Another really fun day of practice and so much to recap. So let’s not waste anymore time.
– Just the house-keeping, which you’ve probably already seen. Newly signed TE Jake Phillips will wear #49 and CB Kevin White is sporting #38.
– Injury roundup. Couple guys back, couple guys out. Jarvis Jones and James Harrison practiced in full today. Devaunte Sigler was removed from NFI and practiced in full, including reps in 11 on 11. Finally.
Ladarius Green, now flying solo with Sigler and Shakim Phillips gone, did some light work running and cutting today.
Stephon Tuitt and Bud Dupree were in shorts and didn’t do much of anything today. Dupree pulled around a piece of equipment for a little bit. Markus Wheaton dressed but barely participated, probably another “manage” day by Mike Tomlin. Artie Burns wore his uniform but no shoulder pads, sitting today out. He did sprints on the middle field throughout the day. Maybe a mental day of rest.
In-practice, couple of blips. Demarcus Ayers began by going through the punt return drill but curiously let one bounce two feet in front of him. He looked frustrated, walked back, and rolled his right ankle a couple times. With a bit of a limp, he bowed out of the return drill, chatted up Alan Faneca and Todd Haley before finally getting his ankle taped up by a trainer.
He returned with heavy tape around his ankle and right shoe and attempted to go through individual drills after the stretch line. I watched him run one speed out, moving gingerly and slow, and then his day was done.
Canaan Severin made his first catch in team drills but came down pretty hard on what I think was his left shoulder. He laid on his back for a moment before making his way to his feet.
Ryan Shazier also got nicked at some point. I didn’t see it happen but he didn’t finish out the day.
– The new BFFs of Ayers and Levi Norwood made their way down the stairs at 2:30 P.M.
– I appreciate Cody Wallace’s professionalism, at least, in terms of being punctual. He’s always one of the first guys onto the field, stretching and chatting with some of the young linemen (today it was Cole Manhart) well before practice begins.
– Antonio Brown…not so punctual. He’s usually one of the last guys out and was the last today, working his way down the stairs at 2:55, moments after the first airhorn sounded.
– In the “on air” work, there was quite a shakeup along the offensive line. Alejandro Villanueva ran as the first team left tackle and Ryan Harris with the second team. No surprise there. But here’s the rest of the second team.
Ryan Harris-Cole Manhart-B.J. Finney-Cody Wallace-Jerald Hawkins
And third team.
Brian Mihalik-Valerian Ume-Ezeoke, Chris Hubbard-Matt Feiler-Dustin Vaughan (just serving as a body, haha).
This appeared to really be an effort to get Hubbard some center snaps, meaning the deck had to be shuffled. It’s not a demotion and he ran 2nd team left guard for most, if not all, of practice.
– I spotted two of the Steelers’ robots on the practice field day with someone controlling one of them, buzzing around the middle field. They were removed from the field at some point and I didn’t see them used at practice. Maybe they became sentient.
Jake Phillips showed a lot of energy going through the ladder drill after warm ups. Tomlin seemed to make some joke to him though I couldn’t hear it. He started the day off nice with a one-handed grab with his left hand on a corner route in individual work. Already looks better than Mandel Dixon, the man he’s replacing.
Lots of special teams notes today, which always makes me happy. When the team splits into two groups, Jerry Olsavsky is in charge of the other group opposite Danny Smith. In case you were wondering.
When they put the kick coverage together, here are the return team units. Remember, the Steelers basically run a 5-1-3-2 look. Front five line, one player right behind, a triangle formation of the three man wedge (which becomes two on the kick) with an upback and kick returner.
First Team: Arthur Moats-Steven Johnson-Vince Williams-Anthony Chickillo-Shamarko Thomas. Robert Golden behind, like he was last season. Jesse James, Cody Wallace, and Roosevelt Nix the “wedge.” Fitzgerald Toussaint serving as the upback for Sammie Coates (Wheaton was out today, bear in mind).
