Training Camp Diary: Day Two

A little soggy, drying out as I type this, but a really fun day of practice. And hey, that’s all that matters. Like yesterday, with the team not in in full pads and no contact allowed, my goal was to look at the positions I missed yesterday and get a feel for the depth chart to start the preseason. Let’s not waste any time and get to the notes.

– Like Mike Tomlin said today, Shamarko Thomas missed with an illness. Xavier Grimble was back at practice and participated fully, an obviously excellent sign.

Shakim Phillips and Ladarius Green still did light work on the side. Devaunte Sigler did several sprints on the turf field, accompanied by trainer John Norwig, and then spent the rest of practice watching the DL go through individual work. It’s like watching everyone else eat cake at your birthday. Hopefully he’s back tomorrow.

– I think we have our new training camp BFFs. Demarcus Ayers and Sammie Coates were the first pair down St. Vincent’s stairs today.

Cody Wallace and Alejandro Villanueva soon followed. Alan Faneca spent a good portion before practice talking to the backup linemen. Fancea will serve as an assistant for the team throughout camp.

Mike Munchak’s assistant Shaun Sarrett, well respected in that room, trotted down the stairs with the offensive line.

– Little shakeup in the offensive line today. Ryan Harris got the nod as the starting left tackle. The rest of the first team remained the same.

The second team OL: Alejandro Villanueva-B.J. Finney-Cody Wallace-Chris Hubbard-Jerald Hawkins

Third Team OL: Brian Mihalik-Cole Manhart-Quinton Schooley-Matt Feiler-Jerald Hawkins

So Finney and Hubbard have already flipped. We’ll see if that’s an every day occurrence.

– You can hear the “pop” David Johnson generates on the sleds. Technician who has carved out an NFL role as a blocker. Paul Lang and Mandel Dixon improved from yesterday but it looks like Dixon is still having trouble with his placement, shooting too high. Again, he was asked to repeat the drill.

– Because of all the rain, the defense warmed up and did individual work on the near field, the offense and defense splitting it in half. So a nice opportunity to see those guys work up close as opposed to them being on the far field. Not a ton to glean but a couple of notes.

You can see how “springy” Donald Washington is, who recorded a 45 inch vertical at the 2009 Combine. Just loads up and shoots into the air, even at a half jog.

– The “first group” of receivers. Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Eli Rogers, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Sammie Coates. The rest worked in the second group, catching from Dustin Vaughan.

– For the TL;DR people. Coates had the best day of everyone. It started out with him rounding a slant and what looked like Todd Haley telling him to keep his arms tight and keep pumping through the route. Coates corrected it the next rep and made a nice catch off his hip, extending away from his body just enough to qualify it as a tough catch.

– I like Marcus Tucker’s route running ability. On air, at least. Crisp, fluid, and doesn’t drift out of his break.

– Xavier Grimble sure can make some Madden-like catches. Dude has a monster catch radius. Even the half-speed plays look impressive. He had a one-handed, behind-the-back grab on a short seam route in “on air” duty.

– Some good ‘ol special teams notes for the eccentric crowd out there.

Robert Golden still functioned as the starting upback and early indications are he’ll keep that job, even if he’s named as the starting safety. Roosevelt Nix was the left wing and Jordan Dangerfield was the right wing. Brandon Brown-Dukes appeared to serve as the backup to Golden.

Have just a couple hangtimes from Jordan Berry and Will Monday, who got to show off their leg for the first time of camp. As always, these are unofficial.

Jordan Berry: 4.16, 4.43, 4.76, 4.28, 4.71, 3.69
Will Monday: 4.48, 3.97, 4.61

Berry seemed to have better hangtime and placement.

– Tomlin sure gave Eli Rogers a lot of praise on punt return duty. Rogers field the ball cleanly, got under it with control, and was ready to make his first move initially after securing the football.

“Good, very good,” Tomlin called out one time.

“Way to get square, E!” Tomlin barked out another.

