I can only assume that tomorrow, the Pittsburgh Steelers will practice at 3 AM at Area 51. I’ll do my best to sneak in.
Yesterday was weird. Today was weirder. A little before 9 AM, the team sent out an alert that weather was pushing practice to Pittsburgh, closing it off for fans. About 90 minutes later, the news switched course and announced the Steelers would practice at SVC for 11 AM. So I woke up and saw that alert at 10:27 and by 10:42, I was off to camp. Got there around 11:40 and the team was already in individual work. So we’ll go from there in our notes.
Certainly do appreciate the Steelers’ staff doing their best to get the team to practice on-site and publicly today though clearly, everyone had to scramble to find out. People behind me were from Texas, another group from Memphis, who had come in yesterday but got washed out. The SVC staff were kind enough to call the hotel they stayed at to keep their guests in the loop.
But as I was leaving, there were several people walking in, about to get some unfortunate news that practice had just ended.
You know it’s a weird day when James Daniel isn’t wearing his straw hat and there’s no JUGS machine for Antonio Brown to catch with after practice.
The team practiced on the middle field today so it was a little bit tougher to watch them. The near field is pretty torn up and just not in good enough condition to practice on. The 50 yard line looks like a baseball infield.
– Injury roundup. Some good news, some bad news. Travis Feeney and Markus Wheaton were in full today though I believe Wheaton saw most of his reps early in practice. But the fact both were out there is great news.
Artie Burns wasn’t in team drills and didn’t wear pads but seemed to put in his most aggressive work in several days, doing some sprints by himself and with AB and then getting in work exploding out of his pedal with a coach towards the end. So I guess he is, to steal the Mike Tomlin term, “trending upwards.”
Out today included Bud Dupree, Jarvis Jones, and Jerald Hawkins. Dupree and Jones pulled some mini-sled throughout practice so they probably aren’t too far away. Hawkins had a big wrap on his right shoulder so now we know exactly which one is bothering him. Marcus Gilbert had a wrap slung over his left shoulder and was out today.
Newcomer numbers: OT Wade Hansen is wearing #69 (white jersey), NT Khaynin Mosley-Smith is wearing #69 (gold jersey), while CB Julian Wigham is sporting #33. OLB Jermauria Rasco, signed today, wore #45. Wigham and Rasco both immediately found work in team drills, I didn’t spot the other two in team, though they worked in individual.
Rasco left after the OL/DL session with an unknown injury, walking up the stairs accompanied by a trainer. Something upper body to use the hockey injury cloak. Could pull a David Nelson and be out just as quickly as he came in.
– Here were the first and second team offensive lines based on what I was able to observe today.
First Team: Alejandro Villanueva-Ramon Foster-Maurkice Pouncey-David DeCastro-Ryan Harris
Second Team: Chris Hubbard-Cole Manhart-Cody Wallace-B.J. Finney-Matt Feiler
Feiler was a tackle as Bloomsburg so this is his “natural” spot.
– Caught a little bit on one-on-ones.
Feeney and Paul Lang had a funny moment in one-on-ones, it was a run blocking drill, tangled up as Feeney nearly pulls Lang’s jersey over his helmet, turning him into a headless horsemen.
Feeney got several reps, he needs to catch up so much, and dusted Xavier Grimble once.
Rasco beat tight end Michael Cooper and then Keith Butler pulled the linebacker aside, showing how to leverage and then rip to shed the block.
– The wide receivers worked on just their releases for a lot of one-on-ones but got the quarterbacks involved late. Here are my notes.
1. The big-bodied Issac Blakeney ran an out route and boxed out Al-Hajj Shabazz to make the grab.
2. Levi Norwood with a lot of wasted motion off the line but Kevin White jumps outside and Norwood is able to make it cleanly upfield. Wins vertically but the pass is overthrown and incomplete.
3. Marcus Tucker welcomes Wigham to the NFL and smokes him off the line, winning with an outside release. But the ball seemed to hang in the air for eons and Wigham was able to recover, high-pointing and batting the ball away as Tucker spun around in the air, unable to complete the tip drill.
