Honestly couldn’t have scripted a better day for Pittsburgh Steelers training camp football. Gorgeous weather, an Air Show, Parish Festival on campus, and practice. Tomorrow might be a little rainy so I’ll take the good times while they last. Monday is also the last practice before the first off day. Let’s delve into all that happened Sunday afternoon.
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– Injury report. As is usually the case once guys get in pads, the list is a little longer. Still out is Morgan Burnett due to a hamstring injury. Ben Roethlisberger returned after an off day Saturday. Ramon Foster obviously didn’t practice, I didn’t see him on the field, but his prognosis is much better than we thought this time 24 hours ago. T.J. Watt suffered a left hamstring injury during practice. OLB Ola Adeniyi went down after a pass play, remained down, and quickly walked up the stairs. Could be a concussion there, the way he got off the field so quickly and the trainers not looking at any part of his body, but I’m obviously not sure.
Vance McDonald suffered a foot injury and JuJu Smith-Schuster couldn’t finish practice, per Tomlin, though I saw Ben Roethlisberger and JuJu throwing and catching after practice. So he’s probably minor and could return tomorrow. OLB Keion Adams also seemed to suffer from some dehydration/cramping, sitting on a water cooler for 10 minutes, but returned to finish out practice.
Anthony Chickillo replaced Watt as 1st team LOLB.
– First man down the stairs, as usual, was TE Christian Scotland-Williamson, coming down at 2:33 and immediately hitting the JUGS machine. Still lots of work to be done, letting one slip right through his hands.
– WRs coach Darryl Drake briefly giving Justin Hunter some teaching points before practice began.
– New game for the ball carriers. Hot potato. They all form a circle and have to quickly catch and toss the ball to each other…one-handed grabs only. Drop it? You’re out of the circle. Came down to Stevan Ridley vs Roosevelt Nix. Nix won.
– As you would expect, B.J. Finney ran 1st team LG with Foster out. And like yesterday, Larson Graham moved up to 2nd team LG. He also ran 3rd team RG so lots of reps for him. Rest of the lines were the same.
– Punt return line the same as always: Quadree Henderson, Justin Thomas, and Cam Sutton.
– Josh Dobbs getting work as an emergency holder.
– One of many reasons to miss Foster, though one of the least important ones. Leader of the stretch line, calling out players by name. Much quieter work today.
– Mike Tomlin again watched the TEs on the sled. UDFA Pharoah McKever had a rough day. Most guys take two or three reps. McKever continued to struggle with leverage, popping up on contact and barely able to move the sled an inch.
Tomlin yelled to him. “If you don’t stay down, we got no chance.” McKever went through it a third time and did better. Tomlin made him do it again, he struggled, and then for a 5th rime, McKever seemed out of gas and slumped to the next drill.
– Certainly not a surprise to anyone but Darrius Heyward-Bey still a body catcher. Going through drills, each guy caught a slant with hands away from their frame. Except DHB, who brought the ball into his chest and corralled it. At this point, that’s just who he is.
– After watching more WR/DB than backs on backers yesterday, turned my attention to the TE/RB vs LB coverage drills, one-on-one. Here’s each rep from that.
RB vs LB
1. T.J. Watt jams Vance McDonald at the LOS. Then breaks up the throw on a dig route.
2. Fitzgerald Toussaint runs an out and catches the ball versus Vince Williams, who nearly punched the ball out but Fitz held on.
3. Jesse James on a dig, stemming vertically, with Bud Dupree trailing. Pass was high and incomplete.
4. James Conner swims over Tyler Matakevich as he darts inside and makes a nice snag away from his body. Good rep.
5. Anthony Chickillo blankets Xavier Grimble and the pass is incomplete.
6. L.J. Fort with a hard jam on Jaylen Samuels at the LOS. Incomplete, the ball bouncing off the rookie’s right hand.
7. Keion Adams gets a hand in McKever’s frame to break up a throw on an in-cutting route.
8. Wheel by Stevan Ridley. Pass clanks off his left hand. Jon Bostic provided good coverage.
9. Ryan Malleck runs out of his shoe breaking on a corner/7 route. Pass incomplete with Farrington Huguenin covering.
10. Matthew Thomas drops the interception on a short out cut for Roosevelt Nix.
11. Strong jam by Ola Adeniyi on Christian Scotland-Williamson, a major size mismatch (Adeniyi 6’1, CSW 6’9). Throw vertically and Scotland-Williamson finds the ball but it pings off his right hand. Incomplete.
