Steelers’ Training Camp Diary: Day Six

Another excellent day of camp. Honestly, each day has really been productive. Let’s get into the notes.

– Injury roundup. Not too terrible. Demarcus Ayers returned in full today after suffering a minor right ankle injury on Wednesday. Stephon Tuitt worked in full as well. Bud Dupree and Markus Wheaton continue to sit out, making it two days in a row, but both look ok.

Ryan Shazier was nowhere to be found today. Mike Tomlin wasn’t specific about the nature of his injury. Travis Feeney sat out with an unknown injury; if you read yesterday’s report, you know he was shaken up in one-on-ones. Artie Burns got work in one-on-ones and the first team drill before removing his shoulder pads and calling it a day.

During practice, David Johnson (leg), Xavier Grimble (leg), and Mike Mitchell (arm) seemed to get nicked up. Mitchell finished practice. It wouldn’t shock me to see Grimble held out of tomorrow’s practice, but we’ll see.

– Ayers and Sammie Coates were the first ones out with Levi Norwood not too far behind. They all spent time on the JUGS machine before practice, like they do every day.

Matt Feiler worked with Cody Wallace on pass sets out of a two point stance. Wallace puts in a lot of work before practice.

Antonio Brown showed up to practice at 3:02, seven minutes late. He is a leader with an incredible work ethic but he isn’t really known for being punctual. Of course, he could’ve had a good excuse, and he did make his way down the stairs pretty quickly.

– Refs still on hand today. Each of the two days they’ve been here, Danny Smith has had a long conversation with one of them. I don’t know if he’s yelling at them or trying to get on their good side. But if he ever ran for President, he’d have my vote. He’s the man.

Al-Hajj Shabazz and Jacob Hagen got some work together on their punch during warmups. Every little rep counts.

– NFL Network big-wigs were on hand today, including former running back Ladainian Tomlinson. Sporting a bright red shirt, he spent time talking to Randy Fichtner/Joey Porter, Mike Tomlin, and then chatted up Le’Veon Bell during individual drills.

Alejandro Villanueva is the first man through the offensive ladder drill every day. Mark of a leader.

– Grimble’s hand placement has seemed to improve a lot on the blocking sled. Used to be too high, now he’s getting low and exploding up on contact. It may just be a sled but he’s getting a better push.

– Steelers had some young kids, high school or maybe college kids from St. Vincent, go through WR drills with the rest of the team. Must be pretty cool.

– OL worked in pods. One linemen would face two “defenders,” also linemen, holding pads. The linemen getting the rep would punch the one bag and then slide to the other, keeping his base and working on his punch.

– For the 4th straight day, Cam Heyward and the rest of the Steelers in the stretch line sang Happy Birthday to DeAngelo Williams. Even Tomlin joined in.

– Punters got work in today and boy, Jordan Berry looked good. I don’t have hang times for every kick and I missed his best one – his first punt – that traveled a legit 80 yards in the air. From his end zone to the 20. He had several other boomers, including one just short of 70 yards. Here are the hang times I have recorded.

Jordan Berry: 4.62, 5.22, 4.18, 5.04, 5.02
Will Monday: 5.15, 3.58, 4.72, 5.30, 4.77

Both did well but Berry showed a much bigger leg.

– Snippet of the punt coverage unit. Robert Golden the upback, Roosevelt Nix the left wing, Sean Davis the right wing. That’s a really good spot for Davis.

– In the last rep, Kevin White and Shamarko Thomas absolutely destroyed whoever the gunner was. Stonedwalled him the whole way.

– WR/DB results.

1.  Artie Burns has good coverage on Antonio Brown but AB is just too good, catching this fade over the rookie.

2. Darrius Heyward-Bey gets some separation against Donald Washington but the pass is incomplete, through DHB’s hands.

3. Ball thrown inside to Sammie Coates against Ross Cockrell, Cockrell has inside leverage, but Coates basically rips the ball away the cornerback. Strong, strong hands.