Second Team: L.J. Fort-Donald Washington-Jordan Dangerfield-Montell Garner-Tyler Matakevich. Sean Davis behind them. Xavier Grimble, Javon Hargrave, and Ricardo Mathews the wedge. Cameron Stingily the upback for Marcus Tucker, who muffed his first opportunity.
Danny Smith got after Davis a little bit. Yelled at him for not moving his feet.
Third Team: Al-Hajj Shabazz-Mike Reilly-Jacob Hagen-Paul Lang-Tyler Matakevich. Ray Vinopal behind. Giorgio Newberry, Jerald Hawkins, and Lavon Hooks the wedge. Brandon Brown-Dukes and Issac Blakeney back for the return.
Other upback/kick returner pairings include.
Blakeney and Levi Norwood. Marcus Tucker and Daryl Richardson. Brown-Dukes and Cameron Stingily. Blakeney and Richardson. Norwood and Brown-Dukes. Norwood and Richardson. So lots of combinations.
– Today’s meal, sponsored by Touring Plans, was leftover Chinese food. Leftover Chinese, one rung above Ramon Noodles.
– I peered through my binoculars today at the RB/TE versus LB drills today that took place on the middle field. Here are my results.
1. Arthur Moats breaks up a throw for Jesse James.
2. Le’Veon Bell shakes Lawrence Timmons and speeds vertically but the pass is overthrown.
3. Jarvis Jones works with outside leverage and David Johnson runs a curl, boxing JJ out at the top and making the grab.
4. DeAngelo Williams pivots away from Ryan Shazier. Shazier is grabby and falls to the ground, D-Will making the snag.
5. Xavier Grimble begins his route to the flat but pivots back inside, making a nice hands catch against Anthony Chickillo.
6. L.J. Fort gets a nice jam on Fitzgerald Toussaint at the line. But once Toussaint slips past, Fort looks back at the QB and allows separation. Toussaint makes the catch. Still, in real life, Fort did his job long enough.
7. I missed the context of the rep but Paul Lang made the catch.
8. Daryl Richardson smokes Vince Williams vertically, has him by a couple yards, but the pass is just overthrown.
9. Jake Phillips runs through Mike Reilly. Makes an in cut but the pass is a little behind, incomplete, as Phillips dives and tries to adjust back to no avail. He claps his hands in frustration, a new guy trying to make a good first impression.
10. Roosevelt Nix runs a corner route and beats Tyler Matakevich.
11. James runs a quality route, getting separation at the top of his break on a dig. Beats Jordan Zumwalt.
12. Bell sells inside well before breaking outside, making a sliding grab against Timmons.
13. David Johnson runs through Jarvis Jones’ jam but Jones recovers and swats the ball away at the catch point.
14. Good battle between Steven Johnson and Brandon Brown-Dukes but the tiny RB makes the grab.
15. Chickillo with a hard jam on Grimble and swats the ball away.
16. Christian Powell turns the wrong way for the football down the sideline. Turned inside when it should’ve been outside. With Shazier playing inside leverage, Powell should know that ball is going outside shoulder.
17. Travis Feeney bumps into Lang vertically and falls to the ground. He sits on one knee for a few moments, getting up Rocky style before moving back to the huddle. He would finish out the drill and practice.
18. Fort has good coverage on Cameron Stingily. Incomplete.
19. Phillips beats Zumwalt and makes a diving grab. 49 on 49 crime.
20. D-Will cuts inside and wins against Vince Williams.
21. Bell again fakes outside and breaks inside, winning against Shazier.
22. Chickillo with good hand use and a strong jam on Johnson, who runs his corner route but has the pass slip through his hands. Bring those pinkies together!
23. Timmons just straight up wraps himself around Daryl Richardson’s hips, tossing him to the ground. That’s one way to win a rep.
24. Jarvis with a good reroute on Grimble and breaks the pass up at the catch point.
25. Nix runs an out and from a knee, hauls in the throw against Matakevich.
26. Lang with nice hand use to knock down Reilly’s mitts. He runs a curl and Reilly scoots past trying to recover. One of the better reps I’ve seen Lang have in camp.
