Couldn’t ask for better weather at St. Vincent College. About to wrap up the most grueling part of camp. One more practice tomorrow, then off Monday, back Tuesday. Game on Thursday. For now, let’s focus on what the Pittsburgh Steelers did today.
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– Injury report: Mostly the usual suspects. No T.J. Watt (left hammy) or Vance McDonald (foot) for the 6th straight practice. I saw Watt doing some introductory rehab on the middle field, jogging at about quarter-speed the length of the field and walking backwards the width of it on the goal lines. If I had to guess, he’ll return to practice next Saturday, the first practice of their game. McDonald was on the field talking with the tight ends. No boot or anything visibly wrong with his foot.
Others not practicing: Antonio Brown (quad), Marcus Tucker (right ankle). The names Mike Tomlin mentioned after yesterday’s practice all did not participate. Bud Dupree (concussion), Coty Sensabaugh (back), Chukwuma Okorafor (right shoulder). Some precautions for those coming off injuries. JuJu Smith-Schuster didn’t finish out the very end of practice, a wrap and ice on his left knee he hurt a week ago. As soon as Alejandro Villanueva’s day was done, he bolted for the trainer to receive ice on his right shoulder. No big deals, just being smart.
Those returning from rest last night: Ben Roethilsberger, Cam Heyward, Maurkice Pouncey, and L.T. Walton (who may have had a minor injury). Joe Haden had a minor injury, per Tomlin, but looks very insignificant.
– Tomlin doing the players a solid day. Shorter, lighter practice without pads, just shorts and shells. That wasn’t the case last year after the night practice. They were in pads and full tackling. Guess that means he’s pleased with the work of the group. Rest some tired bones.
– TE coach James Daniel was over on the turf field working with one of the local Pee Wee teams. Pretty cool chance for those kids to be around NFL coaching.
– TE Christian Scotland-Williamson first one down the stairs at 2:38 PM.
– Jersey switch. Cam Heyward and Mike Hilton swapped jerseys. Hilton was swimming in his new #97 while Heyward was about to Hulk out of #28, it barely fitting over him.
– Cam Sutton, Justin Thomas, Quadree Henderson in the initial return line. Nothing new there.
– Fun challenge of camp is for the return guys to see how many footballs they can catch and hold onto. Sutton, I believe, tied a record (since I’ve been there) of catching six at once. He nearly had a 7th, securing it, but another football popped out. Players went pretty nuts for him.
Justin Thomas followed that up. Caught a 5th, though looked shaky doing it. And before the 6th could come to him, he lost his strength and all the footballs spilled out.
– Second team OL. Rodgers-Feiler-Morris-Collins-Prince
– CSW looked better on the blocking sleds. Kept his eyes up, saw what he hit. Bucky Hodges continued to struggle, his initial hand placement too high, forcing him to try to lower and re-punch but losing his power.
– One of Todd Haley’s favorite drills returned. Trash can drill, QBs throwing fades and trying to nail it. Ben Roethlisberger was the only one to complete it. Took a bow from the crowd and then chucked the football into the stands, a rare camp souvenir. Pretty cool. I was disappointed Randy Fichtner didn’t test out his arm in this drill like Haley would.
– Lighter day so no real one-on-ones or OL/DL. Let’s jump into team sessions. No tackling today. Felt like the first two days, lower intensity and tempo.
First Session (11 v 11)
1. Jon Bostic and Vince Williams the ILB for 7 shots. Anthony Chickillo rushes in free. Ben Roethlisberger looks for JuJu Smith-Schuster on a backshoulder fade to the left. Incomplete. UDFA corner Jamar Summers, running 1st team with Haden and Sensabaugh out, had the coverage.
2. DHB, JuJu, and Justin Hunter the WRs. Hunter in the slot running an out near the back of the end zone. Roethlisberger looks for him but Artie Burns has the coverage and creates the incompletion. “Yessir, Artie!” a player yelled out.
3. Ben to Hunter again, quick out in the slot near the goal line. Nice snag away from his body to make the catch, working away from Hilton.
4. Roethlisberger wants Hunter for a third time in the back of the end zone. There’s Hilton again with the breakup.
5. Terrell Edmunds and Nat Berhe at safety. Brian Allen, Dashaun Phillips, Cam Sutton in the slot. Looked like an option play, Dobbs taking two steps left before pitching to Stevan Ridley, who runs left side and over the goal line.
6. Dobbs quick throw to Damoun Patterson on an in cut. A bad ball, late and too high. Patterson fruitlessly throws up his right hand, the ball bouncing off and behind. Incomplete.
7. I’d love to watch this play again. Some sort of midline option, RG Parker Collins pulling to the right. Dobbs takes the ball out of Jaylen Samuels belly and carries it off left guard over the goal line. Hard one to score because of the rare runs but I have the defense winning 4-3.
