Training Camp

Steelers Training Camp Diary: Day Four

We’re through the first leg of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2017 training camp. The team is off tomorrow before returning for their longest stretch, practicing Wednesday through Sunday. Let’s get into what happened.

Quick aside: want to thank our training camp sponsor, Touring Plans, who is supporting the meals throughout camp. Thanks again to them, who you should check out if you’re ever planning a trip to Disney, the second most magical place on Earth (SVC being the first, of course). You can hit up their website here.

Injury report getting longer: Those out today: James Conner (shoulder), Mike Mitchell (foot/ankle), Senquez Golson (hamstring), Lavon Hooks (unknown), Cam Sutton (lower body), and Vince Williams (shoulder). Conner and Golson were in Pittsburgh, per Mike Tomlin. Ramon Foster also appeared to get the day off. B.J. Finney ran as first team left guard.

Injuries during practice all seemed pretty minor. Landry Jones and Stephon Tuitt got dinged up but both hung around practice without the aid of trainers.

The good news regarding injuries: Keion Adams and Xavier Grimble were back after heat-related problems yesterday. JuJu Smith-Schuster appeared to take some big steps forward. Began practice with some light jogging and cutting and then went through routes with the rest of the receivers in individual work. Ran nearly full speed in a straight line.

Then the receivers cut back and forth, left and right, following the coaches instruction until they caught the ball and got upfield. JuJu was only sent to his left before finishing the drill. So still a little ways to go.

Martavis Bryant appeared midway through practice and caught passes from an assistant. Tomlin did deny there was an update on his status but it’s the first time he’s been on the field all camp.

Sammie Coates continued to catch on the JUGS machine early in practice. Out there a good half hour early.

Terrell Watson was the first player out at 2:38 PM. Josh Dobbs and Bart Houston quickly followed behind. Antonio Brown was the last player out, running down the stairs after the 2:55 horn blared.

– Right before the defense moved from the middle to near field to get into the stretch line, Ryan Shazier huddled up the entire defense, gave them a pep talk, and broke them down. He’s a leader on that defense.

Eli Rogers flubbed the punt/catch challenge, dropping the second ball that went his way. He jokingly punted each ball back to the ball boys as Danny Smith ribbed him. Demarcus Ayers managed to catch five and even a sixth, though another ball squirmed its way out in the process.

– Charting for WR/DB work. Ball was near the red zone, around the 25, so quarters were a bit tighter. Gives the defense a little bit of a break.

1. Antonio Brown has a step on Artie Burns to the inside but the pass is to far in front and incomplete.

2. Eli Rogers beats Mike Hilton off the line and separates at the top. But he may have screwed up to finish the route, settling when I think Ben Roethlisberger wanted him to keep moving across the field. His pass fell incomplete.

3. Justin Hunter wins on a skinny post but like the first play, the pass is too far in front. Ross Cockrell had the coverage.

4. Back shoulder throw to Darrius Heyward-Bey against Coty Sensabaugh. Sensabaugh does well to try and play the pocket but DHB shields him out and makes the catch along the left sideline.

5. Hilton in off coverage versus Demarcus Ayers. Easy pitch and catch to the WR.

6. Greg Ducre is able to get under Cobi Hamilton’s post route and knocks it away. Someone threw a flag. Ducre was definitely aggressive but in a drill like this, still skewed for the offense, I wouldn’t ding him. Like the attitude.

7. Canaan Severin separates from Brian Allen at the top and makes the catch.

8. Brandon Dixon makes a nice play, similar to Ducre, undercutting a Bang 8 to Marcus Tucker and breaking the throw up.

9. Artie Burns presses Brown down the left sideline and uses it to his leverage/advantage. He’s in position to make the play and even gets his head around to find the ball. But something happens near the catch point, either Burns slowed up or Brown gave him a nudge. Burns stumbles to the ground and Brown hauls in the pass five yards into the end zone.

10. Ducre is again pretty grabby the whole way on Eli Rogers as they post to the middle and then break to the corner of the left end zone. The pass just misses, Ducre blanketing him the whole way.

