Friday Night Lights is truly the best practice of the year. 10,000+ Pittsburgh Steelers’ fans in attendance. Food, music, and of course, football. Can’t ask for more than that. Let’s talk about it.
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– The injury report: Lot of veterans getting the day off, not unusual for this practice. I think the night/day cycle of practice tomorrow. No Vance McDonald (foot), Antonio Brown (quad), Ramon Foster (knee), T.J. Watt (left hamstring), Ben Roethlisberger and Maurkice Pouncey (rest), Marcus Tucker (right ankle), Cam Heyward (assumed rest), and L.T. Walton (unknown). Saw Foster on the field with his right knee heavily wrapped. He was chatting with Kevin Colbert before practice.
Returning in full were: Alejandro Villanueva, Sean Davis, and Morgan Burnett. Good news all around there.
And Ryan Shazier, for the first time at camp and I believe the first time publicly, walked across the field without the assistance of his cane. Short video I took. Crowd went wild as he neared the home side and people realized what was going on.
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) August 3, 2018
For my money, the best moment of practice.
– Like I said, the environment was really cool. Maybe even more than in years past. Tons of games, food, and autograph signings. Will Allen and Tunch Ilkin signed before things kicked off. There was the 50/50 raffle, the grand prize of $4,025. According to PA announcer Bill Hillgrove, it was the largest in Friday Night Lights history.
Hillgrove also mentioned some fans making the long trek to Latrobe, PA. One man drove in from Houston, Texas and said he was driving back right after practice ended. Another family, I believe they’ve been at practice throughout the week, from Ramstein, Germany. That one is going to be tough to top.
– Spotted a #15 Willie Reid jersey in the stands. That’s…random. But hey, more power to you.
– Believe I spotted CB Trey Johnson, the promising rookie UDFA who landed on IR before camp begin. Donning a grey hoodie and big black sling on his right/arm shoulder. According to his agents, he’ll spend all season on injured reserve with the team.
– Here is the first-team OL, some shakeups with the Foster injury and Pouncey rest.
– In warmups, saw one snap of 20 personnel. 3 WRs plus Roosevelt Nix and James Conner side car next to Landry Jones in the gun.
– Maybe the first time I’ve ever seen it. Jesse James “picked off” Mason Rudolph in warmups where some of the offensive players wear red/blue caps just to be bodies for the offense to run around. James mock returned it down the left side.
– During the ST session, new DBs coach Tom Bradley spent time talking with corners Dashaun Phillips and Brian Allen. Always working on technique.
– With Heyward having the day off, he had “ball on a stick” duty as the DL went through warmups.
– I know some of yinz guys were bummed I didn’t watch backs on ‘backers as closely before. Today, I’ve charted almost every rep. Here’s what I got.
Backs on ‘Backers
1. Tyler Matakevich with a deft swim move over Fitzgerald Toussaint.
2. Ola Adeniyi throws Toussaint down.
3. Jaylen Samuels steps in and seals Anthony Chickillo upfield, before Chickillo gets a good punch in to redirect inside late in the rep. I give the win to Samuels.
4. They go again. Samuels grabs a lot of Chick’s jersey and the OLB can’t shake loose as he tries to win upfield.
5. Adeniyi wins against Bucky Hodges.
6. L.J. Fort gets around Stevan Ridley.
7. They go again and Fort is the victor twice in a row, dipping under, inside, and past Ridley.
8. Christian Scotland-Williamson leaned too far forward initially and Bud Dupree swims him with ease.
9. Jarvion Franklin and rebuffs Keith Kelsey.
10. Franklin another win against Kelsey. Strong rep.
11. Hodges wins versus Adeniyi. Good anchor.
12. Hodges buries Adeniyi into the ground.
13. Outside move by Keion Adams makes quick work of James Summers. They go again and Adams beats him, this time to the inside.