1. Stephon Tuitt jumps jumps offsides. Roethlisberger hits Hunter on an out route.
2. Conner on the carry, cutting right to left. Williams tags him up as Conner finishes the rep, running some 60 odd yards to the end zone.
3. Nothing initially open for Big Ben. Slides right, climbs, and directs DHB to run across the field, left to right. He has space on a trailing Burns in this true scramble drill. Roethlisberger hits him perfectly and…DHB drops it. Ugh.
4. Morgan Burnett reads run the whole way, filling his gap and forcing Fitz Toussaint to cut right. Farrington Huguenin tagged him up.
5. Huguenin/Chickillo the 1st team OLBs. Tuitt-Hargrave-Heyward on the DL. Conner carry right side. Tuitt sheds David DeCastro’s block, sticks out an arm to slow the back up.
6. Now it’s Keion Adams/Ola Adeniyi at OLB. Tyler Matakevich pressures Landry Jones. Jones hits Xavier Grimble on the left side, quickly turning upfield.
7. L.T. Walton and Tyson Alualu the nickel DL. Matakevich and Matthew Thomas at ILB. Jones checks down to Stevan Ridley right side. Scotland-Williamson tripped at the line, falling to a knee, and gingerly making his way to the sideline. He finished practice.
8. Run stunt. RDE, Alualu, crashes into the A gap. NT, Daniel McCullers, loops around to replace. Thomas works off Pharoah McKever and tags up the back, who I don’t have noted. Either Ridley or Jaylen Samuels.
9. Fort and Thomas the ILB pairing. Samuels right side. McCullers sheds his block. He and several others converge for the stop.
10. Another DL stunt. Jones complete over the middle on Damoun Patterson against Brian Allen at his RCB spot.
11. Marcus Allen in the box near the LOS. Mason Rudolph boots right. Strong, accurate throw on a crosser complete to Tevin Jones, working left to right. Dashaun Phillips trailing.
12. Sayles-Frazier-Hooks the third team DL. Iffy exchange between center and QB. Wonder if Frazier had anything to do with that. Jarvion Franklin carry left side. Malik Reaves plays two-hand touch then lets the rookie back finish the run.
13. Third-team OL. Cheek-Schleuger-Graham-Collins-Meadows. Jaylen Samuels carry left side. Nice drive block by Schleuger on Hooks, creating space for his running back.
14. 4th team DL. Cothren-Gilmore-Vickers. Keith Kelsey/Matt Galambos the ILB grouping. Matthew Thomas, with some injuries at OLB, puts him at ROLB. Rudolph for Justin Thomas is off-line, high, and incomplete. Thomas beat McKever off the edge.
15. Jamar Summers pokes his head into the huddle and gets the carry. Jordan Dangerfield with an easy read, flushing him right. Keith Kelsey fought through a block to tag him up.
Third Team Session
1. Now it’s Adeniyi running 1st team, over Adams, at LOLB. Opposite Chick. Money throw by Ben to JuJu on an out route along the right side. Summers covering.
2. Quick hitter to Hunter, who makes an impressive adjustment back for the ball and brings it in. Working on Vince Williams, who couldn’t quite get depth and get there in time.
3. Adeniyi rushes up the middle, getting under David DeCastro and issuing pressure up the middle. Roethlisberger for JuJu underneath. Hilton covering. Pass complete.
4. Zone blitz. Chick at his ROLB drops into a curl/flat zone. Cam Sutton and Sean Davis blitz from the other side, the offense’s right. Roethlisberger looks downfield for Smith-Schuster on a crosser working right to left. Pass too far in front and incomplete. Took about five seconds from snap to throw.
5. Sutton LCB, Reaves RCB, Phillips in the slot. Toss to Ridley but Fort whooped Prince off the right side and met him just as Ridley pulled the ball to his chest. Play goes nowhere.
6. James Washington lined up in the slot. Rudolph navigates the pocket and a good throw along the left sideline, Washington running an out. Reaves couldn’t make a play on the ball.
7. Adams/Huguenin the OLBs. Rudolph scrambles left, dumping it off to Toussaint. Thomas flies as first man in. “Finish! Finish!” the coaches remind Toussaint.
8. Washington and Patterson outside, Jones in the slot. Thomas and Fort the ILBs. Phillips nickel blitz, rushing in free. Rudolph gets the ball out quick, complete to Summers in the left flat. Reaves grabs his jersey then tosses him down, Summers clunking to the ground on his right shoulder. Short pickup.