4. Rookie Sean Davis with a wrong-hand punch on Eli Rogers, inside hand on an inside release, and Rogers wins inside on a dig. But the pass is a thrown a bit behind and Rogers’ couldn’t make the grab as he adjusted back for it.
5. Poor Ross Cockrell. He plays it as well as you can, pinning Antonio Brown to the left sideline. But the ball is perfect (I assume it came from Ben Roethlisberger) and lands on AB’s outside shoulder for the catch.
6. Nice play from Sammie Coates, who smacks down Montell Garner’s hands at the line and swaps hips, winning vertically. Garner has knocked forward on the punch and had no chance to recover, #14 making an easy catch downfield.
7. Demarcus Ayers and Garner get tangled up on a dig route and the pass is incomplete. Ayers stayed on his butting, sitting up, and spent the next couple minutes flexing his right ankle. He would finally get taped up by the trainer and then finish out practice. Another annoying ankle injury but not one that limited his participation level.
8. Cobi Hamilton flashes his long speed and beats Shabazz vertically.
– OL/DL results. I did miss a couple reps so sorry for this not being 100% complete.
1. The robots were the quarterbacks here and I don’t think this robot “felt” the pressure and failed to step up. Rasco crashed into him but it was Villanueva who buried him into the ground and I give the left tackle the win here.
2. They go again and Villanueva has no issue catching Rasco’s rip.
3. Ramon Foster’s punch seemed a little early and Cam Heyward bull rushes through him, shedding him inside.
4. Daniel McCullers walks Cody Wallace back into the robot.
5. Guard David DeCastro seals Stephon Tuitt’s inside counter.
6. A nice win from Moats, who has showed a really effective speed bull rush in camp. Maybe learning from James Harrison. He gets under Ryan Harris’ pads and sheds him inside.
7. UDFA Johnny Maxey gets turned and Cole Manhart seals him upfield.
8. Rare win by Wallace against Javon Hargrave. The two circle the globe, working all the way up the arc, and Wallace is able to keep sliding the entire time. He gets a little anger out with a hard shove at the very end, knocking Hargrave forward and a bit off balance.
9. Poor Matt Feiler. He gets his first matchup against Heyward and Heyward whips him bad. Hard punch to knock Feiler off balanced and a clean win inside.
10. Decent battle between Chris Hubbard and Feeney, Feeney dipping under late in the rep.
11. Feiler saves face, sealing Devaunte Sigler.
12. Until the next rep when Lavon Hooks strings together a nice move, starting with a bull rush and then swimming over, knocking Feiler to the ground. Elicited some “oohs!” from the players and coaches.
13. Looked like Sigler tried a speed bull rush. Wade Hansen gives too much ground on his kickslide and Sigler is able to push him back.
14. Mosley-Smith shows some power on his bull rush but Hubbard is able to hang on. I’d call it a stalemate.
15. At this point, Travis Feeney is walking around and trips over the robot, falling down. He would be ok but the robots have made their first tackle.
16. Looks like Giorgio Newberry gets under Manhart for a rare win.
17. Should be an easy win for Wallace, especially after schooling Hargrave. But Maxey gets a decent ump and Wallace is late to move. Tries to seal him upfield but loses his balance, wiping out and falling into the grass and Maxey is able to corner and win.
– Just a couple of punter hangtimes.
Jordan Berry: 4.18, 3.54 (in the rain), 4.14, 5.01
Will Monday: 4.71, 3.96 (rain), 4.69, 4.94
– Ok, let’s get into the seven shots. Even on a day like today, this series is a constant.
1. Ben Roethlisberger pump fakes to his right and then hits Xavier Grimble underneath the goalposts for a touchdown.
2. Ben looks for another tight end, Jesse James, on an out cut but the pass is thrown wide and incomplete. Ryan Shazier had the coverage. I believe that’s the only session Shazier participated in as several players had “half days.”
3. ROLB comes free and Roethlisberger hits Antonio Brown on a quick out to the left working against William Gay. Touchdown.
