Whew, what an intense day. Maybe ratcheted down a tad with Ben Roethlisberger missing and some of the injuries, but we’re officially into football season. Pads came on today at St. Vincent College. Great weather, great football, let’s dive in.
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 roundup, which I’m sure many of you already know. Not pretty for the first day of pads but it rarely is. Not practicing today were Cam Sutton (lower body), JuJu Smith-Schuster (ankle), James Harrison (old – was in individual work), Lavon Hooks (unknown), Roethlisberger (excused absence), and Vince Williams (unknown).
Sammie Coates was already warmed up on the JUGS machine by the time I got to practice a little after two. He caught some more towards the end before the final whistle when Antonio Brown and the gang come over and spend 45 minutes there. Also spotted him doing some light stretches on the middle field during the early part of practice.
Smith-Schuster caught towards the end of practice as well.
Injuries during practice: Houston with some zip on the ball short and to his left. Tucker catches it in his stomach as he folds to the ground. Senquez Golson injured his left hamstring acting as a gunner in the final special team session. Saw it happen. Sprinting down the left side, trying to get off a block, and reached for it about 10-15 yards downfield. Pulled up, walked to the side, tried to stretch it out, then stood by a trainer until the cart came for him.
Mike Mitchell was injured early. Appeared to step on AB’s foot during seven shots. Hung around the sideline throughout but didn’t participate the rest of the day. Keion Adams left early and James Conner couldn’t finish due to a shoulder injury. Damper on a nice day for him. Scott Orndoff reportedly didn’t finish either.
– First players out today? Rookies Josh Dobbs and Bart Houston at 2:37 PM.
– Most of the offensive line walked down the stairs today, including I believe the entire starting five.
– Phazahn Odom and Orndoff got work on the JUGS machine before the opening whistle. Orndoff had some bad luck. Jammed his finger on one attempt, shook his hand off, and then flat out dropped the next one.
– Talk a lot about confidence with some of these younger guys. Sometimes, it’s hard to quantify. But you can feel it with Artie Burns. Spirited jog down onto the field, big smile on his face. Night and day from last year.
– 2nd team offensive line: Hawkins-Feiler-Finney-Milton-Hubbard
– 3rd team offensive line: Rodgers-Cooper-Friend-Matthews-Mihalik
– No Ben today so all the QBs moved up a rank. Landry Jones first team, Josh Dobbs second team, Bart Houston third team.
– Opening return line consisted of Eli Rogers, Demarcus Ayers, and Trey Williams.
– A lot of the DBs were just chilling before practice kicked off. Not Ross Cockrell. On the middle field, by himself, working on agility drills.
– Mike Tomlin, as he almost always does, with a watchful eye over the tight ends on the sleds. David Johnson is a pro. Jesse James has mastered it. Odom…yeah, welcome to the NFL, rook. Doesn’t strike up and uncoil his hips on contact, losing power immediately his first try before restarting his feet and pushing it the rest of the way. Getting into a stance and playing with leverage. Two basic things that will present itself as a learning curve.
Odom also seemed to struggle with popping up too high out of his stance as a receiver. But he does have solid hands and naturally, a large catch radius.
– On air offensive work. Dobbs took a seven step drop and hit Darrius Heyward-Bey on an out route perfectly along the right sideline. Dobbs looked back at quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner, who nodded in approval.
– Exciting parts of the day were the individual sessions. Backs on ‘backers and OL/DL is what I watched today. Let’s start with the former.
Backs on ‘Backers
1. Ryan Shazier starts things off well for the defense. running through Toussaint.
2. Jesse James tight hands and in control of Arthur Moats for an objective win.
3. T.J. Watt’s first dip into the pool. Starts with an outside rush on Knile Davis but counters inside, swimming over and winning the rep.
4. Xavier Grimble seals Farrington Huguenin up the arc, the OLB losing his balance at the top of the arc trying to corner.
5. Matakevich wins his rep against Davis.
6. Bud Dupree bull rushes through Odom. Easy pickin’.
7. Coaches want to see them again. This time, Odom expects the bull. Except Dupree doesn’t show it. A little o-lay, swim to the outside, Odom lunging and catching air. Another win for Bud.
8. Roosevelt Nix always successful in these. Good mirror and control of Steven Johnson. Buries him at the end.
9. Arthur Moats speed bull rush, creating space through Orndoff. Win for the vet.
10. James Conner gets his first crack. And he’s gotta take on Shazier. But Conner holds his own, staying square and mirroring Shazier almost the whole way. Great job, rook.
