Another great day of practice, one that was won by the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense. Let’s jump in.
Quick aside: want to thank our training camp sponsor, Touring Plans, who is supporting the meals throughout camp. No McDonalds today; leftover diner food from yesterday’s off today. 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: seven guys not working today. Cam Sutton (lower body), James Conner (AC Sprain), Senquez Golson (angered Football Gods), Landry Jones (abdomen strain), Mike Mitchell (ankle/foot), Antonio Brown/Cam Heyward (wife had baby).
On the good news. JuJu Smith-Schuster went through a full practice and looked good. Vince Williams suited up his pads for the first time all camp and Lavon Hooks got his first practice in after dealing with an unknown injury. Stephon Tuitt came back after missing the back half of Monday’s practice and Ramon Foster returned after getting that practice off.
Sutton looks to be starting the very beginning of his rehab, tracing the sideline of the middle field, the first sign of on-field rehab. Sammie Coates was more aggressive and looks closer to a return, doing some light jogging alongside Martavis Bryant, who was running close to full speed.
– Terrell Watson was the first player out, several minutes earlier than anyone else. Came down the stairs at 2:30 PM.
– As they usually do, tight ends coach James Daniel and wide receivers coach Richard Mann came down onto the field together.
– Conner did go through the beginning, light warmups with the offense at the start. Nothing more than a jog but he should be back in a few days.
– Second team offensive line. Hubbard-Milton-Finney-Feiler-Hawkins
– Third team. Mihalik-Matthews-Friend-Cooper-Rodgers. So guys are flipping already which feels a little earlier than usual.
– Before the whistle blew for the stretch line, L.J. Fort and Jacob Hagen worked on some blocking/releasing for special teams. Ross Cockrell continues to do his agility drills before practice, putting in some extra work.
– Bunch of the guys go through the kick return line, even the big guys, in case of any pooch kick. That included Daniel McCullers, who predictably struggled. One went over his head and he dropped another, as Mike Tomlin stood right next to him.
– Credit to Xavier Grimble. Looks and sounds better on the blocking sled. You can hear the pop and he shows the ability to stay low and drive his feet. Phazahn Odom is getting incrementally better, and had a good final rep, but he has to keep his feet driving through contact. Too often go dead halfway through and he has to restart.
Newly signed Jake McGee, taking Scott Orndoff’s spot and wearing his #80, was regarded as a good blocker but struggled today. That’s typical. James Daniel was mimicking to Odom and McGee to stay low and not pop up out of their stance.
McGee also looked very tall as a receiver running downfield.
– Glanced over at the wide receivers before they finished up. Running go routes on air. Cobi Hamilton not the most athtletic or fluid. Loses a little bit of speed on the stem of his route vertically, shaking to the outside, and it causes the ball to sail past his finger tips.
– Charting the LB/TE-RB coverage reps.
1. Fitzgerald Toussaint on an out cut making the grab away from Tyler Matakevich.
2. Jesse James run a curl route but T.J. Watt is on top of him, swatting the ball away at the catch point.
3. Knile Davis runs an angle route which crosses Steven Johnson’s face for the catch.
4. Bud Dupree playing to David Johnson’s outside hip but Johnson cuts on a dig, creating a little bit of space and making the grab.
5. Terrell Watson runs a wheel route down the right sideline. But L.J. Fort plasters him and tracks the ball over his shoulder, twisting to pick it off. Nice play.
6. Xavier Grimble makes an impressive, diving catch in front of Anthony Chickillo.
7. Trey Williams catches an angle route (outside stem and then cutting to the middle) versus Matt Galambos.
8. Odom looks sloppy at the top of his route. Some element of miscommunication and as he turns to square up on his curl, the ball is already near him and Odom can only reach out his right hand to try to make the catch, failing. Moats coverage.
9. BBD on an angle route holds onto the footbal working on Keith Kelsey.
10. Keion Adams provides tight coverage on McGee but the throw is well-placed and McGee does well to reach above his frame to haul it in.
11. Pass for Roosevelt Nix in the right flat but it clangs off his right hand.
12. Jesse James with a good release off the line, swimming over Farrington Huguenin. Dig route but the pass is thrown in front of him. Not sure if that was the QB’s fault or James’.
13. Toussaint wheel route but Johnson is on top of him. Incomplete.
14. Best rep of this session goes to Watt. Sticks David Johnson with a two hand jam at the line and mirrors him as Johnson can do nothing to shake him. Tries to go to his right, back to his left, nothin’ doing. Ball doesn’t even come out, that’s how good Watt’s jam was.
