Training Camp

Steelers Training Camp Diary: Day 14

Back at it for a hot, humid, physical day of Pittsburgh Steelers’ camp. Only two more after today. Let’s dive into a jam-packed couple of hours.

Quick aside: want to thank our training camp sponsor, Touring Plans, who is supporting the meals throughout camp. I ordered a Blizzard from Dairy Queen yesterday. Called it a “McFlurry” when I ordered. Your reminder than I’m an idiot. Thanks again to Touring Plans, 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: Getting healthier. Not practicing at all today were: Mike Mitchell (ankle/foot), Demarcus Ayers (unknown), Keion Adams (left shoulder), Senquez Golson (counting to one million…backwards), Ramon Foster (rest), and Ryan Shazier (hamstring). Ayers came down onto the field carrying his helmet and shoulder pads, making it look like he was going to give it a go but wound up sitting out everything except the stretch line (which he’s done for the past several days).

Partial participants today were: Maurkice Pouncey, Landry Jones, and Cam Sutton. Pouncey went through individual work but nothing in team. Jones threw in individual and QB/WR but only took run snaps in team. And Sutton was held out of team. With Foster and Pouncey held out of team drills, Chris Hubbard ran 1st team LG and B.J. Finney first team center.

Returning today were: Steven Johnson, Bud Dupree, T.J. Watt (after getting rest most of Monday), and Trey Williams was back in team drills after missing the last several practices of that. James Conner was a 100% go today too, the best news of the afternoon on that front. Sammie Coates was immediately in pads and got work in team drills. Lot of reps to catch up on.

Big injury scare of the day. Writing about it now before it gets lost in the weeds that is the rest of my notes. JuJu Smith-Schuster went down with what I/we believe is a left lower leg injury. He was hurt on the 9th play of the second team session, their usual run session, which was live (i.e. full contact). It was a draw to Fitzgerald Toussaint off the right side. Big pile made it impossible to see what went down but you can guess someone rolled into his leg.

Immediately, Smith-Schuster stayed on the ground, not really moving, flat on his back, making it initially impossible to know who was hurt (and you never want to guess about something like that). Players circled around him, including Ben Roethlisberger, and Cam Heyward/Tyson Alualu tapped him before moving 40 yards downfield to continue the rest of the team session. Harsh reality of the NFL. Someone hurt, practice keeps moving.

Smith-Schuster was down for about 4-5 minutes initially, for the final three plays of the run session. The cart came over but Smith-Schuster was able to walk off about 10 yards to his right, making his way to the sideline so the special teams session could take place. Again, he went down on his back, head trainer John Norwig checking out his left leg.

Eventually, Smith-Schuster started walking his way back across the middle field alongside two trainers. Mike Tomlin stopped them, talking for a moment, and then JuJu made his way up the hill. He even signed a pair of autographs before heading up the hill and stairs to the locker room.

So the good news: the cart came out but wasn’t needed. He was able to walk off under his own power.

The bad news: clearly beyond a bump and bruise and something that could keep him out some amount of time. Tomlin declined to update.

Josh Dobbs and JuJu have been good friends throughout camp. Coming down the stairs together on a regular basis, including today. Third and 4th players out. Terrell Watson and James Conner beat them to the punch.

– Coates doing some band stretches to warm up. Small band around his ankles that he eventually gave to Conner. Antonio Brown did similar but with a large green band around his ankles and went through a full stretch routine on the side. With him is a physician he works closely with, Cara Troutman-Enseki, who is the “director of exertion rehabilitation for the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program.” If you follow AB on Snapchat, you’ll see her a lot, working with him throughout the offseason to stay in tip-top shape.

Jordan Dangerfield knelt down for a brief prayer in the corner of the end zone before practice began.

– Maurkice Pouncey and Ben Roethlisberger had their daily goal post challenge. Pouncey hit the left upright from 40 yards out (standing on the 30).

– 1st team OL: Villanueva-Hubbard-Finney-DeCastro-Gilbert

– 2nd team OL: Hawkins-Feiler-Friend-Milton-Mihalik

– 3rd team OL: Mihalik-Cooper-Crowley-Milton-Rodgers

– All the QBs, plus Jordan Berry (the man who will do it in the regular season) worked as being the holder, rotating in and out. Even Roethlisberger. B.J. Finney continued to snap a couple, too. Consider him your emergency long snapper in the regular season.

– Punt return line: Marcus Tucker, T. Williams, Sutton, Artie Burns (first time I’ve seen him do it) Eli Rogers. Roethlisberger faked Tucker out once, calling for a fair catch, getting in Tucker’s way and then bailing at the last second as the ball hit the ground. Crowd had a laugh at that one.

– Roethlisberger called out to Rogers in individual after a rep. “Nice. Very good. Very good.” Chemistry in the slot is critical.

