QB. Tyler Murphy behind him in a pistol look, another first, before being motioned out. Gradkowski throws a fade to Murphy, the pass is a little flat and Brandon Boykin has great coverage, but Murphy finds it and plucks the ball over Boykin’s left shoulder. Touchdown.
6. Gradkowski literally sprints out to talk to Shakim Phillips and we’ve officially hit DEFCON 5 levels of weird. Everything resumes like normal and Gradkowski’s throw is a little behind Jesse James on a quick out route to the left. Boykin also provided good coverage and helped disrupt James, who made a good effort but couldn’t bring the ball to the ground.
After the play, Todd Haley laid into Phillips, getting on his case for whatever mental mistake he made.
7. Second-team line comes in. Palmer-Wallace-Hubbard-Finney-Villanueva. Gradkowski in the pistol with Archer behind. Tyler Murphy is in the slot the left. On the snap, Murphy runs behind the formation to leak out into the right flat. Same concept as Markus Wheaton’s catch against the Kansas City Chiefs last year, if you happen to remember it. But he’s covered and Gradkowski is forced to scramble to his left to allude the incoming pressure. He fires a bullet to Darrius Heyward-Bey underneath the goal posts but the receiver, sigh, drops it.
Second 11 on 11
1. Inside zone to Jawon Chisholm. He finds a crease and sprints downfield, outrunning Shamarko Thomas and Mike Mitchell 65+ yards into the end zone. A fan taunts Mitchell, “you just got burned!”
Chisholm gets a chest bump from Le’Veon Bell as the rookie jogs back.
2. Braylon Heard totes the rock off the left side. Sean Spence scrapes and fills the edge, forcing Heard inside and into a swarm of bodies. He gets knocked to the ground. One of the offensive lineman picks Heard up by the jersey and props him up, propelling Heard to finish the run.
3. Chisholm gets the carry. Tackled, and this is a full tackling drill, by Cam Thomas.
4. James Harrsion lines up over the playside A gap. Outside zone to Heard on the right side.
5. Power O, David DeCastro and Roosevelt Nix pull from right to left. Cortez Allen sheds the block to make a diving tackle on Chisholm along the sideline.
6. Some apparent miscommunication on a stretch play to the right between Gradkowski and Heard. Busted play.
7. Split zone with the tight end pulling backside. Big ‘ol Roosevelt Nix gets the carry. Finds a crease until Alden Darby flies across and makes a good open field tackle.
8. Chisholm on the carry. L.T. Walton and others in on the tackle at the line. Darby makes a half-hearted leap, shoulder first, into B.J Finney at the end of the play, causing the rookie lineman to give him a “WTF!?” glare.
9. Robert Golden and Cam Thomas combine to bring down Heard.
10. Heard breaks into the second level. For the second time this period, Darby makes the open field tackle.
11. B.J Finney pulls and kicks out Gerod Holliman while Nix pops Ian Wild in the hole with a big CRACK. Chisholm takes off down the left side until Jordan Dangerfield drags him down.
12. Matt Conrath swims Reese Dismukes and Anthony Chickillo, I’m not sure how, breaks through the line to stop Archer well behind the line.
13. Bud Dupree sheds Jesse James, tackling Heard in the backfield.
14. Kelvin Palmer does a good job to seal Shayon Green inside, giving Archer the edge. He sprints off down the left sideline before Gerod Holliman leans his helmet into the back, giving him an extra shove out of bounds.
15. Terence Garvin does a great job to shed Nix’s block, making a diving tackle on Chisholm.
Third 11 on 11
1. Jarvis Jones drops into coverage on this Ben Roethlisberger pass. Ben waits for Will Johnson to cross into the open window past him, drilling him on a slant. Gay can’t break it up despite good coverage.
2. Cortez Allen blitzes but is picked up well. Ben fires a corner route to Martavis Bryant. Pass is a little too far in front and it hits the ground two steps in front of the receiver. Mike Mitchell had the underneath coverage, squeezing the throw.
3. Playaction. Will Johnson gets beat around the edge. Not sure by who. Ben to Bryant incomplete on a deep right out.
4. Roethlisberger with the best throw of the day. Nine right deeeeep down the left sideline, hitting DHB in stride over Cortez Allen for a long touchdown.
5. Playaction. Another deep ball from Ben, who overshoots Martavis Bryant down the right hash. Brown was open along the left side and had Gay beat by three steps, throwing his hands up in the air in frustration after the pass fell incomplete.
6. Curl from Ben to DHB on the left side in front of Gay.
7. Ben’s 10 yard curl to Archer goes through his hands. Incomplete.
8. Shakim Phillips, Tyler Murphy out wide with Sammie Coates in the slot. Sprint right. Landry Jones hits Coates in the right flat. Golden closes and finishes with a thud tackle.
9. Pistol with Jones and Heard. Ian Wild gets pressure off the edge. Jones climbs the pocket well but there’s nothing there for him. Whistle to kill the play blows as Jones releases it. Pass is low for Coates, who can’t quite get under the pass.