15. Good grab by Grimble working on Dupree.
16. Williams angle route. Makes the catch despite Kelsey reading it and driving on the ball. Couldn’t finish the play.
17. Jesse James to the corner versus Anthony Chickillo, making the catch.
– Special teams depth chart. Kick return work today.
The entire return unit on the first team. The front five. Left to right if you’re looking at it as the kick returner. Tyler Matakevich-Matt Galambos-Steven Johnson-Anthony Chickillo-Arthur Moats. Robert Golden behind them. David Johnson and Chris Hubbard working as the “wedge,” though they would shift after the kick, and Roosevelt Nix behind them, who would become part of the two-man wedge. Knile Davis and Fitzgerald Toussaint the kick returners.
Other kick returner pairings in order they appeared. Marcus Tucker/Terrell Watson, Brandon Brown-Dukes/Cobi Hamilton, Fitzgerald Toussaint/Trey Williams.
– Second team blocking unit on the return team. Jordan Dangerfield-Keith Kelsey-Keion Adams-T.J. Watt-L.J. Fort. Brian Allen behind. L.T. Walton, B.J. Finney, Jerald Hawkins the “wedge.”
– OL/DL notes. Just a couple of reps I have.
1. Chickillo bends the edge versus Alejandro Villanueva.
2. Dupree spins inside on Marcus Gilbert. Gilbert slides laterally and tries to chop Dupree’s hands but Dupree dips under and past.
3. Arthur Moats inside/outside counter, dipping under Jerald Hawkins.
4. Jake Rodgers with a good rep, absorbing Dupree’s punch and shoving him up the arc.
5. Chickillo rips under Brian Mihalik.
1. Seven shots. With Cam Heyward out, Tyson Alualu jumped in at RDE over L.T. Walton. Empty set, a common theme in Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger puts the ball perfectly to Justin Hunter in the left corner of the end zone but Artie Burns doesn’t quit on the play and pokes it out as the two go to the ground and start to roll up onto the hill. Incomplete.
2. Hunter, JuJu on the outside with Eli Rogers in the slot. Roethlisberger again looks for Hunter, this time in the right corner, but it sails over his head. Ross Cockrell had the coverage.
3. Now, it’s Hunter, DHB, and Eli i the slot. Tyler Matakevich at ILB for Ryan Shazier, showing he’s the top backup at both spots, with Vince Williams opposite. Roethlisberger fires for DHB on a quick out to the right side but it’s incomplete. Cockrell did a good job to close on the football.
4. Blanket coverage. T.J. Watt getting some late pressure. Roethlisberger hurriedly throws the ball over the middle to Jesse James but it clangs off his right hand and incomplete. Robert Golden had the coverage.
5. Josh Dobbs throws a bullet short to Xavier Grimble for the offense’s first score.
6. Dobbs on a fade to Hamilton on the left side but the receiver drops it. Greg Ducre provided the coverage.
7. Dobbs throws short of the goal line to Marcus Tucker. Poor Marcus Tucker. Pass a little too far in front and Tucker stretches for it. But Steven Johnson hits him square in the stomach, the receiver leaving his feet as Johnson plants him on his back. Textbook.
1. Defensive line of Tuitt-Hargrave-Alualu. Mike Tomlin yells out as the offense huddles up. “Back to football!” Ramon Foster pulls left to right, Fitzgerald Toussaint following behind. Vince Williams quickly picks up his first tackle after a one or two yard gain.
2. Knile Davis cuts to his right and jets upfield. Tyson Alualu defeats David Johnson’s block and nearly makes the tackle. Davis scoots away until Bud Dupree and Tyler Matakevich shut him down.
3. Pistol. Good force defense by Robert Golden, keeping a lid on the play, forcing Toussaint inside, and Golden makes a wrap up tackle.
4. Chris Hubbard comes in as tackle eligible, something we saw plenty last year. Davis gets the carry to the right side, away from Hubbard. Dupree misses the tackle low but Watt shows good effort, coming from the backside to knock him down.
5. JuJu Smith-Schuster in the slot. Maurkice Pouncey pulls, one of the few centers in the league who can do so. Vince Williams reads it and flies in, getting penetration, but the back (don’t have who had the carry). Watt again makes the tackle from the backside.
