Steelers’ Training Camp Diary: Day Seven

Friday Night Lights is truly the highlight of camp and if you can, one trip you must take. Over 12,000 fans reportedly showed up tonight. The high school’s band plays as you walk in, food trucks litter the streets, and Renegade blared over the loudspeakers as the players – led by Mike Tomlin – took the field. There’s really nothing better than professional football on the high school stage.

– Injury roundup. Not much new. Travis Feeney, Bud Dupree, and Artie Burns continue to sit out with their injuries. Kevin Colbert said Burns is dealing with a quad. Markus Wheaton dressed again, sans shoulder pads, and didn’t get much work in.

Ryan Shazier was on the field and in pads but only went through individual work. Xavier Grimble, David Johnson, and Mike Mitchell practiced today despite getting shaken up yesterday. Not 100% if Mitchell was in team drills but either way, he should be fine.

Ladarius Green went through the stretch line with the team though I didn’t see anything from him after. I guess that’s a good sign. He hadn’t done that before. He also didn’t have an extra field to work on like he does at SVC.

Only in-practice injury I saw was Landry Jones, who was stepped on after throwing one pass. Looked like a left ankle. He limped pretty bad back to the bench and got iced up. By the end of practice, he rejoined his teammates on the side and seemed to be moving much better.

– If you’re at practice or just like to know, newly signed TE Michael Cooper is wearing #49 and new WR Cobi Hamilton has #83. Taking the number of the players jettisoned out, Jake Phillips and Canaan Severin. Bummer about Severin. One catch and the season is over. The NFL is a harsh league.

Hamilton got some work in as a return man. Don’t believe either were in team drills. Someone, I guess an assistant (I swear it was Severin but wasn’t sure and that doesn’t make sense) was looking at a script and talking with Hamilton before practice got going. Gotta be a tough adjustment to make.

– As the teams warmed up, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Wheaton jogged a lap around the field.

– The stretch line sang Happy Birthday to DeAngelo Williams and then Cam Heyward and Ramon Foster attacked him with silly string. Bill Hillgrove would get on the PA and get the crowd to sing to D-Will, too.

– Late in practice, Antonio Brown ran sprints with Chris Boswell and backup long snapper Matt Dooley. I just wanted to finally get to mention Dooley’s name. Hooray!

A rabbit ran onto the field and Brown chased after it. I think Tomlin told him he can have a new contract if he could pick it up. He did not…

– Watched the DBs in individual, they didn’t seem to be as active as past seasons, but I thought Ray Vinopal moved fluidly through one of the cone drills.

– WR/DB notes.

1.  Antonio Brown beats Ross Cockrell on a slant and races to the end zone as the crowd erupts.

2. Doran Grant has outside leverage on DHB but the receiver runs through it. Grant grabs him, drawing a flag, and Heyward-Bey snags the ball high over his head.

3. Sammie Coates runs a corner route, bursting away from Donald Washington but the pass slides off his fingertips.

4. Eli Rogers does the same, running a corner, against Montell Garner. Garner looks back for the football and loses his man as the pass is thrown over his head and snagged by the receiver.

5. Demarcus Ayers toasts Al-Hajj Shabazz with a double-move and all the cornerback can do is grab him to avoid looking silly. Incomplete but an obvious flag.

6. Newly signed CB Kevin White has solid coverage on Levi Norwood and the pass falls incomplete.

7. Robert Golden seems to always play off, I guess that makes sense since he’s a safety, and Issac Blakeney runs a short curl for one of the easiest grabs of the drill.

8. Nice punch and reroute by Washington who is all over Marcus Tucker. Pass is incomplete.

9. Don’t have the receiver listed but a nice five yard chuck from Shabazz, who shoots his hand in and breaks up this throw.

10. Garner is playing outside leverage so Norwood runs a simple dig and hauls the throw in.

11. Blakeney runs on Vinopal’s toes and the safety is late to open the gate. Blakeney beats him down the right side but the throw is slightly off line. The tall receiver corkscrews for the football and does grab it but can’t get his feet in bounds. Nice effort though.

12. Unfair matchup, Kevin White against Antonio Brown. White tries to press but AB defeats it with and wins vertically. White looks back for the ball, it ain’t coming to him, and Brown makes the snare over his shoulder.

13. Rogers does a nice job to work downhill to his QB on this curl, catching the pass versus Grant.

14. DHB shakes Cockrell really bad, as bad as Cockrell has been fooled this camp, and wins inside for the easiest of receptions.

