Training Camp

Steelers Training Camp Diary: Day Nine

Certainly a cool environment today at Heinz Field for the Pittsburgh Steelers. I’m a training camp snob and still prefer Latrobe but the crowd on hand tonight was something St. Vincent can’t match. Over 17,000 fans in attendance, half the lower bowl being full tonight, compared to Friday Night Lights, which welcomed less than 8,000 people. And hey, you can’t beat $10 tickets to sit wherever you want. Let’s jump into the nights.

Quick aside: want to thank our training camp sponsor, Touring Plans, who is supporting the meals throughout camp. Cheated on my McChicken with a Burger King Whopper tonight. 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.

Still many players out but progress/optimism on several fronts. Mike Mitchell (foot/ankle), Cam Sutton (hamstring), Keion Adams (left shoulder), Senquez Golson (clock struck midnight, hamstring turned back into a pumpkin), Farrington Huguenin (possible concussion?), Artie Burns (leg/groin), Ryan Shazier (hamstring), Bud Dupree (lower body?), Mike Matthews (unknown), Maurkice Pouncey (rest? still had wrap on right leg), Landry Jones (abdominal strain), Stephon Tuitt (rest?), Demarcus Ayers (unknown), James Conner (AC Sprain) were all out. That is a mouthful.

Greg Ducre was in pads but I’m pretty sure he didn’t go through team drills. I didn’t see him, at least. Should be good by Tuesday. James Harrison suited up for the first time and went full speed through individual and one-on-one work but I honestly didn’t see him out there in team. T.J. Watt opened up at first team ROLB. If you saw him in team, let me know. Either way, he’s solid, and will probably return to his bubble for Tuesday.

Sammie Coates did have a big wrap around his left knee but our Tim Rice spotted him going through a pretty heavy workout before the players came onto the field. So that is probably normal and part of his maintenance plan. Nothing to worry about. I would not be shocked if he came off PUP for Tuesday.

– Pre-show had several cool events. Hell on Wheels, a BMX squad, did a couple minutes worth of tricks. And then a couple of Frisbee catching dogs ran around for a few minutes, though two of them, uh, went to the bathroom on Heinz Field. Oops.

– Harrison going through individual work. Dropped an interception. Immediately did five pushups. Speaking of him, he got under Jesse James’ pads twice in drills and ran him back. 6’0 vs 6’7, advantage for the little guy.

Chris Hubbard worked with coach James Daniel and the tight ends during a run/zone blocking session.

– Have just a couple WR/DB one-on-one notes for you.

1. Eli Rogers gets some space on Mike Hilton as he heads to the left back corner but the pass is off the mark and incomplete.

2. Justin Hunter vs Coty Sensabaugh. Back shoulder throw but Hunter doesn’t get his head around in time and the throw is behind, incomplete.

3. Great stem of his route by JuJu Smith-Schuster working over Brian Allen. Runs down the left seam, head fake to the outside (right) at the top of his route, gets Allen leaning that way before JuJu explodes to the left corner, creating space and hauling in the pass.

4. Brandon Dixon pressing Darrius Heyward-Bey. DHB also gets his head around too late for the ball to his back shoulder. Incomplete.

5. JaCorey Shepherd is all over Cobi Hamilton, losing his balance and compensating by grabbing a fistful of jersey. Shepherd does show the ability to play the ball at its highest point, leaping to swat it away down the left side, but it’s a penalty by even the most lenient officials.

6. Looks like Canaan Severin took a false step off the line but wins the rep, turning his body to reach back for the throw along the sideline, making the catch versus Shepherd.

7. Antonio Brown toasts Ross Cockrell off the line. Burns him on a go-ball deep downfield, hauling in a well-thrown pass. Leaps into the stands to celebrate with the fans huddled along the fence line. Maybe a preview of what’s in store this season.

– Some special teams notes for you guys.

– James Conner got work as the left wing in warmups. And when the team punted later in a special teams session, Conner was a couple steps behind everyone, paying close attention.

– Antonio Brown worked as a punt returner for the first time all camp. Someone still has to show they’re capable of replacing him so he needs a little bit of work. Not having Ayers could have played a factor, too, though a minor one.

– Same first team punt coverage lines as last time. Arthur Moats is the left tackle, a good (for now) sign of making the roster. Roosevelt Nix and Jordan Dangerfield the left/right wings and Robert Golden the upback.

Gunner pairings: Brandon Dixon/Darrius Heyward-Bey the first pairing. Cobi Hamilton/Marcus Tucker the next.

– Second team front five on the blocking/coverage team: Terrell Watson-Jake McGee-Kameron Canaday-Matt Galambos-Phazahn Odom

– Couple of Jordan Berry hangtimes, for whatever it’s worth: 3.95, 4.52, 5.06, 3.71, 4.72, 4.80. Had one coffin corner that bounced back and landed around the 10.

– Field goal unit: Saw Xavier Grimble and Keavon Milton as left/right wings.

Chris Boswell was perfect on about a dozen field goal attempts. Some of the ones he hit.

Closed end zone: 33, 40, 26

Open end zone: 47, 41, 32, 49, and a long of 52.

