Pretty light day of practice the Pittsburgh Steelers had today. So this entry is probably going to be shorter and less informative than usual. No pads, no contact. No sun either, a cloudy day over St. Vincent College.
Quick aside: want to thank our training camp sponsor, Touring Plans, who is supporting the meals throughout camp. Pierogies for dinner tonight. A Pittsburgh staple. 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, as usual. Not practicing/dressed today were: Landry Jones (abdominal strain), Mike Mitchell (leg/ankle), Senquez Golson (next American Idol judge), Ryan Shazier (hamstring), Bud Dupree (unknown), and Keion Adams (shoulder).
All those players sans Jones did some work on the side. Shazier jogging across the middle field. Players laying on their stomachs and doing leg kicks. Going over the bags. Light work like that. Jones was throwing the ball pretty good during warmups. Feel like most of these guys are close to at least a partial return, though Dupree’s situation, this on-again, off-again injury report, is frustrating.
In jersey but not participating today included: Maurkice Pouncey (leg), and Steven Johnson (unknown). Pouncey did go through the initial warmups at center but that was about it. Didn’t see Johnson do any work.
T.J. Watt was not in team drills for the back half of practice, but worked during the special teams periods. So that’s either rest or a super minor injury. Cam Sutton also still being held out of team drills but went through individual/special teams.
The good news: since it was a non-padded practice, James Conner went through team drills. Good to get him back in that environment, even if he’s not getting hit. JuJu Smith-Schuster was back in full. Ditto Anthony Chickillo and Farrington Huguenin. Keith Kelsey was full today. Ditto Marcus Gilbert and Johnny Maxey, who had a knee scare yesterday.
As you may know by now, the Steelers signed OLB Austin Gearing. Wearing #49, he was with the team in rookie minicamp, and with his knowledge of the system, jumped right into team practice today. Used at both OLB spots on the third team opposite Huguenin.
– 2nd team OL: Hubbard-Feiler-Friend-Milton-Hawkins
– One really weird, but ultimately irrelevant, part of warmups. Offense goes through at quarter speed, with the rest of the offense (backup linemen and tight ends, mostly) are the “defense.” But they don’t really do anything. The defense, led by assistant coach Shaun Sarrett, called for their “nickel” group. Justin Hunter came off the field for Xavier Grimble. I wonder what the point of having the “defense” (again, just backup offensive players) sub in and out.
– JuJu Smith-Schuster always getting a lot of coaching to get him up to speed. In those warmups, Todd Haley pulled him aside, talked to him for 15 seconds, with Smith-Schuster nodding and then going to stand next to Richard Mann. Later on, in positional work, Ben Roethlisberger explained to him how he wanted JuJu to run an out route. JuJu said something back, Roethlisberger nodded and said “Yes” with a smile, like a teacher talking to a student who finally figured it out, and then completed the pass.
– Punt return work. Eli Rogers, Martavis Bryant, Marcus Tucker, Trey Williams, and Cam Sutton.
– Steelers had the robots/bags out today early on. Quarterbacks used them as target practice while the receivers worked elsewhere. But then they moved it off to the side and I didn’t see it return for the rest of the day.
– Couple of notes in WR/DBs. Worked in groups (2 WRs vs 3 CBs) so I didn’t chart like I do in one-on-ones.
– William Gay jumped an Antonio Brown dig and picked the pass off.
– Mike Hilton continued to do work. Played the pocket and broke up a pass for Darrius Heyward-Bey on one rep and then picked off a bad throw the next.
– Antonio Brown had a diving, toe tap catch in the right front corner of the end zone.
– Brandon Dixon nearly trapped a Marcus Tucker out route. Couldn’t close in time. Dixon nearly had a diving interception on the final rep but fell on his back and out of bounds.
– Artie Burns got a hand on a fade route in the back, right corner of the end zone for Justin Hunter.
