Day number three of Pittsburgh Steelers training camp practice. Day one of pads. A really fun, intense day, though unfortunately, the headline is the potentially serious injury to Ramon Foster. Let’s run down what happened at St. Vincent College.
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– Let’s start with that injury report. Morgan Burnett didn’t practice at all due to hamstring tightness. Foster went down on the third play of the 2nd team session, the one after seven shots, and the first full-contact session of the year. Didn’t give a crystal clear view of what happened. Pocket collapsed into Landry Jones, I think Cam Heyward went to the ground, and Foster got rolled up on. Immediately grabbed his right knee, was down for roughly 10 minutes, and then carted off. Didn’t look good, obviously, but we’ll await further word.
B.J. Finney, as expected, replaced him as first-team LG. Even Finney got rolled up on later on, flexing his left ankle, though he was able to shake it off and didn’t miss a rep. WR Justin Thomas may have been slightly hobbled after catching a pass but didn’t seem to miss any time. Ben Roethlisberger received his first day off, creating more reps for the rest of the QBs.
– As I think is normally the case, parts of both units – mostly the backups – were on the field when I arrived around 1:30. They went through some drills, non-contact of course, before walking back up the stairs around 1:45 before the 2:55 practice.
– Terrell Edmunds stuck around to sign autographs for throngs of fans. Nice gesture.
– Tight end Ryan Malleck was the first player down the stairs at 2:32. Roosevelt Nix, James Conner, and Stevan Ridley were close behind. Cam Sutton the first defensive player on the field moments after.
– After a case of the dropsies the first two days, Roosevelt Nix caught some passes from RBs coach James Saxon.
– Big cheer from the crowd as Ryan Shazier came onto the field via a cart.
– With Roethlisberger out, Landry Jones ran first team. Josh Dobbs second, Mason Rudolph third. But once they got into team drills, things got mixed up.
– Prior to Foster’s injury, the offensive line groupings remained the same. After Foster’s injury, Finney moved to 1st team left guard. Larson Graham took over 2nd team LG.
– Emergency long snapper? Probably TE Vance McDonald, who hiked a few early in practice next to Kameron Canaday. Chris Boswell (who has snapped a couple too) seemed to give him a couple tips.
– Return line: Quadree Henderson, Cam Sutton, Justin Thomas. During special teams periods, Henderson and Thomas were the only two PRs.
– Mike Tomlin sporting a “Pittsburgh’s Stronger Than Cancer” shirt for today’s practice.
– Tomlin spent time watching the tight ends on the blocking sled. Some of the things he yelled out.
“Watch that hand placement” – to Vance McDonald
“Good lick!” – Tomlin impressed with Xavier Grimble both times
Pharoah McKever had a lot of trouble today, too high and not driving his feet.
“Your feet gotta move through contact” Tomlin reminded him. Made him do it over.
– With today being the first day in pads, we got lots of one-on-one action. I polled you guys and you said you wanted to hear more about the WRs vs DBs than backs on ‘backers. So I have almost every WR/DB rep charted. Did catch a couple of the backs v backers, some early reps, that I’ll include below.
WR vs DB
1. Throw for JuJu Smith-Schuster. Batted away by Mike Hilton.
2. Darrius Heyward-Bey makes the catch against Artie Burns.
3. Double-move attempt by Justin Hunter, quick out and then up, but doesn’t fool Cam Sutton. Pass incomplete.
4. Coty Sensabaugh presses James Washington at the LOS. They get tangled up as Washington tries to run a comeback. Sensabaugh had a chance to make a play on the ball but misjudged it and Washington lept off the ground to make a nice catch, maintaining control the whole way.
5. Marcus Tucker might have rounded off his speed out a bit too much, even though that’s sorta the idea. Either way, Terrell Edmunds took advantage, finding the football, stepping in front, and picking it off.
6. Push off by Antonio Brown versus Burns, making the catch on a curl.
7. Clean inside release by Tevin Jones working over Dashaun Phillips. Makes the catch running a dig.
8. Trey Griffey runs a curl versus Brian Allen, pinning him to the left sideline. Made the catch.
9. Sutton bumps JuJu, who slips and falls to the ground. Tried to get up but couldn’t get back on track in time. Incomplete.