11. Huguenin shows some power, bull rushing his way through Orndoff, spilling him back into his teammates.
12. Chickillo bends the edge vs Trey Williams.
13. David Johnson makes quick work of Keith Kelsey.
14. Davis a solid win against Fort.
15. Watson wins against Fort, both going to the ground at the end of the rep.
16. Missed what happened.
17. Keion Adams swims over Brandon Brown-Dukes. Easy win.
18. Coaches restack them. Adams one-arm stab into Brown-Dukes, putting him into the ground.
19. Grimble grabby on Matt Galambos, throwing him aside and to the ground by the end.
20. Looks like Galambos beat Grimble this time around, the tight end winding up eating grass by the end.
21. Keith Kelsey with a victory, swimming over Toussaint.
22. Moats dips past Odom.
23. Watt with a big win, running through Knile Davis.
24. The two go back at it. Good battle, Davis finally ripping Watt down.
25. Huguenin swims over Orndoff.
26. Conner with an impressive rep, square and strong, winning against Matakevich.
27. Back at it. Matakevich saves a little face, Conner losing his footing.
28. Harrington wins against David Johnson.
29. Kelsey runs through the undersized Trey Williams.
30. All Shazier needs to beat Brown-Dukes is a head fake. Makes him think he’s rushing inside and then cross him over and whip him to his outside shoulder.
31. Dupree swims over Conner and beats him.
32. The two go back at it and Conner recovers, winning the rep vs Bud.
33. Chickillo speed/bull rush knocks Watson back.
34. Chickillo swims inside vs Watson. Not sure who won this one, to be honest.
35. Grimble seals Adams’ rip move.
36. Grimble does the seam, Adams’ rip move failing for the second time.
37. BBD runs Galambos up the arc.
38. Toussaint with an impressive rep, sticking to Shazier the whole way.
39. Watt was probably going to beat Odom but Odom grabbed a fistful of jersey.
40. Shazier exacts some revenge, swimming over Fitz.
41. Davis seals Steven Johnson.
42. Orndoff wins against Chickillo.
43. Conner to round things up, throwing Fort to the ground. Like his mentality.
44. Conner again, this time he’s able to stay square against Watt. Watt gets away at the very end but the rep would go to Conner.
1. Alejandro Villanueva seals Watt up the arc.
2. Watt tries to rip inside past Villanueva but the left tackle catches it and rebuffs him.
3. Finney beats Tuitt, keeping his feet moving as Tuitt tries his rip move.
4. Another win for Finney, absorbing Tuitt’s bull rush.
5. Nice win for Kyle Friend, sealing Javon Hargrave up the arc. No Pouncey in this drill.
6. Hargrave gets a victory of his own, using his power to win on a bull rush.
7. DeCastro win vs Tuitt.
8. Tuitt tests out his spin move. Doesn’t beat DeCastro and the two end up going to the ground.
9. Marcus Gilbert runs Dupree up the arc. Dupree loses his balance trying to corner at the top.
10. Dupree and Gilbert go at it again. Gilbert tries to chop at Dupree but he’s too quick, getting past and beating the tackle to the outside.
11. Gotta break the tie. Gilbert wins the three-rep series, sealing Dupree upfield.
12. Watt vs Hawkins. Pretty even matchup.
13. Good win for Watt. Club and swim combo to beat Hawkins.
14. Matt Feiler holds his own vs Tyson Alualu.
15. Gotta be honest; can’t read my notes on this one. Reps were moving fast.
16. Mike Matthews seals L.T. Walton. Late punch from Walton helps shake him free but I think Matthews won this rep.
17. Walton tries to bull Matthews this time. But Matthews shows a strong base and holds ground.
18. Johnny Maxey tries to club Keavon Milton. Doesn’t work so he shows a nice inside rip counter. Good battle.
19. Milton wins this one cleanly, running Maxey up the arc.
20. Chris Hubbard opened the gate a bit too much as he sees Arthur Moats start with speed. But he converts it to power and pushes Hubbard back.
21. Hubbard wins the next rep, sealing Moats.
22. Chickillo comes close to beating Villanueva on a swim, dropping Villy to a knee. He’s just so big, so strong, he can still hold on.
23. Chick dips past Villy.
24. Ethan Cooper holds off Roy Philon.
25. Cooper was in position to win but his hands got too high halfway through, losing his grip and banging off Philon’s helmet, who gets past.