14. Spin move by Adams beats Summers again.
15. James Conner lunges a bit against Matt Galambos but Galambos doesn’t have the bend to corner and take advantage. Conner pushes him wide of the pocket.
16. Galambos tries to win the edge again but Conner is having none of it. Square, physical, and pushes Galambos into the circle of teammates surrounding them. Great rep from JC.
17. Dupree wins against Jesse James.
18. James gets some revenge, sealing Dupree up the arc.
19. Jon Bostic easy W against Samuels.
20. Samuels gets Bostic this time, winning the rep.
21. Tie-breaker. Bostic wins it, cornering and beating Samuels wide.
22. Chickillo throws down Xavier Grimble and wins the rep.
23. Grimble better this time, sliding laterally and sealing Chick inside.
24. Matthew Thomas smokes Toussaint. One of the easiest wins of the session.
25. Toussaint anchors this time but Thomas is able to knock him down at the end. Call it a draw.
26. Two-handed swipe by Adams makes Pharoah McKever look downright silly.
27. McKever saves a little face. Adams can’t rip under him to the inside.
28. Kelsey swims over Summers, who looked really bad this session.
29. Samuels seals Vince Williams upfield. Williams tries to spin back in but slips and falls.
30. Ridley shoves Thomas upfield.
31. Ridley falls trying to prevent Thomas from cornering the edge.
32. Strong punch by Adeniyi on Hodges beats him.
33. Adeniyi wins around the edge against Hodges.
34. Coaches went them one more time. Swims to the outside and Adeniyi wins.
35. Now the nickel corners come over to get in on the action. Dashaun Phillips bull rushes Jarvion Franklin and they’re facemask to facemask in a stalemate. Win goes to the back. The two go at it a little bit, jawing at each other as the rep winds down. Two competitive dudes.
36. Franklin beats Phillips again.
37. Samuels seals Mike Hilton upfield.
38. Another W for Samuels on Hilton.
39. Hilton may have won the corner but slipped against Samuels. Goes 0-3. Yells out a frustrated “Ahhh!” walking away.
40. Toussaint wins back-to-back reps on Phillips, sealing him upfield each time.
– OL/DL reps.
1. Good initial punch by OT/OG R.J. Vickers, winning versus Greg Gilmore.
2. Casey Sayles strong punch with his right hand but Larson Graham able to absorb it and anchor.
3. B.J. Finney wins against Daniel McCullers.
4. Lavon Hooks rips under and through Matt Feiler.
5. Vince Williams speed bull rush on OT Jake Rodgers. Good push to knock Rodgers back though I think VW got a little overextended and lost his footing.
6. Long arm technique by Joshua Frazier, showing power and walking Graham back.
7. Hooks spin woefully fails and Finney buries him into the Earth.
8. Easy win for Feiler on Parker Cothren.
9. Rodgers seals Vickers.
10. Sayles beats Prince to the inside.
11. Greg Gilmore flashes with a good punch on Larson Graham’s left, inside shoulder. Begins to turn him but Graham recovers, gets square, resets, and wins the rep.
12. Finney steers Hooks upfield.
13. Semi-successful spin move by Cothren on Feiler. Feiler gives him a hard shove down as Cothren scoots past.
14. Vince Williams trying to rip under Rodgers but can’t. Rodgers did grab a fistful of facemask though. Spin back inside fails.
15. They go again. And like before, Williams can’t rip. False started before the rep began.
16. Chris Schleuger seals Gilmore.
17. Frazier with a late rip through Graham.
18. Strong first punch by Parker Collins, defeating Cothren.
19. VIckers spins inside on Joseph Cheek but the OT recovers.
20. Gilmore with an inside rip on Prince, winning.
21. Sayles’ feet go dead on contact and Schlueger has no issues anchoring the defender’s bull rush.
22. Collins holds on versus Cothren’s rush.
23. Vince Williams wins against Cheek this time.
24. Gilmore solid bull rush on the new guy, OT Kyle Meadows.
– Ok, let’s jump into team sessions.