6. Dobbs’ playaction. Heave down the right sideline for Cobi Hamilton. Ball is a little underthrown but Hamilton adjusts to it. Can’t make the grab as he goes to the ground. Coty Sensabaugh covering.
7. Jacob Hagen blitzes and knocks back tiny Brandon Brown-Dukes. But Hagen eases up, throwing his hands in the air, as not to make contact with the quarterback. Dobbs looks for Demarcus Ayers on the right sideline but the pass is a bit off line, clanging off Ayers as he desperately throws up his right hand over his head.
8. Second-team DL. Lavon Hooks-L.T. Walton-Johnny Maxey. Chickillo strong at the point of attack on a tight end. Brown-Dukes taken down by an L.J. Fort ankle tackle.
9. Fort absolutely runs through B.J. Finney at the line. Terrell Watson for a short gain.
10. Watson finds a crease up the middle. Several Steelers stop him after a medium gain, including Sensabaugh coming down the alley.
11. Bart Houston checks in…and has to almost immediately huddle back up. He struggles to communicate cleanly. Trey Williams with the run of the day. Broke two tackles, I wish I would’ve seen who they were. Juked the first man, spun away from the second. Malik Golden seemed to grab his facemask and still had to hold on to bring him down. 10-15 yard run and a really good one, Williams pumped, flipping the football in front of him at the end.
12. Williams less impressive run but still gets 3-4 yards up the gut. Mike Matthews with a strong base block on Roy Philon.
13. Philon redeems himself, crossing Kyle Friend’s face, he and Matt Galambos making the tackle on BBD.
14. Brandon Dixon third team left corner with Brian Allen opposite. Canaan Severin was the 12th man in and had to get kicked out of the formation by Haley. Whistle gets blown to reset things. Farrington Huguenin gets pressure as Toussaint cuts upfield. Keion Adams and Philon in on the tackle for a minimal gain.
15. Houston playaction. Nelson Adams beats Ethan Cooper. Houston throws low to Smith-Schuster but he does well to get his hands under the football and make the grab, his first as a Steeler.
1. Ben quick to Hunter on a screen. Jesse James quickly gets out into space. No full tackling. No huddle session.
2. Great, blanket coverage, absolutely nothing open for Roethlisberger. After at least five seconds, he tries to check down to James. But the pass is incomplete.
3. DHB burns Artie Burns down the right sideline for a big gainer from Big Ben.
4. Justin Hunter locates and high points a flag/corner route near the left side over Cockrell.
5. Tuitt jumps offsides on a Ben hard count. Roethlisberger heaves deep down the right sideline for DHB again but Burns has it covered better this time. DHB may have given a little shove at the end, sending Burns tumbling into the ground.
6. Ayers and Hunter on the outside, Rogers in the slot. Fake bubble screen, Roethlisberger complete to Johnson.
7. Josh Dobbs in the game as the offense resets. Sensabaugh and Ducre the left/right corner. Hargrave/Walton in nickel. Dangerfield/Hagen at safety. Mike Hilton in the slot. Dangerfield comes free on a blitz, RT Jake Rodgers never sees him. Dobbs quickly fires away from the blitz and to Brown-Dukes in the left flat.
8. Dobbs complete on a drag route to JuJu running right to left. No tackle but Hagen delivers a nice little pop.
9. Anthony Chickillo beats Chris Hubbard to the edge. Dobbs tries to fire to Hamilton to the right side but Mike Hilton, playing zone coverage underneath in his hook zone, makes a tremendous leaping group to pick it off. Heads up play to get off the ground and start to return it.
10. Dobbs to Ayers on an out route to the left sideline. Ducre drives on the ball and nearly picks this one off. Dobbs not as sharp today as yesterday.
11. Keith Kelsey beats Odom around the edge. Dobbs is forced to tuck and run.
12. Dixon left corner, Allen right corner, and Ducre getting bumped to the slot. Interesting. Allen comes in free on a blitz with Houston checking down to Ayers.
13. Watson has great blitz pickup, staying square and anchoring on contact. Houston heaves it deep down the left sideline for Tucker. Brian Allen looks back for the ball, giving up space, a common issue he’s showing, but the pass is incomplete as both fall to the ground.
14. Empty set. Houston finds Watson in the left flat.
15. Hilton slot blitz, blowing through Trey Williams like a turnstile. Houston steps up into Daniel McCullers’ waiting arms.