26. Daniel McCullers uses his bull rush to his advantage, running through Matthews.
27. Friend has some more success with his leverage, holding firm against Big Dan.
28. Stalemate between Milton and Adams. Guys getting tired, not a lot happening.
29. Adams gets separation on Milton with a one-arm stab but doesn’t have the power to finish through.
30. Huguenin with a good punch on Mihalik and tries to work inside. But Mihalik mirrors.
31. Similar story as the two go at it again. But Huguenin brings in a third move, working back outside, and Mihalik can’t move that well, losing his balance.
32. Huguenin whips past Jake Rodgers.
33. Not totally sure what happened when the two went at it again. Tomlin did yell out “Come on Jake.”
34. Huguenin gets another rep, trying to swim inside. But Rodgers expects it and stops him right in his tracks.
35. Francis Kallon runs back Cooper.
36. Stalemate between the two again.
37. Matthews beats Christian Brown in this rep.
38. Those two go at it again. Matthews gets another W, with some pushing and shoving afterwards.
39. Matthews another W.
40. Good base by Milton to handle Nelson Adams‘ bull rush.
41. Back at it again, Milton/Adams, but guys are pretty gassed. Moving in slow motion.
42. Heavy hands, Mihalik does well to catch Moats’ speed bull rush.
43. Moats tries – but fails – to knock down Mihalik’s hands. Moats counters with a spin, which Mihalik can’t keep up with, and drops to a knee.
1. Seven shots. Full contact. Tyler Matakevich started at Buck linebacker with Williams out opposite Ryan Shazier. Jones at QB, Fitzgerald Toussaint at running back. Jones finds Xavier Grimble on an angle route, Matakevich a step behind.
2. William Gay follows Eli Rogers motioning pre-snap right to left (man coverage). Draw to Toussaint to the spot where Rogers vacated on the motion. Walk-in touchdown.
3. Knile Davis in at running back, motioned and split out wide. Jones looks for Justin Hunter to the front left pylon but Ross Cockrell makes a nice play and pokes it out from behind. Incomplete.
4. Corner blitz. Jones heaves it for Antonio Brown to the left corner. Mike Mitchell, facing Brown, leaps and gets his arm up. Swats it away but believe he landed on Brown’s foot, limping off. His day was done.
5. Dobbs enters at QB, Conner at RB. Conner split out, have seen a lot of that, into an empty set. Looks for Cobi Hamilton over the middle but the ball is a little out in front. Good coverage by Senquez Golson.
6. Darrius Heyward-Bey and Canaan Severin on the outside, Demarcus Ayers working in the slot. Conner again split out. Dobbs with a good progression here, one of the better plays I’ve seen from him. First read looked to be Odom on a nod route – like Justin Hunter ran yesterday for a score – but it’s well-covered. Works through his progressions to hit Conner on an angle route. Good zip on the ball and it’s needed, L.J. Fort draped all over him. Conner makes the catch a yard into the end zone.
7. Dobbs gets flushed to the right, running into Farrington Huguenin. Throws it away to the right corner, over the heads of Orndoff and Robert Golden. Defense wins seven shots, 4-3.
1. AB kicks things off by false starting. Run play. Matakevich flies through the A gap and plops Toussaint for a two yard loss. Nice play.
2. Split zone, David Johnson coming across right to left. Artie Burns does well to crash. Matakevich and Watt help stuff Toussaint at or near the line.
3. Playaction by Landry Jones. Cam Heyward gets pressure. Jones looks for AB on a 15 yard dig over the middle. Ball is a little high and Robert Golden is charging hard over the middle. Brown makes the smart play, a business decision to let it go, and Golden pulls up to avoid contact.
4. Again, it’s Matakevich with the TFL. Run off tackle to the right, Dirty Red diving in and nabbing Knile Davis’ ankles before he can get away.
5. Roosevelt Nix lead block, good lane opened up by he and the offensive line. Good first carry for James Conner, before Ross Cockrell wraps him up and drags him down.
6. Second-team defensive line. Tyson Alualu-L.T. Walton-Johnny Maxey. Arthur Moats/Anthony Chickillo the OLBs. Conner again on the carry. Short gain, Jacob Hagen and Moats in on the stop.
7. Cobi Hamilton and DHB the outside receivers, Ayers in the slot. Jerald Hawkins with a good base block to spring Knile Davis off the left side. Steven Johnson makes a sound tackle.
8. Fort and Steven Johnson the pairing at second-team ILB. Outside zone to Terrell Watson. Golson makes his first NFL tackle in a camp, diving out to trip Watson up near the line. Nice play. Grimble looked impressive here, hooking and sealing Moats inside so Watson could bounce it.
