Steelers’ Training Camp Diary: Day Ten

The Detroit Lions were in town today for day one of joint practices with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Because the coaches agreed upon no contact, the intensity level was ramped down. That’s understandable, heck, a smart idea, but a little disappointing from us, the fan’s perspective. Not as spirited as the joint session with the Buffalo Bills two years ago. But let’s recap the day.

– Injury roundup. Travis Feeney was again held out with what is believed to be a thigh injury on his left leg. Artie Burns, Markus Wheaton, Marcus Gilbert, and Jarvis Jones all sat out. Ben Roethlisberger had an excused absence. Bud Dupree was in full pads today but I am not 100% sure of his participation level. Mike Tomlin apparently called it “partial.”

Cole Manhart participated in full so that’s great news for him after missing Sunday.

In-practice, Roy Philon hurt an ankle in one-on-ones. He was carted off. Jerald Hawkins apparently dinged his shoulder in OL/DL work and walked off next to a trainer.

For the Lions, only one I know was cornerback Ian Wells, who suffered a pretty serious leg/knee injury in WR/DB one-on-ones. Leg stuck in the ground and twisted. Didn’t look good. The cart picked up Philon and then made its way over to Wells, taking both off the field.

– There were a smattering of Lions’ fans lined up on the hill to watch players come down the stairs. A couple Lions’ fans in the crowd over by the bleachers, too, though far and few between. The players intermingled together and onto the field.

– The specialists were the first ones out. The long snappers wearing #42, Matt Dooley and Jimmy Landes, for each side, who embraced with a bro-hug on the field.

– We know Alejandro Villanueva is always the first guy through the ladders. He had taken three steps over to start when the coaches changed things up and called everyone back. Ruined his routine and he ended up not being the first one through when the team finally went through the ladders.

– Gilbert talked next to offensive assistant Shaun Sarrett throughout warmups.

– Special teams began practice. Steelers worked on their punt coverage against the Lions return on the near field with the Lions’ field goal team against the Steeers’ block unit.

Montell Garner did a nice job dipping inside and beating a double-vice (double-team) on one punt. After several reps, the gunners and jammers broke off into their own group, doing some individual work.

Shamarko Thomas won once and pumped his fist. Sammie Coates got all tangled up with cornerback Keith Lewis, grabbing his facemask in the same drill. Coates has shown promise at gunner, swimming over CB Charles Washington later in the drill.

The first team punt coverage unit. On the line: Vince Williams-Arthur Moats-Greg Warren-Jesse James-Anthony Chickillo. Robert Golden the upback with Roosevelt Nix the left wing and Cameron Stingily the right wing, though that right spot has been in flux throughout camp. I still think it goes to Sean Davis.

Will Monday did boom one punt, probably traveling 65 yards. Jordan Berry gets impressive hangtime, though in a kinda funny moment, one his punts missed its mark and landed in the middle of the gunners/jammers group working in the corner of the field.

Antonio Brown chatted up Golden Tate before one-on-ones.

– No fights at practice, barely even a skirmish, but there were cops on horseback to patrol the area.

– Ok, let’s get into the one-on-one notes. The Steelers’ offense worked closest to me so that’s what I have most of my notes around. We’ll look across the field tomorrow. Let’s start with the Steelers’ running backs/tight ends against the Lions’ linebackers/defensive backs.

1. Le’Veon Bell beats Tahir Whitehead outside.

2. Jesse James breaks his vertical stem off, running a curl, catching the pass against Glover Quin.

3. Linebacker Josh Bynes has a good punch on DeAngelo Williams. D-Will runs an out but the pass bounces off his left hand.

4. Tight end David Johnson runs a corner route but he gets absolutely no separation on safety Tavon Wilson. Wilson is in his hip pocket all the way, finds the ball, and picks it off.

5. Kyle Van Noy gets into Fitzgerald Toussaint off the line but the back works through it and dips his shoulder under him running a short dig, catching the pass. The two chase each other 60 yards into the end zone.

6. Lions’ safety Don Carey is unable to swipe this vertical shot to Xavier Grimble.

7. Roosevelt Nix with a simple pivot route against Jon Bostic.

8. Steelers’ tight end Paul Lang may move at the speed of smell but he makes a nice, outstretched catch versus Isaiah Johnson.