10. Justin Thomas nifty backshoulder snag vs CB Jamar Summers. Nothing the corner can really do about that one.
11. Damoun Patterson got a couple steps on Malik Reaves down the sideline. But the pass floated, hung, and Reaves was able to break it up as Patterson waited for it to come down.
12. Physical battle between Henderson and Hilton. Henderson made the catch though.
13. Brian Allen with outside leverage so Justin Hunter crosses his face inside and makes the catch. Again, tough environment for the DBs to win.
14. James Washington had a great rep, separating from Joe Haden at the top of his post. But let the pass slip through his hands. Bummer.
15. JuJu breaks down on a comeback, catching the ball versus Sensabaugh.
16. Tevin Jones boxes out Nat Berhe on a curl to snag the ball.
17. Brown gets inside leverage working against Burns, who does stay step for step with him, but AB makes the catch over his right shoulder and races Burns to the end zone. Gawks in front of the crowd, who cheer wildly.
18. Edmunds reads Patterson’s dig route as soon as he makes his break, throwing a hand in there to break the pass up.
19. Another catch by Thomas vs Summers.
20. Jones beat Malik Golden off the line. Running a corner route but the throw isn’t great and Golden gets back in-phase, the ball hitting off the square of his back and falling incomplete.
21. JuJu runs away from Hilton on a dig and makes the grab.
22. Again, Brian Allen outside leverage and Washington runs a quick slant to make the reception.
23. Cam Sutton can’t keep his footing, had problems with that during this drill, and slips to the ground. Jones with the reception.
24. Henderson creates space at the top of his stem vs Phillips. Runs a corner route but the pass is outside his small frame, the ball off his hands and incomplete.
25. Burns blankets Justin Hunter on a corner route. Good coverage, ball basically thrown away.
26. Tevin Jones motors away from Sean Davis down the left sideline and makes the catch. Good rep for Jones.
27. There’s Edmunds again. Gets his head around and breaks up a sideline throw for JuJu. Really, should’ve been another pick, but JuJu played good enough defense.
28. Thomas his third reception, running a dig against Sutton.
29. Nice play by Patterson. Adjusts back to the ball and makes a downfield catch versus Reaves, Patterson falling to the ground while securing the catch.
30. Tucker goes the ground to make a catch versus Golden, who half tackles him at the end.
31. Burns and Hunter pushing and shoving upfield. Hunter breaks down, retraces his steps back to the ball, and eventually makes the grab.
32. Thomas beats Phillips to the inside and wins the rep with the catch.
33. Pass to Tevin Jones incomplete, off his hands. Brian Allen covering.
34. Sutton slips again at the top of the route. Jones with the grab, breaking down and working back towards the ball.
35. Washington beats Haden and runs past him vertically. Forces Haden to reach into his bag of tricks and tug at the back of the rookie’s jersey. Pass incomplete but it’s PI and a win for Washington.
36. Attempted back shoulder throw to AB vs Burns. Not on the same page, Brown never said it and turned back for the ball, continuing upfield. Incomplete.
37. Tucker burns Berhe on a slot fade down the left sideline. Finishes with the catch.
38. Sticky coverage by Phillips on Griffey. Ball thrown away.
– Some of the backs on backers reps. I only saw the first handful so this is definitely an incomplete list.
Backs on Backers
1. Roosevelt Nix first man into the fire. He pushes Bud Dupree upfield.
2. T.J. Watt swim move makes quick work of Xavier Grimble.
3. Jaylen Samuels successful in his first rep, sealing Vince Williams upfield.
4. Jesse James stuffs Keion Adams’ attempt.
5. They go again. Adams can’t rip under James. Two wins for the big tight end.
6. James Conner wins the rep pretty convincingly versus Tyler Matakevich. Dirty Red tried a late inside spin but Conner shuffled and had him all the way.
7. Anthony Chickillo swims over and beats Fitzgerald Toussaint.
8. Matt Galambos blows by James Summers.
9. Ola Adeniyi seemed to have an impressive rep, bowling over Nix, showing off his power.
10. They go again and Nix wins this rep, getting some revenge on the UDFA.
11. Franklin stands up Keith Kelsey’s pass rush.
– Finally, charted all the OL/DL one-on-ones later in practice.