– Let’s get onto the team sessions.

First Session

1. Seven shots. Duh. Chickillo/Watt OLB. Vince Williams/Tyler Matakevich ILB. Shift to an empty set. Ben Roethlisberger fires to David Johnson across the goal line. Johnson slides for it but it’s incomplete between two defenders. Was Ben’s third or fourth read.

2. Ben looks from right to left, finally hitting an open Eli Rogers to the left front of the end zone. TD.

3. B.J. FInney at center for Pouncey. Knile Davis split out wide. Roethlisberger fires over the middle, connecting with Jesse James on a dig. Sean Davis with the coverage.

4. TE screen from Ben to Xavier Grimble. Walks in.

5. Josh Dobbs comes in. Draw to Fitzgerald Toussaint. Stopped at the line of scrimmage, T.J. Watt in on the tackle.

6. Low snap from Kyle Friend, the backup center. Dobbs looks for Jake McGee on a dig, similar to the third play, but Jacob Hagen undercuts the route and blankets the throw. Incomplete.

7. Dobbs complete to Tucker on a slant, going to the ground and hauling in the pass. Offense wins seven shots, 4-3.

Second Session

1. Toussaint the carry off left side. Runs through the B gap, tripping up as he passes through the first level. Tyler Matakevich first man there.

2. Draw to Toussaint. Tyson Alualu and Anthony Chickillo combine for the tackle.

3. Roethlisberger playaction. Initial read is Justin Hunter on a double-move down the right sideline but it’s covered. Comes across to look for Smith-Schuster down the middle of the field. Slides for it but the nose of the ball hits the ground.

4. Knile Davis off the left side. Looks like Jordan Dangerfield first guy in, flying off the edge to cut Davis down. Vince Williams in the vicinity, too.

5. Davis off the right side but there’s nothing there. Javon Hargrave flows down the line to keep the run wide and Arthur Moats sheds Marcus Gilbert to finish the play three or four yards into the backfield.

6. Coty Sensabaugh LCB, Cockrell opposite. Dobbs playaction. Cam Heyward with the pressure and Dobbs is forced to toss it away out of bounds to the left.

7. New running back, Terrell Watson, similar result. L.T. Walton crosses Kyle Friend’s face over center and gets penetration. Steven Johnson helps clean up the tackle, another TFL.

8. Phazahn Odom gets out of his stance too early, lifting up his down hand, called for the false start. Toussaint steps out of a Steven Johnson missed tackle and spins back inside to avoid Mike Hilton. Brian Allen finally cleans it up.

9. It’s Walton again making a great play. Brandon Brown-Dukes off the left side but Walton’s penetration forces him to cut it back. Good contain on the backside by Brian Allen, who continues to shine in that regard. In on the tackle and Steven Johnson cuts BBD down with a hard right shoulder.

10. Brown-Dukes the carry again off the right side. T.J. Watt beats McGee’s backside cut off block, charging hard and making the tackle from behind. Brown-Dukes goes to the ground as the ball pops out. Matt Galambos recovers it. Great play by Watt.

11. Bart Houston playaction. Checkdown to the left side for Terrell Watson after good pressure by Francis Kallon, showing up a little bit more lately, forces the ball out. Cornerback Brandon Dixon is the first man on the tackle, going low, while Galambos goes high and pops the ball out. Defense recovers.

12. Less exciting rep. Brown-Dukes up the middle. Keith Kelsey with the tackle after a couple yard gain.

Third Session

1. Offense working out of their own end zone. Roethlisberger complete to Cobi Hamilton on a drag route right to left.

2. Screen from Ben to Toussaint along the right side. Finney works out into space to drive out a defensive linemen, Heyward, I think. William Gay chases Toussaint downfield.

3. Antonio Brown has a step on Sean Davis and wins on a drag across the middle, Roethlisberger hitting him.

4. Gay nickel blitz but Davis is solid in pass pro and turns him upfield. Roethlisberger complete to Eli Rogers on a curl, Matakevich unable to disrupt the throw but wraps him up.

5. Ramon Foster is Uncle Phil and Matakevich is Jazz. Foster tosses him off his feet and two yards upfield. Allows Ben to hit AB on another drag.

6. Darrius Heyward-Bey makes a good adjustment along the left sideline, contorting his body for the football and tapping both feet in. Pass from Ben, who threw it over the overhand defender (Chickillo) and the corner playing over the top (Cockrell).

7. Second team OL: Hubbard-Milton-Friend-Feiler-Hawkins. Dobbs complete over the middle to fellow rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster, who makes the grab in traffic.

8. Screen goes bust. Chickillo has pressure and Allen makes a heads up play to bust in and dissuade the throw. Dobbs is forced to bail and chuck the ball at his feet.

9. Another funky looking screen. Looked like Xavier Grimble ended up in Keavon Milton’s lap, falling on his back as he tries to make the grab. Incomplete from Dobbs.

10. Shepherd and Dixon as the outside corners with Mike Hilton in the slot. Angle screen from Dobbs to Watson, Ethan Cooper getting out into space to throw a block and set a pick for Watson to run underneath.