First Session (11 v 11)
1. Seven shots. Burnett and Davis the safeties. JuJu Smith-Schuster slot left. Landry Jones in at QB. Fade left corner for JuJu but Joe Haden high points the football and breaks it up.
2. Bostic and Williams your ILB. Jones over the middle for Grimble incomplete. Haden again covering. JuJu, working underneath those two, threw his hands up, believing he was open.
3. Damoun Patterson and JuJu the WRs. Grimble slot left. Incomplete left corner for Grimble, Burnett offering the coverage. Outside the tight end’s outstretched arm. Incomplete.
4. 12 personnel. Offense finally gets on the board, Jones hitting JuJu open on a speed out to the right side. Haden shoves him out but it’s too late.
5. 12 personnel again with CSW and McKever standing up and split out right. Mason Rudolph fires over the middle to hit Justin Hunter. Back-to-back touchdowns.
6. Sticky coverage by Brian Allen on Patterson. Throw incomplete as the WR worked back on a comeback.
7. Finally see James Washington get his first rep. Oddly held out until now. Hodges aligned right. Rudolph hits Washington slot left for the score. Nice blitz pickup by Samuels on Fort. Defense still wins 7 shots, 4-3. Have won 6 of 8 this year.
1. The live run session. Full tackling. James Conner carry left side off left tackle. Absolutely hits the truck stick on Morgan Burnett, the way Adrian Peterson had on William Gay all those years ago. Only difference is Burnett is able to hold onto Conner’s ankle, the collision practically fused them together, and Conner gets taken down falling forward. Good gain.
2. Jon Bostic forces Conner to make a quick cut right to left. Bud Dupree dives in on the tackle. Couple other bodies involved too.
3. Patterson the X reciever. Conner again the carry left side. Stephon Tuitt works off Feiler’s block and throws out an arm. Dupree and Bostic fly in to finish things up. Could have been where Dupree suffered the concussion. Pretty intense collision.
4. Patterson/Washington/Jones in the slot. David DeCastro pulls right to left. It’s a false key, Jones looking for Jesse James on a middle screen to the right. With pressure in his face, the pass is high and incomplete.
5. 13 personnel, Patterson the lone WR. James/Grimble/McKever at TE. James Conner finds a crease right side. Good job up front by the OL. Sean Davis forced to make the third-level, open field tackle.
6. Attempted reverse right to left by Justin Thomas. But he mishandles the flip from the RB (Franklin, I think), bobbling it, losing control, and putting it on the ground. He recovers before Adeniyi falls on top, a loss of 5-7.
7. Thomas/Griffey the WRs. Big run up the middle from Fitz Toussaint. Ran through two arm tackles. Finally tripped himself up for a 15-20 yard pickup.
8. OL. Rodgers-Collins-Morris-Vickers-Okorafor. Hard count by Rudolph gets Grimble to false start and go into his pattern. Can’t make that mistake as a vet. Nice full field read by Rudolph, scanning right to left. Bullet on a curl complete to Trey Griffey. Good read and throw.
9. Stevan Ridley carry left side. Coty Sensabaugh cuts him low and rolls the back over. 3-4 yard gain.
10. Samuels carry right side, Collins pulling. Daniel McCullers fought through a block but sorta let Samuels go, let a great move in a tackling session, and Fort cleans it up following a short gainer.
11. Dupree times the snap perfectly and whoops LT Joseph Cheek. Flies into the backfield and drops Samuels barely before he’s gotten the handoff. Loss of five.
12. Anthony Chickillo left unblocked but Samuels jukes him in the backfield. Galambos and Vickers converge on the tackle, according to PA announcer Hillgrove.
13. Franklin carry right side. Short gain. Kelsey on the tackle. Kyle Meadows in team drills, working at RT.
14. Dobbs playaction, throw deep down the left side. Washington and Phillips fighting for space. Washington plucks the ball over his inside shoulder and makes an impressive, falling grab. 45 yard gain, just shy of the end zone.