– The return group was the same as yesterday, by the way. Rogers, Demarcus Ayers, Levi Norwood, and Markus Wheaton.

Stephon Tuitt and Jesse James were the starting left and right wing on field goals. Xavier Grimble ad David Johnson the backups with Arthur Moats and Anthony Chickillo the third-teamers. Cam Heyward was also on the first team line.

– It was just 7 on 7s but Sammie Coates was burning all the backup corners. He blew by Montell Garner, who stuck his eyes into the backfield way too early, and would’ve had a long catch down the right sideline had the pass not been a little floaty and behind.

To Garner’s credit, after giving up initial separation, he worked hard to get back in-phase and give himself a chance to make a play on the ball.

Coates followed it up by getting a step on Donald Washington and fully extending out down the left sideline for a spectacular grab. Highlight of the day.

He then burned Al-Hajj Shabazz on his next chance, though the pass fell incomplete.

– After practice tidbits but when the final whistle sounds, practice isn’t over to most of these young guys. So many guys putting in extra work and you gotta love to see that.

Doran Grant, Sean Davis, and Artie Burns all worked with Carnell Lake on their initial punch and jam off the line of scrimmage. Senquez Golson worked with another group.

Dustin Vaughan threw to Issac Blakeney and Ayers.

Anthony Chickillo worked with a coach on his club/rip on a bag. Cam Heyward came over and quickly motioned some coaching points, again showing the true leader he is.

No OL/DL or one-on-ones today so let’s get into the 11 on 11 sessions.

First Session

Seven shots, like usual, though because the field was so slick, especially the back of the end zone, Tomlin moved the line of scrimmage to the ten. The goal line then became the back of the end zone.

1. Motion Le’Veon Bell into an empty set. Xavier Grimble getting the nod in the team’s 11 personnel, an interesting nugget. Ben Roethlisberger looks to throw the speed out to Antonio Brown but the ball was low, perhaps a little slick, and Brown can’t bring it off the ground.

2. Three receiver set with Brown and Darrius Heyward-Bey on the outside and Eli Rogers in the slot. Senquez Golson continued to work as the first team nickel with Ross Cockrell at LCB and William Gay at RCB. Ben pumps to his right and then checks left to Bell, who brings in the pass for a “touchdown.”

3. Javon Hargrave coming in as second team nose. Gay blanketed AB but Ben still completed the pass to the league’s best receiver.

4. Second team corners coming in. Doran Grant at LCB, Artie Burns RCB, and Montell Garner in the slot. Empty set, again with Grimble in at tight end. Roethlisberger going to his third read, starting left and scanning back to the right to hit Brown on a pivot route, working away from Grant. Touchdown.

5. Stacked Sammie Coates and Levi Norwood to the right. Coates’ vertical release creates a rub to Norwood, who runs a slant and quickly hauls in a pass from Landry Jones.

6. Tyler Matakevich and Steven Johnson the third-team inside linebackers. Jones fires to the right side but the pass hits the ground. Garner showed a lot of effort with a full extension attempt, though didn’t even get a hand on the football.

7. Jordan Zumwalt and Mike Reilly at outside linebacker (I mean it about Zumwalt this time, too.). Jones with a fade right to the tall Blakeney. Garner has good coverage and the pass bounces off Blakeney’s left fingertips.

Second Session 

1. Roethlisberger begins the series by hitting an “over” route to Eli Rogers. Wasn’t the initial read by William Gay had solid coverage down the sideline vs AB.

2. Grimble and Nix into the lineup with Nix lined up on-ball. Brown crosses the linebacker as he expands to the flat and Ben hums a throw into his chest, Brown bringing it into his body and falling to the ground. Maybe had a little more heat than he was expecting.

3. Brown, DHB, Markus Wheaton in the slot. Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt in nickel. Lawrence Timmons and Senquez Golson blitz, Golson rushing from his slot spot. He comes in free and Roethlisberger flips a screen left to David Johnson, who rumbles down the seam.