12. Jaylen Samuels makes the snag on an out route versus Keith Kelsey.
13. McDonald runs a quick out to make the grab against Watt.
14. Vince Williams pretty grabby on Toussaint. Toussaint has chance to make the grab but it hits him in the facemask. Probably wouldn’t been a flag though.
15. Jesse James runs the shortest curl in the world and there’s nothing Dupree can do about it.
16. Nice route by Jarvion Franklin. Wheel route, rips through Matt Galambos to swap hips. Bobbles the ball as it comes down but he does make the catch.
17. Xavier Grimble on a wheel. Pass sails over his head with Bostic trying to pin him down the right sideline.
18. Darnell Leslie squeezes in a hand to break up the throw on a curl for James Summers.
19. Pharoah McKever catch on a dig working on Adams.
20. Another impressive rep by Conner. Burns Matakevich vertically and makes a sweet one-handed catch with his left hand.
21. Huguenin grabs the back of Malleck’s jersey and then falls as the TE gets away. Malleck makes a falling catch on a corner route.
22. This time, Samuels expects Fort to jam him and goes all Keanu Reeves to lean back and avoid it. Wins off the line. But a bad throw and the pass is incomplete.
23. Solid rep by Adeniyi. McDonald boxes him out but Adeniyi punches the ball out of McDonald’s right hip and the pass is incomplete.
24. Ridley beats Kelsey on an out route.
25. Jesse James rips through Dupree and catches the pass, running a dig.
26. Nix runs an out ‘n up against Williams but the pass is incomplete.
27. Watt pins Grimble along the right sideline. Blanketed and incomplete.
28. Franklin falls near the LOS. Matthew Thomas covering.
29. McKever runs a double-move. Chickillo has good coverage but McKever basically takes it away from him, grabbing the ball over his head and using height to his advantage.
30. Fort gets his left hand in to breakup a throw for Summers.
31. Scotland-Williamson boxes Adams out for the catch. Would’ve liked to see Adams get his hand in there.
– OL/DL work. Not as many reps today. Focus on two man and stunt work instead.
1. Kendal Vickers can’t rip under guard Chris Schleuger.
2. Lavon Hooks beats Larson Graham on the outside, dipping past him.
3. Daniel McCullers gets some revenge after having a tough time with Patrick Morris yesterday. Bull rush and then takes Morris to the ground.
4. Matt Feiler anchors and absorbs Casey Sayles attempt.
5. Jake Rodgers seals Anthony Chickillo inside. Good rep.
6. Chukwuma Okorafor mirrors and wins versus Kendal Vickers.
7. Graham wins this rep, sliding in front of Hooks’ inside spin.
8. Morris hangs on versus McCullers but falls to the ground late.
9. Sayles spin move fails versus Feiler.
10. Rodgers steers Chickillo inside again, who spins outside late but the win goes to the OT.
11. Dupree tries to bull rush Okorafor. Throws a jab towards his face too, nothing super serious, but I’m pretty sure coaches are telling the OLBs to piss Okorafor off. Get him fired up.
12. Joshua Frazier runs through Graham.
13. Greg Gilmore makes quick work of Parker Collins, swimming over him and winning easily.
14. Parker Cothren too slow off the snap and Graham easily is the victor.
15. Keion Adams knocks Feiler’s hands down, Feiler taking a rep at RT, and wins inside.
16. They go again and this time, Feiler seals him around the edge.
17. Huguenin swim move to beat Joseph Cheek to the inside.
18. Schlueger beats Vickers.
19. Gilmore with a bull to swim move to whoop Collins again.
20. Adams beats Vickers inside.
21. No power on Huguenin’s bull rush against Schlueger. Win for the rookie guard.
– Let’s talk about the team sessions.
First Team Session (11 v 11)
1. Terrell Edmunds and Sean Davis open at safety. Tyler Matakevich/Vince Williams at ILB. James Conner at RB. Roethlisberger sprints left and it looks like he wants to shovel it to Roosevelt Nix, trailing behind him. He keeps moving left, the defense converges, and Ben hits Nix, now floating free to the back of the end zone. Touchdown.