– In individual session, Jake McGee, Brandon Brown-Dukes, and AB all had impressive one-handed snags.

– One other note. Former Steelers’ tight end Matt Spaeth was on hand today. He’s the one in the shorts in the photo at the top.

– Charting WR/DBs.

1. Antonio Brown vs Artie Burns. Fade to the right corner incomplete.

2. Ross Cockrell lining up a bit off. Martavis Bryant with an easy slant, crossing his face.

3. Good jam by Coty Sensabaugh at the LOS. Justin Hunter runs an out cut but the throw is behind, incomplete.

4. Stem to the right corner by Darrius Heyward-Bey. Pass incomplete with Brian Allen on the coverage but giving up space at the top. Mike Tomlin was watching this session and coaching guys up the whole way. Think he told Allen: “You have to get your hand in there late.”

5. Fade to Sammie Coates in the right corner. Greg Ducre does well to play the pocket and break the throw up.

6. Marcus Tucker with a nasty pivot in the back of the end zone versus Brandon Dixon. Inside stem, breaks on an out cut and then puts on the brakes to break it back in. Dixon left in the dust. TD.

7. Mike Hilton forces an incompletion versus Cobi Hamilton but he’s all over him. Even by my standards, where I am fine with the DB getting to be more aggressive, this was a flag.

8. AB catches a fade over Artie Burns.

9. Bryant gets off the line vs Cockrell. Late to find the ball thrown back shoulder, couldn’t haul it in. Incomplete.

10. Hunter swaps hips and creates space off the line against JaCorey Shepherd. High points and catches the ball in the right corner, Shepherd gives him a hard shove in the back, tumbling Hunter out of bounds.

11. Antonio Brown trying to run a ten yard dig in the back of the end zone. Can’t dip Artie. So he bursts away to the outside, shaking Burns, and making the catch.

12. Missed the rep.

13. Coates beats Burns to the inside. Catch, touchdown.

14. Backshoulder fade to Heyward-Bey. Finds it but drops the ball as he goes up for it. Hilton on the coverage.

15. Nice rep for Hamilton. Beats Dixon’s jam, high points the ball on a fade to the right corner, hauls it in.

16. Coates on a dig. Gets away from Allen, high points the ball, makes the grab.

17. Bryant just blows through Cockrell’s jam at the LOS. Too easy. Touchdown.

18. Burns rides Brown down the right side. Brown creates some space on an out ‘n up but the ball sails and is incomplete.

19. Hunter runs a slant but Shepherd undercuts the route and breaks it up. He may have turned the receiver, which will draw a flag. Tomlin was saying something about that to him after the play. Can’t use that away arm to wrap around the receiver the way he did.

20. Hamilton retraces his steps on a comeback but he dropped the ball. I think Hilton on the coverage, though whoever it was didn’t create the incompletion.

21. Tucker slaloms versus Dixon, trying to shake him. Finally does and makes the catch. Tomlin seemed impressed.

22. Hunter on a slant, pushing Burns off the line. But Burns recovers with a vengeance, driving on the ball and ramming his left shoulder into him, creating the incompletion.

– OL/DL one-on-one.


1. Hubbard anchors versus Cam Heyward. Heyward rips him late in the rep but win still goes to the offense.

2. Finney anchors against Javon Hargrave.

3. Stephon Tuitt can’t rip under David DeCastro.

4. Nice rep for Anthony Chickillo. Inside move initially and them swims over to the outside, beating Marcus Gilbert, who can’t recover and drops to a knee.

5. Matt Feiler seals L.T. Walton’s rip move upfield.

6. Daniel McCullers walks Kyle Friend back.

7. Walton push/pull brings Keavon Milton to the ground.

8. Chickillo tries his inside/outside move again but Brian Mihalik doesn’t fall for it. Wins the rep.

9. Francis Kallon can’t swim over Jerald Hawkins.

10. Ethan Cooper does well to seal Lavon Hooks.

11. Lucas Crowley steps up to the plate and anchors versus Christian Brown, who still has to do a better job keeping his lower half moving on his rushes. Gets overextended.

12. Good punch by Hooks, who rips under Milton.

13. T.J. Watt able to bend the edge and dip under Jake Rodgers.

14. Hawkins with a good punch on OLB Austin Gearing, though I think he hit him in the helmet. Gearing tries to spin inside but Hawkins shoves him down.

First Session

1. Seven shots. Dupree/Watt the OLBs. Bryant/Brown/JuJu the 3 WRs, all to the same side. Fun little play. JuJu lined up on the wing, Roethlisberger tosses a behind-the-back shovel pass to him up the middle for the score. Let’s just not try that in a real game.