11. Looks like Sensabaugh was guessing on Justin Hunter’s release. Opened the gate outside and Hunter blows by his inside hip down the seam. Bad throw causes the incompletion.

12. DHB bursts away from Ross Cockrell on another Bang 8 (skinny post) and makes the grab.

13. Ayers makes quick work of Malik Golden on a curl, getting space and hauling in the pass. Tough drill for a safety though. Hard to blame Golden.

14. Dixon does well to flip his hips and breaks up a throw for Hamilton. Hamilton not someone who is going to get much separation. One of his two biggest issues (the other leaving his feet on too many catches).

15. Ducre does well to retrace Severin’s steps on a comeback to the left sideline. Throw is low, ball placement pretty good, but Ducre dives in to help swat it away.

16. Brian Allen too slow to get out of his pedal. Marcus Tucker easily separates and makes the catch on an out route.

17. Really good rep from Hilton against Hamilton. Strong, two hand jam at the line, opens his hips as Hamilton gets upfield, has his hands in Hamilton’s hip, and the pass falls incomplete.

18. Burns is in tight bump coverage all the way down the sideline against AB. But Brown finishes the play at the top of the route, making the grab. Chirps him as they walk back to the line.

19. Not sure who the DB was (Hilton?) but Rogers sells deep to create space at the top and catches a pass on a curl route. Long pause after this rep as Roethlisberger, Brown, and Rogers huddle up to go over something.

20. Outside release by Justin Hunter, dipping under and past Cockrell. Comeback route, gets some space but the throw is off-line and incomplete.

21. DHB uses his speed and blows by Ducre on a nine route. Easy win.

22. Dixon with tight coverage on Hamilton. Back shoulder throw, maybe some miscommunication and the pass is incomplete.

23. Whatever Ben and Rogers said worked. Creates a ton of space versus Hilton, stemming upfield and then breaking down to make the grab.

24. Severin crosses Ducre’s face on a slant. Ducre seemed to slow up when he had a chance to make a play and Severin finishes with the catch. Not sure what happened there.

25. Brian Allen is stride for stride with Tucker down the left side but makes a rookie mistake. Looks back for the ball, thinking he can tip it away. Gets out of phase (not in a hip-to-hip relationship) and the pass sails over his head, Tucker snagging it in the end zone. Play the man, not the ball. Can’t get away with that in the NFL like you can in college.

26. Ayers swims over Dixon off the line but doesn’t get enough width on his slot fade, the pass harmlessly falling to the left.

27. Burns gets his first camp rep against someone not named AB. And everything looks so much easier. Working on Hamilton, he rides him down the sideline, gets his head around the ball, and high points it. Only thing he did wrong? Drop the INT.

28. Brian Allen ends things on a high note. Good jam on Severin, gets his head around, and twists his body to pick the ball off.


1. T.J. Watt can’t bend the corner against Alejandro Villanueva. Loses balance at the top.

2. Cam Heyward makes quick work of B.J. Finney, knocks the guard’s hands down and wins the rep.

3. Biggest beat of the day. Javon Hargrave takes one step, swims over Mike Matthews and beats him instantly. Matthews barely got out of his stance.

4. Tyson Alualu with a good win against David DeCastro. Strong club move to get DD’s inside hip to open up, disengaging, and working to the QB.

5. Bud Dupree steered upfield by Marcus Gilbert.

6. Couldn’t get the best look and Jerald Hawkins used his length to maintain contact but looked like Hawkins opened the gate too early versus Arthur Moats, who countered to the inside.

7. Matt Feiler shows strength, running out Francis Kallon from the circle and into teammates.

8. Kyle Friend shows leverage and anchor against Daniel McCullers.

9. Keavon Milton seals Nelson Adams upfield.

10. Chris Hubbard gives a little ground but reanchors versus Anthony Chickillo’s speed-bull rush.

11. Watt able to rip under Jake Rodgers.

12. Ethan Cooper’s squatty self shows power and runs Johnny Maxey up the arc.

13. Matthews mostly handles Francis Kallon, though the DE knocks away Matthews’ hands very late in the rep.

14. Friend buries Adams into the ground. Good win for Friend.

15. Chickillo dusts Brian Mihalik. Head fake to the outside, Mihalik bites on it, and then a quick counter back in to beat him untouched.