15. Coates breaks on a curl but slips out of his route. He’s able to recover and makes the catch against Granter, who he was able to run off with speed initially.

16. Easy grab by Ayers, who runs an out route vs Sean Davis.

17. Tucker looks to push off against Shabazz but the corner recovers and plays the pocket, breaking the throw up.

18.  Garner has decent leverage to play Blakeney’s dig route but the tall receiver is able to dip under the corner out of his break and speed away to the sideline, hauling in the throw.

19. Looks like Hamilton got his first rep, pushing off versus White, and making the catch on a curl.

20.  Nicely thrown football on this fade to Norwood, who catches it over Golden’s shoulder.

21. Tucker with a nasty double-move on Washington, absolutely smokes him, but according to my notes, the pass did fall incomplete.

–  By this point, the offensive line had moved to a different location so I was able to peer over and check out several reps of backs on ‘backers, the real treat of this Friday night practices. Here’s what I have and obviously, this is certainly not all the reps. I saw the back half.

1. Jordan Zumwalt swims over Xavier Grimble.

2. Zumwalt looks to dip inside this time but can’t get low enough. Grimble is able to ride his shoulder and throws him to the ground.

3. Running back Daryl Richardson seals Tyler Matakevich.

4. They go at it again and Matakevich makes quick work of the back, swimming over him.

5. The vet against the rookie, Arthur Moats bulls through Paul Lang.

6. Cameron Stingily lunges in his attempt and Jarvis Jones smartly swims over, getting past without much issue.

7. They go again and Stingily holds on for dear life but does hold on against Jones. Small skirmish at the end, each player taking a couple of open-hand swipe at one another.

8. Vince Williams with a lightning fast arm-over move of Michael Cooper. Poor new guy. First day on the job and you’re made to look silly.

9. Coaches reset them. Williams’ swim attempt is a little high but he’s able to dip low and get under him. Cooper’s feet stop moving and he falls to the ground, losing the rep.

10. The tiny Brandon Brown-Dukes holds his own against Mike Reilly. Reilly is only able to win late, ripping under at the top of the arc.

11. BBD absorbs Reilly again and stands his ground. Reilly tossed the tiny back to the ground at the end. Good rep for both.

12. Anthony Chickillo dips under and past David Johnson.

13. They go again and Johnson seals the OLB up the arc.

14. Wasn’t pretty but Christian Powell holds his own versus L.J. Fort.

15. Zumwalt doesn’t have a lot of explosion off the ball and Stingily is able to square up and handle him.

16. Coaches want to see it again. Zumwalt has a decent punch that gets Stingily’s shoulder turned but the back recovers and gets square, ending things on a high note for the offense.

17. Grimble with a nice rep against Jarvis Jones. Jones tries to spin past him. Grimble mirrors the whole way.

18. Looked like Steven Johnson got past Fitzgerald Toussaint. Don’t think my notes were clear of who the back was but the runner had his jersey rolled up and that’s usually how Toussaint looks.

19. I *think* it was Chickillo who gave someone a little outside-in move and won clean to the inside.

20. It’s Matakevich versus Roosevelt Nix. Quick swim over Nix and he wins cleanly. Joey Porter was really amped up for his guy.

21. They reset and again, Matakevich whips Nix. It’s crazy. Spins inside and all Nix can do to save face is grab the outside of Dirty Red’s jersey and yank him down.

– And finally, some OL/DL work that took place later on in practice.

1. Moats is able to dip under Marcus Gilbert but the right tackle is able to seal things.

2.  Gilbert shows that strong first punch against Moats but as he mirrors, slips at the top. Moats corners past.

3. David DeCastro handles Stephon Tuitt’s bull rush.

4. Daniel McCullers runs through B.J. Finney on a bull.

5. Hasn’t had a lot of success but Cam Heyward with a clean win on Ramon Foster, starting with a bull to get Foster off balance and then ripping past.

6. They go at it again and Heyward tries that spin move. Doesn’t work and Heyward ends up on the ground as the two come together again.

7. Jarvis Jones gets under Alejandro Villanueva’s pads but Villy is too strong. Not really moved as the left tackle grabs Jones’ jersey around the shoulder pads.

8. Ryan Harris with a successful rep against Reilly. Reilly rushed outside, faked going in, and then continues his corner, but Harris had it all figured out.

