Another muggy but eventful Day Four of camp. Let’s get right to the notes.
– Injury roundup. Some good news, some bad news. Xavier Grimble and Roosevelt Nix returned to practice and participated in full. Ben Roethlisberger returned from his day off.
Expected roster move shuffling. The Steelers signed center Valerian Ume-Ezeoke and running back Christian Powell, replacing Quinton Schooley (left leg) and Brandon Johnson (undisclosed). No surprise that Schooley was ushered out – injury looked pretty serious and the team was down to just 13 linemen.
Powell, a RB who was a UDFA by the team and cut out of rookie minicamp, participated in 11 on 11’s. Ume-Ezeoke did not. He jogged onto the field at 3:25, shook some coaches’ hands, and immediately jumped into the stretch line. Life in the NFL.
As Mike Tomlin indicated, Senquez Golson left on a cart today with a foot injury. I didn’t even see the injury happen so he must have been able to get off the field and to the cart under his own power. Sean Davis replaced him in the slot.
Jarvis Jones was sick and was not around today.
He also said Mandel Dixon and James Harrison got dinged up.
Devaunte Sigler, Ladarius Green, and Shakim Phillips all ran sprints on the middle field early in practice. Green was moving pretty good and then he ran routes at half-speed later in practice. Encouraging signs but of course, no official timetable for their return.
– We might have a riff in our thought-to-be training camp BFFs. Demarcus Ayers and Levi Norwood came down together, Markus Wheaton right behind them, while Sammie Coates made his way down with Sean Davis. The saga begins.
– Ray Vinopal and Jacob Hagen got in a little bit of work, sparring with one another before practice. Worked on their punch off the line of scrimmage.
– Ryan Harris predictably was inserted back into the lineup with the starters.
– The second team offensive line: Alejandro Villanueva-B.J. Finney-Cody Wallace-Chris Hubbard-Jerald Hawkins
– Return line still the status quo. Eli Rogers, Norwood, Wheaton and Ayers.
– With the kick return guys mixed in, Sammie Coates and Roosevelt Nix won the day with five footballs caught at one time. Always a crowd pleaser. Didn’t think Nix had it in him.
– More kick return drill notes. Artie Burns had trouble finding the football, turning too late and being unable to get square to the football. Brandon Brown-Dukes had two drops as Tomlin watched over the group.
– Cam Heyward again said Happy Birthday to DeAngelo Williams and the team sang to him. I hope that’s a daily occurrence.
– Garrett Giemont stretches out Antonio Brown every day. Brown’s leg bends as a 90 degree angle. It’s pretty crazy to see how flexible he is. I don’t think it’s physically possible for him to pull a hamstring.
– Wide receivers got some work today on stalk blocks in addition to running routes on air.
– The “first” group of WRs is still the same. The usual suspects plus Rogers and Norwood. Ayers still with the second group.
– Receivers were catching fades on air with Ben calling “ball” to alert the receiver to get his head around. Norwood looked early once and Ben called him on it.
“You looked early, you cheater!”
– Some special teams notes. Danny Smith getting after Grimble and Coates in drills. Working on splitting the wedge, Grimble was too square to the blockers, causing Smith to stop things, explain it to the tight end, and make him go again.
“You’ll get four hands on you [if you’re square]. The only chance I got is is *turns body to show him splitting the defenders*”
And to Coates, a slightly different drill with the coverage unit supposed to rip outside the blockers. Coates was turned ripping out, not square.
“If I come out square, I’m a two way player. If I turn, I’m a one-way player.”
– Two brief 7 on 7 notes. Darrius Heyward-Bey toasted Burns down the left sideline and Grimble had another easy drop.
– We have some WR/DB one-on-ones to go through. So let’s get to it.
1. Heyward-Bey turns late (or the ball was early) and a curl screeches through his hands. Coverage was against Mike Mitchell.
2. Eli Rogers runs a quick out against Montell Garner and makes a simple grab. Rogers looks to turn upfield but Garner grabs the back of his jersey to stop him.
3. Donald Washington is aggressive in his press off the line but Coates is able to swap hips and run vertically. Washington gets caught up in Coates’ feet and falls to the ground ten yards in, leaving Coates to make an easy catch.
4. Doran Grant makes a nice play on a Norwood in-breaking route, punching the ball out from behind.
5. Issac Blakeney does a nice job to break down and work back to the football, hauling in the throw against Al-Hajj Shabazz.