2. Backshoulder throw from Ben to Bryant. Boxes out Cockrell, TD.

3. Conner in at RB. AB in the slot. Speed out to the left, catching a touchdown versus Burns.

4. AB and Eli on the outside. Hunter in the slot. Empty set. Dupree dips under Gilbert. Roethlisberger looks for Jesse James in the back of the end zone but Sean Davis bats it away.

5. Josh Dobbs fade to Sammie Coates in the left corner. Greg Ducre gets the breakup, nice rep.

6. Empty. Dobbs sizzles a throw in a tight window to the short right for Hamilton. But Jacob Hagen is there to get in the way, break it up.

7. Defense rallied back to tie seven shots, 3-3. Intensity level was rising on their end, more vocal after every stop. But the offense wins out, another bullet from Dobbs to Rogers between Mike Hilton and Hagen. Pretty sure he got in.

Second Session

1. Tomlin clapping as they get ready for the second session. “Back to football, let’s go!” Run session. Roosevelt Nix good lead block to clear out Vince Williams. Fitzgerald Toussaint on the carry. Cockrell brings him down off the right side. “Nice tackle 3-1,” Tomlin called out.

2. Trap with Xavier Grimble one of two pullers. Sean Davis fills the alley on the tackle. Cam Heyward also in on the stop, Toussaint on the carry.

3. Playaction. Roethlisberger’s throw to Brown is short deep down the right sideline. Eli Rogers running an “over” route across the field.

4. Draw to Conner. Spins to his outside to shake Cockrell but can’t win the edge, Robert Golden making a solid ankle tackle near the right sideline.

5. Playaction, Jesse James getting behind the linebackers and Ben hits him. Golden, not going full speed, goes at his ankles to cut him down, another defender tumbling over top.

6. Heyward’s penetration forces Terrell Watson to the right. Tuitt and Chickillo team up for the stop for probably a 3-4 yard gain. Landry Jones at QB for this run session.

7. Hawkins slips down trying to seal Arthur Moats to the outside. Moats forces Conner inside, swallowed up at the line.

8. Hagen works under the pulling Matt Feiler, dropping Conner for a short loss. Nice play. Hagen stringing together two solid practices.

9. Steven Johnson back in the second team with L.J. Fort. Draw to Toussaint. Play JuJu got hurt, which I’ve recapped up top.

10. Team moves 30 yards downfield. Playaction. Dobbs had Phazahn Odom wide open down the seam. But the pass sails and Hagen picks it off, returning it back a good 20 yards before getting run out of bounds along the right side.

11. Conner’s best run of the day. Started to take the ball up the middle but saw a crease to the right and jumped cut to his right. Big hole down the right side, refusing to go out of bounds, stiff-arming Dixon and shoving him aside. Dangerfield holds onto the back of Conner’s jersey for dear life, finally pulling him down for probably a 15-20 yard gain.

12. Watson carry off the right side. Brian Allen couldn’t hold the edge. Several players giving chase, Watson lowering a shoulder into someone before being run out of bounds to the left side.

Third Session

1. Sean Davis blitzing free off the defense’s left side. Roethlisberger to AB on a slant, Burns a step late to make a play on it.

2. Thunder Fire Zone, Davis/Gay coming. Ben’s throw to AB down the left sideline is high, incomplete, Burns on the coverage.

3. Burns was going to blitz but Ben’s hard count uncovered it and Burns bails out. Roethlisberger complete to David Johnson on a ten yard curl, Tyler Matakevich with the coverage.

4. Roethlisberger complete to Rogers on a short curl over the middle (Hank).

5. Nothing open, Ben tries to step up and Heyward sheds his block to get pressure. But smartly puts his hands up as if to say “I’m not trying to hurt Ben.” Play is dead, no throw.

6. Cockrell blitz, Conner good recognition and pickup. Roethlisberger’s throw to the left side looks low but Brown makes a fingertip catch. Burns over top, Chickillo the overhand underneath.

7. Dobbs complete to Hamilton on a curl. Greg Ducre half step slow to pick it off.

8. Second team DL. Alualu-Walton-Maxey. Dobbs looks for DHB on a skinny post but Sensabaugh breaks it up.

9. Second team corners. Sensabaugh/Ducre/Hilton in the slot. Hagen/Dangerfield at S. Feiler shoves Gearing down. Dobbs complete short to Rogers, Hagen popping him good at the end.

10. Third team DL. Hooks-McCullers-Philon. Dixon/Allen third team corners. Terrish Webb/Malik Golden at S. Bart Houston with a strong throw to hit Jake McGee on an out route. Tomlin yelled out from downfield. “Bart Houston, good throw baby!”

11. Low snap, Crowley in the game. Houston checkdown to Rogers, running a drag.

12. Houston hits Tucker complete along the left sideline.

Fourth Session

1. Red zone work. Gilbert seals Dupree upfield. Roethlisberger hits Bryant in the back left corner of the end zone, beating Cockrell, who can only push him down and into the catch fence that separates field from fans. Touchdown.