27. With Timmons playing inside leverage, Bell simply converts his route to the flat and snares the throw.
28. Feeney back in and fights with Lang. But Feeney slows up, assuming the play is over, and Lang breaks upfield for the catch. Finish the reps, rookie. Wait until he sees what Ben can do. Never assume the play is over.
29. Chickillo on fire in this drill, playing the pocket on Jesse James and forcing another incompletion.
30. Brown-Dukes bursts away from Fort for a grab.
31. Johnson on an out route, making the catch in front of Jarvis Jones. But when you play inside leverage, like Jarvis did, you’re understandably going to allow the catch. No worries.
32. Williams gets a little bit of space versus Vince Williams, who rewards him with a little pop on the shoulder pad at the end of the rep.
33. Zumwalt makes a nice play, tipping a throw intended for Grimble down the seam.
34. Matakevich breaks up a pass intended for Stingily.
35. Nice double-move from Lang, shaking Chickillo. Makes the grab. Again, these are his best reps and probably his best day.
36. Fort whiffs really bad trying to throw all his weight into Powell, falling forward a good three or four yards. Easy grab by Powell.
37. Toussaint runs a simple flare route versus Shazier.
– OL/DL notes.
1. Alejandro Villanueva does a pretty solid job though Jarvis Jones is able to rip under him at the last moment. That’s the move to beat Villy. Or any 6’9 tackle.
2. Ramon Foster looks like he won against Cam Heyward.
3. B.J. Finney handles Daniel McCullers’ bull rush really well. As good as you’d expect. In his chest and keeps his feet sliding.
4. David DeCastro seals a failed rip attempt by L.T. Walton.
5. Marcus Gilbert flashes that strong punch he is, moving Moats up the arc and the linebacker slips at the top.
6. This time, Villanueva is able to completely defend Jarvis’ rip move.
7. Looks like Ryan Harris lunges on his punch versus Chickillo. Chickillo looks to win the edge but when Harris recovers, he swims inside and wins cleanly.
8. Good battle between Chris Mother Hubbard versus Ricardo Mathews. Stalemate and the tie goes to the OL.
9. Caushaud Lyons bulls through Cody Wallace.
10. Jerald Hawkins mirrors Chickillo the whole way. Outside/inside/outside again.
11. Hawkins is able to seal Mike Reilly this time.
12. Looked like Cole Manhart is able to win against Giorgio Newberry. I didn’t get a good look, honestly.
13. Hubbard mirrors Roy Philon and ends it with a hard shove that sweeps Philon off his feet and tumbling into the wall of offensive linemen waiting their turn. Nice rep for 74.
14. Looked like Matt Feiler and Johnny Maxey went at it but I saw things too late.
15. Zumwalt dips inside against Brian Mihalik.
16. The coaches reset them and Zumwalt tries to corner the edge again but he can’t get skinny enough and Mihalik pulls a Hubbard, shoving the linebacker into the feet of his teammates.
17. Valerian Ume-Ezeoke seals Philon’s rip attempt.
18. He then wins again, doing similar to Lavon Hooks.
– Your 11 on 11 notes.
7 shots, ya’ll.
1. Arthur Moats and Jarvis Jones the OLBs. Javon Hargrave and Caushaud Lyons the nickel pairing. Eli Rogers starting in the slot. Pull David DeCastro with Le’Veon Bell behind. Mike Mitchell looks to stuff Bell right in front of the goal line, greeting him with a loud hit.
2. Devaunte Sigler in at left end. Design of the play is to hit Roosevelt Nix in the right flat, as they did the other day, but the defense does a nice job of taking it away. Ben Roethlisberger looks to his left and fires near the back left pylon, hitting Antonio Brown as he makes a twirling catch over his head and in front of William Gay. Touchdown.