4. Shotgun handoff to DeAngelo Williams who seems to fall across the goal line as the defenders pile up on him.
5. Landry Jones with a one step slant to David Johnson for a touchdown as Sean Davis comes in to wrap him up.
6. Landry Jones climbs the pocket and after several seconds, finds Le’Veon Bell on the left side for the score.
7. Looked like Stephon Tuitt dipeed his man (Finney?) and got pressure. Jones looks for Hamilton along the front right pylon but the pass is incomplete. Jacob Hagen was in the area and may have tipped it.
1. Handoff to Le’Veon Bell. Davis seemed to fill the alley well and forced Bell to his right. Javon Hargrave clogged the middle and helped stuff the run. Little, if any, gain. But no contact today as it will be for tomorrow, too.
2. Another give to Bell. David Johnson seals Mike Reilly inside, losing his force contain. Villanueva worked to the second level to seal Robert Golden outside and helped create a pathway.
3. Roethlisberger playaction. Looks for AB on a deep out to the left but the pass is wide and incomplete.
4. Shamarko Thomas and Davis second team safety (Davis continued to work as first team slot). Ryan Harris seals Arthur Moats to the outside and DeAngelo Williams cut off his inside hip and upfield.
5. Kevin White and Donald Washington running as second team cornerbacks which admittedly, seems a little strange. Bell up the middle and then what looks like a parachute exploding on his back, the back stopping dead in his tracks and falling down. That parachute? Daniel McCullers, who I think grabbed the back of his jersey and sat him down.
A coach called out, “Big Dan!” after the play was over, though I couldn’t hear any more of the conversation.
6. Rasco loses his force contain and Fitzgerald Toussaint cuts to the left. Rasco does finally get off his block and bumps helmets with the back.
7. Hagen and Jordan Dangerfield third team safety. Jones playaction, Cole Manhart false keying by pulling. Jones hits Ayers complete down the right seam.
8. Now it’s Shabazz and Garner at left and right cornerback, Kevin White in the slot. White is lined up at the same depth as Garner and one of the safeties call out, “Watch the pick Kevin!” and White rightfully gives a cushion.
Daryl Richardson gets the carry and is quickly greeted by Caushaud Lyons and Hagen. He runs away from them and finishes his trot.
9. Fourth team safeties of Ray Vinopal and yes, Doran Grant, who finally takes his first non-gym rep there. Looked like early movement but the play continues. Jones looks for Hamilton down the right sideline but Wigham high points the ball and knocks it away.
10. Give to Bell. Giorgio Newberry and Tyler Matakevich with the stop.
11. Paul Lang lined up at fullback (I don’t think Roosevelt Nix practiced much, if at all, today). DeAngelo Williams totes the rock. L.J. Fort in free and would’ve had the tackle. D-Will finishes the run before Grant touches him up.
12. Vince Williams and L.J. Fort in as the first-team linebackers. Looks like Reilly rushed in free. Toussaint on the carry of the left side. Villanueva with another nice second level block, sealing off Williams.
13. William Gay blitzes off the defense’s right side. He ducks under Brandon Brown-Dukes and gets pressure. Daniel McCullers shoves Feiler into Dustin Vaughan, who bounces off his guard and flushes right. He winds up and fires down the right sideline. Coates tries to climb the ladder but the ball hits off his hands and smacks Shabazz, standing on the sideline, in the face. Oof.
14. Rasco work at ROLB. Christian Powell cuts away from him and into the teeth of the defense.
15. Cameron Stingily rounds things out with a carry up the guy. Full tackle, taken down by his ankles. Not 100% sure who made the stop but Hargrave and Dangerfield ended up in the pile.
1. Stephon Tuitt and Javon Hargrave in the nickel. Lawrence Timmons and Vince Williams at ILB, Timmons was limited today but managed, not hurt. Roethlisberger quickly fires to Brown who makes the catch as William Gay immediately wraps him up.
2. Ross Cockrell and Sean Davis blitz from their cornerback spots. Big Ben throws hot to David Johnson. Williams ends it with a hard shove on the tight end.
3. DHB, AB, and Eli Rogers lined up in the slot. Ross Cockrell free rusher on a fire zone. Roethlisberger throws low to seemingly no one in particular. Mike Reilly can’t haul this one in off his toes for the interception. Incomplete.