2. Jaylen Samuels first team snaps, slot right. Pressured, Roethlisberger flushed left. Lob to Vance McDonald but it’s knocked down. Either Artie Burns or Sean Davis got it.
3. Now Jon Bostic is running 1st team with Matakevich. 11 personnel, McDonald lined up in the slot. Watt comes in free. Backshoulder throw connects from Ben to Justin Hunter, beating Burns.
4. 1st team LBs are now Bostic and Matakevich. Ridley checks in at RB. Brown is running an out ‘n up like he had against Green Bay last year. Some miscommunication though as Roethlisberger throws the ball on the out and the pass is incomplete. Never saw it.
5. Mason Rudolph getting work with the second team. Fade to the right corner for Darrius Heyward-Bey. Coty Sensabaugh is patient, not looking back, letting the receiver know when the ball is coming, and breaks it up incomplete.
6. DHB and James Washington the WRs in 12 personnel. McKever and Malleck the TEs. Samuels aligned slot left. Rudolph wants Washington right corner. Good ball placement, outside shoulder, but the pass hits off his right hand and incomplete. Wouldn’t have been the easiest catch. Brian Allen now covering.
7. DHB, JuJu, and Tevin Jones the wideouts. Rudolph fires a slant to JuJu, complete for a touchdown in front of Brian Allen. Touchdown. Defense still wins the day, 4-3.
Second Team Session
1. Matakevich and VW in. Marcus Tucker and Antonio Brown on the outside, Justin Hunter – who played slot in Buffalo two years ago – lining up inside. Playaction to James Conner. Big Ben looks for Vance McDonald on a crosser left to right. Too far in front, incomplete. Edmunds was trailing right behind him the whole way.
2. 22 personnel. James and Grimble the two tight ends. AB the X. Toss left to Conner. Matakevich finds him and makes the TFL.
3. Tevin Jones false starts. Ridley carry left side. Finney takes Williams to the ground. Dupree and Davis make the tackle for a short gain.
4. 13 personnel. Conner stretch left. Dupree gets in there for a loss of two or three.
5. Toussaint carry right side. Meets Joe Haden, who becomes the low man, and makes a great tackle to drive Toussait back and into the dirt. Edmunds and others pile on.
6. Josh Dobbs comes in. Playaction with the guard pulling as the false run key. The first read, tight end down the seam, isn’t open so Dobbs goes through his progressions and hits DHB open on a curl versus Brian Allen’s off coverage.
7. Nowhere to run or hide for Toussaint. Walton, Bostic, Chickillo all stuff him at the line. Walton held the point of attack well.
8. Dobbs playaction. Quick throw to James Washington along the right flat. Allen makes an immediate tackle as to not allow any YAC.
9. Nat Berhe and Jordan Dangerfield the two safeties. Walton again in on the tackle, plus Dangerfield, to take down Ridley as he runs off right guard.
10. L.J. Fort reads the run the whole way to drop Samuels down in the backfield for a couple yard loss. Knifed in and made the play.
11. Rudolph boot right and finds Nix in the flat. Nix tears down the right sideline. Huguenin is trying to catch up, running at an angle to his left, upfield shoulder. Nix hits the right stick and jukes inside, sending Huguenin sprawling to the ground like an Allen Iverson crossover. Then Nix jumped over the sliding tackle of one of the safeties – not sure who – before the safety caught his shoe and tripped him up after a 15 yard gain. Heck of a play by Nix.
12. Jaylen Samuels with the cary. Kelsey gets the initial penetration to force Samuels left. DE Casey Sayles defeats Scotland-Williamson’s block to make the tackle near the LOS.
13. Sayles and Hooks the nickel DL. Jarvion Franklin on the carry. Gets a modest 2-3 yards. Sayles again leading the way on the stop.
14. James Summers totes the ball right side. Rookie DL Parker Cothren flashes and gets penetration. Kelsey cleans things up with a forceful tackle.
15. Sutton and Phillips at CB. Malik Golden and Marcus Allen at safety. Golden flies into the alley to tackle Franklin.
Third Team Session
1. Roethlisberger at QB in empty set. Conner and Samuels split out, a Pony grouping with two RBs. Samuels runs a slant to cross Dupree’s face and make the catch.