4. Accurate ball by Ben Roethlisberger to the front left pylon, throwing Eli Rogers open and completing the pass against Doran Grant.

5. Poor reroute by Montell Garner and slips. Demarcus Ayers wins vertically.

6. Shabazz finds the football and breaks up this pass against Norwood.

7.Issac Blakeney makes a nice adjustment against Robert Golden, completing the catch.

8. Jordan Dangerfield is late in opening the gates (his hips) and Marcus Tucker smokes him.

9. Norwood looks to run a post-corner but Washington walls him off, the pass incomplete.

10. Burns reads Ayers’ out cut and jumps it, picking off the pass. Nice play from the first rounder, who needs some good news in his life.

11. AB on a slant versus Cockrell, crossing his face and making an easy catch, ending it with a jump-shot of the football over the crossbar.

12. Grant reads DHB break well and blankets him, forcing the pass high and over both of their heads. Incomplete.

13. Coates snags a fade against Kevin White.

14. Eli Rogers with a great release off the ball, swiping away Garner’s hands. Garner works hard to recover but Rogers makes the cut on an out route.

15. Norwood wins on a simple speed out against Ray Vinopal.

16. Nice reroute by Shabazz on Blakeney, who can’t run through him. Pass is uncontested and incomplete.

17. Tucker looks to run a post corner but Sean Davis blankets him. Tucker can’t find the ball and it’s another incompletion.

18. Burns again provides sticky coverage on AB but Brown leaps over his jersey and plucks the ball off the 2-5 of the rookie’s uniform. Just indefensible.

19. No chance for Washington to make a play on a quick out cut by DHB, who gets his head around just as the ball is reaching him. Complete.

20. Wheel route from Coates, to the flat and then vertical, but the pass is off his hands and incomplete.

21. Rogers can’t shake Doran Grant and Grant nearly comes away with the INT.

22. Garner is all over Norwood, who can do nothing to separate. Ball is high and incomplete.

23. Slant goes through Blakeney’s hands. Shabazz on the coverage.

24. Tucker runs an out route but the ball also goes off his hands, a clear drop.

25. Fade to Norwood, who leaps over Ross Ventrone and grabs the ball at its highest point. Ventrone gives him a hard shove, sending Norwood sprawling onto his back out of bounds but he completes the catch.

26. Blakeney catches and scores against Garner.

27. Antonio Brown catches a fade over Cockrell, who has just about as good coverage as you can teach. It’s just AB being AB.

28. Wheel route from DHB against Shabazz, who gets separation but the pass is a little off the mark and incomplete.

29. Coates runs an out against Grant but the ball is thrown behind, picked off by Grant.

30. Rogers quickly breaks his route off in the back of the end zone as Washington runs past. Rogers makes the catch.

31. Coates gives Cockrell a nudge at the top of his route, causing the corner to slip. Coates squares up to the QB and makes the grab.

32. Garner working on Norwood as the receiver runs a fade. But the pass is slightly off target and bounces off the receiver’s left hand.

33. Ayers dives for a pass low but it squirms free and rolls along the ground. Dangerfield in coverage.

34. Blakeney harkens back on his basketball days, basically boxing out Shabazz on this slant and he makes the grab.

35. Kevin White grabs Tucker on a double-move, clearly beat, and the ref watching issues a flag. Tucker still makes the catch.

36. Pass is incomplete to Tucker.

– OL/DL results. The Steelers used their robots as the QBs for this drill. Pretty cool.

1. Jarvis Jones beats Ryan Harris inside but it happens very, very late. Harris would get the win here.

2. Ramon Foster has done a nice job against Heyward all camp, sealing his attempted rip move.

3. Daniel McCullers tries to bull B.J. Finney, who slowly loses his ground and then relents, as McCullers falls into the robot. You break it, you buy it, and those things cost $8000 (the robot would be ok).