9. A potential 9th OL on the roster, Chris Hubbard deals with Ricardo Mathews’ well and the DE ends up losing his helmet.

10. Man, this rookie is good. Javon Hargrave just tosses, ragdolls even, Finney away and wins inside.

11. Looks like L.T. Walton won with a dip/rip past Cody Wallace.

12. Anthony Chickillo gets a step on Jerald Hawkins but Hawkins is able to use his length to just barely get the OLB up the arc.

13. Coaches reset things and Chickillo starts a speed rush before clubbing Hawkins inside and using an arm-over to get past and win the rep.

14. Finney gets revenge, handling Hargrave’s bull rush well enough. Hargrave is good at getting around you. Bull rush needs work. Finney is also really good at getting leverage and having a strong base. He’s not easy to move.

15. Reset Finney/Hargrave again. Hargrave tries to spin, it fails, and Finney mirrors. Might be the first time someone has stopped Hargrave twice in a row.

16. Hawkins seals Reilly.

17. Rookie UDFA Giorgio Newberry’s rep fails. Not positive who the OL was. I think it was Cole Manhart.

18. Lavon Hooks ends up on the ground against Valerian Ume-Ezeoke.

19. Another UDFA, Devaunte Sigler, showing a little something something. Rips late under Matt Feiler and his killer beard.

20. Ume-Ezeoke shows some strength and helps put Roy Philon into the ground.

– Ok, onto your 11 on 11 notes.

First Session

1. Seven shots, like always. Alejandro Villanueva in as first team left tackle, part of the normal rotation. William Gay back in team work with Arthur Moats and Jarvis Jones the OLBs. Eli Rogers still first team slot with Wheaton out. Landry Jones first team QB with Ben managed. Jones fires a dart to Xavier Grimble, a short out to the right, and the tight end makes the grab. Robert Golden is a step late.

2. Looked like 12 personnel but an empty set, something you might see added to the Steelers’ repertoire this year. Nix in the slot with Johnson and James also flexed out. Jones hits Antonio Brown in the left flat, in front of Gay, for the touchdown.

3. Jones again looks for Brown on a slant, firing between Williams and a pretty frustrated Gay. AB celebrates by dunking the football over the goal posts.

4. Handoff to Nix out of the shotgun. Anthony Chickillo and others pile on him but the big fullback crosses the goal line for the score.

5. Le’Veon Bell motioned to empty as Bruce Gradkowski checks in. He looks for James but Fort tips the pass away.

6. B.J. Finney second team center with Cody Wallace at right guard. Gradkowski wants Ayers in the right flat but Shabazz steps in front of Gradkowski’s pass and tips it away, coming so close to an INT.

7. Gradkowski finishes by trying to hit Paul Lang on an out route but Steven Johnson provided tight coverage.

Second Session

1. Full contact drill as Fitzgerald Toussaint starts things off with a carry left side. Shamarko Thomas, as he always does, offers a big pop in the alley.

2. Rogers in the slot. Give is again to Toussaint but he’s met at the line with nowhere to go. Defensive line held the POA and L.J. Fort worked his way in there, too. No gain.

3. Daryl Richardson enters but doesn’t have much more success. Fort comes in free and Cam Heyward gets off a block to make the TFL.

4. Richardson left as Jarvis spills the run laterally. Doran Grant comes from the edge and Steven Johnson scrapes to trip the back up.

5. Landry Jones playaction. Unfortunately, notes get unclear from here. Everyone has bad reps. Even me.

6. Third team DL against the offensive line’s starting five. So Cameron Stingily is able to run through the first level with ease. James Harrison grabs him by the waist and pulls him down.

7. Tomlin calls out, “Come on Mercyhurst,” obviously to Brown-Dukes. But Vince Williams will have none of it. He comes in free up the middle to bring BBD down in the backfield. Roy Philon rewards the linebacker with a head slap.

8. B.J. Finney pulls and kicks out Steven Johnson. Brown cuts off his inside hip and upfield. Nice backside pursuit by Chickillo to come across and make the tackle.

9. Nix carry off the right side.

10. Playaction by Dustin Vaughan. Nothing deep so he makes the smart play, probably found him a little late though, hitting Powell on a checkdown to the left side. Vince Williams charges hard for the initial tackle while Fort throws a shoulder into the rookie for good measure.