2. Now Conner is the one RB. Hunter and AB on the outside, Tucker slot. Empty set still with Conner split right. Two-way screen. Bubble and RB screen. Weird result. Ben wants to hit Conner but the ball is batted. Spins into the air, I’m pretty sure it – somehow – hit off of David DeCastro’s foot, came back into the air, and Conner caught it on its way down, taking off down the right side. Cue the wacky music.
3. JuJu in the slot. Roethlisberger playaction. Crosser for McDonald but Edmunds undercuts it, tips it away, and then picks it off on the second try. Great play by the rookie.
4. Roethlisberger climbing the pocket. Bostic swims over Toussaint rushing the passer. Ben complete to Grimble left side before Williams spins him down.
5. Landry Jones in at QB. Keion Adams easily rips under McKever. Jones gives up and throws the ball in the dirt. Alualu had some pressure too.
6. Jones boots right. Walton came in off the edge free for a would-be sack. Complete to Nix inthe flat.
7. Jones complete to Trey Griffey on a curl against off coverage.
8. Tevin Jones in the slot. Sutton in the slot. Jones a nice throw complete to Damoun Patterson on a corner route against Sensabaugh.
9. Justin Hunter lined up in the slot. McDonald split out at the bottom. Backshoulder throw to Marcus Tucker, but sort of a throwaway too. Incomplete against Haden.
10. Playaction. Ben playaction gets the defense to bite. Big completion down the middle to Grimble who runs until he spins off Nat Berhe in this non-tackle period.
11. Bostic generates pressure. Roethlisberger throw for AB is incomplete. Haden covering.
12. Mason Rudolph now in. Franklin carry left side. Good gainer. Larson Graham helped clean the way.
13. Matt Galambos rushing in free. Jones complete to Patterson on a deep dig route. Sutton pulls up. Could’ve broken it up but no reason for an unnecessary shot.
14. Galambos and Leslie the ILB pairing. Quadree Henderson taking a rare team session rep in a trips bunch look. Sayles gets pressure up the middle. Rudolph spikes the ball in the ground at Ridley’s feet. Ridley might have gotten his foot stepped on, came up limping, but he remained.
15. Rudolph playaction, hits James down the seam. Matthew Thomas applied some pressure.
1. Conner split out in empty set. Two-way screen. Bubble + TE angle. Complete to McDonald, who lowers the shoulder under Davis.
2. Roethlisberger finds Hunter on a crosser right to left. Vince Williams chases him from behind.
3. Roethlisberger’s slant to AB is too tall and incomplete. Haden covering.
4. Conner follows DeCastro’s pull. Nice inside/out angle by Bostic to bear-hug him near the LOS, maybe a short gain.
5. Rudolph looks for DHB downfield but Malik Golden gets in the way to break things up.
6. Complete to a receiver whose notes I can’t read. Maybe McDonald.
7. Rudolph checks down to Toussaint. Brian Allen greets him with a loud thud along the sideline.
8. Strong, accurate throw by Rudolph along the sideline, connecting with Patterson. Allen hit him from behind and the ball shifted in Patterson’s hands but he secured it and finished the play.
9. Roethlisberger checkdown to Conner. Nice snag by the back out and away from his frame.
10. Draw to Samuels. Williams wraps him up after a short gain.
11. Toussaint carry for a slightly longer gain.
12. Dobbs in at QB. Hard count gets Sayles to jump offsides. Dobbs lame duck throw deep downfield. Short and too low. Marcus Allen picks it off for his first camp INT though again, the penalty sorta negates it.
13. Nix split wide right. Phillips at LCB. Dobbs finds Nix on a smoke screen. Philips, playing off coverage, charges hard and bowls over the fullback, butt-over-teakettle for no gain.
14. Justin Thomas and Griffey on the outside, Tevin Jones lined up in the slot. Schleuger pulls left to right and offers up a good block on first color. Summers lowers his shoulder into Phillips and they both tumble to the ground.