4. I missed the rep between David DeCastro and Stephon Tuitt. Sorry!

5. Anthony Chickillo with a hard punch that gets underneath Jerald Hawkins’ pads, driving him back.

6. The coaches reset the two and Chickillo wins again, first with a punch to knock Hawkins off balance and then by beating him inside.

7. Looked like Chickillo again, a third time, only flipped to the other side against Villaenuva. Villanueva is able to defend as Chick tries to rip under. Villy is better at defending that move than he was early in camp.

8. Chris Hubbard absorbs Giorgio Newberry’s bull rush.

9. Javon Hargrave dips under and past Finney. Another win for the rookie.

10. Devaunte Sigler with a powerful punch against Cody Wallace and then strings together an inside spin to win. Actually was impressed with this rep from Sigler.

11. Outside linebacker Jordan Zumwalt can’t beat Brian Mihalik, who seals him outside and then slides back inside, though he did move his feet inside a little late. Took a second to be able to drive off his inside foot and start to mirror, if that makes sense.

12. Coaches reset hem and Mihalik’s feet go dead on his punch, letting Zumwalt win the edge this time.

13. Hawkins does a nice job of absorbing Ricardo Mathews. Mathews ends up being on the ground by the end of the rep and Hawkins earns a couple of slaps on the helmet from his teammates.

14. Lavon Hooks may have lost his footing and ends up on the ground against Cole Manhart.

15. They reset and Hooks swims over Manahrt, who seemed to double-over.

16. Nose tackle Roy Philon bull rushes Valerian Ume-Ezeoke back into the robot, shedding him very late.

17. Johnny Maxey tries a two hand swipe on Matt Feiler but loses his balance and stumbles upfield.

18. Mihalik seals Zumwalt to round things out.

– Ok, let’s get into the team drills.

First Session

1.  Ryan Harris first team left tackle. Jesse James lined up in the slot. Artie Burns getting work with the first team. Roethlisberger fires to the right side and DHB makes a one-handed grab over Burns.

2. L.T. Walton and Daniel McCullers the nickel pairing. Brown runs a double-move on Burns, who gets left at the altar and Ben finds him in the left corner of the end zone.

3. Ben wants to hit Heyward-Bey on an out route but it isn’t available. So he checks down to Bell who is immediately met by Vince Willliams’ right shoulder. Bell stays on his feet, Williams was laying off a good bit, and Lawrence Timmons wraps him up short of the end zone.

4. Here’s a weird one. Roethlisberger seems to toss a behind-the-back shovel pass to Jesse James as DeAngelo Williams does his best acting performance, violently falling to the ground. Maybe inspired by something from the WWE. Anyway, James hauls in the shovel and scores. One of the weirdest plays I’ve seen.

EDIT: I read elsewhere James couldn’t bring in the shovel pass. Go figure.

5. Dustin Vaughan checks in and fires a throw to Xavier Grimble on the right side, who makes the catch and holds on despite taking a hard shot from someone. Tomlin high fives his athletic tight end as he goes back to the huddle. Doran Grant came on a blitz, by the way.

6. Ross Ventrone rushes in free. Vaughan flushes right and the coaches blow a pretty quick whistle.

7. Empty set with Bell in the slot. 12 personnel. Vaughan’s pass sails out of the end zone, incomplete.

Second Session

1. Timmons and Williams the first-team inside linebackers. Brown runs Cockrell off with speed on an out route to the right, the field side, and Landry Jones hits him.

2. Defensive line of Walton/Hargrave/Mathews. Grimble and Johnson the tight ends. Give to Fitzgerald Toussaint. Hargrave helps close the hole and a linebacker makes the tackle.

3. Daryl Richardson over the left side. He side steps one defender before Lawrence Timmons across the field and clocks him with a forceful hit.