9. Playaction, good pocket for Dobbs. But pass sails high and away intended for Hamilton along the right sideline.
10. Severin and Marcus Tucker the wide receivers. Toss right to Toussaint. Good blocks from Hubbard and Severin gives Toussaint some space. Johnson again cleans things up with the tackle.
11. Best run of the day. Conner up the middle. Stiff-arms Brian Allen with his right hand, smushing him into the ground, and then spins off someone (not sure) who near the left sideline. Good gainer and see a little bit of everything from the rookie on this play.
12. Davis has a cutback lane to the left but Roy Philon perks up and makes the tackle as Davis tries to get upfield. Philon needs some positive press.
13. Third-team defensive line: Nelson Adams-Daniel McCullers-Roy Philon. This play was a mess. Adams and Philon didn’t know where the heck to line up. Kept flipping right and left. I think that’s on McCullers? He’s the nose tackle, he helps set the front. If it is, has to be more vocal, and you see one of the problems and why he’s running with the three’s.
Offense wasn’t much better. Bart Houston in at QB and there’s a lot of confusion. In the backfield, Brandon Brown-Dukes is waving his hands to Houston to say, snap the ball. Finally, the coaches intervene and blow things dead.
They finally line back up. Brown-Dukes cuts up the middle. Host of Steelers, including Matt Galambos, Brian Allen, and Greg Ducre in on the tackle.
14. Keion Adams whoops Odom off the edge. Houston and Severin aren’t on the same page, Severin breaking off his route on a curl and Houston airing it out deep. Houston made a alert/audible on the line – after a hard count that got the defense to jump – and that likely was the issue on the play.
15. Brandon Dixon and Ducre the outside cornerbacks. Terrish Webb and Malik Golden at safety. Ethan Cooper pulls left to right and kicks out his man. Trey Williams runs off his inside hip and into open space. Nice run, spins off a diving attempt by Golden, for a 10+ yard run, before being tracked down.
1. Landry Jones opens this team session off by throwing a go-ball down the right side for Antonio Brown. Artie Burns has things well covered and the pass falls incomplete.
2. Jones playaction. Grimble seals Bud Dupree upfield. Checkdown to the left for Knile Davis, who ducks under Matakevich. No tackling in this session though. Done for the day.
3. Underthrown deep ball by Jones down the left side for AB. Burns in tow but it’s a tough play for him to make. Brown makes a great adjustment back to the ball, diving out and falling on his back to secure the catch. Heady play by Burns though, army crawling to grab Brown’s ankle and officially rule him down. I kinda liked that more than AB’s spectacular catch.
Elsewhere on the play, Sean Davis blitzed from his safety spot. Davis picked it up well. And T.J. Watt showed great hustle downfield to try to get in on the tackle.
4. Jones looks for Hunter on a five yard curl. Burns good read and drives on the ball, breaking it up.
5. Hagen and Jordan Dangerfield second-team safeties with Mitchell out. Golson and Coty Sensabaugh the outside corners. CAT (corner) blitz by Golson off the edge. Dobbs smartly gets the ball out to the away side, hitting Conner in the left flat. L.T. Walton dropping into coverage to cover him, something we saw a little bit more last year (NT taking the back in man coverage on certain blitzes). Bumps him out of bounds, spilling Conner into a water cooler, knocking it over.
6. Cover 3. Dobbs with an on-target throw to Hamilton towards the right sideline but Golson makes a strong play and breaks it up at the catch point. Incomplete.
7. L.J. Fort lined up at LOLB. Well-covered so Dobbs has to force it somewhere. Looks for Trey Williams but Dangerifled breaks it up underneath.
8. Chickillo beats Grimble off the edge. Dobbs tucks and runs to the left side.
9. Davis blitz. Jones fires over the middle to James, who makes a tough combative catch with Matakevich providing tight coverage.
10. Fire X, Shazier and Matakevich exchanging A gaps. Jones forces the ball to Grimble over the middle and Dupree is plastering him, picking it off as he falls to the ground. Good play Bud.
11. Hunter works back tot he ball and catches the pass from Jones. Cockrell in coverage but gets boxed out.
12. Third team corners. Brian Allen LCB, Ducre RCB. Cover 2. Houston looks to check it down to Toussaint in the right flat but the pass is wide to the right, skipping one time into the VIP/guest line of fans, who have to get out of the way.
13. Severin and Tucker still working with the third team. Philon again with a good play, getting through the line and applying pressure on Houston. Houston rolls out and looks for Tucker but the pass is way off target again.