9. Adeniyi/Chickillo the pairing. Josh Dobbs looks for Jesse James on a Hank route over center. Sutton makes a nice play to reach his arm in there and bat the ball down. Cover 2 look pre-snap, rotated to Cover 1, Davis single high and Edmunds the robber underneath.
10. 2-2-7 alert! With all the 1’s in. Sutton and Burnett hovering near the LOS, replacing both ILBs. Sumers LCB, Burns RCB, Hilton slot. Edmunds and Davis as the deep safeties. Chickillo curl/flat drop, Burnett blitzing the opposite side. Dobbs a pretty rainbow of a throw down the right sideline for Hunter, over his outside shoulder (great ball placement) and the receiver cashes in with the reception. Think this was against Summers.
11. Dobbs pump fakes to get Bostic to bite then zips it over the middle, complete to Samuels for a healthy gain down the right seam.
12. Marcus Allen and Malik Golden the safeties. Ridley jump cut to the right, getting away from Vince Williams filling his gap.
13. Hooks and Sayles the nickel DL. Bostic off the left edge. Rudolph toss on an angle screen to McKever. Short gain. Hooks dropped into coverage on another zone blitz.
14. Prince seals Kelsey upfield. Rudolph accurate throw over the middle, connecting with Patterson on Brian Allen. “Good finish!” a coach yelled out.
15. Rudolph with one of the best throws of the day, one of his best of camp. Lob over the middle, the ball inches over the fingers of Huguenin, and right in the bucket to McKever, who hauls it in. Great rep.
1. Miscommunication by Smith-Schuster and Ben. Sails over #19’s head.
2. Dart scheme run, the backside tackle Marcus Gilbert pulling right to left. Conner follows him through the hole then cuts off his outside hip.
3. Grimble split out. Conner carry over right guard. Adeniyi can’t shed his block and either Hunter or Grimble offered a nice second-level block. Good job up front lets Conner cross over the goal line.
4. Hilton sinks and breaks on Smith-Schuster’s out route. Breaks the pass up near the sideline. Roethlisberger on the throw.
5. Dobbs in at QB. Playaction. Weird one. Just a one man route initially, Patterson crossing left to right, but it’s taken away. Scramble drill, James finally gets downfield and Dobbs heaves it to him. James never sees the ball and it harmlessly falls incomplete.
6. Ridley carry left side. Fumble in the pile and Fort recovers it. In the moment, wasn’t sure who forced it but after the session, Tomlin rang out “Good punch out, 5-4!” Good punch out, 5-4!” So I assume Fort did both. Second forced fumble by him in camp.
7. Short completion by Dobbs to Patterson on a crosser. Phillips tries to punch it out but can’t.
8. Prince with a good down block on Walton, sealing him inside. Fort tags up the mystery back, who isn’t in my notes.
9. 2-2-7 again. Roethlisberger hits DHB on a drag route left to right. Shows his speed, running by everyone down the right side.
10. Roethlisberger deep ball for Hunter down the right sideline. Out of bounds, incomplete. Summers covering.
11. 3 man rush, Hail Mary. Roethlisberger spins it 50 yards. Patterson has the ball located at the back of the end zone (the defense didn’t contest the catch). Makes it but bad food placement. Right foot is over the line. He makes the catch but is out of bounds.
12. Rudolph fires and hits Tevin Jones down the right seam. Huguenin made quick work of Prince around the edge.
13. Again, Prince has trouble with his man, this time Thomas off the edge. Rudolph scrambles left side, Huguenin pretending to pop the ball out but knows he can’t touch Ben’s heir. Or any QB for that matter.
14. Another Hail Mary. Rudolph gets to air it out. Back of the end zone, Tevin Jones is right there. But James Washington gets greedy, leaping in front, and tries to make a spectacular one-handed catch with his right mitt. Bounces off and incomplete.
Fifth Team Session
1. Two minute drill. Offense has 1 timeout to work with, Tomlin announces. First team with Roethlisberger has first crack at it. Ball on the 50.
Chickillo drops into coverage. Ben finds Jones for a 10 yard gain. On the 40.
2. Washington plucks the ball away from his body for another completion.
3. Ball on the 30. Quick completion to Jones on a curl. Burns tags him.
4. Ball on the 25. Roethlisberger goes through all three reads then just chucks it away.
5. 2nd down. Roethlisberger empty, 2×3 formation. Bunch right with Conner. Roethlisberger fakes that way and them comes back to his left. Not 100% sure what happened but I think he wanted Washington on a slant and the rookie didn’t get his head around. Roethlisberger flushed to his left as Washington breaks to the left corner. Good placement but the rookie can’t get there in time. Incomplete.
6. 3rd down. Back shoulder throw to Washington and this time they connect. TD. Summers couldn’t do anything about it.