11. Cole Manhart pulls with Brown-Dukes behind. Garner is there as is Steven Johnson, who works off the trap block and despite his helmet popping off, makes the tackle.

12. Highlight of the night. Toussaint carry right side off tackle and absolutely steamrolls Donald Washington, running through and past him for a decent gain. One of the plays you have to see to really feel but man, it was nasty.

13. Gradkowski playaction. Hits Issac Blakeney on a dig who makes a nice hands catch. Kevin White hops on his back and drags him down.

14. Vince Williams free again, that’s not ideal for any offense, and he swoops in to knock Nix down in the backfield.

15. Dive to Stingily. Zumwalt and Hargrave team up for the tackle, knocking Stingily’s shoe off.

16. New face, Valerian Ume-Ezeoke in at center. Rest of third team line: Jerald Hawkins-Manhart-Matt Feiler-Brian Mihalik. Looked like Blakeney didn’t know what the play was and got yanked out of the rep. Powell up the middle, met by his defensive counterpart, #39 Ray Vinopal, and, who else, Vince Williams. If you’re scoring at home, that’s four tackles in ten plays.

Third Session

1.  Blitz. Jones looks to hit Bell flaring out on the right side but Moats reads it and swats the ball upfield.

2.  Man coverage with not much available. Moats, having another nice night, getting pressure. Jones looks for Brown down the seam but the two aren’t on the same page, the ball falling flat and short.

3. AB and DHB outside, Rogers in the slot. Jones goes for it, firing deep down the right side to Brown, covered by Cockrell. Brown flashes his hands late, that’s key for him, giving the cornerback no time to react. Another unreal grab.

4. Quick audible by Jones but Eli Rogers never gets on the same page. Has no idea what the check is and Jones’ slant to him totally is off the mark. Tipped by Steven Johnson. Rogers is out of the rep and Wheaton comes over to discuss things with him.

5. Gradkowski is good for one of these per day, a curl to Coates against off coverage. Washington on the coverage.

6.  Pony look with Bell and D-Will in the game. Williams sidecar to Gradkowski and Bell lined up in a two point stance as a wing. Ran this the play before, too. Throw down the left sideline for Levi Norwood but the pass is behind. Norwood fights to find it and falls backwards adjusting to the throw but the pass is incomplete. Washington came up gimpy on this play with an ankle but he finished out practice.

7. Gradkowski’s short dig to James is high. Tyler Matakevich squares up and sticks the tight end anyway, driving him into the Earth. Saw McCullers again drop into coverage, peeling off to the back in the left flat. Swear I’ve seen the NT drop more in camp this year than last year’s regular season combined.

8. Toussaint had great pickup on a blitzing Sean Davis, squaring up, staying on his feet, and riding him upfield. Nothing available for Gradkowski, who tucks and runs.

9. Landry Jones sails a deep left out to DHB. White had the coverage. Incomplete.

10.  White on a CAT blitz. Jones to DHB over the middle.

11.  Roosevelt Nix gets behind everyone on a wheel route and Jones finds him down the left sideline. Brown-Dukes helped the cause with a diving attempt to shove Reilly upfield. Nix makes the grab and outraces Ray Vinopal to the end zone. TD.

12. Drag route from Vaughan to Tucker complete along the right side.

13. Vaughan hits Coates on a crosser. Jordan Dangerfield first one threre but lets him through. Shabazz keeps fighting hard and rips the football out, recovering the fumble.

14. Throw from Vaughan is a little low to Powell but manageable. The back drops it in the right flat.

15. Jacob Hagen blitzes, crossing under the contain rusher upfield. McCullers busts everything up by running through Mihalik (I think) and forcing Vaughan to take off.

Fourth Session

1. Red zone work. Jones hits AB on a deep out to the left, in front of Gay. Gay gives the receiver a hard shove out of bounds.

2. Same exact play. Same exact result. Jones to AB, deep out left, in front of Gay. This time, it’s in the end zone.

Saw Jarvis Jones bull rush Villanueva, gets under him and Villy is tough to put on skates.

3. Draw by D-Will up the middle and into the teeth of the defense.

4. Toss right out of the gun to Bell. Marcus Gilbert pulling and leading the way, colliding with Moats once and then again, hard, and sending the LOLB sprawling into the grass. Bell keeps moving laterally and basically runs himself out of bounds.

5. Jones throw to AB is behind but as the best receiver in the league does, adjusts and makes the catch. This is when Jones got stepped on, don’t know by who, and injured.