– Miscommunication on one rep in the secondary. Left Bryant wide open on a crosser.
– Brief special teams notes.
– JuJu got work as a gunner. Robert Golden, as expected, was first team upback, flanked by Roosevelt Nix and Jordan Dangerfield (that’s how it’ll look Week One). Second team upback was Davis with Toussaint on the left wing, which was sorta interesting. Toussaint was Golden’s backup last year. Prepping Davis if he beats Fitz out.
Rough go of it for the returners. Eli Rogers caught the ball cleanly, which was important, but Marcus Tucker muffed two and Trey Williams let one go through his hands. Danny Smith not going to be a happy camper.
– Artie Burns returned one kickoff and Mike Tomlin was not happy. Saw Burns at the end of his return, Tomlin standing on the other side of the field. “You’re stealing reps!” Tomlin yelled to him, I had one Depot reader tell me after practice (I knew Tomlin was upset when I saw it, didn’t hear what he said clearly). Burns sorta threw his hands out at him and then sulked off down the sideline.
– Some 7 on 7 notes.
– Roethlisberger throw to Bryant incomplete. AB threw his hands up at Ben. Roethlisberger yelled out “I got the safety rolling over!”
– DHB burned Allen to haul in a deep ball down the left sideline. Still has that speed.
– Davis and JuJu suffered minor ankle injuries but didn’t miss a rep.
1. Seven shots. Offensive line pumped up as they came across the field left to right, yelling out “Wooh!!” Roethlisberger calls out to Finney, “Let’s go BJ.” Arthur Moats and Watt the OLBs. Eli Rogers has trouble fighting through Tyler Matakevich across the field but eventually sheds him. Roethlisberger hits Rogers in the front of the end zone, making the catch just inside the goal line before getting shoved out by Dirty Red.
2. Brown, Bryant, JuJu in the slot. Fade to Smith-Schuster to the back right corner, running under Bryant’s slant. Nice outstretched grab versus William Gay and keeping his feet inbounds.
3. Ross Cockrell loses the ball/his man on a fade from Ben to Justin Hunter in the right corner of the end zone. Pass was too high. Hunter leaped into the air as high as he could but it grazed his fingertips, incomplete. “Dang it!” Roethlisberger yelled out to himself.
4. Empty set. Backshoulder throw from Ben to Brown, working on Burns (who shadowed AB today). Brown makes the grab. Nothing Burns could do except wrestle him down at the end.
5. Josh Dobbs comes in. Speed out to Darrius Heyward-Bet to the left. Incomplete. Greg Ducre, who was finally back in team drills today, and ran second team RCB, applied the coverage.
6. DL of Alualu-Walton-Maxey. Kyle Friend at center. Dobbs quick throw to Jake McGee on the right side. Pass a little behind and Jacob Hagen has good coverage. Incomplete.
7. 11 personnel. Fake the draw to Terrell Watson. Dobbs’ throws for Phazahn Odom in back of the end zone. Odom climbs the ladder to grab the ball at its catch point but Hagen pokes it away on the way down. Defense comes back from a 3-1 deficit to win Seven Shots 4-3.
1. Again, no pads, so not a lot going on. Lead strong, Fitzgerald Toussaint running behind Roosevelt Nix.
2. Stretch run to the left for Knile Davis. Cuts to his right as Vince Williams tags him up.
3. James Conner gets his first team carry since Day Three, the first day of pads. Off left guard. Gay sheds Rogers’ block in the slot and Conner tripped over someone, falling to the ground.
4. Playaction. Roethlisberger to AB on a post-corner. But pass way too far behind. Brown finds the ball and basically stops to make the catch, the DBs letting up. AB is precious cargo.
5. Draw to Conner off the right side. David DeCastro rode out Gay. Conner sprints down the right sideline towards the end zone as the fans gave him one of the loudest cheers of the day. Knew it was his first day back.
