Steelers’ Training Camp Diary: Day Eight

A stark contrast to last season’s practice after Friday Night Lights, today was a very light day for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Team came out in shorts and there was no contact at all in team drills today. Basically, the same tone as the first two days of practice, without all the fun of seeing where players were lining up.

But still an exciting day with some tidbits to pass along. So let’s get to it.

– Injury roundup. *Professor Farnsworth voice* Good news, everyone.

Landry Jones worked in individual drills today and seemed to move around just fine. Wasn’t in team drill but he looks a whole heck of a lot better than he did limping off the field 24 hours ago.

Artie Burns made his way back in team drills though I don’t think he went through every session. But he made progress. Lawrence Timmons and Ben Roethlisberger were back after getting managed.

Markus Wheaton went through individual drills but was still held out of team work. But clearly a step forward.

Ramon Foster was given the day off. Cody Wallace ran as first team left guard.

Travis Feeney and Bud Dupree missed completely but continued to work on the side.

Ladarius Green arguably did his most aggressive work so far, running and cutting and looking pretty good. He also spent time on the JUGS machine. My guess? He comes back for the first practice after the Detroit Lions game. But just a guess.

Demarcus Ayers walked down by himself today with Sammie Coates and Levi Norwood not too far behind. Cameron Stingily was the first RB down.

– If you’ve ever attended camp, you know Maurkice Pouncey and Ben Roethlisberger love to play some games before the first horn. They throw from different spots and try to hit the crossbar. Both hit it from the 20, so a 30 yard throw, with Roethlisberger’s toss bouncing straight up off the crossbar and back down, caught by one of the linemen.

–  Feels like most of the young tight ends get beat up by the blocking sled their first day through. That’s what happened to newly signed TE Michael Cooper today, who was way too tall and couldn’t get a push. Mike Tomlin, always watchful, called out to him, as the head coach leaned on the chute the players run under.

“You gotta stay down on that thing.” Cooper repped it several times before jogging back to his group.

David Johnson and Xavier Grimble had back-to-back drops running corner routes on air. That isn’t a shock from Johnson, that isn’t how he gets his money, but Grimble’s drops keep popping up enough to annoy you. Beyond the normal realization that everyone will drop some passes. He later dropped another in individual work.

– It was on air but Jesse James used every inch of his 6’7 height to sky for a pass at the back pylon, catching the football over his head.

– Spent some time watching the backs catch out of the backfield today. Daryl Richardson has quick feet and breaks down quickly while showing the ability to find the ball in the air. Cameron Stingily isn’t terrible, he didn’t catch passes in college, but looks a little awkward. Christian Powell had two drops in drills, Brandon Brown-Dukes had one.

– In special teams period, Burns had the chance to return one kick.

– KR unit was the same as it has been. They spent a brief moment working on their onside kick alignment. I guess Grimble wasn’t lined up properly or was cheating his landmark and Danny Smith laid into him really good. A full minute of just roasting him.

Smith was as vocal but seemed a little gentler to Ricardo Mathews, working second team wedge.

“Head up, eyes inside!”

Bruce Gradkowski and Landry Jones threw passes as Roosevelt Nix ran routes during this time. Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams ran sprints.

– Because it was a light day, no one-on-one notes. So let’s hop into the 11 on 11.

First Session

1.  Seven shots. Sean Davis in the slot. Darrius Heyward-Bey slot left with Eli Rogers on the outside. Roethlisberger decided to take the ball over the goal line himself.

2. Now Rogers is in the slot. Grimble the tight end. DHB a double-move, out & up, but Ross Cockrell defends it well and Roethlisberger’s throw is incomplete.

3. Lawrence Timmons back in team work. Everyone covered, including the checkdown to DeAngelo Williams. Several seconds later, Antonio Brown flashes into Roethlisberger’s vision, working to the middle of the field near the back of the end zone, and the two hookup in front of a diving William Gay.

4. Ben fade to Le’Veon Bell in the slot, Shamarko Thomas in coverage. Bell made the catch, not 100% sure if in bounds. One dude on the sideline motioned like it was incomplete so we’ll put our trust in him.

5. Dustin Vaughan 2nd team QB. Checkdown right to Bell but Johnny Maxey is right there to wrap around him short of the goal line.

6. Sammie Coates and Levi Norwood outside with Demarcus Ayers in the slot. Vaughan looks to hit Williams underneath but the pass is deflected. Ricochets to Coates but the ball, falling end over end, and it pops out of his chest. A defender flies in to dive for the ball but the throw finally lands incomplete.

7. Vaughan throws an out route to Cooper. Cooper may have slowed up a bit or Vaughan’s pass was off line, the pass skipping off the tight end’s hands and incomplete. Ross Ventrone had the coverage.

Second Session

1. Bell gets the carry over left side. Vince Williams and Robert Golden give chase.

2. Cody Wallace, at left guard, can’t reach Cam Heyward, and the defensive linemen charges into the backfield from the backside. Williams bounces laterally to his route.

3. Inside zone to D-Will, who cuts upfield and into the teeth of the defense. Without contact, you don’t learn as much, unfortunately.