1. Steelers’ offense working on the heels of its own goal line. Toussaint carry off the left side, Watt and Matakevich diving in to take him down. Watt may have gotten a little nicked up here but stayed in.
2. Playaction. Roethlisberger looks for Grimble down the seam. Good ball placement but Dirty Red – Matakevich – with a tremendous breakup. He had a whale of a day.
3. Draw to Davis. DeCastro works to the second level and shoves out William Gay – Tomlin praised DD after the play – as Davis has a huge lane down the right seam.
4. Davis up the gut. Alualu defeated his block to the backside, beating DeCastro I presume, and gave chase. No full tackling now.
5. Dive to Toussaint. Watt did a great job getting under James’ pads and driving him back.
6. Roethlisberger five step drop. Short throw to Johnson. Non-tackling drill but that doesn’t stop Vince Williams, who makes helmet to helmet contact and sends Johnson flying to the ground.
7. Don’t have what happened on this play, unfortunately.
8. Dobbs playaction. JuJu Smith-Schuster adjusts to a back shoulder throw and makes the best catch of the day, dragging his feet along the right sideline. Sensabaugh coverage.
9. Dobbs gets bumped into by A gap pressure and flings it short to Williams. Non-tackling drill, took my eyes off Williams as he finished the run and looked at Dobbs, who I thought might have gotten hurt (he was fine). During that time, someone – Dangerfield, I think – blasted Williams, sending the tiny back crashing into the ground. Crowd got a kick out of that one.
10. Bart Houston looks to hit Marcus Tucker along the left side. But Brandon Dixon is siting underneath and has an easy interception, picking him off at the ten and returning it into the end one.
11. Brown-Dukes up the gut. McCullers, despite facing the third team OL, gets pushed out.
12. Houston playaction. Quick throw into the right flat, hitting Nix, with Terrish Webb popping him pretty good.
1. T.J. Watt was in the huddle but Tomlin called him over, “Hey T.J.” Spoke with him for a moment and then directed him to the sideline, presumably after that ding he took at the start of the fourth session. Chickillo came in at first team ROLB.
To the play: Alejandro Villanueva rides out Matakevich down the sideline, Toussaint running off his hip. Burns first guy there to tag him up.
2. Davis o-lays Vince Williams, charging hard on an inside linebacker blitz, before letting him pass on a middle screen. Davis is able to step out of a Matakevich ankle tackle, who yells out “F***,” as he belly flops to the ground.
3. Robert Golden safety blitz. Roethlisberger wants Hunter on a comeback route but Hunter’s depth may have been off or he slipped coming out of his cut. Incomplete.
4. Foster and Pouncey pull to the left. Vince Williams with a good angle to the football as he and Burns converge on Davis.
5. Roethlisberger forced to reset the huddle. Tuitt comes in free and blasts Toussaint. Roethlisberger flushes to his right and looks for James on the run but Burns dives in and bats it away.
6. JuJu working in the slot. Vince Williams absolutely destroys Brown-Dukes, immediately pulling up and staring the back down, which is just amazing. Roethlisberger hits Johnson over the middle.
7. Lavon Hooks second team LDE and gets some pressure. Dobbs throws off his back foot but the pass is accurate, hitting Grimble downfield for a good gainer. Fort on the coverage.
8. Toss left to Watson. Maxey forces the run back inside to Hagen and Walton, who make the stop.
9. JuJu, Cobi, Ayers all aligned to the left. Draw to Brown-Dukes. Hilton slot blitz but Hubbard kicks him out. Johnson first man there to meet BBD.
10. Inside zone to Trey Williams. Five yard gain before Johnson again and Dangerfield make the stop.
11. Good throw and catch from Dobbs to Grimble over the middle.
12. Key blocks by Friend and Matthews, Brown-Dukes free off the left side for a good gain. Haley seemed to be a little upset with something Tucker did, not throwing a good enough block, and pulled him aside.
13. Watson dive up the middle. Philon chases him the whole way downfield.
14. Houston complete to Tucker on a Bang 8 (skinny post) over the middle, in front of Dixon. Good throw by Houston, who has a pretty good chemistry with Tucker.
15. Pocket collapses and Houston gets swallowed up by it.
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History Through A Lens
Few played quarterback like Bobby Layne. Or partied like him.
St. Vincent Snapshot
Hines Ward jogging and talking to JuJu Smith-Schuster after practice.
Ron Swanson Quote Of The Day
“Dear frozen yogurt: you are the celery of desserts. Be ice cream or be nothing.”