4. Roethlisberger with a pretty deep ball to AB down the right sideline. Brown is gets his head around late but still finds the football as it softly is corralled into his hands, making the grab, and hanging on as Sean Davis bops him pretty good. Those two, QB and WR, get better with age. Like a fine wine.
5. Roethlisberger wants AB again and finds him. Washington is a step late to swat the ball out underneath.
6. Bubble from Jones to Hamilton. Michael Cooper and Ayers the lead blockers. Cooper has trouble getting out in space in time – it’s a tough assignment – but I liked the effort Ayers put into his block.
7. Kevin White coming off the edge and gets pressure on Jones. Would-be sack but Jones just chucks it to Lang along the left sideline. The coaches yell at the defense to finish, Dangerfield and others finally rushing over to end things.
8. Quick throw from Jones to Levi Norwood. Dangerfield with the two-hand tag to end things.
9. Clean pocket for Jones who has nice touch on this pass over the linebackers and in front of the safeties to hit Hamilton on a dig, who leaps to haul the pass in. Good play all around for the offense.
10. Roethlisberger again works out his arm, heaving the ball deep down the left side for Heyward-Bey. He burns Wigham – who henceforth shall be called Chief Wigham – and Doran Grant, from his safety spot, is trailing both and unable to impact the throw.
11. Big Ben fires again short and underneath to Jesse James who bends down and away to pull this pass in off his knees. Vinopal quickly closes to touch him up.
12. Good coverage from the defense and Roethlisberger is forced to go to his third read before connecting with Brown over the midle. He darts across the field and upfield, extending a swift stiff arm into Sean Davis’ grill, turning his helmet to its left, and a reminder that Davis is a rookie and AB is a full grown man.
13. Dustin Vaughan complete to Coates. Williams with the “stop.”
14. Fire zone with Sean Davis blitzing. Feiler picks up Rasco but Hubbard, at his tackle spot, has trouble picking Davis up. Vaughan’s throw to Norwood is low and he can’t pick it up off the ground.
15. Split zone playfake. Complete from Vaughan to Lang in the flat, Zumwalt chasing behind and L.J. Fort meeting him after a short gain.
1. AB/DHB/Rogers in the slot. Sean Davis matched over Rogers. Roethlisberger is forced to climb and slide to his right before finding Rogers, running away from Davis over the middle.
2. Big Ben with a quick checkdown to Bell.
3. Handoff to Bell over left guard. Moats is free from the backside and the first man to tag him.
4. Roethlisberger has all day to throw, no sense of pressure at all and heaves a bomb down the left sideline to an open Antonio Brown, standing inside the five. William Gay is standing behind him and seemingly just quit on the play or didn’t realize it was still going on. AB turns upfield and into the end zone as the smattering of fans behind me cheer.
5. Fort quickly fills the running lane on this handoff to D-Will.
6. Fake the handoff out of the gun and Roethlisberger half rolls to his left. Brown works back to the football and Ben finds him.
7. Roethlisberger again drops back but his throw down the seam to Rogers has too much on it. Rogers puts a hand up for it but has no chance at making the play and as the receiver stumbles, runs into Shamarko Thomas’ shoulder, dropping Rogers like a brick. Thomas pats him on the back and Rogers makes his way back to the huddle.
8. Jones fires for Hamilton on a comeback but Washington gets a step on the throw this time, batting it away.
9. Screen right to Toussaint. Tyler Matakevich and Ricardo Mathews converge for a full tackle, along with several others. One of the loudest hits on a quiet day. Mathews was slow to get up but made his way off and finished out the day.
10. Hubbard seals Maxey upfield. Jones complete to Cooper despite Fort being draped all over him.
11. Jones checkdown to Richardson for a five yard gain.
12. Stingily gets the dive up the middle. Thought Wallace held the POA against McCullers as well as you could expect.
1. David Johnson lined up at FB. Tuitt blows everything up, running into the backfield and smacking Johnson. Bell bounces the run to his left.
