A much nicer day of camp today. But with St. Vincent still drying out, the team again shifted practice back to Greater Latrobe High School. Which is fine by me. It’s a really nice stadium and with only one field available, you get a better look at the defense than usual.
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.
Ok, let’s dive into today’s report. Injury wise, not too much different than yesterday. Lavon Hooks still out for unknown reasons. JuJu Smith-Schuster did not practice today after suffering an ankle injury yesterday. While he finished out yesterday’s session, it apparently felt a little worse today – not uncommon – and Mike Tomlin said they were going to keep him out for a couple of days. Tomlin also noted Cameron Sutton left with a lower body injury.
James Harrison was still not working in team sessions. Don’t expect that to change tomorrow when the pads come on.His sweats were still – well – sweaty, by the end of practice. Canaan Severin practiced fully after being activated off PUP.
To Smith-Schuster’s credit, he was in wide receivers coach Richard Mann’s hip pocket all day, paper of presumably, playcalls, in hand. No one better to learn from.
Ross Cockrell was the first Steeler out at 2:45.
Offensive line ended up shaking things up today. Didn’t expect that. First team still intact. Here’s the second team.
And the third team: Rodgers-Cooper-Matthews-Friend-Mihalik. That’s Matthews and Friend flipping spots.
So Feiler flips from right to left guard and Milton gets bumped up to second team guard with Matthews getting work at center.
To kick off practice, several players fielded punts and kicks. Cobi Hamilton and Marcus Tucker each let one kick bounce off their chest and hit the ground.
Wide receiver pecking order in drills: Antonio Brown-Eli Rogers-Darrius Heyward-Bey-Demarcus Ayers-Justin Hunter-Cobi Hamilton-Marcus Tucker-Canaan Severin
Mann was coaching his guys hard throughout. As they went through a sort of “W” drill for the receivers, running on air, he called out to each guy, “Flip your hips, flip your hips!”
– Artie Burns had a nice day all around. Again, just on air, but a one-handed snag with his right hand in high-point drills.
– AB had a drop in individual routes and the crowd immediately got after him for it. Mann made him run his route again and of course, Brown redeemed himself.
– Peeked over at the running backs catching the ball briefly. James Conner certainly isn’t quick-twitch but has a soft pair of hands. Catches away from his frame. And Trey Williams is quick to the tuck who finishes every rep, bursting upfield after each catch.
– Odds and ends from special teams’ work.
– Punt return line in order: Eli Rogers, Demarcus Ayers, Trey Williams, and Cam Sutton.
– Daniel McCullers was used on the field goal protect unit.
– At the very end of practice, I saw Phazahn Odom and Arthur Moats as the right/left wings on the field goal unit. Odom makes sense. Moats is sorta a weird fit.
– Chris Boswell kicked field goals of a tee. One boot was good and then clanged off the window of a van parked behind the field and track. Didn’t break it, luckily.
– Short notes from 7 on 7’s. One funny moment. Pass in the flat to Roosevelt Nix. Hit off his hands, then off
Robert Golden Sean Davis, who couldn’t finish the pick, and somehow, back into Nix’s hands, who jogged up the left side.
– Saw some Cover 2 and yes, still some Cover 3, from the defense. You’re going to get a mix of everything this year. Anyone who thinks they will (or should) run straight man is very, very wrong.
1. Seven shots, as always. Smash route (corner/curl) from Ben Roethilsberger to Justin Hunter in the right corner of the end zone. Roethlisberger floats it in perfect to the back pylon, over a dropping Bud Dupree’s head and Hunter finishes the play.
2. T.J. Watt and Dupree flip spots; Watt to LOLB, Dupree to ROLB. Roethlisberger looks to hit Eli Rogers on the goal line but Sean Davis breaks the throw up. Watched Watt try to dip Marcus Gilbert but couldn’t get the edge.
3. Hunter, Brown, and Rogers trips to the right side. Jesse James on the line to the left. Hunter runs a nod route down the right seam. Davis bites and hangs onto his jersey but Hunter twists backward to haul in the pass and tap his feet in the end zone. Maybe the best play of the day.
4. Defense jumps offsides. Play gets extended but Roethlisberger chips it short to AB on the left side.
5. Josh Dobbs getting some second-team work. Tries to find Darrius Heyward-Bey on an out route to the left but Coty Sensabaugh reaches in and breaks the throw up.
6. James Conner split out and then motioned to the backfield. TE screen to David Johnson from Dobbs. TD.
7. Arthur Moats/Anthony Chickillo the OLBs. Ayers in the slot. Conner gets split out. Dobbs looks to hit him on a slant but L.J. Fort reads it the whole way – slants have been common from the Steelers’ offense – and records the first interception of camp. Nice play.
