A muddy day at St. Vincent College and a slight adjustment from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Instead of practicing on Field #1, closest to the stands, the bulk of practice was held at Field #3, the far field. Other than that, a good day’s work. And the first of six consecutive sessions. Let’s dive in.
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– Injury report, which I know Dave Bryan has already covered. Not practicing at all today were: Artie Burns (groin), Vance McDonald (foot), Antonio Brown (undisclosed), and T.J. Watt left (hamstring). Sean Davis was in full uniform but only went through individual drills. Ditto Morgan Burnett, who still isn’t in team. Returning in full included JuJu Smith-Schuster (left knee) and Ola Adeniyi (undisclosed).
– Injuries during practices. Ryan Malleck went down on a run play during the second 11 v 11. Maybe a lower body injury of some sort. He walked up the stairs and into the facilities about 20 minutes later. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported James Washington hurt his left foot and I spotted Alejandro Villanueva with an ACE bandage wrapped around his right bicep mid-way through practice. Chukwuma Okorafor replaced him as 1st team LT. Welcome to the NFL, rook.
Villanueva’s injury seems minor and I thought AB had a day off, not an injury. No real concern there. Davis and Burnett look very close to returning. Eli Rogers, still on PUP, did some jogging and footwork drills today, though I didn’t see him do any cutting, one of the last steps in knee surgery recovery. Malleck’s ailment could be a little more serious.
– Offensive linemen Chris Schleuger and Joseph Cheek were the first players to spill out on the field, walking down at 2:34. Malleck quickly followed behind them.
– Fan in the stands wearing a Dez Bryant jersey. That’s as close as Dez is getting to Pittsburgh.
– Ben Roethlisberger signed a couple autographs before practice. Walking to the far, turf field for warmups, he played catch with a kid. Cool moment.
– More proof that most fans don’t know who the coaches are. ILB coach Jerry Olsavsky cut across the fans, hood up on his grey sweatshirt, and onto the practice field.
– Cam Heyward got the crowd to chant “T.J! T.J!” as he and Watt walked out onto the field.
– Usual suspects in the warmup return line. Quadree Henderson, Justin Thomas, and Cam Sutton.
– Four referees were on hand for today’s practice.
– Lot of work on run blocking from the groups today. OL/DL, TE vs LB. Offense ran 2 receivers vs 3 DBs, working on passing routes off. I didn’t chart every throw but a couple highlights.
1. Tevin Jones made a nice backshoulder catch working on Cam Sutton.
2. Marcus Tucker with a similar adjustment, to his frontside shoulder, sliding and getting his hands under the football versus Mike Hilton.
3. Washington toe tap versus Sutton along the left sideline, dragging his backside foot. Good throw too, not sure who the QB was, to put it away from the CB’s outstretched hand.
4. Justin Thomas showing a good feel for zone coverage, working away from the underneath CB Dashaun Phillips and getting open.
5. Throw from Ben to Trey Griffey was band, clanging off his hand. Roethlisberger and Griffey had a brief conversation afterwards, the receiver running his route incorrectly.
A little later, they went into one-on-one work near the goal line. I have each of those charted.
1. Pivot route by JuJu against Joe Haden, cutting inside and then breaking out to the left side and back of the end zone. Touchdown. “Good patience, good patience!” Ben called out to Smith-Schuster.
2. Justin Hunter runs an out ‘n up. Throws a hand up but Brian Allen covers him and it’s incomplete.
3. DHB finds the ball running an out and hauls in the pass, pictured above. Cam Sutton couldn’t adjust and locate.
4. Washington crosses Haden’s face running a slant. Great recovery by the corner, working over the top and breaking the throw up.
5. Malik Golden breaks up throw for Griffey, who couldn’t separate on a dig route. Griffey had a short conversation with the ref, putting his hand around the zebra’s back.