1. Dupree first man up. Nice two-hand punch to open up Alejandro Villanueva’s hips and run through him. Good rep.
2. Cam Heyward, normally facing Foster,instead bulls right through B.J. Finney, making mince meat of him.
3. Javon Hargrave against backup center Parker Collins (Maurkice Pouncey never participates in these drills anymore out of injury precautions). Not a fair fight. Strong club of his inside shoulder, sending Collins down to a knee as Hargrave scampers past.
4. David DeCastro seals Stephon Tuitt upfield.
5. T.J. Watt looked like Von Miller, getting limbo-low and ducking under Marcus Gilbert, who couldn’t match him and fell to the ground.
6. Coaches have them go again. Either Gilbert fired into his kickslide too early or Watt was late. Either way, Watt didn’t stand much of a chance and Gilbert “won.”
7. Chalk up another win for DeCastro against Tuitt.
8. Hargrave gets the best of Collins again. Quick swipe, maybe a Reggie White hump move, wasn’t sure, to blow by Collins for another easy W. But again, we’re talking Hargrave versus a futures contract player.
9. Heyward uses a rip move this time, breaking through Finney.
10. Villanueva better result against Dupree this time, sealing him upfield.
11. Chickillo tries to dip under Okorafor but is unable to. Chick spins inside late but I’m crediting the rookie with the victory.
12. Larson Graham manages to anchor versus Lavon Hooks. Hooks gets him late with a swim to his outside shoulder,pushing past with his right arm.
13. Daniel McCullers tries to rip under rookie Patrick Morris. But Collins isn’t bothered and ends up putting McCullers to the ground, landing on one knee. Impressive rep by Collins.
14. Tyson Alualu spun inside versus Matt Feiler. Looked up late, not positive who won.
15. Jake Rodgers with a good win, sealing T.J. Watt upfield.
16. They go again. Watt tries to win with power this time but Rodgers is able to sink his hips and anchor against the bull rush.
17. Feiler definitely wins this time versus Alualu.
18. McCullers has a little more success this time versus Morris, opting to go with a no-nonsense bull rush, but Morris is able to hold his ground after initially giving up a yard or two.
19. Hooks wins with a bull to swim move against Graham.
20. Inside swim by Chick beats Okorafor. Chick always thrives in these moments. Lot of pass rush moves in his arsenal.
21. They go again. Okorafor fares better, mirroring the swim move.
22. Kendal Vickers works under Chris Schleuger.
23. Joshua Frazier with better success than McCullers, beating Morris.
24. Casey Sayles’ swim move unsuccessful against Feiler.
25. Joseph Cheek seals Chickillo.
26. Vince Williams comes over from 7 on 7 work to jump into the drill. ILBs doing more pass rushing this year, maybe? He can’t rip under Schleuger though and loses the rep.
27. Cheek seems to get the best of Adeniyi. Rips through him really late in the rep.
28. Schleuger anchors Vickers’ attempt.
29. Frazier again wins clean. Nice job here.
30. Greg Gilmore slips and falls working on Graham.
31. R.J. Prince does just enough to hang on against Matthew Thomas.
32. Farrington Huguenin gets a quick rep, ripping to the inside and beating Prince.
Let’s jump into the team sessions.
First Team Session (11 v 11)
1. Seven shots, like always. Matakevich still starting at ILB next to Vince Williams. James Conner at RB. Edmunds the lone safety with three corners on the field (Hilton third) and the Steelers in their base 3-4. Landry Jones wants to hit Antonio Brown on a slant. Bad decision. Artie Burns is running the route and picks the pass off.
2. McDonald and Grimble on the field. Y nod by Vance McDonald, faking a quick out before running to the back of the end zone. Burns, again, offers good coverage and the pass is thrown behind and incomplete.
3. Like they practiced in warmups, reverse to Justin Thomas after Conner got the ball initially. Defense is fooled and Thomas scoots to his left for the score.
4. Empty set, Chickillo covering Samuels to the left. Jones throws to the right, a fade for Justin Hunter. Caught versus Edmunds for the TD.