11, Bart Houston complete over the middle to Jake McGee. Felt like Watt had a bad rep in coverage, didn’t break on the ball as well as he could’ve.

12. Houston incomplete on a quick out to Grimble. Kelsey on the coverage. Jake Rodgers, working at right tackle, uses his length to push Moats upfield to keep the pocket.

Fourth Session

1. Good, tough run by Toussaint. Runs past/through Williams and Dangerfield, falling over the latter for a 5-6 yard run. Teams still tackling despite it being late in practice. Physical day.

2. Dobbs playaction with Ben’s day being done. Dobbs climbs and Heyward gets pressure, bumping into him. Pass well off the mark for Grimble. Golden can’t reverse direction in time to pick it off.

3. Davis runs into a mess at the line. Hargrave/Watt first two guys there, holding the POA.

4. Davis carry off right tackle. Williams and Cockrell on the tackle after a short gain.

5. Hubbard tackle eligible. Watson carry off the right side. Dangerfield and Moats on the tackle, one of them knocking the ball out. Defense recovers.

6. Tyson Alualu crashing down the line. Brown-Dukes up the middle.

7. Good hole open up the middle for Watson. Roosevelt Nix helped clearing a path. 5-6 yard gain.

Fifth Session

1. Dobbs complete to Rogers in the right flat.

2. Dobbs incomplete for Hamilton, tossing it over the middle between Chickillo and Golden.

3. Chickillo dips the edge. Dobbs incomplete intended for Rogers along the left sideline.

4. Dobbs climbs the pocket, nothing there, and he takes off and runs. Slides to end the run in this two-minute drill.

5. Dobbs complete to DHB along the left side.

6. Complete to DHB, WIlliams bopping him.

7. Climbing the pocket again. Pass to Smith-Schuster is high, the rookie leaping for it, but still over his head. Golden had the coverage.

8. Bubble from Dobbs to Eli to the right. Chickillo gives chase.

9. Tucker appeared to stumble out of his break along the left sideline and the pass is incomplete.

10. Defense checks out of a heavy blitz. Chickillo rushes in free of his LOLB spot. Dobbs fires to Rogers incomplete on 4th down, ending the session.

Fifth Session

1. Goal line work, one of the highlights of camp. Full tackling. Toussaint up the middle. Gets about a foot away from the goal line but it’s Dirty Red serving as the low man, jolting Toussaint backwards. Defense goes crazy.

2. Dobbs playaction. Incomplete to James, Steven Johnson blanketing him in the end zone.

3. Davis gets the carry off the right side. Tough run. Bounces off an Alualu tackle at the two and barrels his way towards the end zone. But Vince Williams has something to say about it. Bumps off the lead blocker Nix and then takes Davis down.

4. Toss right to Davis. L.J. Fort goes low, grabbing the back around the ankles while Williams goes high and absolutely destroys Davis high, dropping him to the ground. Ouch. Vicious hit but that’s what you expect from #98.

5. Watson over left guard and rumbles into the end zone for the offense’s first score.

6. Watson off left end. David Johnson throws the key block, springing the back, and he walks in.

7. Watson and Golden meet face-to-face on the goal line. Golden is the low man but Watson is able to spin off him and to his left, falling across the goal line. Defense still wins the day, 4-3.

Final Thoughts

– Do think Dobbs has to work on some of the details and little things of QB. Selling playaction better, being late with his eyes on screens and not staring the back down. Creating some issues. Obviously, been impressive, so now we look to more advanced things for him to work on.

– Tomlin either jinked the running backs or reminded the defense they hadn’t forced man fumbles. Three of them today. Two by Brown-Dukes and one by Watson.

– But Watson did redeem himself with a couple of those tough runs on the goal line. Going 3/3 is impressive and definitely will catch the coaching staff’s attention. Like I’ve said before, they like their practice squad backs to be big dudes.

– Hoping Demarcus Ayers returns tomorrow. Missing reps with this deep group isn’t something you want.

– L.T. Walton, Javon Hargrave balled out today. Dominated at the LOS. The whole defensive line had a great day. Cam Heyward getting pressure in the passing game.

– Vince Williams makes me feel like I should take out a life insurance policy. Just in case.

– T.J. Watt is playing the run well. And his effort to the ball is noticeable. He is comfortable and fluid dropping into coverage but there’s work to be done there.

– Brian Allen has been better the past few days. Maybe things slowing down for him. But do think he’s been better versus the run and as a tackler than him in coverage. Which, obviously, is still a problem.

History Through A Lens

No, that’s not Jack Lambert. It’s the linebacker who wore #58 before it became famous; Chuck Allen, who played two years for the Steelers in 1970 and ’71. Did make two Pro Bowls out in San Diego early in his career. And certainly better remembered there than here.

The Noll version of Pete Gonzalez to Ben Roethlisberger.

St. Vincent Snapshot

First teamers lining up.

Ron Swanson Quote Of The Day

“Donna: Oh my God, you are such a sore loser.
Ron: I am not a sore loser. It’s just that I prefer to win and when I don’t, I get furious.”

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