6. Coty Sensabaugh read Tevin Jones’ dig route the whole way. Breaks up the throw.
7. Slot fade by Henderson. Incomplete, working against Terrell Edmunds. Ball wasn’t catchable.
8. Hilton smothers Tucker and the throw is incomplete, Tucker diving out but unable to make a play.
9. JuJu dances at the LOS against Haden. Haden grabs a piece of his jersey. Throw incomplete.
10. Damoun Patterson flips his body around but can’t reach and grab the ball. Jamar Summers had the incompletion.
11. Washington can’t work through Sutton, the ball thrown maybe a little too bit inside on a fade, and the pass is incomplete. Tipped off his hand.
12. Jones maybe a little late out of his route on a comebak. Incomplete against Haden.
13. Nice play by Malik Reaves, punching the ball out on a comeback route ran by Griffey.
14. Slot fade intended for Hunter. Pass incomplete. Edmunds covering.
15. Love this rep by Sutton. Head up on DHB pre-snap. Immediately on the snap, he jumps inside, to take away the slant, forcing the receiver outside. DHB runs an out ‘n up but Sutton pins him to the left side. Incomplete. Good stuff from Sutton.
16. Backshoulder throw for Patterson through his hands. Brian Allen covering.
17. Tucker bursts away from Marcus Allen, a mismatch, and makes the grab.
18. Smith-Schuster pushes off Haden and makes the catch, getting both feet in at the very back of the end zone.
– A couple of the OL/DL reps. Did not get them all. Little harder to observe today with the new practice location.
1. Patrick Morris with a good rep, anchoring versus Javon Hargrave.
2. David DeCastro seals Stephon Tuitt upfield. Tuitt tried to win to DD’s outside shoulder but couldn’t pull it off.
3. Nick bull to rip by perennial camp all-star Anthony Chickillo, disengaging from Marcus Gilbert, who stumbled at the top.
4. Bud Dupree tries to go outside/inside against Okorafor but the rookie keeps his base, shoulders square, and seals him inside.
5. Cam Heyward with a dirty outside spin on B.J. Finney, winning easily as Finney flails.
6. Looks like another win for Morris vs Tyson Alualu. Alualu dropped to a knee.
7. Tuitt wins with the rip move, this time to the inside, beating DeCastro.
8. Gilbert gets some revenge, winning the rep against Chick.
9. Missed a couple reps. This one, Ola Adeniyi loses his footing on his bull rush attempt against OT Jake Rodgers.
10. They go again. Rodgers steers him up the arc but Adeniyi showed bend and balance to stay the course and dip under.
– Ok, let’s jump into team sessions.
First Team Session (11 v 11)
1. Your usual seven shots. Seeing some rotation. Jon Bostic running first team with Vince Williams. Cam Sutton replacing Burns at RCB. Ben Roethlisberger floats the ball right side to Jesse James. Incomplete, Joe Haden pairing the coverage.
2. Nice snag by Marcus Tucker, lined up slot left, diving across the middle working on Mike Hilton. From Big Ben. Touchdown.
3. Terrell Edmunds and Nat Berhe still 1st team safety. Now Matakevich is in at ILB. Hunter somehow broke wide open and Roethlisberger hit him for an easy score.
4. Bostic and Matakevich at ILB. Jaylen Samuels sidecar next to Big Ben. Marcus Tucker made the catch but pretty positive it was out of bounds. Going with an incompletion.
5. Josh Dobbs comes in. Throws left corner to Hunter. Sensabaugh and Hunter may have gotten a little tangled up. Incomplete.
6. Dobbs throws back left shoulder for Patterson but incomplete. Sensabaugh again covering.
Lots of flip flopping along the OL today, part by injury, part by it being the time of year where this stuff starts happening. Second-team OL for this rep. Rodgers-Feiler-Graham-Prince-Okorafor
7. Not sure the compelling reason to do so but a fade to the left corner for *checks notes* Fitzgerald Toussaint. Predictably incomplete and one more time, Sensabaugh is there for the coverage. Defense wins 7 shots 5-2, coming out on top for the fifth straight practice.