2. Defense said watch out for the draw. They were right. Off right guard to Conner. Vince Williams tags him, session not “live.”

3. Burns blitz, someone (Conner?) picks him up, knocking Artie to the ground. Throw to AB is incomplete.

4. Hubbard pulls to kick out Cockrell. Grimble behind square through the hole, Conner following.

5. Knile Davis draw up the middle. Tyler Matakevich shoots the A gap and pretty much picks Davis up and throws him down on his back. Whole defense goes crazy. Great play.

6. Draw again to Davis. Less exciting. Chickillo/VW wrap him up.

7. Chickillo sheds McGee’s base block. Conner bounces the run to the right, showing some speed to win the edge.

8. Chickillo rushes in free. Dobbs checkdown to Watson.

9. Dobbs, I think purposely, throws backside to Watson running a wheel route. DB saw it and tried to jump the route. Watson makes a really impressive adjustment to the ball, catching the ball away from his frame. He’s showing a lot of impressive traits.

10. I think McGee flattened Dangerfield around the edge. And Chickillo can’t get off his block to reach Watson, counter run to the left.

11. Dobbs check to Trey Williams on the left side. Daniel McCullers late pressure. Fort grazes Williams along the sideline.

12. Tough grab for Cobi, the ball hitting off his fingertips on a high throw from Dobbs. Sensabaugh coverage. Fade in the right corner of the end zone.

Fifth Session

1. Two minute drill. Second team offense versus first team defense.Coates/Bryant/Rogers (with JuJu out) in the slot. Cam Heyward reads the screen to Toussaint but drops the interception.

2. Good throw by Dobbs, hitting Hunter on the right side.

3. Hank from Dobbs to James. Matakevich reads it and gets a paw on the ball but James catches the ball back down on the bounce.

4. T.J. Watt dips under Hubbard. Hunter reaches out for a good snag, again on the right side.

5. Draw to Toussaint up the gut.

6. Dobbs climbs the pocket and then tries to throw the ball away, this probably would’ve been intentional grounding in a game, but Burns is the only guy in the area, leaping off the ground, tipping it with his right hand, and then falling hard on his back.

7. Complete to Johnson, Cockrell quickly there to wrap him up.

8. Chaos of no huddle. Offense running up to the line, defense getting set, safety yelling out “Open Left! Open Left!” (means the weakside of the formation is to the left) as Dobbs spikes the ball.

9. Matakevich blows through Conner in pass pro, he and Heyward generating pressure. Dobbs flushed to the right, finally finding and hitting Rogers.

10. Chick/Watt the OLBs. Long throw down the right side into the back of the end zone for Rogers. Pretty sure it was Davis who high pointed the ball and tipped it away. It may have been Golden too. Either way, good play, win for the defense.

11. Complete over the middle to Rogers, who quickly dives down to the 16 yard line to get the next play off. Time running out.

12. Dobbs spike.

13. Flushed to the right, Dobbs takes off, with open grass before Burns chases him out at the three.

14. Slot fade to the left from Dobbs to Eli, who tracks the ball in over Gay for the score. Backups on offense beats the defense’s starters.

15. Third team offense vs second team defense. 1:23 on the clock, two timeouts. Draw to Conner. Hagen comes down from his safety spot, Alualu and Fort chasing behind.

16. Houston throw over the middle to Grimble is wayyyyyy behind, incomplete.

17. Short throw to DHB. Hilton on the coverage. Pass incomplete, bounced off someone, not entirely sure who.

18. This time, I’m sure. Hilton reaches into the pocket to break up drag route (moving right to left) intended for DHB. Incomplete, practice is over.

Final Thoughts

– Of course, really nice to see James Conner in pads today. His run down the right side was one of the day’s top plays. Another extended look at him from a carry perspective. Hopping on the moving train.

– Martavis Bryant already looking better and more comfortable, shaking that rust off, than he did on Day One. Today, and I’m sure it’s no surprise, was his best day so far.

– Defensively, Matakevich and Hilton continue to have two of the strongest camps around.

– And I’m happy to see the safeties finally showing up to the party. Hagen a breakup and INT. Had two breakups yesterday. Davis with two breakups. Finally coming alive.

– If you’d like to leave something in the tip jar for the camp reports we do, you can do so right here. Of course, only do so if you’re willing and able to. No biggie if you don’t/can’t. We’re just happy to have your support and be apart of this awesome community.

History Through A Lens

Jack Lambert at Kennywood? Jack Lambert at Kennywood.

St. Vincent Snapshot

Roethlisberger graciously coming over to some fans to snap a few photos.

Ron Swanson Quote Of The Day

“You had me at ‘Meat Tornado.'”

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