6. Gradkowski flips this pass in the right flat to Bell. Fort can’t close in time.

7. Toussaint carry inside. Chickillo gets penetration and keeps the run inside. I think Davis gave the back a pretty good pop.

8. Quick out from Vaughan to Tucker but this is an awful miss by the QB. High and behind. Gimmie throw against off coverage.

9. Vaughan again misses to Norwood. Not his best day. Liked the active eyes from Finney, head on a swivel while staying in his gap.

10. Stingily up the middle and wiggles his way through the other side and into the end zone. Nix was the lead blocker.

11. Vaughan speed out to Ayers for a TD.

12. Draw to Richardson. Zumwalt trips him up and Richardson trips over a mosh pit of bodies on the ground.

13. Brown-Dukes cuts right and upfield. Hagen misses the tackle but Reilly doesn’t squeezing him and flipping him down.

14. Gradkowski quick throw to Rogers for a TD.

Fifth Session

1. Vaughan working ahead of Gradkowski as 1st team QB, for whatever that’s worth. Grimble at TE. Checkdown to Bell.

2. Pouncey pulls to the right. But the snap is wide left and slows the run up a little bit. Moats also got penetration off the edge to slow the run up further.

3. Rogers slot left. Fire X blitz. Vaughan runs free up the middle and outstretches the ball over the goal line as he crosses into the end zone.

4. Vaughan looks to hit Williams quickly in the right flat but Jarvis Jones times the jump and swats the ball back to Vaughan’s feet.

5. Stretch left to Bell. He jukes 95 (again, no tackling, especially Bell) and bounces right before getting upfield.

6. Vaughan is late leaving the pocket but finally flushes to the right. Probably needs to throw the ball away but he finally dumps the football right side to no one in particular.

7. Richardson the carry upfield. Vince Williams fills the hole and is pleased with himself, clapping after the play.

8. Gradkowski hits Richardson along the right side. Shamarko Thomas with a decent pop.

9. Toussaint shows explosion off the left side. Got a block from Jesse James.

10. Gradkowski looks to hit Blakeney on a backshoulder fade in the end zone but the ball is thrown too far behind. Shabazz on the coverage.

11. Brown-Dukes immediately met by Caushaud Lyons in the backfield. But the small back is able to slip out of the tackle. The penetration does spill the run and BBD is quickly wrapped up before he can reach the perimeter.

12. Fade to the right from Brucie. Really not sure who was the receiver, view was obstructed. Think it was Blakeney/Shabazz again. Pass was incomplete.

13. Jesse James seals Zumwalt upfield. Gradkowski looks to check down but Vinopal breaks the pass up.

14. Stingily up the middle and through the hole, finding the end zone. He slips in the back of the end zone and falls down. Tries to get up but stumbles again. Glory given, glory taken away.

15. Rogers touchdown out of the slot to close the day out.

Final Thoughts

Real quick before I fall asleep at my keyboard.

– Like I said, not Dustin Vaughan’s best day. Some poor decisions, some iffy throws. Across the board, the passing offense wasn’t crisp. Lot of that probably has to do with no Roethlisberger and a new environment. Players are creatures of habit.

– Xavier Grimble has the size, strength, and length, to be an interesting blocker in pass pro. Question is if he’s able to move laterally while playing sound, especially when facing OLBs on a regular basis. But he continues to showcase talent, even if he isn’t going to be the talk of practice every day.

– Again, keep seeing positive things from Hawkins and Finney.

– Some of the DL are showing up a little bit but I think the 53 man roster is set, Walton getting that final spot. Lyons and the bunch fighting for a practice squad role.

– Vince Williams and Tyler Matakevich with huge days today. What Matakevich did as a pass rusher, even understanding it was one-on-ones, was just as surprising as it was impressive.

– Al-Hajj Shabazz had a strong day. Donald Washington…not so much.

Twitter Question Of The Day

Not so fast, my friend. I’m leaning towards this being Timmons’ last year in Pittsburgh.

Coach McGuirk’s Best Quotes

“New York Times?
New York TIMES!?!??
You think you’re better than us?
No Way!”

2015 Steelers’ Highlight To Get You Amped For 2016

Lot of hate for Jarvis Jones. But he can make impact plays, like this INT against the Colts last year.

St. Vincent College Is Beautiful Photo Of The Day 


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