4. I-Form. Mike Mitchell flies into the backfield. Williams again on the carry.

5. D-Will again left side. Think the WR cracked the safety, forcing Artie Burns to replace, and he filled the alley really well. Someone called out, “Way to go, Artie.”

6. False key, pulling B.J. Finney on playaction. Vaughan looks to hit Jesse James down the right side but the pass bounces off his right hand and incomplete.

7. Pin/pull run with Fitzgerald Toussaint getting the carry to the left. Tyler Matakevich sifts through the trash and barrels into the backfield. But without contact, he just lets him go.

8. Nice combo block by Matt Feiler and Jerald Hawkins, Feiler peeling off into the second level while Hawkins turns his man, maybe Javon Hargrave, sideways. Strong at the point of attack. Not 100% sure who the runner was. Perhaps Daryl Richardson.

9. Roosevelt Nix with the lead block. Richardson starts left but cuts right and follows Nix up through the hole.

10. Nice seal by Brian Mihalik. Nix runs off his outside hip. Nice contain play by Jordan Zumwalt.

11. Marcus Tucker and Ayers stacked. Tucker slips on his out cut, forcing Vaughan to look to his next read. He flushes right and hits a sliding Norwood along the right sideline.

12. Christian Powell carry left side. Daniel McCullers bullies Finney into the backfield. Brute power.

13. Cameron Stingily up the middle. Nice block from David Johnson.

14. Steelers shift and to a Trips Bunch. Jesse James tries to get Ayers’ attention, both in the bunch, and then finally just grabs his jersey and pulls Ayers off the ball, allowing James to become the point man. Toss right to Brandon Brown-Dukes. Feiler did a nice job getting out in space and sealing off Kevin White near the perimeter.

Third Session

1. Timmons and Gay, Cockrell and Mitchell, and Timmons and Mitchell all do their crazy handshakes and break things down before the offense breaks the huddle. Heyward beats Wallace and comes in free. Roethlisberger complete to James on a crosser.

2. Playaction. Ben checks to Bell while Jarvis Jones chases the back down the left sideline.

3. Montell Garner and Ross Cockrell blitz from their cornerback spots, a design you’re probably going to see this season. Think it’s a new wrinkle. Ben hits Rogers on an over route matched up against Timmons.

4. Roethlisberger looks for Sammie Coates on an out route. Coates doesn’t get his head around until the last second but finds the ball and adjusts back for it, making the catch. Cockrell falls off him.

5. Shamarko Thomas and Sean Davis at safety. White in the slot. Vaughan throws a quick curl to Coates with Al-Hajj Shabazz giving a cushion.

6. Vaughan looks for Cobi Hamilton on an out pattern to the right. A little behind but the new receiver adjusts and grabs it. Nice first pay.

7. Slot blitz from White. Linebackers sugared the A gaps and then dropped. Vaughan with good placement on this throw underneath to James. Inside shoulder working against Anthony Chickillo.

8. Ayers vs White in the slot. White is all over Ayers, a nice chuck and not allowing separation. Throw to him on a curl but the ball is flat and hits the ground two yards short, White making a diving effort for it. Good coverage.

9. James breaks down after selling vertically against Matakevich. Makes the grab and doesn’t let the rookie linebacker rip it out.

10. Again, a false key with the pulling guard. Heyward-Bey breaks down his go route against Garner, creating space, and Roethlisberger greets him with the pass.

11. Roethlisberger checkdown to Toussaint, adjusting to the window given and throwing side arm, as the back makes the grab and speeds away.

12. Jacob Hagen and Ray Vinopal at safety. Shabazz at LCB, Doran Grant at RCB. Garner in the slot. Rogers sells an out-breaking route and then deftly cuts inside with Roethlisberger finding him for an easy completion.

13. Low snap. Bruce Gradkowski complete to Marcus Tucker on a dig. Ball is a little high but Tucker reaches over his head for it, absorbing an arm thrown by Garner and spinning away to turn upfield.

14. Deep out to Coates from Gradkowski. Zumwalt gets good depth in his zone drop and the throw is off line, out of bounds. Paul Lang had solid pickup on someone.

15. Nix in the slot. He runs a corner route but Hagen is in his hip pocket, and the throw is a little far, a little wide. Incomplete.

Fourth Session

Two minute drill with the first team offense/defense.

1. Big Ben hits Heyward-Bey on a curl to the field. Jarvis can’t expand in the flat in time. Robert Golden was sent on a blitz.

2. Roethlisberger short throw to James but the pass misses. A rare poor ball from #7.

3. Complete over the middle to DHB against Cockrell.

4. Deep throw from Ben to AB on a comeback. Ball is 75% of the way there by the time Brown gets his head around but he makes the catch look effortless and hauls it in.

5. Jarvis Jones beats Ryan Harris inside, getting pressure. Nice move. Throw to Bell from Ben is also behind.

6. Defense jumps offsides. Ben look to heave it to the end zone to AB, Gay on the coverage and pretty grabby, with the pass falling out of the back of the end zone and incomplete.