9. Daryl Richardson bursts away from rookie Antwione Williams on a fade but the pass is overthrown.

10. Tight end Michael Cooper beats Miles Killebrew on a dig.

11. Good punch from linebacker Khaseem Greene but he’s too grabby on Brandon Brown-Dukes, BBD shakes him on a dig.

12. Pretty sure it was CB Johnson Bademosi on Jesse James. James runs a wheel, flat to vertical, but Bademosi is all over him. James tries to break his route off but the pass hits off his right hand, incomplete.

13. Cameron Stingily lets this out route go through his hands. Zaviar Gooden with the coverage.

14. David Johnson catch on an out route against Quin.

15. UDFA Christian Powell crosses Chi Chi Ariguzo’s face but the pass goes through his hands, incomplete. Bad drop.

16. Grimble beats Wilson off the line, nice swim move over the safety, but Wilson recovers and breaks up the throw.

17. Backshoulder fade intended for Brown-Dukes is incomplete, off target and barely contested. Whitehead on the coverage.

– One on ones of the WR vs DB, always a treat of the day.

1. The matchup I really wanted to see, Antonio Brown on Darius Slay. Brown outside release, dips his inside shoulder to swap hips, and jets away from Slay down the left sideline. Makes the long catch.

2. Darrius Heyward-Bey catches a dig against Nevin Lawson.

3. Eli Rogers shakes Qunadre Diggs really bad, fakes inside and cuts out, for an easy grab.

4. Backshoulder throw for Sammie Coates but Bademosi has good coverage the pass is incomplete.

5. Wide receiver Levi Norwood with a nice leaping grab on this fade over former Steelers Crezdon Butler.

6. The big-bodied Issac Blakeney quickly breaks down against Darrin Walls, catching this curl.

7. Cornerback Keith Lewis pins Marcus Tucker to the sideline and Dustin Vaughan’s throw on this go-ball falls incomplete.

8. The much bigger Alex Carter blankets Demarcus Ayers on this fade and the pass is incomplete, high and away.

9. Brown vs Slay again. The two jockey downfield on this go ball, Slay grabbing some jersey and Brown pushing off with his right arm, the receiver ultimately getting a step. But, in a very unlike AB moment, he drops the pass.

10. DHB makes a contested grab against Lawson. Receiver rips the ball out. Short exchange of words between the two.

11. Rogers again beats Diggs, deftly breaking off his curl as Diggs slips trying to mirror him. Easy catch. Rogers continues to impress.

12. Coates slips off the line and as he tries to break, Bademosi grabs jersey and nearly pulls him down. Coates runs through it on his out cut and makes a hands catch as the refs throws a flag on the DB.

13. Blakeney on a comeback but bad technique by him, not working back to the football, watching it in. Walls plays it much better and steps in front of it but the pass is in and out of his chest, incomplete.

14. Ayers on a double-move but Lewis defends it well. The two are step-for-step down the left sideline. Ball placement is good and Ayers turns his body to make an attempt but it glances off his right hand and incomplete.

15. Marcus Tucker smokes Ian Wells off the line. As Tucker makes his in cut, looks like Wells tried to shove him to knock him off the route but got his leg caught in the ground. He falls as Tucker makes the catch, Wells’ day, and perhaps season, done.

16. Tied at once, with Wells still on the ground and the drill flipped to the right side, AB beats Slay on a fade, turning for the ball and catching it near the goal line.

17. DHB wins again versus Lawson.

18. Coates breaks down and comes back to the ball. Carter on the coverage.

– OL/DL work. Even though it was on the near field, I gotta admit I am not totally comfortable with all of the Lions’ DL. New faces, jerseys rolled up, guys lost in the crowd. I did my best.

1. One of the best young pass rushers in the league, Ziggy Ansah, dips under and past Ramon Foster for a clean win to kick things off.

2. Foster gets another crack at it and puts DT Tyrunn Walker into the ground.

3. Defensive tackle Stefan Charles swims over Cody Wallace, who can only grab a fistful of jersey to try and stop him.

4. Khyri Thornton plays with a lot of energy and active hand use but David DeCastro handles it all and finally absorbs his bull rush.