6. Senquez Golson has tight coverage on Ayers all the way but Ayers makes a diving grab on an out route. Ayers has solid hands and makes tough catches.
7. Robert Golden is giving a cushion versus Marcus Tucker but the young receiver fails to get his head around in time and the pass is incomplete.
8. Canaan Severin slipped out of his break on a comeback (the field was a little torn up with all the rain that’s gone through) but makes the catch while going to the ground versus Ray Vinopal.
9. Jordan Dangerfield is all over Norwood, who tries to run a curl, but the safety breaks it up.
10. Ross Ventrone giving a cushion to Issac Blakeney who runs a curl and makes a pretty effortless catch.
11. Antonio Brown beats Artie Burns on a slant and the two juke and dodge their way downfield for another 30 yards.
12. Wheaton burns Washington on a double-move but the pass is overthrown. Still won the route though, and that’s really that matters.
13. Heyward-Bey runs Ross Cockrell off with speed, breaking down and getting separation on a curl. Makes the catch.
14. Montell Garner is all over Rogers the first five yards but once he has to let go, Rogers is able to elude him, darting out and away and making the grab.
15. Grant is all over Coates but the receiver shows strong hands and plucks the ball away, tucking it into his body before Grant is able to make an attempt to pry it out.
16. Sean Davis mirrors Ayers well off the line of scrimmage but Ayers gets away on an out.
17. Blakeney makes a real nice one-handed grab over Shabazz.
18. Norwood beats Washington vertically but the pass is overthrown.
19. Marcus Tucker gains space at the top of his comeback, working away from Golden and reeling the pass in.
20. Severin on an outside release, running a fade and finding the ball against Dangerfield.
21. Blakeney runs a drag against Garner and the pass may have been a bit too far out in front, though Blakeney may also have needed to do a better job of running through his route. Those are the rules. Sit vs zone, run vs man. Either way, the pass is incomplete.
22. Norwood swaps hips with Davis off the line and gives him a little shove upfield as Norwood breaks inward. Gets separation, does everything right…and lets the ball into his chest and drops it. Bummer.
23. AB wins inside versus Ross Cockrell and shields him out on a curl.
24. Wheaton against Burns. Wheaton runs an out route, Burns is all over him and probably a little grabby. Ball thrown away from Burns, Wheaton’s inside shoulder, but the ball goes through his extended fingers.
25. Shabazz is in-phase with DHB, who probably was supposed to break his route off and never did. Ball ends up in the sidelines, incomplete.
26. Eli Rogers runs a slot fade against Garner but those two gets tangled up and Rogers somersaults to the ground.
27. Coates burns Grant down the right side, beats him by a good 2-3 yards.
28. Blakeney again works hard to retrace his steps and work to the QB against Washington. Clean catch.
29. Slot fade to Norwood against Garner. Incomplete but Garner was looking back to the ball too early, losing the hip and giving up separation.
30. Severin makes another sliding catch against Washington.
– OL/DL one-on-one results.
1. Arthur Moats swims inside on Marcus Gilbert. Gilbert lunges and while he’s still able to keep a hand on him, it’s a pretty iffy recovery.
2. David DeCastro absorbs Stephon Tuitt’s bull rush pretty good.
3. Cody Wallace lunges in his punch, whiffing on Daniel McCullers, who rumbles past.
4. Ramon Foster keeps his feet moving and seals off Cam Heyward.
5. Looked like Mike Reilly wins inside against Ryan Harris.
6. Harris gets revenge and seals Reilly upfield.
7. Heyward is loving his outside spin move and tries it on Foster. Able to get some space but Foster keeps himself square and in front. Fun battle.
8. McCullers runs through Wallace.
9. DeCastro in a good hand fight with Tuitt. Wins the battle and it’s pretty spirited.
10. Moats and Gilbert go at it again. Seals Moats initially but Moats works back inside and Gilbert lunges and Moats clears him.
11. Anthony Chickillo rips under Alejandro Villanueva, arguably his biggest weakness in terms of a specific move. Pretty sure Tomlin made an audible “Wow!”
12. Ricardo Mathews’ swims over Wallace.
13. Javon Hargrave makes quick work of Wallace, dipping and ripping under him. Just another guy Hargrave has made look silly.
14. Chris Hubbard seals L.T. Walton.
15. Jerald Hawkins is leaning a little bit but is able to mirror Travis Feeney outside and then inside. Would give the nod to the tackle on this rookie-on-rookie showdown.