3. Slant/flat, popular goal line combination, on the right side. Roethlisberger pumps to his left and then works to Brown on the slant, who has sat his route down against zone and shows Ben his numbers. #7 fires it in there, a moment before Ryan Shazier can swipe the ball away. Another score.
4. Rogers in the slot, AB and Darrius Heyward-Bey on the outside. Xavier Grimble runs a double move to the back of the end zone. Ben lobs it in to him and he makes the catch though I think a ref ruled he didn’t get his feet down.
As Roethlisberger walks back to the water cooler, he finds Grimble and says, “That’s a great route!” to Grimble. Getting praised by a potential Hall of Famer? Must feel good.
5. Landry Jones at QB. Blitz off the offense’s right side. Jones fires between Bell and Levi Norwood hitting neither. Another slant/flat combo.
6. Screen right to Jesse James. B.J. Finney did a nice job of getting to the flat and kicking out Steven Johnson as James scores.
7. Draw to D-Will who bounces the run to the left. Johnson and several others wrap him up short of the sticks.
1. Defensive line of Maxey/Hargrave/Mathews. Maxey moving up with Tuitt out. Give is to Fitzgerald Toussaint who shimmies through for a positive gain.
2. Again, Toussaint up the middle. Was watching Hargrave and Pouncey the whole time and Hargrave really held his own. Leveraged Pouncey and held the point of attack. I think Pouncey got a little mad and finally recoiled and tossed Hargrave back into the pile at the end of the play.
3. Sean Davis in the slot. Daryl Richardson shows excellent burst, cutting hard upfield for at least a 15 yard gain. Jarvis Jones hustles and wrestles him down from behind.
4. Richardson isn’t done showing off. Nice lane created by the line on the left side for probably another ten yards. Robert Golden flies in to make an ankle tackle and stop the bleeding.
5. Roethlisberger on a hard count and it fools Antonio Brown who takes off like a fighter jet on the right side. Flag goes up. Brandon Brown-Dukes on the right side. Roy Philon and others converge for the stop.
6. Defensive line of Sigler-Philon-Lyons. Roethlisberger complete on a comeback along the right side to AB, working on Doran Grant.
7. Cameron Stingily gets the carry for a medium gain, stumbling through at the end before James Harrison from the backside and Shamarko Thomas up the gut tag-team to take the back down.
8. Hubbard 2nd team left guard. Like the burst by Stingily up the middle. Shark again, and maybe Montell Garner, go low to spin Stingily down.
9. Defensive line of Walton-McCullers-Heyward. Roosevelt Nix, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me, gets the handoff. He is unable to wiggle through the lane between left guard and tackle. Steven Johnson and Travis Feeney bring him down.
10. Mike Reilly and Jordan Zumwalt the OLBs. Dustin Vaughan in at QB and forces a throw down the right seam to Norwood. Three defenders around. Was a three vertical concept with nothing open and Vaughan should’ve looked for the checkdown. The pass, by the way, falls incomplete.
11. Playaction. Vaughan fires down the right sideline and Canaan Severin makes a diving catch in front of Ross Ventrone, the rookie’s first grab of team drills. But this is the play where he falls hard to the ground, pulling a C.J. Goodwin and injuring his shoulder.
12. Christian Powell cuts inside and L.J. Fort/Jarvis Jones smack him.
13. Counter to the right with BBD. Moats has good backside contain and squares him up, bringing the rookie to the Earth.
14. Toussaint carry on the right side and he’s tripped up on the perimeter.
15. Nice vision by Powell, cutting up the left side. Harrison makes the tackle.
1. Davis over slot against Eli Rogers. Empty set and Ben quickly tosses a screen right to DHB. He gets a block from Jesse James for a short gain in this thud-tackle drill.
2. Arthur Moats whips Gilbert inside but Big Ben checks it down to Le’Veon Bell.
3. Safeties rotate late and the defense brings a blitz. Ben fires deep down the right sideline for DHB. He’s covered step-for-step by Ross Cockrell. Heyward-Bey outstretches his right hand but the ball bounces off it and incomplete.