5. Mason Rudolph jumping in at QB. Throws late in the right flat intended for Samuels. L.J. Fort reads it the whole way and bats it away, coming *this* close to an interception.
6. Walton-McCullers-Alualu backup DL. Stevan Ridley in at RB. Backshoulder fade towards James Washington. Coty Sensabaugh knocks the ball out before Washington can secure it.
7. Third team DL in. Sayles-Frazier-Hooks. Rudolph looks for Washington on a fade again. Same result, Sensabaugh creating the incompletion. Defense dominates again, winning 5-2.
1. 13 personnel. Washington the lone WR. Conner gets the carry. Cam Heyward blew up Villanueva, driving him backwards and getting penetration. Short gain.
2. 13 personnel again. Bud Dupree knifes through the line of scrimmage. Conner gets past until he’s smacked from the right side by, guess who, Vince Williams, eager to get that first camp tackle out of the way. About a five yard gain.
3. Edmunds/Davis at safety. 11 personnel, Brown and Washington outside, Tucker in the slot. Jesse James at TE. Pocket collapses, I think Heyward fell down, and it all spills at Jones’ feet. Doesn’t let him step up and he throws too short and low, landing two feet in front of AB’s feet.
This is the play Foster went down, immediately holding his right knee/ankle. Trainers attended to him. So did Ben Roethlisberger and Ryan Shazier. Ben rode off on the cart with him as it went down and around the field, back up to the facility.
4. But as football goes, the cruelty of the game, after a couple minutes, the coaches moved the ball 20 yards downfield and kept practice going. Don’t have much in the form of notes here, focusing on Foster. Conner had the carry right side, bouncing outside and finding a lane, running down the sideline for a chunk of yards.
5. Finney checking in for Foster. 13 personnel. Toussaint cuts to his left. Burns and Matakevich both in on the tackle after a short gainer.
6. Josh Dobbs second-string QB. Tyson Alualu defeats his block and Samuels goes down in a hurry, Alualu and others in the mix.
7. Ridley at RB. Dobbs playaction. Berhe came in free on a blitz. Heaves it downfield for Hunter on a post but Sensabaugh makes a nice play and breaks the ball up.
8. Wall at the line of scrimmage for Jaylen Samuels. Not much available.
9. Toussaint makes a cut to the right off right guard. Jordan Dangerifeld and Sensabaugh make a third-level tackle after a sizeable gain.
10. Fort and Thomas at ILB. Ridley gets the carry. Huguenin meets him for a heavy stop.
11. Samuels is able to move the pile, dragging a defender around his waist and picking up 4-5 yards.
12. James Summers gets the handoff up the middle. Adeniyi dives out and misses him. Galambos finishes things up.
13. Nice rep from Adeniyi this time, stuffing Samuels at the LOS.
14. Washington and Thomas at WR. Rudolph playaction. Throw down the deep middle isn’t close to the target. Malik Golden dives and gets both hands under the football for the interception. Runs it back down the sideline before Schleuger smacks him out of bounds.
15. Franklin has a crease off the left side. But Darnell Leslie comes across and makes a strong open field tackle, taking Franklin down by the waist.
1. Hunter and AB at WR. Landry Jones heaves it deep for Brown down the left sideline. Brown speeds away from Burns for a big catch. Credit to James Conner, who stood tall and picked up Vince Williams in pass protection. Made the play possible.
2. Jones complete to DHB on a curl. Joe Haden wrap up tackle though the whistle blows before either go the ground.
3. Line gives Jones a clean pocket. Jones again looks for Brown down the right sideline. But Haden provides good coverage, sticking out his right hand. Doesn’t deflect the ball but gets in the way and the pass is incomplete.
4. Fake the end around. Screen from Jones to Toussaint. Toussaint shifts left and right for a nice run after catch.
5. Rudolph in at QB. Offensive line jumps early. Pass complete on a curl to Patterson against Sensabaugh.
6. Bubble screen by Rudolph, again finding Patterson. Matthew Thomas lined up at OLB but dropped into coverage, as the inside guys sometimes do under Keith Butler.