5. Devin Carter gets under Ryan Harris, walking him back before shedding inside.

6. Ansah again wins, swimming inside and past Alejandro Villanueva.

7. Hop step works for Foster, who takes care of Walker’s bull rush.

8. Wallace with his first win in one-on-ones of the entire camp, holding up against Thornton’s bull rush.

9. Big ‘ol Haloti Ngata with a one arm stab under DeCastro’s pads, walking him back and winning the rip.

10. Harris is able to seal Devin Taylor as he tries to win inside.

11. 265 pound end Brandon Copeland with a strong punch and better leverage on Jerald Hawkins, exploding through and roasting the rookie.

12. Chris Hubbard is a bit grabby but stays square to Wallace Gilberry, who does dip past late in the rep.

13. B.J. Finney handles Gabe Wright’s bull rush as well as you can expect.

14. Matt Feiler bests Stefan Charles’ bull rush.

15. DT Kerry Hyder tries a speed bull on Brian Mihalik, who rebuffs it and slides inside to mirror Hyder.

16. Hawkins gets revenge and wins versus Copeland.

17. Hubbard is the low man and stands up Caruan Reid’s bull.

18. Rookie A’Shawn Robinson walks Finney back into the pocket.

19. Wright runs through Feiler.

20. Mihalik seals Hyder’s attempt up the arc. Hyder tries to hand fight but Mihalik has it all figured out, winning the rep.

21. They go again but flipped to the left side and Hyder whoops Mihalik around the edge, cornering past with ease.

22. Reid and Cole Manhart go at it. Reid may have lost his footing because he went into the ground pretty quickly.

23. The unknown kid Valerian Ume-Ezeoke holds his own against A’Shawn Robinson. Well done.

24. Not sure who it was against but good hand fight from Finney and he wins the rep.

25. Rookie on rookie, DE Deonte Gibson’s speed bull rush is handled well by Hawkins.

26. Penn State rookie Anthony Zettel matched up versus Mihalik and Zettel winds up on the ground.

27. Manhart stays on his feet and slides laterally to cut off Wright. Nice win.

28. Believe it or not but Ume-Ezeoke came away as the big winner in one-on-ones. Just throws down Reid effortlessly. Super nasty and a well deserved win.

29. Believe my notes have rookie Louis Palmer swimming over Wallace.

30. Hawkins again handles Gibson, this time with Hawkins working on the right side.

– Want to post a couple of the random notes I had watching 11 on 11. The full sessions I watched are below, these are just things I saw in-between the session I was watching. A potpourri of sorts

Tyler Matakevich had a breakup on an underneath throw in team drills.

Mihalik and Feiler had crucial down blocks as Christian Powell followed Nix through the hole for a big run.

Before bowing out early, Hawkins uses length to his advantage. One on rep, seemed to double-over against Quanterus Smith but able to slide him upfield because of the length he has.

Towards the end of practice, cornerback Al-Hajj Shabazz tipped away a goal line fade intended for rookie Jay Lee. Nice play and Shabazz has gone from afterthought to legit practice squad material.

– Ok, time for the 11 on 11 recap. Remember, no hitting, pretty light contact. I watched most of the offense’s reps since they were closest to me. I did take one long look at the defense and will watch them closer tomorrow.

First Session

1. Running with the first team, Landry Jones hits a falling Antonio Brown over the middle.

2. Jones looks for him again after several seconds but he’s off base and the pass sails a bit. Brown goes up the ladder for the throw over the middle but it tips off his hands. Incomplete.

Looked live Grimble had nice blitz pickup, throwing someone into the ground.

3. Jones’ throw to Eli Rogers is too high, incomplete. Diggs on the coverage.

4. Ansah stunts inside and gets pressure, dipping past Maurkice Pouncey. Would-be sack but Jones hits David Johnson on a dig.

5. The linebacker Greene free up the middle. Jones hits Coates down the right side, working against Isaiah Johnson.

6. Two Lions come in free off the offense’s right side and Dustin Vaughan is forced to quickly flip a pass to Demarcus Ayers in the right flat. He jukes Crezdon Butler and jets upfield.

7. Vaughan looks to throw the comeback to Tucker but the receiver never breaks his route off. Incomplete. Walls with the coverage for Detroit.

8. Chris Hubbard beat by someone, one of the DTs, and Vaughan is forced to hit Michael Cooper sitting down in the middle of the field.