16. The coaches want to see them go at it again. Hawkins has a nice kickslide, buolds his house, and gives a hard shove into Feeney up the edge, sending the linebacker belly-flopping into the Earth. Really nice rep from Hawkins.
17. Hubbard uses his hop step to handle Lavon Hooks’ bull rush.
18. Strong punch from Hargrave, which knocks Wallace off his base and into the pocket. Late recovery and I’d give Hargrave the “W” again.
19. Roy Philon can’t rip under B.J. Finney, who gets his hands into Philon’s armpit and rides him upfield.
20. Anthony Chickillo’s bullrush is absorbed by Alejandro Villanueva.
21. A wild Jordan Zumalt appears! He clubs and wins inside against Brian Mihalik.
22. Caushaud Lyons rips through Matt Feiler.
23. Cole Manhart sticks and wins the rep against Johnny Maxey.
– My 11 on 11 notes. Full contact early, eased off in the later sessions.
1. Seven shots. McCullers and Walton in nickel. Nothing immediately available for Ben Roethlisberger who is flushed to his right. Antonio Brown works left to right and in the back of the end zone. Ben finds and hits him.
2. Defensive line of Walton-Hargrave-Mathews. Empty set with Roosevelt Nix, Le’Veon Bell, and David Johnson all split out. Nix flares into the left flat and Ben hits him.
3. 11 personnel with Xavier Grimble at tight end. Bell motioned to empty. Ben finds Grimble in center left field of the end zone, who jumps and makes the grab.
4. Empty again with DeAngelo Williams in the slot. Clean pocket provided for Brown who throws a zinger to Brown, catching it between Shamarko Thomas and a closing-in Artie Burns.
5. Bruce Gradkowski in. Paul Lang and Johnson at TE. Norwood and Coates the receivers. Gradkowski never sees Anthony Chickillo and throws it right between the 5 and the 6. Easy INT.
6. Defense overload pressure to the right. Gradkowski hits Rogers on a slant.
7. Handoff to Fitzgerald Toussaint, makes one player miss but is crushed by several gold jerseys in front of the goal line.
1. Third team defensive line of Maxey-Philon-Lyons in against the first-team offensive line. Toussaint gets the carry. Not sure who had the tackle but Timmons had a nice run fill, forcing Toussaint down a gap.
2. Hargrave and Mathews in their nickel spots. Another dive to Toussaint, Ryan Shazier makes an ankle tackle.
3. William Gay and Ross Cockrell the outside cornerbacks. James Harrison doing Harrison-like things, forcing the ball inside, tossing aside Jesse James, and making the tackle on Brandon Brown-Dukes. One of those plays I wish you could’ve been there to see.
4. Harrison again forces the ball inside and L.J. Fort screams through for a big hit on poor Daryl Richardson.
5. Daniel McCullers clogs up the middle and Richardson bounces his run to the left. Wheaton seals Burns inside, giving the back the perimeter, and Richardson rips off the first big gain of camp, a solid 15 yard or so pickup down the left sideline.
6. Power run with David DeCastro pulling. Burns does better this time, shedding Coates and setting the edge. Cameron Stingily cuts upfield and inside Burns, scurrying downfield before Sharks clocks him along the left sideline.
7. FB dive to Rosie Nix who gets a couple yards and some hooping and hollering from his teammates.
8. *Looked* like another give to Nix but it basically didn’t matter. Ricardo Mathews knifes into the backfield for another TFL. He’s had a solid camp.
“Good job Ricardo!” a player or coach calls out.
9. Landry Jones fires a corner route to Eli Rogers. Tight coverage. Rogers jumps for it but Jordan Dangerfield breaks it up on the way down.
Clean pocket provided to Jones, led by Finney picking up a twist or a linemen scraping over.
10. Inside zone to Toussaint to the left side, cutting off the tight end’s inside hip. Gets a couple yards before Ross Ventrone flies in to hit him. Steven Johnson helped out, too.
11. Playaction. Jones hits Grimble down the right seam, wide open. Grimble runs another five or so yards until Ventrone gets brave and goes low on the tight end. Grimble runs over him, stumbling past before Garner drags him down.
12. Split zone with Christian Powell getting the carry. Dangerfield darts in and smacks him good. Welcome back, Powell. Instead of a casserole, you get popped in the ear-hole.