Second Team Session
1. Live tackling session. James Conner slams into a wall, the DL holding the point of attack. Steelers in 13 personnel, DHB the lone “X” receiver.
2. Hilton lined up in the slot. Roethlisberger playaction, finding Jesse James down the right seam, bending his route towards the middle of the field. Nat Berhe cuts him down after a good gain.
3. DHB and Hunter on the outside, Tucker working in the slot. Chickillo chases Toussaint from the backside and he and Dupree converge for a short gain.
4. DeCastro pulling right to left, Conner following. Nice inside/out angle by Vince Williams, spilling the run outside, and Edmunds makes a really nice play to disengage from Grimble’s block and bumping Conner out of bounds.
5. Matakevich and Bostic at ILB. Playaction again. Middle screen from Ben to Grimble. Complete but Chick is right there, making the ankle tackle.
6. Feiler now in at right tackle. Toussaint sidesteps Golden in the hole, juking left. Fort cleans it up almost right after but a nice move from #33.
7. Offensive line: Rodgers-Collins-Morris-Prince-Feiler. Stevan Ridley up the gut. Alualu gets the bulk of the tackle with Jordan Dangerfield chipping in as well, standing over Ridley’s body at the end of the play.
8. Fort good backside pursuit, chasing down Jaylen Samuels after a short pickup off the left side.
9. The two nose tackles, Daniel McCullers and Javon Hargrave as the nickel DL. McCullers gets penetration and forces Samuels to cut to his right. Dangerfield on the tackle.
10. Sayles-McCullers-Hooks on the defensive line. Playaction. Matthew Thomas applies pressure. Throw, not sure who the QB was, didn’t note it, but Washington rips the ball away from Sutton’s hands and gets upfield. Nice play by the rookie.
11. Good blocking by the right side of the line, clearing the edge for James Summers, who rumbles down the sideline before Mike Hilton makes an impressive open field tackle, diving low and taking the burly back down.
12. Malik Reaves in at LCB. Jarvion Franklin on the carry right side. Casey Sayles defeats his block. He and Keith Kelsey in on the stop. Mike Hilton keeps getting work at safety with the lines a little thin there.
13. Hilton/Marcus Allen at safety. Keion Adams/Ola Adeniyi at OLB. Quick throw by Rudolph for Tevin Jones. He steps out of Reaves’ tackle before Marcus Allen spins him down.
14. Joseph Cheek now getting his first camp action at RT. Joshua Frazier defeats Chris Schleuger’s cutoff block, bursting into the backfield for the TFL. Good rep. This is the play Ryan Malleck got hurt, on the ground for a few moments before getting up and checked out. He would leave the field a short time later.
15. Offensive line: Okorafor-Feiler-Graham-Schleuger-Cheek. Ridley carry up the middle. Keith Kelsey and seldom used DL Parker Cothren with the stuff at the LOS.
Third Team Session
1. Tomlin instructs everyone to stay on their feet. No live tackling. Roethlisberger scramble right. Does the Jags game fake pump fake on Bud Dupree, getting him to bite, and the play stops after a short gain.
2. VW/Bostic at ILB. Fire X, looping over each other into the A gap. Picked up. Roethlisberger complete to Samuels working right to left. Sutton wraps up.
3. Now Matakevich/Williams at ILB. Crosser from Big Ben to Grimble. Off his right hand, incomplete. Little far out in front. Line gave a good pocket. Took about five seconds from snap to throw.
4. Big Ben again has all day to throw, some light pressure applied by Cam Heyward and Jon Bostic but obviously, no one can touch him. JuJu finds the soft spot in zone coverage, running away from Chick, moving right to left. Runs it into the end zone another 50 yards. Fan yells out “Do a Fortnite Dance!”
He did not.