7. A “sack.” Chickillo and Alualu in there. Rudolph doesn’t even bother to throw the football.
8. Dobbs now at QB. Hits McDonald, open in the right flat, but runs out of room and immediately steps out of bounds before making his way upfield.
9. Speed out complete to the left side. Think it was Griffey who made the catch. Dobbs with the throw.
10. Dobbs playaction. Matakevich rushes in free around the edge. Dobbs brings the ball down to tuck and run.
11. Huguenin/Adeniyi 3rd team OLBs. Keith Kelsey rushing off the edge, too. Rudolph fires right sideline for Patterson. But the pass isn’t great, underthrown and inside. Patterson finds the ball, Sutton in coverage doesn’t, but still, Patterson can’t work to the ball in time and it skips near his feet.
12. Rudolph boot left. Malleck open in the flat for a quick and short pickup.
13. Cothren/Vickers the nickel DL. Playaction by Rudolph. Misses crosser to Jesse James. Probably Rudolph’s fault for throwing it too far out in front. On the line, Adeniyi dips under Cheek.
14. Golden and Marcus Allen at safety. Draw to Summers. Allen throws a hard shoulder into him while Galambos gets his left hand free off the block to slow him up too.
Fourth Team Session
1. Jones wants to hit Jesse James on a hank/curl. But Matakevich gets a paw in to knock the ball away.
2. Line gives Jones a good pocket. 15 yard throw over the middle intended for Hunter but it’s off-line and incomplete.
3. McDonald split left in 12 personnel. 2×2 formation, James opposite side. Jones fires quickly on a slant to JuJu, making a tough catch against Haden.
4. 3×1 formation. JuJu in the slot, AB and Hunter to the outside. Jones complete to Brown on a dig. Haden and Davis could’ve laid a hit on him but both pulled up, Haden literally putting both hands in the air, knowing that’s one guy you’re not going to risk getting hurt.
5. Samuels split wide. Rudolph targeting Washington on a slant but Sensabaugh swats it incomplete.
6. Nice rebound here. Cover 2 shot to hit Rudolph on a corner route between Sensabaugh and Nat Berhe. Good touch and placement. One of Rudolph’s best throws of these first three days.
7. Some apparent miscommunication. TE Pharoah McKever and Washington are standing on top of each other, bringing two defenders with them. The two collide and the pass is incomplete on a short throw to the right.
8. Not sure who had the carry here. This was the first fight of camp, Chickillo and Okorafor getting into it. Play was away from them. Chick stuck out an arm that got lodged into the rookie’s facemask. Okorafor wasn’t happy about that, the two pushed back and forth. Chickillo solved the whole “hand in facemask” issue by ripping Okorafor’s helmet off and tossing it away. Rest of the team came in to calm things down.
9. Throw underneath and caught by Roosevelt Nix. Finney got rolled up by another falling body but shook it off. Dupree created a mess after trying to rip inside of Villanueva. Didn’t work. Dobbs had the throw.
10. With the carry is Ridley. Bostic squares him up to make the tackle after a 5-6 yard gain.
11. Dobbs the QB. Looks right but Watt reads his eyes and leaps to bat the ball back in his face.
12. Trips Bunch. Rudolph wants Tevin Jones on a crosser left to right. Malik Golden reads it and reaches over with his right hand to knock the pass down and incomplete.
13. Samuels aligns slot left. Rudolph complete to Justin Thomas. Adeniyi’s rip attempt failed so he countered LT Joseph Cheek nicely with an inside spin. On the other side, Huguenin got free and the two met at the QB.
14. Rudolph plaction. Cheek establishes some revenge here, burying Adeniyi. Don’t know what happened here. Rudolph’s throw went to literally no one. Cam Sutton the closest player, diving out but missing the INT. Ugly looking play.
15. Nice hands catch by Washington running a curl, receiving the pass from Rudolph. Ball came out at the very end and Phillips had the recovery.
Fifth Team Session
1. AB and Hunter at WR. Jones at QB. Playaction. Heaves it deep downfield for Hunter but Haden times the jump well and bats it up and away, incomplete.
2. Dirty Red/Williams at ILB. Conner reads the flow to his right and bends the run the whole way back to the left. Bursts away from Edmunds for a nice gain. Tomlin again praises Conner’s finish.