1. Roethlisberger hits Fitzgerald Toussaint on a short checkdown.
2. Again, Watt LOLB, Dupree opposite. Dupree swaps with Vince Williams at ROLB last second. Don’t have recorded what happened on this one. Roethlisberger tests Artie Burns. Go ball down the right sideline for Antonio Brown. Burns was bumping AB pretty hard but stayed in-phase all the way. Incomplete.
3. First secondary blitz of camp. Happy to see it. Cockrell comes off on the right side, Dupree dropping opposite at LOLB. Burns is playing a bit off and Roethlisberger hits Brown on the right sideline for an easy completion.
4. Roethlisberger looks for Eli Rogers down the seam. Think Will Gay was trailing underneath? Tight window and the pass sails, nearly picked off by Davis.
5. 2nd team defense in. Hargrave and Walton in the nickel. Moats/Chick OLB, Matakevich/Fort ILB. Golson and Sensabaugh on the outside, Mike Hilton in the slot. Golden/Dangerfield at safety.
6. Heyward-Bey false starts off a Landry Jones’ hard count. Matakevich blitz. Jones hits Cobi Hamilton, making a leaping grab in front of Sensabaugh.
7. Jones’ tests his arm down the left sideline, for DHB. But the throw wasn’t great and Sensabaugh easily breaks it up.
8. Jones checkdown to Brandon Brown-Dukes. BBD has to adjust a bit and the throw hits off his hands. Cam Sutton working in the slot, something that didn’t sound like it happened during the spring (and definitely not yesterday).
9. Shazier blitzes. Jesse James runs a wheel route down the right sideline (run to flat then break upfield) and Roethlisberger hits him in the bucket, James sliding to the ground as he makes the grab.
10. This time, Justin Hunter shakes away from Ross Cockrell on the left side, hauling in another pass from Big Ben. Elsewhere, somehow, Mike Mitchell and Will Gay collide in centerfield. First big hit of camp for Mitchell.
11. Incomplete screen from Ben to Conner. More interesting part of the play. Burns in press man versus AB. A hard shove on AB at the snap, stoning Brown at the line. AB swims over him while dragging his jersey, lightly tossing Burns to the ground.
12. Third team corner pairing. Brian Allen and Greg Ducre as the outside corners, Sutton commanding the slot. So there’s something on Allen. Josh Dobbs’ throw to Demarcus Ayers is high but Ayers climbs the ladder and makes a nice grab.
13. Dobbs zings a good throw over the middle complete to Scott Orndoff. Jacob Hagen a step away from being able to poke the ball out.
14. Linebacker blitz, Matt Galambos rushing. Dobbs hits Marcus Tucker on a comeback. Nice job to work back to the football, retrace steps and box out the corner.
15. Daniel McCullers – still running third team – blows through Kyle Friend. Pass complete, either by Dobbs or Bart Houston, not sure, again to Orndoff.
1. Brown, Hunter, Eli in the slot. Dupree/Watt OLB with Cockrell/Burns/Gay in the slot. Run play, Ramon Foster pulling left to right, James Conner following.
2. Watched Alejandro Villanueva battle T.J. Watt. Villanueva with strong hands and in control of Watt, who dropped his eye level. Roethlisberger fires deep down the right sideline intended for Hunter but Cockrell is shadowing him and the throw lands incomplete.
3. Draw to Knile Davis. Stephon Tuitt knifes in from the backside and T.J. Watt bounces back, using his hands well to toss away David Johnson. Win for the defense.
4. TE screen from Ben to Jesse James. Marcus Gilbert peels off and gets into space quickly.
5. Hamilton and DHB the second-team Z and X receivers, Ayers in the slot. Draw to Conner. Hilton flies in and was amped up about his run fill as the play ended.
6. Dobbs working with the second team with Roethlisberger getting a light workload, pushing Jones to the one’s. Quick throw to Hamilton in the left flat, Sensabaugh with the coverage.
7. Fun battle between Jerald Hawkins and Anthony Chickillo. Hawkins seems to seal Chick up the arc. But Chick, one of his best traits, is his ability to flatten and finish at the top. Smacks Josh Dobbs’ arm as he releases the ball, fluttering it to the ground.
8. Dobbs responds by hitting James in stride on a ten yard dig. But Chickillo isn’t done giving Hawkins fits. Swim move to the inside that knocks Hawkins off balance. Only saving grace was Matt Feiler finding work and crashing into him, preventing a free path to the QB.
9. Jones back in with the first team. Whistle to Brown on a slant. But Ryan Shazier was *this* close to picking it off. Might have even gone through his hands, tough to tell.