4. Vince Williams’ blitzes but Maurkice Pouncey alertly shoves him upfield. Roethlisberger complete to Brown. Sean Davis ends things with a light shoulder tap.
5. Moats again beats Gilbert. Ben complete to Rogers with Davis wrapping him up.
6. Playaction. First progression is for Xavier Grimble in the right flat, peeling off after selling the zone run away, but it’s well covered by the defense. Roethlisberger looks for Brown coming across the field on a dig but the throw is a little wide, tipping off Brown’s hand. William Gay nearly comes down with it, having it in his belly for a step, but the ball squirms loose and incomplete.
7. Donald Washington 2nd team RCB with Burns out. Landry Jones fires that side for Sammie Coates, who flashes his hands behind him and makes the grab with seemingly little effort. Sean Davis ends things aggressively, leaving his feet and putting a pretty good shot into Coates. Can’t wait for Davis to hit people who aren’t Steelers. Good times ahead.
8. Attempted checkdown from Jones to Toussaint but the pass is dropped.
9. The two try again and Toussaint makes the grab. Fort stands him up.
10. David Johnson with nice blitz pickup on Davis. Jones fires into the right flat for James, who extends down and away and plucks the throw.
11. Grant at LCB, Washington at RCB. Chickillo and Harrison at OLB. Jones with a quick throw to Issac Blakeney.
12. Short, 5-10 yard throw from Bruce Gradkowski to Sammie Coates, who leaves the ground and pulls in the toss over his head, coming down and dragging his right toe to complete the catch.
13. Ross Ventrone getting work in the slot. Draw to Brown-Dukes. Ventrone darts in to make the full tackle. Steven Johnson was in the vicinity, too.
14. Al-Hajj Shabazz at LCB, Garner at RCB, meaning Garner has played all three spots in camp. Ventrone still in the slot. Gradkowski flips a simple curl to Coates with Garner playing off.
15. Screen to Blakeney on the right side. Paul Lang buries Zumwalt into the ground.
– Offensive working on the footsteps of their own goal line. Situational football, my friends.
1. Ben starts things off by firing a slant to Brown, who jets away from Gay. And everyone else.
2. Drive to Toussaint. Moats meets him on the other side of the tunnel. Tunnels, Pittsburgh, it’s topical!
3. Trap run with DeCastro – who else- pulling. Le’Veon Bell cuts off his outside hip and gets upfield. Vince Williams smartly pulls up and lets him through.
4. L.J. Fort seemingly getting a first team rep next to LT. Gradkowski playactions and there’s pressure from the backside. Not sure who, maybe Deebo. Gradkowski is sort of shoved and momentarily loses his balance, opting to just throw the football into the ground at no one in particular.
5. This time, Gradkowski fires deep down the left sideline. Levi Norwood has a nose on Washington but Sean Davis is charging hard from his safety spot. The pass is overthrown, incomplete.
6. DL of Maxey-Hargrave-Mathews. The pass is right in Marcus Tucker’s grill as he squares up on his curl and he can’t react in time, the pass slicing through his hands. Ball doesn’t come out that quick at Northern Michigan.
7. Give is to Richardson on the left side. Vince Williams does a nice job to spill the run inside to Fort, who makes the tackle.
8. Dive to Stingily. Mathews holds the POA and there’s no lane.
9. Third team offensive line. Hawkins gets his first camp snaps at left tackle. Rest of the line: Manhart-Finney-Feiler-Mihalik. Jones complete to Lang on a crosser and Feeney clocks him pretty decent.
10. Vaughan hits Norwood on a speed out to the left. Garner ends it with a thud tackle.
11. Jake Phillips in the game at TE. Chickillo moves off the ball. Maybe a titled front. Brown-Dukes cuts back and gets a nice block from David Johnson. BBD shows a burst, running away from Ventrone down the right side.
12. Vaughan finds James on a curl.
1. Cockrell and Washington first team outside corners. Ben’s pass to DHB is a tad inside, off the receiver’s hands, and incomplete. Robert Golden provided the coverage.