16. The two go again and Mihalik doesn’t cheat as much. Absorbs Chick on another inside counter and wins the rep.

First Session

1. You know it – seven shots. Tomlin yells out to the group as the two huddles form, “Let’s get it!” Robert Golden replacing Mike Mitchell at first team FS. Tyler Matakevich again the Buck (strongside), with Williams out. Roethlisberger is patient and waits for Jesse James to square up under the goal posts. James makes the catch in the air but Sean Davis leaps and knocks it through his hands incomplete.

2. Interesting. Eli Rogers on the outside, Z receiver, Justin Hunter in the slot (Hunter was used inside in Buffalo). David Johnson standing up next to the RT Gilbert. Empty set so kudos to the defense for covering everything. Roethlisberger scrambles up the middle and scores, bending down to place the ball just inside the goal line. Still counting this as a win for the defense.

3. Knile Davis checks in at RB (Toussaint with the first team). Ben has Rogers open in the right flat but Dupree reads it the whole way, leaping up and nearly picking off the past. Instead, just an incompletion.

4. Davis split out wide. Empty. Roethlisberger to Hunter for a slant and touchdown. Think Watt was wrapping him up but not in time.

5. Second team offensive line: Hawkins-Feiler-Matthews-Milton-Mother Hubbard. Jones looks for Cobi Hamilton on a curl but Sensabaugh makes a nice play to knock the football away. Celebrates by shooting a fade away with the football.

6. Davis split out wide. Lot of empty set in these seven shots. Jones fires quickly to David Johnson. Jordan Dangerfield with a big stick right after the catch but Johnson scores, landing right inside the goal line.

7. Toussaint split out wide. Smash route with Toussaint running to the left corner of the end zone. Nearly a touchdown but L.J. Fort finds the football and dives in to bat it away.

Second Session

1. Toussaint carry to the left side. Not a lot of space and Matakevich, always around the ball, wraps him up.

2. Good hole. Key block by Marcus Gilbert. Robert Golden makes the open field tackle, I think on Toussaint. “Good tackle 2-1,” Tomlin calls out.

3. Cam Heyward blows up this run to the left. One arm stab into Finney’s chest, running him back and forcing Knile Davis to bounce wide. But there’s no good contain for Heyward’s spill (forcing the run wide) and Davis gets the corner. Shows burst upfield and runs through Artie Burns, though Burns – now laying on his back – saves a little face to the end and is able to tackle him.

4. Hard count, Matakevich tipping off a blitz. Tuitt runs through Maurkice Pouncey to blow the run up. Davis does well to spin away and cut back to the left but William Gay  is flying in and makes a really strong ankle tackle behind the line for a couple yard loss.

5. Playaction. Cover 2. Roethlisberger checks down to Toussaint over the middle. Shows some wiggle, cutting upfield and getting past Shazier before sliced down by Golden and Davis, each giving him a good shot. 15-18 yard gain.

6. Davis off the left side. Grimble had a good seal on that edge and Milton pulled left to right, providing support. Ducre made the ankle tackle.

7. Tyson Alualu with a heady play, snuffing out an end around to Justin Hunter. Hunter dances away, looking for a lane, and sprints to his left. Fort records the TFL.

8. Jordan Dangerfield with quite a hit, meeting tiny Brandon Brown-Dukes in the alley, quickly ending the play.

9. Moats and Chickillo flip. Chick at LOLB, Moats ROLB. Chickillo bends the edge past David Johnson. Jones fires to Demarcus Ayers on a flag (corner) route to the left sideline, between the corner and safety. Pass fell wide left and incomplete.

10. Chris Hubbard with a key block on the right side, giving Trey Williams a lot of space. Sensabaugh works off Tucker’s stalk block and makes the tackle after about a ten yard gain.

11. False key, pulling guard Ethan Cooper on playaction. Matt Galambos bites – welcome to the NFL, my friend – and Josh Dobbs hits Jesse James down the right seam. Terrish Webb with the open field tackle.