3. Short throw to the right, AB making a diving/basket catch along the sideline. Haden protested that Brown didn’t get his feet inbounds. AB puts up the 1st down signal. I’m going with AB on this one.
4. Now Matakevich/Bostic at ILB. Marcus Tucker in the slot. Conner carry off left guard, splitting Hargrave and Dupree. Gets skinny through the hole but Watt chases him from his LOLB spot to punch the ball out from behind. Ball takes a fortunate bounce and comes back up into Conner’s arms for the recovery.
5. Adams/Chick at OLB. Rudolph in at QB. Forced to reset the huddle after some miscommunication. Once the play gets going, Rudolph climbs the pocket. Wants Malleck running over the middle but the throw is behind and incomplete.
6. Over front by the defense against 22 personnel, a common response and chance to get the DE head over the TE. McCullers blows up LG Larson Graham. Franklin cuts upfield.
7. Sayles and McCullers the nickel DL, Fort and Thomas at ILB. Rudolph finds Ridley in the right flat. Sensabaugh two-hand touches him.
8. Dangerfield/Berhe check in at safety. Good vision and one-cut by Samuels finding a seam up the right side. Berhe has to run down the alley to touch him. Nice run.
9. AB and Hunter on the outside, JuJu in the slot. Edmunds works down into the box. Dobbs looks for Brown on a curl. Pass is outside his frame but Brown gets his left hand on the ball, though unable to make the catch. Incomplete. Haden had the coverage. Back in the huddle, Brown did pushups, a likely punishment required by new WRs coach Darryl Drake.
10. Finney gets run over on this pass. Dobbs throws underneath to Samuels. Hargrave collapsed the pocket. Pre-snap, Samuels and Jesse James lined up split next to the QB, one on each side. James left, Samuels right.
11. Franklin with the carry. Nickel corner Phillips throws a shoulder into the back’s chest.
12. Leslie/Kelsey line up at ILB. Gilmore/Vickers the nickel DL. Patterson the X WR, Tevin Jones slot left. Rudolph at QB. Draw to Samuels. Adeniyi sheds either the LT or TE, a nice rep, and Phillips again is there, wrestling the back to the ground.
13. Rudolph’s throw to McKever is behind but the TE, his big frame, reaches back and plucks it with his left hand. Pretty snag. Versus Phillips.
14. Henderson on an end around. Sutton getting a rep with the first teamers in the slot. Tomlin said heat got to a couple guys, not sure if Hilton is one of those or not.
– Lots of reps for Rudolph on Ferris Ben’s Day Off. Mixed results but that’s expected with a rookie. Moment doesn’t feel too big for him, for what that’s worth.
– One word of optimism on the Foster’s injury, who as of this writing, status is still unknown. Couple years ago, Robert Golden suffered what seemed like a severe injury during practice. Ended up being fine. Let’s hope for the best.
– Conner and Samuels showed vision and decisiveness as a runner. Good to see, especially from Samuels.
– Some names in the secondary popping today. Coty Sensabaugh continuing a pleasant start to camp and Malik Golden showing off ball skills with a pick and a breakup. Terrell Edmunds forcing three incompletions in WR/DB is awfully rare, too.
– Ola Adeniyi saw success against the run and as a pass rusher. Seeing some promise from him.
– Marcus Tucker’s start has been a bit quiet. Not terrible and of course, only three days in, but not matching some of the offseason hype.
– Damoun Patterson shows speed and body control along the sideline. Can make tough catches.
St. Vincent Snapshot
Rookie TE Phaorah McKever lines up for the blocking sled early in practice. There’s Mike Tomlin in the black shirt and TE coach James Daniel in the straw hat.
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 had the first ever specialist in NFL history. Mose Kelsch served as the team’s kicker from 1933 to 1934. Team media guides – even the one just released – refer to his college as “Christian” but that’s incorrect. Kelsch never attended college. His birth name was Christian. When asked, he would tell people he attended The School of Hard Knocks.
Dwight Schrute Quote Of The Day
“Did you know that the human thumb is formed by 15 interchangeable joints? Wrong. Don’t believe everything that people on television tell you.”