4. Power run with the guard pulling. Big lane for Richardson along the left side, the back churning into the open field. Mike Mitchell makes an open field tackle and comes up a little lame. Something with his left arm, maybe.

5. Inside zone to the left, Brandon Brown-Dukes getting the carry. Steven Johnson fills and I believe he makes the tackle.

6. Montell Garner and Donald Washington the second team corners. BBD up the middle. Shamarko Thomas and Cam Heyward mortar and pestle the back into the ground.

7. Vince Williams and Tyler Matakevich at ILB. Bruce Gradkowski checks down to Cameron Stingily. Pass is a little high and bounces off the back’s hands. Matakevich was charging in hard to lay the lumber.

8. Williams and Deebo converge on Stingily in the backfield.

9. Kevin White at LCB, Shabazz getting his first reps at RCB. Finney pulling. Matakevich looks to have a strong run fill, keeping the ball inside, with Chickillo chasing hard from the backside and Ventrone coming up to smack Brown-Dukes.

10. Defensive line of Sigler-Hooks-Newberry. Timmons and Fort at inside linebacker. Run is spilled outside and Richardson tries to bounce it but Chickillo sets a physical edge and makes the tackle before the back can hit the perimeter.

11. Jordan Zumwalt and Mike Reilly the OLBs. Toussaint carry over the right side and Timmons scrapes over the top for the tackle. David Johnson came up gimpy at the end of this one but he stuck around throughout.

12. Power run with Chirs Hubbard pulling but Zumwalt gets penetration and forces Hubbard a bit wider than you’d like, slowing everything up. Devaunte Sigler makes his first noticeable impact in team drills and wraps around Stingily’s waist, bringing him to the ground.

13. Nix checks into the backfield, Tomlin calling out, “Let’s see what you got Rosie!” Nix over left side. Several players pile in on the tackle and Dangerfield ends up at the bottom of things after a 2-3 yard pickup.

14. Vince Williams being a baaaad man. I was watching this one closely. Williams sugars the A gap, swims Matt Feiler at the LOS, dodges the lead blocking Nix, and curls around Christian Powell’s ankles, bringing him down in the backfield.

15. Hawkins continuing to see work at left tackle. Ume-Ezeoke in at center. Nix again up the middle with White and Dangerfield teaming up for the tackle. Small skirmish breaks out at the end, a rare occurrence in camp, with Vince Williams actually playing peacemaker and trying to calm things down.

For fun, Landry Jones jogs over and pretends to box with him. A right jab to the helmet, an uppercut into the gut.

Third Session

1. VW and Timmons the inside linebackers. Pass play and Ryan Harris puts Jarvis Jones into the ground. Vaughan finds DHB on a comeback in front of Cockrell.

2. Gilbert and DeCastro part the Red Sea to open a lane for Bell, who waits for things to open up and hits the lane with conviction. No tackling in this session so Bell races down the left sideline.

3. Vaughan again complete to Jesse James, who has a step on Timmons down the right seam. Doran Grant getting work as the first team RCB, by the way.

4. Fire X. Blitz picked up well by the line but there’s apparent miscommunication, Vaughan firing to no one.

5. Pressure look. Gradkowski gets the ball out hot to Coates on a curl. Shabazz on the coverage.

6. Second team line with Finney at center and Wallace at right guard. Shark blitzes off the defense’s left side but Toussaint picks him up cleanly. Gradkowski hitches up and rolls right but with no one working to him, he just tucks it and runs.

Tomlin chides Shark after the play is over for the failed blitz. “Use your hands on that back!”

7. Not sure who the linemen was, definitely the second team (maybe Hubbard) but Hargrave collapses the pocket. Gradkowski fires for Blakeney but Washington breaks the throw up.

8. Richardson carry over the left side. DL holds the point of attack well, so does James Harrison, and I think it was Caushaud Lyons who wrapped the runner up.

9. Landry Jones hitches up into the pocket and hits Grimble on an over route. Chickillo got pressure on the play that forced Jones to move off his launch spot.