12. Toss left to Davis. Shows burst to the left side. Gets a good block from Cooper and breaks into space. Malik Golden is forced to clean things up.

13. Pistol formation, something I was hoping to see more from the team this year. Dobbs still the QB. Handoff to Terrell Watson. Short gain before Keith Kelsey and Keion Adams stop him up.

14. Mihalik with a key run block. Brown-Dukes gets the carry. M. Golden and Farrington Huguenin in on the tackle.

15. Good way to round things out. Big gainer off the right side from Brown-Dukes. David Johnson and Tucker throw two key blocks. About a 20 yard gain for the back.

Third Session

1. Big collision between Matakevich and Toussaint on an ILB blitz. Toussaint turtles onto his back but did his job well enough to let Roethlisberger fire deep down the right sideline. Hunter has a step on Cockrell and tracks the ball in.

2. Burns CAT (corner) blitz. Finney sees it at the last second and pulls to bump him out. Roethlisberger over the middle to Grimble but Shazier dives in and tips it away.

3. Roethlisberger complete on a drag route to AB, Burns diving out and missing.

4. Thunder Fire zone with Golden/Gay blitzing. Davis is forced to grab and hold Gay. Roethlisberger looks for Hunter over the middle but Cockrell makes a play and breaks it up.

5. Josh Dobbs hits Cobi Hamilton on a curl, Sensabaugh on the coverage.

6. Dobbs complete again on a slant to Demarcus Ayers. Hilton with the tackle.

7. Dobbs to DHB low on a comeback to the left sideline. Thought Heyward-Bey had the grab, got his hands under it, but couldn’t finish the play. Steven Johnson and Fort on a Fire X blitz, trading A gap blitz assignments.

8. Chickillo beats Hubbard wide. Dobbs just tucks and runs.

9. Pouncey buried someone and Villanueva buries Watt into the grass at the top of the arc, Tomlin giving him praise after the rep’s conclusion. Roethlisberger complete to Toussaint on a checkdown.

10. Roethlisberger to Rogers is incomplete. Finney went H.A.M, smashing into a blitzing Matakevich, sending him tumbling into Villanueva and Watt battling it out and all three fall like Jenga blocks.

11. Heyward dusts Finney with a swim move. Roethlisberger fires deep down the right side and the pass appeared to go through Antonio Brown’s hands, running between a safety and corner.

12. Empty set. Dixon CAT blitz off the right side. Dobbs knows where to go with the football and fires quick and complete to Severin on a curl.

13. Again, Dobbs to Severin on an out route to the left.

14. Two developing a chemistry. Dobbs and Severin hook up for the third time in a row. Thunder blitz by Hilton and Webb. Keion Adams dove backwards, dropping into his hook zone (Adams at LOLB, BTW), but the pass sailed over his head.

15. Empty set, Dobbs in the gun. Dobbs looks for Nix over the middle. Good throw but Nix bobbles it as he goes to the ground, incomplete. Huguenin on the coverage. Left tackle Jake Rodgers’ seals his man upfield.

Fourth Session

1. Ben complete to James in the left flat.

2. James with a good chip on Bud Dupree before releasing. Roethlisberger looking for Rogers cutting to the outside. Rogers tries to corral it with an outstretched right hand but it’s a little too far out in front and the pass is incomplete. William Gay in coverage.

3. Davis totes the back and cuts left to right. Fort and Golden wrap him up, no tackling.

4. Hank concept over the middle from Ben to Eli.

5. Dobbs under center. Playaction, half roll to his right and hits Nix in stride to the right flat. Chickillo dropping into coverage.

6. Dangerfield blitzing free off the defense’s left side. Would-be sack. Dobbs misses to DHB on a skinny post over the middle.

7. Dobbs hits Hamilton on a comeback working on Ducre to the left sideline.

8. Second team CB pairings. Sensabaugh/Ducre/Hilton slot. Dangerfield and Hagen the safeties. Flushed right and Dobbs quickly finds Terrell Watson in the flat.

9. Good backside pursuit from Watt, tagging up Davis. Finney pulled around to work up to Dupree.

10. Roethlisberger complete down the seam to Rogers working against Hilton. Offensive line gave him a good pocket to throw from.