9. AB and DHB on the outside with Rogers in the slot. Jesse James at tight end. Jones flare route to D-Will, who speeds away from Tavon Wilson down the left sideline.

10. Good coverage downfield and Jones is forced to tuck and run.

11. Simple curl from Jones to Coates with Slay playing off coverage.

12. Coates with a toe-tapping catch from #3. Looked like he was working against Diggs on the left sideline.

13. Bruce Gradkowski checks in and his fade to Levi Norwood is broken up by Alex Carter. Copeland beats Cooper pretty bad off the edge.

14. Gradkowski’s checkdown to Brown-Dukes is high and incomplete. Not use to throwing to 5’8 targets. Gabe Wright busted up the gut and got pressure.

15. Gradkowski looks for Tucker on a dig. Adairius Barnes makes a nice play, tipping the ball. Sends it back up into the air but Tucker falls over Barnes’ body to make a really impressive diving grab. He needed to do something eye-popping.

Elsewhere, don’t know who the DE was, but Brian Mihalik shoved a Lion into the ground as the defender tried to corner the edge.

16. Again, covered well by Detroit. Gradkowski flushes right and throws in the general area of Lang but well out of bounds.

Second Session

– Watched the defense this time. But they work on the middle field so it is tougher to take notes.

1. Running back Theo Riddick gets the carry. Ryan Shazier wraps him up in the hole.

2. Matthew Stafford hits Marvin Jones on a comeback, working on Ross Cockrell.

3. James Harrison sets the edge versus Taylor Decker, shedding from him as the back cut inside, and makes the “tackle.”

4. Again, it’s Stafford/Jones on a comeback against Cockrell.

5. Run off the right side. Javon Hargrave quickly shed someone, 95% sure it was FB Michael Burton but also could’ve been center Travis Swanson. He busts into the backfield and it’s a pickup of maybe one.

6. Stafford to Jones on a quick out route.

7. Looked like Anthony Chickillo got a hand on a checkdown into the left flat but Stafford has enough mustard on the ball to get it to his back. I was obscured by the big lift that sits in the middle of the field but I think Sean Davis charged over and hit the back hard out of bounds, even though this was a non-contact session.

8. George Winn with a short carry off the right side.

9. Checkdown in left flat to Winn. Left tackle Cornelius Lucas, listed at a hulking 6’9 330, shoves Chickillo wayyyy upfield.

10. Lions playaction, pull guard as the false key. Tight end Charles Orson makes a nice diving catch along the left sideline.

11. Chickillo is left unblocked and blows up this run. Johnny Maxey also sheds a block and helps wrap up as Chick forced the hat inside.

12. Jake Ruddock with a quick out route complete to fellow rookie Alex Chisum.

13. Handoff to Stevan Ridley out of the gun. Steven Johnson first man in there.

14. Playaction and the pass is caught, don’t have listed who. Jordan Zumwalt got pressure and had a car crash with one of the Lions’ OL in the backfield. Everyone would get up unscathed.

15. Nose tackle Lavon Hooks with his best play in team drills, blowing up center Gabe Ikard, sending him on his butt, on this run. L.J. Fort is next man in to clean things up.

16. Lawrence Timmons rushes up the middle free. Pass is complete, safety Jacob Hagen in coverage.

Third Session

– Back to watching the offense for the rest of the day.

1. Maurkice Pouncey in team drills at center. Nix with the lead block and Villanueva has a nice block, too. Le’Veon Bell on the carry and linebacker Josh Bynes scrapes over the top.

2. Villy does a nice job with Ansah off the ball and Jones fires a slant in stride to AB.

3.  Fitzgerald Toussaint up the middle. Ramon Foster looked to have a key block against Walker.

4.  I guess Jones fakes the bubble to the left, Coates is wide open but Jones never throws it, but everything downfield is covered. He finally fires out of bounds left side with Rogers in the vicinity.

5. Pressure look but the Lions drop out of it. Jones hits DHB on a dig. Nevin Lawson gets his hand in there but Heyward-Bey is able to make the catch on the second try.

6. Draw to D-Will.

7. Nice run fill by Glover Quin. Gilberry also sticks his nose in there and I think he bounced Toussaint to the ground.

8. Stack look frees up Rogers who simply turns his head inside and gets this ball from Jones.

9. Jones fade down the left sideline to AB is off the mark. Bademosi had decent coverage. AB was talking to the refs after the play. He might have been a little frustrated.