5. Dobbs in at QB. Looked like an RPO. Dobbs quickly complete to Tucker over the middle.
6. Ridley carry right side. Active day for Dangerfield, chasing and tagging him from behind.
7. Good chip by center Patrick Morris on Big Dan. Patterson burns Brian Allen down the offense’s right side. Great throw from Dobbs, right in the bucket, but the pass slips through the rookie’s hands. Bummer.
8. Dobbs hits Justin Thomas on a dart over the middle. Runs away from the diving DB failing to break up the throw. Don’t have in my notes who that man was.
9. First teamers in. Empty set. Flare from Ben to Samuels to the offense’s left. Linebackers chase him out of bounds, Tomlin calling out to the rookie something about a stiff arm.
10. Conner carry right side. Bostic and Chickillo stand him up following a short gain.
11. Roethlisberger playaction, faking the handoff to Toussaint. Jesse James beats Matakevich down the middle and makes the grab. Matakevich gives good chase, charging hard from behind. Brings his right hand over James and tries to punch the ball out, hitting it square. James hangs on but falls to the ground.
12. Darnell Leslie/Matthew Thomas at ILB. Nice blitz pickup by Patrick Morris. James Summers and Pharoah McKever in the same area, the pass hitting neither. Incomplete. Rudolph came in and threw it
13. Pass either batted down or dropped by Tevin Jones. Think it was the former.
14. Okorafor in at LT, Feiler at RT. Prince at RG. McCullers runs through center Larson Graham and applies pressure. Rudolph complete to Grimble left side. Marcus Allen tags him up.
15. Marcus Allen and Mike Hilton at safety. Reaves LCB, Summers RCB, Phillips NCB. Nickel blitz from Phillips. Rudolph finds Henderson on a slant, hitting him in stride.
1. Dupree quickly sheds Okorafor’s pass protection attempt. Ben fires over the middle for Tucker, Incomplete, Hilton on the coverage.
2. One of the plays of the day. Roethlisberger heaves it deep down the right sideline for DHB, the receiver getting width from an initially tighter split. Burns Haden and makes the grab.
3. Smith-Schuster slot right. False start, a coach yelling out “watch the ball!” Roethlisberger finds JuJu on a crosser, left to right, again, working on Hilton.
4. Empty set. Zone blitz. Chickillo drops into the short middle, Roethlisberger never sees him, and Chick bats it away. Nearly picked. Pass intended for DHB on a slant. Tomlin liked Finney’s recognition. “Finney, good job!” he called out of the guard’s pass protection.
5. Landry Jones’ attempt is incomplete for Jesse James. Pass through his hands. Phillips covering.
6. Farrington Huguenin in at ROLB. Jones to Jones, Tevin catching the pass from Landry. Spins away from Phillips.
7. Grimble aligned slot left. Ball seemed to come out of Jones’ hand funny. Falls at Griffey’s feet, incomplete.
8. McCullers bursts through a double-team. Jones flushed right, no options, takes off.
9. Alualu free up the middle. Dobbs for Tucker incomplete.
10. Nice leaping grab by Justin Hunter. Hilton can’t close in time and Hunter absorbs his shoulder blow. Dobbs with the throw.
11. Samuels carry right side. Dragged down by Fort.
12. Rudolph complete to Tevin Jones right side. Adeniyi broke free and tagged him for a would-be sack before letting Rudolph throw the ball.
13. Nice rip move by Keion Adams to get some interior pressure. Rudolph throws it short left but UDFA rookie Matthew Thomas tips it away.
14. Franklin carry left side. Lavon Hooks defeats the block of Jake Rodgers. Spills the run outside to Phillips, who bumps him out on the right sideline.
15. Rudolph mistimes his throw on a deep out route to the left side. Too far in front, intended for Grimble, and it’s incomplete. Dangerfield covering. Good day for him.
1. Williams/Bostic at ILB. Shotgun. Handoff to I believe Conner, don’t have it written down but that’s usually how it goes. Nice seal by DeCastro on Williams. Bostic squares up for the thud tackle.