4. Hargrave and Ricardo Mathews in nickel, a common theme these two days. Brown has a couple steps on Cockrell down the right side but Ben’s throw is too far.

5. Vince Williams and L.J. Fort the second-team inside linebackers. Landry Jones’ pass complete to Norwood. Doran Grant closed but couldn’t play the pocket.

6. Demarcus Ayers lines up in the slot, covered by Garner, and runs an out route. Jones looks to float a ball over his shoulder and Ayers tries his best, drifting back and trying to track the football. But it’s too far behind and his diving effort is to no avail. Incomplete.

7. Artie Burns blitz from his RCB spot. Villanueva alertly picks him up and grabs onto him, pulling his jersey up and nearly off. Jones passes complete to Nix.

8. Bruce Gradkowski finds Brown-Dukes underneath.

9. Matakevich and Johnson third team ILB. Anthony Chickillo at LOLB, Travis Feeney at ROLB. Sean Davis third-team slot corner with Jacob Hagen and Jordan Dangerfield at safety. Gradkowski again checks it to Richardson.

10. Ayers again in the slot. Gradkowski looks for Coates on a comeback to the left side but Donald Washington makes a nice read, gets out of his pedal quickly, and jumps in front of the throw, batting it away. Good play.

11. Canaan Severin gets his first rep in the slot I saw. Defensive line: Johnny Maxey/Roy Philon/Caushaud Lyons. Dustin Vaughan complete to Levi Norwood on the left side.

12. This time, Garner and Washington are the outside corners with Davis in the slot. Vaughan looks for Brandon Johnson but it’s underthrown.

13. Steven Johnson blitzes. Vaughan quickly finds Marcus Tucker but Artie Burns is right there, unable to punch the ball out, but grabbing Tucker around the neck and pulling him to the ground. Artie Burns, football’s chiropractor.

14. Jordan Zumwalt/Mike Reilly at OLB. Vaughan complete to Brown-Dukes in the right flat, though BBD has trouble adjusting to the football and getting upfield. Did make the catch though.

15. Ryan Shazier blitzes. Vaughan’s throw is incomplete on the left side to Ayers, running a drag route across the field.

Third Session

1. Pistol formation. DHB and Coates the receivers. Jones at QB. Handoff to Le’Veon Bell up the middle.

2. Trips bunch left. Jones with appropriate touch to float his throw over Gay and DHB makes a nice adjustment to the football along the left sideline, a sea of defensive players parting to get out of the way.

3. First team corners, Cockrell/Gay/Golson in the slot. Trips bunch right. Hank concept with Jones hitting Brown, sitting down over the middle. Brown finishes the rep, sprint to the end zone, and Heyward gives chase the entire way.

4. Eli Rogers in the slot. Coates beats Cockrell inside on a dig and Jones finds him for a nice completion.

5. Draw to Fitzgerald Toussaint. That’s all I got, sorry ya’ll.

6. Ayers in the slot. Sean Davis and Ross Ventrone at safety, Ventrone elevated to the second team with Shark out. Maurkice Pouncey’s snap is low and Jones has to pick it off the ground, hurriedly giving the ball to Brown-Dukes.

7. Ayers in the slot with Norwood and Coates on the outside. McCullers runs Chris Hubbard into the pocket and Gradkowski unloads a pretty throw down the right side. Sammie Coates tracks it all the way, bringing the football in over his left shoulder working against Grant, who has been picked on quite a bit these first two days.

8. Gradkowski checks left to Toussaint. Saw Travis Feeney beat Jerald Hawkins off the edge.

9. Feeney and Reilly are the OLB pairing. Lead strong with Richardson toting the rock. L.T. Walton looked to fill his lane well.

10.. Giorgio Newberry at RE, Johnny Maxey on the left side. Gradkowski another checkdown to Richardson on the right side.

11. Lavon Hooks in at nose tackle. Cameron Stingily gets his first carry of the day.

12. Brian Mihalik jumps in as the second team right tackle, showing some rotation with Hawkins. Pocket collapses on Vaughan, who steps through the mess and hits Paul Lang underneath.