1. Now the 2nd team comes in, led by Dobbs. Same scenario. 2-2-7 from the defense. Dobbs gets things started quickly, finding Jones down the left seam for a gain of 25. Beat Phillips.
2. Complete to Trey Griffey moving left to right on a drag. Sutton tags him up. Gain of 5.
3. Ball on the 20. Dobbs flushed right. Hits Justin Thomas along the right sideline and the WR steps out. Six yard gain.
4. Ball on the 14. Matakevich rushing off the defense’s right edge. Dobbs runs to the end zone, a celebratory jump over the goal line. But QB scrambles in this drill are dumb and the coaches reset the LOS at the 14.
5. 2nd down. Dobbs to Grimble incomplete. Grimble broke his route off, Dobbs wanted him to keep going. Edmunds in the area with the coverage but didn’t have an impact on the throw.
6. Nice blitz pickup by Samuels. Throw for Griffey towards the left corner falls incomplete.
7. 4th down. Dobbs throwing to no one in particular and it lands incomplete. Defense hangs on, makes the red zone stop.
1. Third team. Rudolph gets his chance. Some of the defensive starters checking in, Burns at RCB, Hilton in the slot. Think Tomlin quipped about it (What are you doing back out here?). Hot start. Bullet over the middle, hitting new TE Bucky Hodges. 15 yard gain down to the 35.
2. Jones makes a falling catch at the 25.
3. Adeniyi rips under and through Cheek. Rudolph hurried throw checked down to Samuels. Complete before Kelsey tags him.
4. Low throw but Jones adjusts and makes the catch before Hilton can do anything about it.
5. 3rd down. Another nice scan and blitz pickup by Samuels, working right to left across the formation to identify Hilton screaming off the edge. Rudolph scrambles for the first, out of bounds.
6. Matthew Thomas at LOLB. Throw to Washington in the left corner is much too high. Incomplete.
7. Good protection by the o-line. Throw to Samuels left to right underneath. Speeds away from Galambos, who can’t tag him, and Samuels crosses the goal line. Touchdown.
So to recap. Ben and Rudolph led scoring drives. Dobbs did not.
Odds And Ends
– During one ST sessions, while the bulk of the team repped field goals, Quadree Henderson stood on the middle field. Would have the ball rolled to him, he’d throw it back, and do it again. Practicing tracking and picking up the ball on the roll/bounce, as could happen for any sort of pooch kick or bad communication by the return unit. Getting that extra work in.
– Only saw Chris Boswell “kick” (just swung his leg) on FGs. Nothing from Matt Wile, who isn’t listed as the backup kicker on the depth chart. About the only interesting thing I learned from that.
– Henderson, Thomas, Sutton, and Washington returned kicks.
– Seven on seven notes.
Two nice catches by Griffey, including a diving grab against Sutton.
Washington made another leaping, contested grab in the right corner. Rinse, repeat.
Running a wheel, Samuels made a nice backshoulder adjustment and hauled in the pass.
Hilton broke up a throw on a Grimble skinny post.
– Rudolph putting together a couple quality practices. Showing touch when he needs to, velocity when he needs to. Accurate on the move downfield. Had a full field read in Friday’s practice and complete the pass. Liked the command of the huddle in the 2 minute drill. Pass complete, they got lined up, snapped the ball quickly. Pointed out changes in protections/identifying blitzes. Ran it like a vet.
– Trey Griffey and Tevin Jones with impressive days they really needed. Pretty quiet camps heading into today for each of them.
– Franklin has definitely passed up Summers on the depth chart. Summers is buried and hasn’t been impressive in really any area.
– Already, you can tell things are starting to make sense for Samuels in pass pro. He’s scanning the field, getting square, making the play. He’s still going to struggle in games because he’s so raw and it’ll be an environment he’s not comfortable in, but I like the progress.
– 2-2-7 defense has me excited. Expect Burnett to be near the LOS and the key communicator. Lot of athletes, flexibility, and options. I don’t think we’ve seen actual dime, 6 DBs which I care about more. They’ll run it more often and I want to know who the odd man out is, Edmunds or Sutton. With 7 DBs, they all get to play.
– Mike Hilton is just a freak. Plays like he’s 6’1. Makes every catch contested. Love this little dude.
– Odd that Huguenin and Adeniyi ran with the 1’s over Adams, stuck with the backups. Something to monitor.
– TE Phaorah McKever can catch a little bit. He just can’t block a lick. Hodges in a similar boat.
St. Vincent Snapshot
Rudolph running the 2 minute offense.
Random Steelers Trivia
From 1933 to Chuck Noll’s hiring in 1969, the Steelers went through 11 head coaches. Since then, they’ve had just three.
Dwight Schrute Quote Of The Day
“Powerpoints are the peacocks of the business world; all show, no meat.”