10. Jones heaves a go-ball down the left sideline. Intended for Norwood, covered by Kevin White. Norwood slows up some trying to locate the ball and the pass lands a couple feet in front of him.

11. L.J. Fort is scot free up the A gap for the easiest and quickest pressure ever, definitely a blown protection by the OL/back. Alarm bells go off for Landry Jones who fires quickly to David Johnson on an out route to the right.

12. Looks like Vaughan bobbled the shotgun snap. He gets away a slant to Eli Rogers who makes the catch.

13. Marcus Tucker runs an out route but Vaughan’s throw is a little wide. Tucker makes a valiant effort and the ball blips off his hands. Wouldn’t call it a drop, just a high effort play that didn’t work out by the rookie receiver.

14. Demarcus Ayers lined up in the slot. Ventrone covering him as the NCB. Another over route from Vaughan to Jake Phillips but the pass is incomplete. Steven Johnson on the coverage.

15. Getting a little sloppy as Vaughan’s pass is errant, probably another miscommunication. Incomplete.

Fourth Session

– Offense working without a huddle, though the pace was about normal.

1. Motion Bell to an empty set. Vince Williams walks out to cover him. Ben tries to take advantage of the matchup and fires a nine route down the right side. Williams stays step for step and throws his arms up at the end, shielding Bell and creating an incompletion.

2. Comeback from Ben to DHB, Doran Grant a step late from being able to swat the ball away.

3.  Rogers in the slot, Sean Davis covering him. Rogers runs an out and creates separation but the pass is a little behind and off the receiver’s hands.

4. Antonio Brown has a step on Grant down the left side. Grant tries to grab onto him but not even that can slow up AB, who makes the catch from Ben.

5. Steelers fake the bubble screen to the right and throw a screen left to DeAngelo Williams. Vince Williams cuts him low while Heyward chases after it, spinning Williams to the ground.

6. Ben tries to hit DHB on a comeback again but Grant is all over it this time, getting in front of the route and breaking the pass up.

7. Vaughan’s throw is right in the bucket to Norwood down the right sideline, over Garner. Davis scoots over at the end and gives Norwood a light shoulder to shoulder tap.

8. There’ some serious heat on this out route from Vaughan to Grimble, who snatches it right before Steven Johnson can dive and tip the football.

9. Vaughan with a quick throw to Coates, the cornerback playing off and James Harrison not able to expand wide enough as the overhang defender. Only thing I didn’t like was Coates leaving his feet when he didn’t have to. Slows you down, limits YAC.

10. Curl/flat, Coates and James respectively, and Vaughan finds Coates on the curl in front of Garner.

11. Check/release from Paul Lang, who probably should’ve tried to slow up Anthony Chickillo with more force. But the ball is flipped to him from Landry. Lang begins to move down the right side but Hargrave runs to the ball, making the full tackle.

12. Richardson off left side with Feiler pulling and offering a good lead block. No tackle though to end things. Just a whistle.

13. Unfortunately, Feiler false starts on the next play. Once they resettle, Jones looks for Johnson on a quick out but the pass is dropped.

14. Ayers beats Ventrone down the right seam and Vaughan finds him, the 7th round pick’s first catch of team drills.

15. Dangerfield and Ray Vinopal at safety. Jones forces a pass to Rogers. Matakevich reads it the whole way and leaps to pick it off, taking off down the right sideline before one of the linemen bring him down.

Fifth Session

1. Maurkice Pouncey helps clear a path and Bell jukes Golden in the hole (no tackling, though, that probably played a part). Pouncey and Jarvis Jones tumble into the ground and the whole bleachers momentarily held their breath. Both would be ok and jog back.

2. 11 personnel with Coates/Hey-Bey/Rogers in the slot. McCullers encroaches. Handoff to Williams out of the gun. Jarvis Jones gets piled over, by who I’m not sure, and Williams races into the third level.