6. It’s Terrell Watson off the right side. Good fill on the edge by Burns to tag him. Vince Williams got hyped for the job Burns did, jumping into the air and pumping his fist.
7. L.J. Fort and Matt Galambos the second team LBs, Galambos playing the Buck with Johnson out. Conner up the gut. Walton sheds Friend and tags the rookie.
8. Ducre at RCB. Austin Gearing steps in at ROLB. Dobbs playaction. Hits Watson in the left flat.
9. Huguenin/Gearing at OLB. Sensabaugh/Ducre at corner. Conner off the right side, Hagen tags him. Conner darts left and upfield, throwing his left shoulder into Ducre.
10. Daniel McCullers and Lavon Hooks the nickel DL. Brandon Dixon/Brian Allen third team corners. Maxey gets some penetration on this Davis carry. Keith Kelsey brought the back to the down, causing a commotion. Big no-no.
11. Third team safeties. Terrish Webb and Malik Golden at S. Defensive line stout, Conner swallowed up at the LOS.
12. Galambos/Kelsey at ILB. Kelsey tags up Watson on the right side. McCullers fell diving out for him. Dropped to a knee.
1. Moats and Chick the OLBs, Watt’s day on defense is done. Bubble from Ben to Bryant. JuJu through a good stalk block on either Cockrell or Burns, think Cockrell.
2. Fake end around to Bryant, screen right to Conner.
3. Xavier Grimble makes a sliding catch from Roethlisberger.
4. Ben’s throw to Nix over the middle, Nix split out pre-snap, falls incomplete.
5. Slant from Roethlisberger to Brown. Burns reads it but can’t close in time, trying to play the pocket, arm swiping down over the top, but Brown hanging on.
6. Deep out complete from Ben to Rogers. Working on Gay.
7. Conner and Dobbs collide as they try to fake a draw. Rusty. Dobbs complete to Justin Hunter on a curl.
8. Javon Hargrave comes in free up the middle. Dobbs hits DHB over the middle, deftly juking Sensabaugh and cutting across to his right.
9. Hagen/Dangerfield second team safety. Hilton in the slot. Dobbs fires a bullet over the middle to JuJu. Hilton could’ve taken his head off but pulled up as Smith-Schuster made the catch.
10. Enter Bart Houston. Fake the bubble, throw down the right seam to McGee. A Todd Haley staple he’s been running since he came here.
11. This time, Houston throws hot to Cobi Hamilton.
12. And with Ducre playing off, Houston hits Tucker on a smoke screen. Getting that completion percentage up, that’s for sure.
1. Offense working on the shadow of its own goal line. Roethlisberger checks down to Toussaint off the left side.
2. Draw to Conner. Cockrell was one of the first in there and then Burns/Davis chase Conner down the right sideline at full speed.
3. Roethlisberger wanted Brown down the left sideline but decided against it. Moved to second read, complete to a wide open David Johnson over the middle.
4. Conner meets a wall up the middle. Williams and Davis test the rookie’s ball security, trying to punch the ball out. Conner holds on, no problem.
5. Downhill run from Davis behind Nix.
6. Best throw of the day. Josh Dobbs throws a rope to the left sideline, before Marcus Tucker broke stride on his out cut. Hits him on the sideline perfectly, complete. Brian Allen on the coverage.
7. Playaction. Wheel route from Grimble down the right side, Houston with the toss. But Sensabaugh breaks it up.
8. Conner into a pile up the middle. Nothing doing.
9. Draw. Davis on the cary. Gearing and Fort shed their blocks and tag him up.
1. Two minute offense. First team had 1:18 to work with and one timeout. Tomlin calls out to his center, “Let’s go BJ Finney!” in a motivational tone. Line getting changed. Alejandro Villanueva and Gilbert sat out, replaced by Hubbard on the left, Hawkins on the right. Brown and Bryant still in. Dobbs first pass is short, complete to Davis.