15. Short curl complete to Jones via Dobbs.
Fifth Team Session
1. Chickillo 1st team LOLB with Watt out. Conner carry left side. Tuitt gives chase from the backside.
2. Playaction and Ben hits Jesse James on a crosser. Edmunds trailing.
3. Edmunds holds onto Grimble’s jersey. Corner route incomplete from Big Ben but definite PI.
4. Matakevich and Bostic 1st team. Roethlisberger playaction, hitting Jesse James on a deep crosser right to left. Burns probably could’ve made a more forceful play but didn’t want to knock James out, who slid to the ground as he made the grab.
5. Sail concept. Good read by Rudolph, working his triangle and finding DHB coming backside on a drag route. Complete. Well done by the rook.
6. Adams and Huguenin now the 2nd team OLBs. Toussaint carry left side, Huguenin makes the tackle.
7. Screen to Ridley from Rudolph. Matthew Thomas first man flying in. Alualu in the vicinity as well.
8. Dangerfield and Golden the safeties. Fort and Thomas the ILBs. Thomas good vision, finding the ball and meeting Samuels in the backfield.
9. Dobbs at QB with the 1st team OL. Looks for Thomas left side on a bubble screen. Pass perhaps a little low but I would consider this a drop from the WR.
10. Playaction, Dobbs hitting Grimble down the seam. Grimble reaches over his head and makes a nice catch in front of the defender.
11. Now Trey Griffey getting a rep in the slot with Thomas and Jones outside. Dobbs pump fakes the bubble and finds an open Griffey down the seam for a big gain. Crazy to see how fast Burns caught him though. Get a real sense of that speed.
12. Samuel off left side. Allen quickly says hello in the alley after a mild gain.
13. Phillips at LCB, Sutton at RCB. Schleuger pull, good kickout. Samuels follows behind off the right side. Proper ball security too, wrapping both arms around the pigskin before slamming into the defender.
14. Galambos applies pressure on Rudolph. He looks for Tucker right side but Phillips is there, getting a finger into Tucker’s facemask and causing the incompletion.
15. Franklin stuffed up the middle. Galambos and Cothren met him at the line.
– Lot of reps for Rudolph, getting work with the 2’s today. Not a bad day and you’re seeing some of the processing.
– More evidence that the plays aren’t dramatically changing under new OC Randy Fichtner. You saw the playaction pass to the Y down the seam with the backside guard pulling. That was one of Todd Haley’s favorites. The two-way, multiple option screen plays. Also something Haley did as much as anyone.
– I do love seeing tight ends like McDonald flex out with a twin WR set opposite. Puts the defense in a tough spot. Lot of bad choices. For the Steelers this play, that left a LB on McDonald (bad matchup), Haden on the slot receiver Tucker (bad matchup), and the nickel corner on Justin Hunter in the slot (size mismatch). Lot you can exploit. I’m excited.
– James Conner continues to have an impressive camp. Night and day difference with his comfort level as a receiver. Looks really natural out there now.
– Glad to see Grimble make a couple plays today. Had been too quiet so far.
– Gotta hand it to the defense. They won the day and overall, have gotten the better of the offense during camp. Won seven shots the last three practices and DOMINATED the run session of team drills. Offensive line got beat up pretty good.
– In particular, Casey Sayles and L.T. Walton impressed against the run. Positive things coming from Keith Kelsey and Matthew Thomas, too.
– Rosie Nix balled out as a receiver today after dropping too many passes the first couple days.
– Cam Sutton has now played all three cornerback spots over four practices. Some work as a right corner today. Dashaun Phillips, normally in the slot, saw time at LCB. Physical player. Like the mentality..
– Josh Dobbs has been ok but a little underwhelming based on what I expected in Year Two.
– Feels like Damoun Patterson and Tevin Jones are separating themselves a little bit from Trey Griffey, Justin Thomas, and Quadree Henderson. I think Patterson has been the most impressive of that group.
St. Vincent Snapshot
Steelers getting ready to warmup.
Random Steelers Trivia
A new section this year. Obscure, random fact throughout the Steelers rich history. Today’s is a personal favorite of mine.
The Steelers drafted DB Gary Glick 1st overall in the 1956 draft. Even today, he’s the only DB to get taken with the first pick. The Steelers did not watch any film on him before choosing him, only going off the recommendation from his coach.
Dwight Schrute Quote Of The Day
“I don’t care what Jim says, that is not Benjamin Franklin. I am 99% sure.”