7. Blitz. Rogers makes himself available for Ben.

8. #7 spikes it.

9. Stack Brown and Rogers. Roethlisberger looks for Rogers on an out cut to the left sideline but the throw is high and over his head. Gay forced a tight window.

10. Think Tomlin yelled out there was just 14 seconds left. Skinny post from Ben to Rogers, right in the chest, for a touchdown.

Fifth Session

Two minute drill with the second team offense/defense.

1. Chris Hubbard getting work at center. B.J. Finney at LG, Feiler RG. Ayers is in the slot with Coates and Norwood on the outside. Offense moved early and backs them up five yards. Draw to Richardson who bursts upfield. Saw Hargrave get penetration.

2. Vaughan complete on out to Norwood to the field against Grant.

3. Davis and Shark the safeties. Vince Williams and L.J. Fort the inside linebackers. Norwood did get open down the right sideline but Vaughan doesn’t see him and runs out of bounds to the right sideline. On his drop, Chickillo got a step on Hawkins off the line but Hawkins used his length to seal him upfield.

4. Short throw complete to Ayers.

5. Chickillo dips under and past Alejandro Villanueva for what would’ve been a sack. Vaughan looks for Lang but the ball hits off the tight end’s hands.

6. Coverage is 2 Man and the offense runs three verticals. Nothing there. Vaughan tries to checkdown to Richardson but the throw is a little short and also sorta dropped by Richardson, rolling off his fingertips and Richardson tried to get upfield. Williams in coverage.

7. Checkown to Richardson. McCullers ran through Hubbard, moving him into the pocket.

8. Chickillo beats the RT (should be Hawkins). Pass is complete to Lang but the airhorn goes off, ending the session. Wasn’t 4th down. I guess the team just wanted to get their FG unit out there.

Sixth Session

1. Red zone work. Ball on the ten. Screen right to Bell but the pass slips out of Big Ben’s hands and lollipops to the ground.

2. Shotgun handoff to D-Will. Rogers fakes a split zone block and peeled into the flats. Tuitt got in the backfield.

3. Empty set, Bell out wide. Timmons walks out with him. He and Shazier “slice” him as Bell cuts inside, Shazier protecting inside and Bell outside. Bell pivots away and Ben looks for to hit him but the ball bounces off his one-handed attempt.

4. Power run, DeCastro pull. Big pop in the middle, Mathews was in the vicinity, on this run to an unknown back.

5. Snag concept (flat/curl/corner) and Ben looks to hit Coates in the back right pylon. Just missed but that’s where you want to miss. A little far and out of bounds.

6. Roethlisberger throws low to Rogers. Nice coverage by White, who had a positive day.

7. Giorgio Newberry and Roy Philon as the nickel down linemen. Vaughan in at QB. Handoff out of the gun to Toussaint and cuts to the right. Marcus Gilbert with a key block on Jordan Dangerfield.

8. Issac Blakeney and Ayers outside with Levi Norwood in the slot. Handoff to Richardson. David Johnson key lead block on Matakevich, 46 on 46 crime.

9. Matakevich fires off the left edge. Vaughan hits Norwood on a speed out. White leans his shoulder into the receiver and knocks him out of bounds.

10. Split zone, Stingily on the carry. Devaunte Sigler works off his block and helps shut the run down.

11. Brown-Dukes up the middle. Mihalik with a nice seal.

12. Empty set, Tucker/Richardson to the two receiver surface on the left. Vaughan’s throw to Richardson is behind and tipped away by Hagen.

13. Screen right. McCullers freight-training towards the QB and Vaughan hits Richardson. Shazier has the see-to-do and closes quickly.

14. Inside zone to Powell to the right. Hargrave straight up destroys Hubbard, walking him a couple yards into the backfield and sending Hubbard to the ground. Wow.

15. Speed out left from Gradkowski to Norwood. White on the coverage.

Final Thoughts

– Vaughan again running ahead of Gradkowski in multiple reps. I’m not saying, I’m just saying.

– Finney/Hubbard battle heating up. That’ll be a fun one to watch.

– Grimble can be as frustrating as he is impressive. Drops, blocking, two areas we have to watch closely. He’ll definitely make plays in the preseason but can he be consistent?

– Mihalik’s chances of a practice squad spot look good. He isn’t in over his head and doesn’t look like someone who is in his first year playing tackle. There really aren’t any other options in-house, either.

– Hargrave…again, man, he might be something special. I know, I know, it’s early. But if you saw him every day, you’d agree.

– I think you can pretty much assume Anthony Chickillo has his 53 man spot locked up. It’s not like there’s even anyone to take it away from him.

– Like I said, a good day for Kevin White.

Twitter Question Of The Day

Yeah, Hargrave coming out of South Carolina State has something to do with it. The defensive tackle class this season was really impressive. Pretty much any other year, and Hargrave goes in the second round.

Coach McGuirk’s Best Quotes

“Look at him out there, so small, so defenseless, he’s like a chipmunk, with a disease… who didn’t like that analogy?”

St. Vincent College Photo Of The Day 

Sat up a little higher today, letting me soak up the shade. And take in this gorgeous view.


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