3. Fort and Johnson at ILB. Jones playaction. Laser to Grimble over the middle but there’s several defenders in the area and the ball is jarred loose as the tight end goes to the ground. Grimble fell on his leg, left I think, pretty good, and gingerly walked around for the rest of practice.

4. Stingily with a nice run off the left side. DeCastro had a key block on Johnson.

5. Blakeney works back to Jones on a curl but the ball goes right through his hands. Not Blakeney’s best day. Those kinds of days are going to happen. Part of the game.

6. Matakevich sent on a blitz and he dips a block. He blows up a handoff to Richardson.

7. Garner screws up his run fill, squeezing down too much and giving the edge. Taps himself on the helmet as if to say “My bad,” after the play. Richardson bounces the ball outside before Vince Williams chases over the top and shoves him out.

8. Rogers on the outside and Coates in the slot. How ‘bout that?  Again, fake the bubble screen right and toss a HB screen to the left. Vince Williams sheds Hubbard and trips Brown-Dukes up.

9. Fire X. Picked up but no one really works hard back to Vaughan on this scramble drill. The QB just tucks and runs. This pleases Jordan Dangerfield, who claps about another fine defensive play.

10. Looks like Sigler had a nice day, getting penetration on this zone run to the left. Ventrone cleans up Toussaint.

11. Brown-Dukes creates a little something for himself, eluding Shade Tree at the LOS, the back bouncing right. Ventrone works off Norwood’s block and he and Kevin White help shut things down.

12. Vaughan’s curl to Norwood may have been a little late but the receiver makes the catch. Jacob Hagen, a rare name to these notes, tosses him down.

13. Draw to Powell. A nice run fill by Matakevich and he may have popped him too. Couldn’t tell.

14. Vaughan finds Jesse James in the right flat. Audible collision between he and Kevin White out of bounds.

Final Thoughts

– Dustin Vaughan continued to get a lot of reps and he had a pretty nice performance today. Made some difficult throws. I wonder if he’ll push Bruce Gradkowski…

– All the running backs have flashed but Daryl Richardson shows the most explosiveness of anyone in the group.

– Jesse James’ catch down the seam was the one of the first and most memorable plays he’s made in team drills. So that was nice to see. Again, he may not be the talk of camp, but he’s looked just fine.

– Like I wrote, Devaunte Sigler had a nice day and often found the notebook. Lavon Hooks also flashed once in one-on-ones. For guys who haven’t been too notable, or in Sigler’s case, not available, that’s a little encouraging. I think the DL along the 53 man roster is pretty much set though.

– Tyler Matakevich continues to make plays. That was the report on him.

– Vince Williams had an awesome day against the run and in coverage and was arguably the best player on the field today.

– Doran Grant may have had some struggles early in camp but he’s slowly getting better every day. Why we can’t get too worried about these guys early on.

Twitter Question Of The Day

Nope, Timmons looks good. But the idea of taking him off the field is simply to get a better athlete onto the field and someone who is more versatile. The 6th DB will always be more athletic than a guy like Timmons. Only the 1% athletes like Ryan Shazier can state a case otherwise.

The interesting thing for this season is if the Steelers run or scale back their dime package. It was probably going to be run with Sean Davis as the 6th DB. Now that he’s seemingly moved to the slot, who is the 6th DB? Shamarko Thomas? A waiver wire pickup? And are they a better option than Timmons? Much more murky now.

Coach McGuirk’s Best Quotes

“This sausage is probably eighteen years old… This sausage could vote. It could go to war and die for its country.”

2015 Steelers’ Highlight To Get You Amped For 2016

Sacks are great. Beating the Browns is too. So sacks in a win over the Browns is basically the best.


St. Vincent College Is Beautiful Photo Of The Day

Just another longshot of Chuck Noll Field before practice on what was a relatively overcast, mild, and breezy day.


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