15. Quick throw by Dobbs to Thomas on a curl. Receiver left his feet when he didn’t need to. Malik Reaves and others on the tackle.
1. Patterson and JuJu the wideouts. James/Grimble the tight ends. Poor shotgun snap. Conner carry left side.
2. Bostic and VW the starting ILBs. Patterson/Hunter, with JuJu in the slot. Screen right from Jones to Conner. DeCastro has an arm under Bostic’s helmet to hold him in place. Conner takes off down the right sideline, tagged up but sprinting to the end zone to finish the rep.
3. Samuels and Conners in a Pony (2 RB) look. Coach blows the whistle and resets the huddle. Patterson turned Haden around along the right sideline and Jones found him. Good stuff.
4. Jones checkdown to Conner, who makes a nice hands catch away from his body. Quick to the tuck and gets upfield. Haden tags him.
5. James split left. Dobbs comes in to find Griffey right side. Brian Allen can’t break it up but makes the tackle.
6. Chickillo kills Scotland-Williamson off the edge. Dobbs throws it away, “picked” by Mike Hilton – standing along the sidelines – and he runs it back to the amusement of the crowd. Incomplete in the score sheet.
7. Chickillo again free up the middle. Dobbs complete to McKever over the middle. 10-ish yard completion.
8. James Washington the X receiver. One of the guards found work and put Cothren on the deck. Jones heaves it deep right for Washington. Little too far out in front and incomplete, though B. Allen was on his inside hip.
9. 13 personnel. Jones hits JuJu on the right side. Pass was a little behind. Haden tags again.
10. Jones complete to Hunter running a deep comeback, sliding and making a low catch along the left sideline. Catch against Artie Burns. Toussaint kept the pocket to seal the LB upfield.
11. Jones checkdown to Ridley. Five yard completion over center.
12. Rudolph playaction. Believe this is a completion to Washington, Reaves covering. Galambos rushed free up the middle.
13. Rudolph looks for Tevin Jones on a crosser left to right. A little high and off his fingertips.
14. Adams and Adeniyi the OLBs. Joseph Cheek false starts. Sameuls handles Galmabos’ swim move rushing up the middle. Rudolph threw a bad ball over the middle. Reaves capitalized and picked it off.
15. Hard count. Swear they used “Jaguar” as an audible, an interesting selection. Gets Phillips to tip a nickel blitz. Rudolph finds Jones for a short completion to the right.
1. JuJu/Hunter/Patterson the WRs. Fade left side to Smith-Schuster. Little underthrown by Jones. Burns breaks it up. Nearly had the INT before the ball squirted out as he hit the ground.
2. Miscommunication by the defense, slant/wheel look, that leaves Grimble open on the wheel. Easy TD from Landry.
3. Samuels and Conner both in the game. Jones fires over the right middle for Smith-Schuster. Haden tips it up into the air and nearly had the pick as the ball came down. But sifted through his hands and incomplete.
4. Empty, Toussaint split out. Out route far left for JuJu. Valiant effort, diving for the ball, but can’t squeeze it in. Hilton covering. Jones on the throw.
5. Grimble slot right. Short throw right middle for JuJu. Tips it with his right hand twice, trying to make a spectacular grab, but can’t haul it in. Burns in the way and celebrates after.
6. Dobbs checkdown right side to Toussaint, feeling some heat from the rush. Fort zooms in to tap him up.
7. Dobbs throw vertically to Patterson. He finds the ball, Brian Allen can’t, and Patterson makes the catch. Ref says he didn’t keep his feet inbounds so officially, it’s incomplete.
8. Angle screen to Samuels from Dobbs. He must have heard footsteps from Marcus Allen and the pass is dropped.
9. Ridley tough run left side. Chickillo chasing from behind. Admire McCullers’ hustle, running 10 yards downfield and practically leaping on his back. I like this side of Big Dan.