13. Third-team offensive line: Mihalik-Manhart-Finney-Feiler-Hawkins. Pistol and the give is to Richardson. He shows nice burst through the hole before Vince Williams makes the tackle.
14. Stingily runs through McCullers attempted tackle, only grazing him, until Shabazz and a couple others make the tackle.
15. Brown-Dukes gets the carry but there’s no room to go. Tyler Matakevich sweeps the leg and knocks BBD’s feet from out under him in the backfield.
– Defense worked exclusively with their fire zones this period.
1. DL of Walton/McCullers/Mathews. Empty set. Ben Roethlisberger, Lang/Nix in the rep. Golden blitzes. Big Ben flips a throw to Bell in the left flat, James Harrison dropping and shoving him out of bounds.
2. Sean Davis in the slot, replacing Senquez Golson. Came blitzing from his nickel spot. Ben fires a dig right into Brown’s hands over the middle.3
3. Ben throws short to Wheaton, working against Gay, but the pass glances off the receiver’s hands. 50/50 if you want to call it a drop.
4. 11 personnel. DeCastro handled Heyward’s bull rush well. Ben checks down to D-Will.
5. Chickillo rushes free off the defense’s left side. Gradkowski hits Coates on a curl in the face of the blitz. Nice read. Quick decision. Make a profit. World keeps spinning.
6. Jones looks to fire out hot to the left side but I think Timmons bats it down.
7. Fire X with Matakevich and Johnson crossing each other, Matakevich coming free. Jones hits an open Norwood running a shallow cross right to left.
8. Garner now seeing time in the slot against Eli Rogers. Chickillo runs through Paul Lang like he isn’t even there. Jones finds Rogers on a crossing route.
9. Sean Davis pitted against AB in the slot. Both the nickel player – Davis – and LCB – Garner – rush. That might be a new fire zone. Ben finds AB over the middle, who takes off across the field and down the right sideline. Ventrone and Mike Reilly give chase the whole way to the end zone and DHB plays bouncer for AB, all four sprinting down the right side.
Tomlin to AB as he jogs back. “Way to finish 8-4!”
10. Roethlisberger complete to Grimble, who plucks this one off Shazier’s helmet. Nice play.
11. Ben flare right to D-Will. Little bit in front but it hits off the back’s hands. Again, 50/50 if you want to classify that as a drop.
12. Mihalik in at right tackle with the 2nd team offensive line. LB fire zone and Gradkowski repeats what he did on an earlier rep, tossing a short curl to Coates. Grant was playing off coverage.
13. Empty set. Quick throw to Toussaint in the left flat.
14. Hawkins at right tackle. Ayers in the slot with Norwood and Blakeney outside. CB blitz off the left side. Gradkowski’s arm may have been hit, the pass fluttering out and to the ground after a couple yards.
15. Gradkowski looks for Norwood on a slant but the two can’t connect and the pass falls incomplete.
1. Playaction. Brown works back to Big Ben and the two hook up. Mike Mitchell was late getting there and he yelled out a certain four letter word in frustration.
2. LB again pulled off the line, Moats, giving that 4-3 look with tilted nose. Ben checkdown to Bell, a non-contact drill, so Bell is back in.
3. Playaction again but a receiver fell down trying to make his break on a dig. So Ben smartly checks it to Nix. Shazier pulls him down.
4. Roethlisberger again finds Nix. Pass is a tad behind but the fullback makes the catch.
5. Davis checks in at safety with Garner in the slot but Rogers motions to his side, causing the rookie to slide down over the WR. Roethlisberger fires to Coates. Burns has solid coverage. Both lay out for it and the pass is wide, incomplete.
6. Ben checks again to Bell. Chickillo initially tried to win with speed against Harris and countered nicely with a spin, finally shaking him. Chickillo had a quietly good day.
7. Toussaint with the carry through the hole. Burns did a nice job as the force defender to the defense’s right side, keeping the back between the tackles. Toussaint goes up the gut and is met by a thud by Shamarko Thomas.
8. Looks like a rub route with Coates and Lang. Burns has trouble working through Lang and Coates is wide open on a dig, making an easy catch.
9. Landry Jones checks to Richardson. Reilly gives good chase and Ventrone two-hand tags the back.
10. Jones hits David Johnson on a crossing pattern. He and Shazier make the catch simultaneously falling to the ground and Johnson wrestling the football away.