13. Third team OL in. Mihalik flips to left tackle, Hawkins comes in at right. Hargrave knifes through Quinton Schooley into the backfield. Would’ve had Brandon Johnson for a TFL had he been permitted to tackle.

14. Vaughan hits Jesse James down the seam.

15. Hargrave and Mathews in the nickel. Tucker and Coates and Rogers in the slot. Ray Vinopal and Jacob Hagen at safety. Vaughan Scott Norwood’s it, missing wide right on his pass intended for Stingily.

Fourth Session

1. Inside zone to Bell on the right. Good penetration by Hargrave, who spills the run.

2. Tuitt/Hargrave/Mathews along the defensive line. Inside zone to DeAngelo Williams off the left side.

3. McCullers and Walton as a new nickel pairing. First trap play I’ve seen of camp, pulling right to left. Robert Golden does a nice job as the force defender, not letting Eli Rogers seal him. Bell cuts off DeCastro’s inside hip and into the teeth of the defense.

4. Looks like James Harrison’s day is done and Anthony Chickillo is elevated to 2nd team ROLB. Jones playaction, skying a throw to Rosie Nix on the left side. Nix shows some limberness, toe-tapping himself in bounds and Ryan Shazier pushes him out of bounds.

5. Roethilsberger hits Brown on a curl. Ryan Harris seals Chickillo up the arc.

6. AB, Coates, Rogers in the slot. Another over route by Rogers but Ben’s pass is a tad high and glances off Rogers’ fingers. Ricochets to Ventrone who can’t bring in the pick, the ball flipping another five yards back.

7. Fort/Williams at inside linebacker. Looks like Lyons had a stuff at the line of scrimmage.

8. Brandon Brown-Dukes up the middle, VW swooping in.

9. Hargrave/Mathews as the nickel grouping. Feeney/Reily at OLB. Jones to Richardson to the left flat.

10. Feeney/Zumwalt at OLB. Ventrone/Dangerfield at safety. Richardson gets the carry up the middle.

11. Maxey/Hooks/Newberry in at the DL. Jones playaction and hits Norwood, who double-clutches but brings the pass in. Dangerfield tries to avoid him but still lightly collides and Norwood goes to the ground.

12. Third and long. Maybe a new wrinkle from Pittsburgh? Matakevich lined up LOLB and it looked like the DL had shifted to that side too, with a 4i and one tech. Usually they’re shifted away from the overload. Will have to monitor it the next few days and the first game.

Matakevich drops into coverage and Vaughan hits Brown-Dukes.

13. Walton/Hargrave/Mathews the DL pairing. Grant/Burns at CB. Inside zone to Brandon Johnson and Mathews does a solid job of knifing through into the backfield.

14. Richardson off the right side. Bounces to the perimeter where Shabazz is there for the “tackle.”

15. Looks like Heyward and Walton in nickel. Shazier does an excellent job of shedding his blocks and bear hugs Brown-Dukes.

– Quick shoutout to our food sponsor Touring Plans, who you should definitely check out if you’re ever planning a trip to the second most magical place on Earth (SVC being the first, of course), Disney. You can hit up their website here. 

Twitter Question Of The Day

They have mostly only attacked special teams in pieces through ramped things up today with more of a complete punt unit and full-fledged field goal and block team. I don’t have any notes on Matakevich going through any of those teams, though I could’ve easily missed it. Expect him to be involved there during the preseason. That’s his path to the team.

Coach McGuirk’s Best Quotes

“This is your intervention, Brendon. Come on, people, intervene, I don’t really know how these things work. What are you looking at me for? That’s it. Intervention over. Brendon, get off the drugs.”

2015 Steelers’ Highlight To Get You Amped For 2016

Chris Boswell’s first NFL field goal. Thank goodness the Steelers have The Boz.


St. Vincent College Is Beautiful Photo Of The Day

A little on the dreary side today but as pretty as ever.


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