2. McCullers and Hargrave in nickel. Pouncey pulls and serves as the lead blocker (that’s really fun to type again), giving a lane for Bell.
3. Coates, AB outsde, Rogers in the slot. Defense is in 2 man, two deep shell with man coverage underneath (underneath playing trail technique). Nothing available for Ben, who spins the football into the ground.
4. Three tight end set with Johnson/Grimble on the ball and Jesse James motioned off it. Williams with the carry up the middle. DeCastro had an audible kick out block on Shark. Jarvis makes the tackle.
5. Screen left to D-Will and DeCastro hustles his butt off downfield, getting in front and shielding out Sean Davis. Williams races all the way downfield until I think Garner grabs him right in front of the goal line.
6. Empty with Toussaint wide and AB in the slot. Brown sits down in zone and Ben finds him. AB looks to the crowd at the very end and yells out, “Make some noise.” Additional points for showmanship.
7. Toussaint tries to cutback and nearly succeeds but Newberry works off his block and steps in front. The first positive play I really have on the UDFA.
8. Vaughan complete to Grimble. Ryan Harris seals Chickillo upfield, the OLB losing his balance and falling down.
9. Vaughan looks for his checkdown in Richardson but the pass is slightly off the mark and incomplete. Shabazz makes sure of it with a little pop into the back’s pads.
10. Shabazz and Garner at CB, Sigler at LDE. Richardson with the carry to the left. Garner and Chickillo are sound in their fits and keep the ball inside.
11. Vaughan playaction. Reilly beat someone to the inside and generates pressure. Vaughan just tucks the ball and runs out of bounds to the left sideline.
12. Ventrone in the slot. BBD carry on the right side and I think he ran out of Kevin White’s, the newly signed CB playing LCB, legs.
13. White again at LCB. Stingily with excellent vision, cutting left and bursting upfield. Coates aided with a nice stalk block on the corner.
14. Powell carry. Reilly squeezes the run inside and Johnson finishes things up.
15. Fake the end around to Blakeney. Give to Brown-Dukes but Lyons ends things on a high note, busting through the line and bear-hugging the back.
– All the running backs showed some good things today. Of course, that all starts with credit to the offensive line, and the running game was as effective as it has been since the team put the pads on. Richardson definitely flashed some serious speed that got him drafted.
– Sammie Coates continues to impress. It isn’t about the obviously great day that everyone tweets and writes about. It’s stacking positive days together and looking like the same dude each practice. That’s what Coates has been.
– Jerald Hawkins had another good day and shows some nasty in one-on-ones. Finishes his reps strong. Getting work at left tackle now, too. Had taken every snap at right tackle before today.
– Like I said, Paul Lang had by far his best day. May be the last time I’m this positive of him so let’s cherish it.
– Demarcus Ayers has still yet to catch a pass in team drills. He’s the only receiver who hasn’t.
– Caushaud Lyons had a nice day and showed a lot of power. He’s a big guy. Took advantage of seeing some extra reps.
– He’s a vet so it’s not like it’s a shock but Arthur Moats put together his strongest practice today. Gave Gilbert fits.
– Anthony Chickillo has strung together three excellent practices in a row. Don’t want to overhype him but really getting excited about his future.
Twitter Fan Question Of The Day
Yes, I think that’s a fair assessment to make. He’ll be given that chance, at the least. His level of execution and competency remains to be seen. But if Davis struggles, watch out, because that means the team is going to have to take William Gay inside and play Artie Burns. And it doesn’t feel like they want to.
Or they trade/sign a corner. Watch that waiver wire, everyone.
Coach McGuirk’s Best Quotes
“Alright, look! Here’s what I need. Food. Fast food, preferably. Beer. Light Beer. Preferably.”
2015 Steelers’ Highlight To Get You Amped For 2016
The suspension may hang over his head but when he makes plays like this, I know I’ll be counting down the days until he can return.
St. Vincent College Is Beautiful Photo Of The Day