11. Toss to the right to Brown-Dukes. Lyons chases the ball across the field and pops him pretty good.
12. Norwood in the slot, Blakeney and Coates on the outside. Davis lined up in the slot. Post/dig concept, Davis carrying the seam that opens up Blakeney on the dig. Dustin Vaughan finds him.
13. Finney in a third team center. Nothing open for several seconds and then McCullers collapses the pocket, serving as an lunar eclipse for Vaughan. Just trying to get the ball out, Vaughan chucks it to Stingily underneath. The pass is off the mark and incomplete.
14. Moats rips under Mihalik off the edge. Marcus Tucker is open but Vaughan’s throw goes right through his hands. McCullers dropped into coverage on Brown-Dukes in the flats and that made me smile.
15. Draw to Powell who steps out of Matakevich’s tackle before getting tackled elsewhere near the LOS.
1. My favorite play of the day. Power run with DeCastro and Johnson pulling. DeCastro kicks out Arthur Moats and Johnson does the same to Ryan Shazier. Bell follows them right on through. Well executed.
2. Toss left to Williams. He cuts upfield and Robert Golden fills the alley. His run fills are consistently excellent.
3. Looked like a low snap. Flare from Ben to Bell.
4. Davis in the slot. Handoff to Bell, who finds a lane and is tripped up at the second level.
5. Roethilsberger with a little flick of the wrist, throwing from the far hash to the left sideline, hitting AB on an out route. Travis Feeney can’t get enough depth to contest the throw.
6. Garner in the slot, Davis at safety. Ben complete to Rogers on a pivot rough to the sideline.
7. Power again to the right. Toussaint the carry, DeCastro and Johnson the lead blockers.
8. Another carry to Toussaint. Reilly a nice job as a force defender and the back cuts inside and upfield.
9. Tyler Matakevich lined up at OLB, stacked with a teammate, dropping into coverage as the overhang defender and driving on Landry Jones’ throw to Daryl Richardson in the flat.
10. DL trio of Maxey-Hooks-Newberry. Another checkdown from Jones to Richardson. Timmons wraps him up with a soft tackle. Newberry had a nice contain rush.
11. Playaction and the team false keys by pulling the guard. Maybe Marcus Tucker thought it was supposed to be a run because he never gets his head around. Ventrone reads it a lot better and dives for Jones’ throw, nearly coming away with it. Lost it on the way to the ground.
12. Vaughan flips a screen left to Brown-Dukes. He jets away from Vince Williams. Dangerfield taps him up.
Tomlin yells out, “Get on out of there, Mercyhurst!” Still calling him by his college, not his name.
13. Vaughan flips the run away from the creeping safety. Looked like McCullers tracked down Brown-Dukes.
14. Power run but Matt Feiler can’t log Steven Johnson to the inside. Brown-Dukes is able to work away from the linebacker, breaking left and downfield. Gains about 6-7 yards before being tackled by Garner.
15. Vaughan flare route to Powell to end things.
1. Doran Grant may not be the talk of the day but he played better. Even on the catches he gave up, his coverage was tight.
2. Xavier Grimble continues to flash as a receiver. And he was able to finish practice today which might be the best news.
3. Jerald Hawkins had a strong day in one-on-ones. Took care of Feeney.
4. Ricardo Mathews keeps making plays in the backfield. Versatile, can play in base and nickel, and he’s been disruptive all around.
5. Tyler Matakevich was as active as I’ve seen him all camp. Maybe things are slowing down for him a bit.
6. Anthony Chickillo a really good day, building on what he did yesterday. Again, I don’t think he headlines things but whenever I watched him, he won as a pass rusher and had today’s lone INT.
7. Team gave Brandon Brown-Dukes quite a bit of burn today, especially in the final rep. Tomlin said nice things about him.
8. On the bad side of things, Marcus Tucker had a rough one. A drop and a miscommunication for a guy not getting a ton of reps won’t help his chances.
9. Artie Burns was better but still up-and-down. It’s a long process though.
10. Four days in and I thought I’d see Donald Washington pop a little more than he has. A little disappointing, I guess.
Twitter Question Of The Day
He’s done some nice things. I like that they’ve been playing him inside and outside. Also going to be in the mix for return work. Capable of wearing many hats. Always improves the odds.
Coach McGuirk’s Best Quotes
“See this? That’s right, it’s the bannana lady from the bannanas. I get drunk one night, and now my body looks like a grocery store. Dont get a tattoo. Play soccer.”
St. Vincent College Is Beautiful Photo Of The Day