10. Corner route to Coates is incomplete. Ryan Harris may have dragged one of the DEs down. Think ref threw a flag.

Fourth Session

– No real break but the offense walks back to their 20. 2nd team offense comes with in Vaughan running the show.

1. With Hawkins injured at this point, Chris Hubbard comes in as the second team left tackle. Vaughan spies Lang on an out route but linebacker Zaviar Gooden plays the pocket and breaks it up.

2. Center Cody Wallace is unable to reach Stefan Charles, who works down the line and takes down Brown-Dukes.

3. Whole 2nd team OL. Hubbard-Manhart-Wallace-Finney-Mihalik. Norwood and Blakeney on the outside, Ayers in the slot. Defensive end Quanterus Smith stunts inside and no one picks him up, Manhart misses it, getting pressure. Comeback intended for Norwood but Bademosi tips it away.

4. Stingily plunge over right side. Ariguzo wraps him up but doesn’t bring him to the ground, putting his hands up to show he’s not trying to pummel him. Stingily still winds up on the ground.

5. Vaughan hits Stingily flaring out to the right. Little behind but Stingily does a half-turn to make the grab.

6. Gibson dipped under someone on the right side, Mihalik or Feiler. Pressure and Vaughan hits Powell, leaking out from the left side.

7. Finney puts Greene into the ground on this pass. Dead ball, Vaughan releasing the ball as the coaches blow their whistle.

8. Gilberry gets pressure and Vaughan just chucks the football into the ground.

9. Nothing open and Vaughan scrambles again. Saw Feiler get knocked down, rolling over away from the action.

10. Split zone with Lang coming across to kick the EMOL. Stingily with nice vision and quicks, jump cutting left and hitting the hole upfield. Believe he was met by #58, Ariguzo.

11. Toussaint motioned into an empty set, Gradkowski in at QB. Greene free on a stunt and Gradkowski throws it to no one. Cooper was sort of in the area.

12. Hubbard beat off the left side. Hurried throw to Rogers, believe it was incomplete.

13. Gradkowski complete on a checkdown to Brown-Dukes. Finney found work and helped out his tackle, putting rookie Anthony Zettel on his butt.

14. Draw to Powell. It’s Greene again meeting him in the hole.

15. Comeback to Norwood from Brucie. Lang whipped inside by Gibson.

Final Thoughts

– It was a really professional, though bit low-key and controlled, day. No fights, hardly a skirmish. It was like these two teams were best friends.

– The Steelers’ offensive line, primarily the backups, unsurprisingly really struggled against all the stunts and “games” the Lions ran. Facing a 4-3 after repping against a 3-4 all of camp is a tough challenge. And in one-on-ones, the Lions’ starters seemed to best the Steelers. Could be a sloppy game for the offense Friday, more than usual. Quarterbacks better buckle their chinstraps extra tight.

– Antonio Brown vs Darius Slay produced some fun matchups. AB won the day, 2/3, with the loss being a drop. Didn’t see a lot of action in team drills, however.

– Heyward-Bey had a nice day overall. His hands in camp have been excellent. Not sure what changed but happy to see it.

– Again, the winner along the OL today has to be Ume-Ezeoke, who balled out in one-on-ones.

– Don’t have a ton of overall thoughts for the defense. More tomorrow. But like I said, Shabazz continues to impress. Nice to see Lavon Hooks come through with a positive play as well.

Twitter Question Of The Day

A cold beer on a hot August night is never a bad idea. But to the question, on the o-line, I thought Hubbard and Ume-Ezeoke did well today, if that’s what we are talking. Finney, too. The battle between Finney/Hubbard continues and you can make a case for either. I still give the edge to Hubbard just knowing he has a bit more flexibility and has honestly had a solid camp.

Coach McGuirk’s Best Quotes

“Life sucks. There’s your lesson, go enjoy it.”

2015 Steelers’ Highlight To Get You Amped For 2016

Reader request and a mighty fine selection.

St. Vincent College Is Beautiful 

Shot I took of the Steelers’ offense in team drill against the Lions’ defense. Great day of training camp, can’t wait for tomorrow.


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