2. Roethlisberger playaction. Chickillo bats down the throw.
3. Checkdown from Ben to Toussaint right side. Marcus Allen covering.
4. Matakevich now next to Williams. Vince Williams flies in for the TFL on Conner.
5. Nice pass pro by Toussaint on Adams. Rudolph strong throw, on the money over the middle for Smith-Schuster. Good rep for the offense.
6. Rudolph wants Patterson right flat. Brian Allen breaks it up.
7. Rudolph wants McKever in the right flat. Looks like the pass was tipped and it falls several yards short, incomplete.
8. Toss right to Samuels out of the gun. Immediately cuts left. Rodgers with a nice down block. Golden trips Samuels up.
9. Bostic/VW at ILB. one run left. Conner brings the run back but Williams is all over him, another TFL.
10. Trap block, Finney kicking out Chickillo. Bostic in on the stop. Didn’t note the RB.
11. Diving breakup by Haden on a dig for Henderson. Dobbs on the throw.
12. Ridley skinny through the hole. Closes up just as he is about to squirt past and it trips him up.
13. Franklin carry right side. Nice rep by Kendal Vickers, defeating the block of the RG, and wrapping him up.
14. Cothren pressures Rudolph. Might have knocked the ball out too? Not 100% sure but it fell at their feet. Incomplete.
15. Rudolph complete to McKever in the right flat. Greg Gilmore can’t swim the center.
Odds And Ends
– Karl Dunbar working with the DL on swim and spin moves.
– Lot of ice on knees post-practice. Very common, of course. Big Ben sported a big wrap on his right knee. Ditto Matthew Thomas.
– Special teams period. Working on kick returns. Saw Thomas, Henderson, and JuJu get some work. Chris Adamski said Cam Sutton got some work there too.
We’ll see more Friday Night Lights but get a look at the new KR formation. In my rough view, here’s what it looked like. Much more condensed now, treating it like a punt. (Ed note: not turning out very good when I published. Will fix it after the podcast).
X X X X X
Here’s how it looked last year.
X X X X X
There’s my etch-a-sketch view of it. Everyone basically moved up to comply with the new rules.
– Nice day for Josh Dobbs. Deep ball looked pretty, even if Patterson dropped his best throw of the day and strong and accurate over the middle.
– We’re seeing the offensive line playing musical chairs. Expect that to continue.
– I gotta hand it to Daniel McCullers. He’s impressing me. Getting a push versus the run, collapsing the pocket against the pass. I dunno, maybe this is the year he makes it. Talked about it on the podcast yesterday. Karl Dunbar’s softer tough could be helping.
– Anthony Chickillo continues to have a strong camp. Same story as always.
– Vince Williams strong against the run. Thought really all the LBs were. Fort, Bostic’s run fills were solid.
– Jordan Dangerfield, functionally a linebacker, in a similar boat. Good day for him.
– We’re seeing Bostic get more time with the 1’s. That ILB battle isn’t over and I don’t think it’s going to be decided for awhile. Stay tuned.
– Little quieter from the likes of Darnell Leslie and Farrington Huguenin. Maybe I just missed it but both cooled off a bit. Today far from Patterson’s best outing either.
– Cam Sutton such a heady player. Great football IQ.
– Coty Sensabaugh still trying to make the roster. High incompletion rate when the ball is thrown his way.
St. Vincent Snapshot
Random Steelers Trivia
A new section this year. Obscure, random fact throughout the Steelers rich history. Today’s is a personal favorite of mine.
Ray Kemp was the first African-American player in franchise history, on the roster for part of the 1933 season. He was one of only two black players in the NFL that year. The league wouldn’t have another until Kenny Washington 13 years later.
Dwight Schrute Quote Of The Day
“Yes I have acted before. I was in a production of “Oklahoma!” in the 7th grade. I played the part of Mutey the Mailman. They had too many kids so they made up roles like that. I was good.”