2. Sean Davis blitz. Dobbs complete to James over the middle, Matakevich on the coverage.
3. Matakevich dips under Davis blitzing and flushes Dobbs to his left. Cam Heyward with pressure, too. Dobbs throw is well short to the left for AB.
4. Late pressure by Stephon Tuitt. Brown burned Burns down the left side but Dobbs’ throw is way too short, incomplete.
5. Dobbs looks for Hunter over the middle but Gay is Johnny on the spot, jumping in front and picking it off. Houses it 60 yards the other way. Dances in the end zone with Heyward and VW.
6. Third team offense is in. Tomlin originally gave them just one timeout two but yelled out “Two timeouts!” at the last second. Houston’s first pass is for Conner in the left flat. High and over his head but Conner makes a really nice catch, reaching out over his head to twist and bring it in. Jukes Dangerfield (granted, you can’t hit) and screams down the left side into the end zone. Play of the day.
7. Tomlin wants to see a little more since the score happened so soon (even the practice ending horn went off). So they reset. Houston hits Johnson on a Hank concept.
8. Right tackle Jake Rodgers seals Huguenin upfield, the OLB slipping at the top. Houston looks for Johnson again but the pass is slightly off, incomplete.
9. This time, Huguenin beats Rodgers off the edge. Left tackle Brian Mihalik absorbs Gearing’s bull rush. Houston complete to Conner in the right flat.
10. Offense takes a timeout. 48 seconds left. Conner pushes Galambos upfield in pass pro. Houston complete short to Smith-Schuster, Hilton bopping him. Hilton and Tomlin joke around while waiting for the next play.
11. Pressure, Houston climbs and hitches up into the pocket. Hits Conner with Hilton quickly closing.
12. Houston wants to hit Odom short to the left side but Galambos is there to break it up.
13. 4th down. Checkdown again to Conner. Tomlin says he got the first down but I think the defense, getting pretty rowdy, especially the first teamers on the sideline (led by Heyward) dispute it. Coach still gets his way.
14. Last play. Galambos gets pressure up the middle. Houston steps up and tries to heave it deep but someone hit his arm, the ball flailing out and falling way, way short.
– Not a lot going on today. When Dobbs flashes, he certainly is capable of looking really good. Still going to be the #3 on the depth chart come Week One. Landry Jones should be back soon, too.
– Lot of work for Conner today. Cut down on Watson’s carries. Not sure if Brandon Brown-Dukes even saw a rep. And Trey Williams…he just doesn’t work in team. I don’t know if that’s injury, falling out of favor, both, but a bad sign. Could see a roster move there if the team has to make another. Six running backs is excessive.
– Note from the Giants’ game I’ll leave here because my final thoughts are pretty short. Really like guard Matt Feiler’s demeanor. Physical player who finishes his blocks.
– Talk about reps being low for the running backs. Linemen are in a similar boat. Not a ton of time for guys like Rodgers, Mihalik, Ethan Cooper. Limited work in Friday’s game. Don’t think Lucas Crowley has even gotten work in team, though I’ll try to remember to find out for sure in Wednesday’s practice.
– Why rookie minicamp matters…and why you should pay attention to even the guys who don’t immediately get offered a contract. Each year, one or two of them circle back. Today, that was Austin Gearing. His time in the spring allowed him to be a quick study and jump in today.
– Brandon Dixon has ball skills. But too grabby, doesn’t play with great technique in man coverage.
– Happy to see Ducre back in team. Don’t count him out just, yet. It bumped JaCorey Shepherd out of team drills, from what I saw.
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History Through A Lens
St. Vincent Snapshot
A very much wrapped up Big Ben today. All maintenance stuff but right shoulder and left knee iced up, aided by head trainer John Norwig.
A second one for you. Carnell Lake in the stands before practice.
Ron Swanson Quote Of The Day
“This must be a mistake. You’ve accidentally given me the food that my food eats.”