10. Empty with Samuels split wide left. McKever backside. Miscommunication. Jones breaks his route off to the front right pylon. Dobbs throws it back right. Incomplete. Flag on the play, Sutton may have gotten a little too grabby in the slot.
11. Rudolph fakes a bubble screen to the right. Has a wide open Jones right side. Ball floated a bit. Marcus Allen charged hard and bumps into him, breaking it up.
12. Keith Kelsey comes free. Beats Cheek. Hodges with an impressive catch down the seam from Rudolph, M. Allen draped all over him.
13. Larson Graham at C. Out ‘n up by Justin Thomas incomplete. Rudolph threw it a yard too far in front.
14. Rudolph looks for CSW right corner. Phillips with a competitive play and breaks it up.
15. Backshoulder throw in the end zone for McKever. Boxes out Malik Golden.
1. Conner carry off left guard.
2. Feiler false starts. Jones throw to Patterson left side. Behind and tipped by Burns.
3. Vince Williams swim move gets him free. Jones throw for Grimble. Haden breakup. Active day for corners.
4. Jones to James right corner of the end zone. Incomplete, Burnett covering.
5. Short throw right by Jones to James. Sutton hugs him in front of the goal line.
6. Quick throw right side by Jones to Smith-Schuster. Sutton again is there, bumping him out of bounds.
7. Rudolph zips a throw complete to McKever over the middle. Terrell Edmunds couldn’t close in time.
8. Samuels carry left side. Bounces off a couple tackles.
9. Chickillo pressure forces Rudolph to hit Thomas right side.
10. Rudolph playaction. Quick throw in the end zone to Tevin Jones. Phillips and Dangerfield wrestle him to the ground.
11. Franklin pushes the pile into the end zone.
12. Rudolph fade for Washington right corner. Spins back for the ball and the rookie receiver makes a nice adjustment on Jamar Summers. TD.
13. Samuels carry left side. Kelsey first man in.
14. Frazier blows up trap block. Guard couldn’t reach him and Frazier knocks the pulling TE McKever off track. Dangerfield wraps Ridley up. Kelsey finishes him off with a loud pop.
15. McKever the lone receiver to the right, 3×1 formation, lined up in the slot. Dobbs accurate throw left corner, hitting Jones for the score, sliding to the ground.
Odds And Ends
– Special teams sessions. Henderson, Sutton (a defender, I know?!) and Washington fielded KRs. Washington did bobble one.
– Jordan Berry, Chris Boswell, and Kameron Canaday ran down kicks from the left side. Matt Wile booted them.
– Here’s how the Steelers 1st string KR formation looked under the new rules.
– Life of a specialist. As the rest of the team worked on one half of the field, the four kickers/punters/long snappers were away from the group on their own bench.
– R.J. Prince needs a new jersey. His is about two sizes too small. More like a belly shirt.
– Excellent fireworks display afterwards.
– Credit to the offensive line for creating a push in the run session. Largely, they outmatched the DL.
– Backs on ‘backers notes.
Keion Adams with quick hands. Never stuck on a block.
Jaylen Samuels held his own. James Conner continues to impress at every challenge. James Summers was downright terrible. Jarvion Franklin has definitely leaped him in the pecking order.
– Damoun Patterson, despite a rougher last two days of practice, got tons of work with the 1’s. Granted, team a little thin at the position but still, tons of reps.
– More good days for the CBs, Joe Haden and Artie Burns.
– James Washington keeps impressing with his ability to find the ball, body control, and ability to make tough catches. In other words, how he was billed coming out of Oklahoma State.
St. Vincent Snapshot
Snapped a quick photo of the fireworks show after. Great event.
Random Steelers Trivia
Head coach Buddy Parker hated rookies. In his eight years as head coach, the Steelers selected in the first round only four times. Twice, 1959 and 1963, they didn’t select until the 8th round.
Dwight Schrute Quote Of The Day
“Why are all these people here? There are too many people on this earth. We need a new plague.”