11. Two wide receiver set and AB is in the slot, Hunter wide. Roethlisberger checks down to Davis. Well covered by the defense. Golden/Johnson pop him.

12. Brian Allen CAT blitz. BBD squares up to him but Bart Houston can’t find anyone and tucks the ball.

13. Dobbs back in and complete to Tucker over the middle against Dixon. Huguenin dipped under Brian Mihalik on the rush.

14. Houston complete to David Johnson versus Huguenin. Rodgers again sealed his man.

15. Cooper pancakes Roy Philon on this Watson run. Friend worked to the second level for another key block.

Fifth Session

1. Playaction. Maybe some miscommunication, too many players bunched up, but Roethlisberger looks to hit James down the right seam. Overthrown. Robert Golden could’ve had the pick but slowed up to avoid contact. Ball hits the ground and the defense standing on the sideline jeers him. Golden throws his hands up.

2. Aluaalu first team nickel (and base) with Tuitt dinged up. Opposite Heyward. Ben looks for Hunter on a curl but Cockrell is there again for the breakup.

3. Toussaint cuts upfield. Heyward and Hargrave chase him the whole way.

4. Davis the carry into the teeth of the defense. Fort first man there. Watt heady play and tries to punch it out. Davis secures it.

5. DeCastro/James pulling right to left. Trey Williams follows them and cuts upfield.

6. Toussaint stuffed at the line. Think Heyward steamrolled him. Ouch.

7. Dobbs for Phazahn Odom but Sensabaugh another breakup. Nice day for him.

8. Shotgun, Hawkins pulls on a dart scheme (backside tackle pulling). Brown-Dukes the carry.

9. Playaction. Dobbs forced this one, Moats was dropping into coverage as the overhang defender but there’s enough zip on the ball and Moats was unable to get his head around. Tight window but complete to DHB. Bad decision, good throw.

10. Watson bends an inside zone run back to the right.

11. Hawkins seals Moats upfield, using his length to his advantage. Dobbs complete to Ayers, Sensabaugh on the coverage.

12. Third team line: Rodgers-Cooper-Finney-Friend-Mihalik. Two players pull, Watson on the carry, Allen tags him up.

13. Adams drops into coverage. Houston complete to Tucker on a drag route.

14. Houston bubble screen to Ayers. Grimble gets out in space and throws a block on Hilton.

15. Defensive line pairing: Nelson Adams-Christina Brown-Francis Kallon. First time I’ve noted those two in team sessions. Houston low and incomplete for Odom down the seam.

Final Thoughts

– Josh Dobbs a really strong day. Took advantage of the extra reps with Landry missing the back half of practice. Wasn’t about one “wow” throw he made, there really wasn’t even one of those. It was about his consistency. I’ll have to tally up the numbers tomorrow. Ball go out quick with accuracy and zip. Good decision maker. I dig it.

– Defense won seven shots but the offense got a shot in the arm with Ben back. Offensive line had several strong blocks to spring the backs.

– Coty Sensabaugh a quietly nice day.

– B.J. Finney is a heady player with a good anchor and finds work. Nasty, physical demeanor.

– Brian Allen up and down. You can see the ball skills, his receiver background, but long ways to go. Raw technique wise.

– Tough day for Cobi Hamilton. Struggles to separate and beat press. 0-5 in the WR/DB drills today. Don’t see a goose egg too often.

– Dixon, Ducre, and Hilton all showed up in that drill.

– Tyson Alualu a strong practice. Going to be the best DE the team has signed the last three years (Cam Thomas, Ricardo Mathews).

– Cockrell and Hunter have a good battle going on too. Focus on Burns/AB but it’s happening on the other side as well.

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History Thought A Lens

Buddy Dial head over heels for this touchdown. Best receiver of the Pre-Noll era. Somehow avoided breaking his neck.

St. Vincent Snapshot

Ron Swanson Quote Of The Day

“I have so many ideas. Some are simple like take down traffic lights and eliminate the post office. The bigger ones will be tougher, like ‘bring all this crumbling to the ground.'”

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