10. Center trap with B.J. Finney. Conner running behind. Finney kicks out his man. Defensively, Dupree filled the gap well.
11. Knile Davis with the carry up the middle. Vince Williams meets him on the other side but was feeling merciful, throwing his hands up and letting the back through, matador style.
12. Sir Bart Houston in the game. Tries to show off his arm down the right side. But the pass is too flat. Brandon Dixon high points and breaks it up. Canaan Severin had to play defender and get in the way to prevent an interception.
13. Fake end around to Hamilton, Trey Williams gets the handoff. Runs off left tackle but slips trying to cut upfield.
14. Houston fires the ball out quick to Severin on a short curl to the right. Ball is a bit low, placement actually was pretty good, but Greg Ducre makes a nice, diving play to swat it away.
15. Saw Roy Philon in the Steelers’ nickel defense. Farrington Huguenin and Keion Adams the third team pairing at OLB. Houston complete to Marcus Tucker on a curl. Keion Adams whooped Jake Rodgers off the left side on the snap. Shows a nice burst. Brian Allen in at right corner.
1. Jones playaction but checks down to Fitzgerald Toussaint.
2. Bang 8 (skinny post) to the right side, Justin Hunter making a falling snag from Jones. Looked like 2 man, corners playing underneath, Ross Cockrell unable to get in Hunter’s catch radius. Good throw, better catch.
3. Jones complete to Toussaint in the left flat with Williams meeting him quickly along the sideline. No contact though. Wait until tomorrow for that.
4. Three tight ends in the game. David Johnson at fullback as Roosevelt Nix’s backup. James and Xavier Grimble at tight end. Davis gets the carry right side. Watt got penetration from the opposite, coming in free. Quickly got into the backfield, tagging Davis before letting him go.
5. Second-team DL. Same three as yesterday; Tyson Alualu-L.T. Walton-Johnny Maxey. But actually, Walton was/is running nose tackle. Maxey is RDE. Maybe what I saw yesterday was an over front. Botched exchange between Finney and Dobbs. Don’t know who was at fault.
6. Nickel front, Walton and Alualu staying in. James Conner gets the carry off left guard.
7. Steven Johnson rotates in at ILB with Fort, playing the Mack. Matakevich still the Buck. Davis up the gut. Matakevich meets him there and was pretty pleased with himself after the play.
8. Hawkins false starts. Dobbs’ playaction. Not 100% sure who it was intended for, perhaps DHB, but the throw is way late. Johnson should’ve had the interception but it falls out of his hands, hitting the turf.
9. Jones looks to Brown on the left sideline. But Burns rallies downhill to the ball and breaks the pass up. Kudos.
10. Conner carry up the middle. Williams meets him in the B gap.
11. Trey Williams carry off the right side. Looked like VW and David DeCastro collided into each other and then Williams fell into both of them.
12. Brandon Dixon the RCB, Brian Allen opposite. Matt Galambos/Keith Kelsey at ILB. McCullers and Maxey in at nickel. Terrell Watson receives the carry. Terrish Webb, who we haven’t mentioned yet, filled the alley well. 39 on 39 crime.
13. Trap play, James Conner off the left side. Good backside pursuit by Huguenin.
14. Split zone, David Johnson pulling right to left, carry off to the right by Brown-Dukes. Galambos flowed to the ball well down the line.
15. Maxey and Big Dan again in the nickel. Checkdown by Bart Houston to Trey Williams, who loses his footing – a theme for him today – trying to muscle his way upfield.
– You can see the learning curve for Josh Dobbs. He’s not holding onto the ball forever but is making poor decisions and not reading coverages.
– Running backs are really hard to judge when you can’t hit ’em. Check back tomorrow. But Toussaint didn’t play much to allow Conner the bulk of the work, which he got.
– It is just shells but Justin Hunter had a really nice day. If you had to pick a “winner,” it was him.
– Christian Brown, Nelson Adams, Francis Kallon. Three defensive linemen I have barely heard a peep from the first two days. Not even sure if Brown has been on the field.
– As mentioned above, Steven Johnson appears to be rotating in with Fort as the second-string Mack linebacker. Not a surprise though Fort is the “starter,” for what that’s worth.
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History Through A Lens
One of my favorite old-school Steelers’ photos that’s out there. Bradshaw, commanding the troops, winning Super Bowls. This should be painted on the Sistine Chapel.
St. Vincent Snapshot
Ron Swanson Quote Of The Day
“I’ve had the same will since I was 8 years old. Upon my death, I will transfer all of my belongings to the man or animal who has killed me.”