2. Give is to Bell off the right side. Moats and Heyward in on the stop.
3. Roethlisberger with an accurate throw on this out route to Rogers, Washington on the coverage.
4. Playaction. David Johnson seals Moats up the arc. Ben looks for AB but I think the pass was a little low and hit the ground. Happened near the lift so I lost sight of things.
5. Second team receivers in. Norwood and Coates outside, Ayers in the slot. Heyward rips through Manhart in short-order while he and Fort stop Toussaint in the backfield.
6. Vaughan playaction and boots to his right. Hits Johnson in the flats with Zumwalt chasing behind and Kevin White coming downhill to pop him.
7. Shabazz blitzes in free but too much ground to cover and Vaughan hits Hamilton on a curl. White wraps him up.
8. Pistol, Richardson carry off the left side. McCullers and Maxey chase from the backside, liked their pursuit and effort.
9. Two receiver set, Marcus Tucker and Coates the receivers. Vaughan looks for Xavier Grimble but Steven Johnson high points the football and breaks it up. Travis Feeney lined up at LOLB and dropped into coverage.
10. Pass from Jones is complete to Tucker who works back to his QB. Interesting defensive line for Pittsburgh in their base 3-4. Tuitt at LDE, McCullers at the nose, and Javon Hargrave at RDE. That’s a first, to me at least.
11. Jones unleashes a bomb down the left seam for Hamilton, who gobbled up a ton of targets today. But Jacob Hagen, who had the reputation of a ballhawk, rips the ball away for his first INT of camp. And a rare takeaway for this defense.
12. Draw to Brandon Brown-Dukes but Lawrence Timmons is free to hit him.
13. Vaughan playaction. Feeney spins off Hubbard and wins but the left guard slides to help and prevent pressure. Vaughan finds Lang in the flat and Shabazz ends it with a hard jolt out of bounds along the right side.
14. Feeney is able to dip under Hubbard off the edge, getting pressure and a would-be sack. Vaughan fires vertically to Blakeney but the pass is off his hands and incomplete, the receiver unable to track it soon enough.
15. Screen to BBD but the pass is a little behind and clips off the back’s right hand as he tries to corkscrew and come down with it.
– Reps dominated by Roethlisberger and Jones. Very little of Vaughan, even with Bruce Gradkowski absent.
– Daryl Richardson’s workload seemed similar to Friday’s game. Dominated the touches while Stingily and Brown-Dukes got very little burn. Continues to separate himself from the pack.
– As we’ve alluded to, Cobi Hamilton is starting to make noise. I’m guessing he has practice squad eligibility because each team gets two spots for accrued players on the off chance Hamilton is. I know he’s been in a couple camps and has a leg up but still, he’s been impressive. Good hands, a solid athlete with straight line speed he can win with.
– Chris Hubbard does have tackle versatility but he’s struggled every time he’s been asked to play there during camp. Still, I have him with the inside track of making the OL. Know it seems unlikely on the surface but could the Steelers bite the bullet and keep ten offensive linemen? It’s weighing the short-term value of someone like Dangerfield with the long-term value of someone like B.J. Finney.
– Travis Feeney was impressive in his first day back and boy, did we need that kind of news from the rookie. Explosive, fluid in coverage, and consistently won as a pass rusher. Granted, his competition wasn’t the best.
– L.J. Fort showed up in my notes a ton today. Active morning/afternoon. Steven Johnson’s breakup on Grimble in coverage was impressive, too.
– Doran Grant getting time at safety but at the back-end of the group. We’ll monitor his work tomorrow and in the preseason.
Twitter Question Of The Day
No, I didn’t see it and he definitely wasn’t in the team sessions. But like I wrote, he had a pretty aggressive day on the side and will hopefully be back tomorrow. That’d be a nice way to end camp. Still, even if he is, I’m not sure if he gets the green light for Thursday.
Coach McGuirk’s Best Quotes
“Are you trading online, Brendan? Are you? Because if you are, I want in on it.”
2015 Steelers’ Highlight To Get You Amped For 2016
Getting a little cheeky here by showing one of the (only) highlights from Friday’s game. Great catch by DHB for six.
St. Vincent College Is Beautiful
And from my dutch angle, a little tilted today…