10. B.W. Webb giving Archer quite a cushion. Jones takes advantage and hits Archer on a quick throw and catch.
11. Howard Jones dips Mitchell Van Dyk off the edge. Jones complete to Murphy down the right hash. Darby finishes by putting him into the ground with his left shoulder.
12. Daniel McCullers collapses the pocket, running two lineman back. Coates makes a nice diving catch from Jones, running away from Dangerfield.
Fourth 11 on 11
1. Roethlisberger complete on a curl to Brown. Sean Spence can’t close in time.
2. Tuitt/Heyward the nickel ends. Nothing around for Ben, who chucks the ball away and out of bounds.
3. Ben and Bryant don’t appear to be on the same page. Cortez Allen nearly comes away with the interception. Brown again is frustrated, throwing his hands in the air.
4. Big Ben in the pistol with Williams behind him. Big hole for the back on a draw.
5. Roethlisberger tries to throw a corner route to DHB. Pass is just off the mark and glances off the receiver’s right hand. Wouldn’t call it a drop. Brandon Boykin was closing in, too.
6. Will Johnson chips off the line. #7 complete to Wheaton. This is when the fight breaks out. Don’t know how it started but a big pile is created. Kelvin Beachum and Cam Heyward are at the bottom of everything. Dupree has to be held back by James Harrison.
Coaches yell out, “Next rep!”
7. Jesse James chips and then leaks underneath, catching a curl.
8. Jones hits DHB on a slant. Kevin Fogg had good coverage, though.
9. Landry Jones with a smart checkdown to Archer, the back sidestepping Wild and getting upfield.
10. Murphy in the slot with Phillips and Coates out wide. #3 complete to Murphy to the seam, but the pass is tipped away by Fogg, who always seems to be around the ball.
11. Draw to Archer. Joe Kruger gets off a block and makes the tackle. Wild came up gimpy with a right leg injury but would be ok.
12. Will Johnson with a good lead block on this Lead Strong. Chisholm with the carry.
At this point, the team breaks to go run 7 on 7 and OL/DL + OLB. I always pay attention to the latter and I’m peering through my binoculars since they always run this on the middle field. Just at that moment, I see Ramon Foster pointing and going after Dupree. Dupree has to be held back by several players. The rookie outside linebacker won’t relent and it gets to the point where Mike Tomlin physically shoves him, knocking him back two steps, and kicks him out of the drill, sending him to the 7 on 7 group across the field. So crazy.
James Harrison would eventually talk to Dupree. Would have loved to been a fly on the wall.
Fifth 11 on 11
1. Two-minute drill, though I think Tomlin put only 40 seconds on the clock. Smash route to Bryant from Roethlisberger on a curl finds the soft spot in the defense’s Cover 2, between Antwon Blake and Shamarko Thomas.
2. Think it was a fake spike from Ben to Bryant. Incomplete.
3. I don’t know what happened but I think something hit Ben in the eye just as he takes the snap. Immediately rips off his helmet and gets an eye drop from John Norwig, the head trainer. There was a report Jarvis poked him. That could be true but I’m pretty sure it was a shotgun snap and Jarvis wasn’t near him. Like I said, weird day.
4. Landry Jones comes in and complete to Wheaton on a curl.
5. Jones checkdown to Bell.
6. Fourth down. Heyward drops into coverage but just misses knocking away Jones’ throw, a completion on a slant to Brown in front of Blake.
7. Jones spike.
8. They bring the field goal unit out and Garrett Hartley hits a 46 yarder.
Sixth 11 on 11
1. Bud Dupree in at LOLB. Jones complete on a dig to Coates versus Boykin.
2. Jones spike.
3. Villanueva seals Dupree up the arc. Jones complete to Williams. Garvin ends it with a thud.
4. Heavy blitz from the defense. Jones’ attempt to Coates falls incomplete.
5. 4th and 6. Double A gap blitz. Jones complete to Tyler Murphy along the left hash.
6. Jones spike.
7. Matt Conrath does a nice job of collapsing the pocket. Jones misses terribly to the left flat to D-Will.
8. Jones complete to Jesse James on a curl.
9. Field goal unit is brought up. Hartley nails a 52 yarder, right between the uprights, with a couple yards to spare.
Mitch Hedberg Joke Of The Day
“I’m against picketing, but I don’t know how to show it.”
Let’s Talk About…
…quotes. What’s your favorite? Break out that Pinterest board, people!
Mine from Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
Twitter Fan Question
In response to the Dupree incident, @ukwildcatsfan27 says…
“I love Bud Dupree but this can’t be a good sign. Sometimes rookies even 1st rounders need to know when to shut up.”
You’re right that Dupree needs to shut up. The fight happened, you yell it out, and move on. Don’t hold a grudge from drill to drill. But in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t mean much. We’re on Day 16 of camp. It was hot. They got poured on. Cabin fever. Not worth making a big deal out of.
View from the top of the bleachers.