14. Thunder Fire zone with a corner (Ducre) and a safety (Webb) rushing. Odom with a nice catch over the middle.
15. Ayers working in the slot. Houston with some zip on the ball short and to his left. Tucker catches it in his stomach as he folds to the ground.
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1. Burns pressing AB off the line. T.J. Watt drops into coverage to that side as the overhang defender but Jones places it perfectly on Brown’s backshoulder, making the catch with ease.
2. Jones has James open on a drag but the tight end drops it. Shazier on coverage. On the line, Villanueva was in full control of Watt.
3. AB and Hunter the X and Z receivers, Ayers in the slot. Cockrell/Burns/Gay opposite. Playaction, Steelers’ D-Line stunts. Jones checks down to Conner, who gets sliced by Shazier and Burns, spinning the rookie back around.
4. Tuitt with pressure. Beat David DeCastro, I think? Jones checkdown to Davis, who is quickly bear-hugged by Matakevich.
5. Dangerfield in the box. Chickillo beats Hawkins wide. Dobbs rolls to his right and looks for Odom on the run. But Fort gets his paw in there to knock the ball away.
6. Todd Haley has to show Tucker where to line up. Tucker forgot about the motion, lining up to the right slot, when he had to start left and wait to get called over. Draw to Williams. Hilton, though it wasn’t a full tackle, with one of the loudest pops of the day, getting into Williams’ chinstrap. Dude loves to hit.
7. Screen left to Toussaint is incomplete. Alualu read it well. Chickillo with a swim move to beat Hawkins inside, who wasn’t expecting/planning for that. On screens, you hope to influence the OLB upfield and then push him up, taking him out of the play and creating a lane.
8. Davis with the carry right side.
9. B.J. Finney working left team guard in place of Ramon Foster (Foster was back in the next team session). Handles Heyward’s bull rush well. Jones climbs the pocket and David Johnson makes a nice, tough grab.
10. Draw to Brown-Dukes. Shazier spins him down to end things.
11. Dupree and Watt both stacked to the left side. Davis blitz on the right. Gets in the backfield to tap up Williams right away.
12. Big hole to the left side, Davis follows David Johnson’s lead block, untouched for a solid five yards before Webb tags him up.
13. Tucker turns around Brian Allen in coverage and Dobbs finds him on the left sideline. Huguenin had the pressure.
14. Severin/Tucker/Ayers in the slot. Huguenin beats Mihalik, flushing Dobbs to his left, tucking and running as the coaches quickly blow the whistle.
15. Heady play by T.J. Watt. Snuffs out middle TE screen to Odom, getting his hand in the way and knocking it out. Dobbs at QB.
1. Toussaint outside zone to the right side. Short gain. Javon Hargrave flowed down the line well.
2. Burns presses AB, Watt dropping as the overhang. Carry to Davis, Shazier filling his gap to end things.
3. Jones complete to James. Villanueva again handling Watt. Tomlin chirps out, “I see you Al!”
4. Davis right side. Shazier flies in for the tag/”tackle.”
5. Screen right from Dobbs to Watson. Davis quickly greets him with a thud.
6. Brown-Dukes carry right side. Motion Hunter behind the line on the snap, fake-ish end around.
7. Davis another carry, Hilton tagging him down.
8. Williams totes the rock off the right side.
9. With Golson now out, Greg Ducre bumps up to second team right corner. Sensabaugh still the left, Hilton in the slot. Dobbs checkdown to Brown-Dukes.
10. Sensabaugh and Ducre now the outside corners. Hagen blitz. Dobbs rolls right Alualu gives spirited chase. Dobbs throws it away.
11. Smart play, Dobbs checking it down to Watson with nothing else available.
12. Kyle Friend pulls to his left. Good job to get out of his stance and get square to Keith Kelsey at the second level. Paves the way for Watson, following through behind.
13. Houston hits Odom on a drag. Efficient play.
14. James and someone else, (Nix?) pull right to left. James works to Allen, good base block on him. Williams cuts off his inside hips and works his way upfield until Webb fills the alley.
15. Houston’s best throw so far in camp. Cover 2, hits the flag route to Tucker along the right sideline, who catches it over his left shoulder to finish the day.
History Through A Lens
My favorite pre-Noll Steeler. Gene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb. One of the largest of his era, weighing in at 6’6 300. His brief time alongside Ernie Stautner made for one awesome duo.
He’s #76, but I’m guessing you would’ve been able to figure that out. Poor fullback…
St. Vincent Snapshot
Ron Swanson Quote Of The Day
“There’s only one thing I hate more than lying: skim milk, which is water that’s lying about being milk.”