– Yesterday the only off day over this ten day span. The Pittsburgh Steelers were back at it today with a busy couple days upcoming. Fight Night Lights practice this Friday with the Family Fest one on Sunday. Another hot, muggy day but have gotten lucky with the rain. Showers have come before or after practice. Let’s talk about what happened on Wednesday.
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– Let’s start with the injury report. Not practicing today were: WR Donte Moncrief (left middle finger, had a wrap/splint on it), FS Sean Davis (left ring finger), CB Alexander Myres (reportedly an illness, now placed on waivers), OG David DeCastro (day off), and OLB Anthony Chickillo (unknown).
OG Ramon Foster returned after a day off Monday. WR Johnny Holton was in full pads after missing the past two with left hamstring tightness but had a pretty limited today. Went through an early part of individual drills and I saw him field one kick return mid-way through but didn’t participate in team sessions and stood on the side for most of the receiver drills. Had a brief conversation with head trainer John Norwig and spent the bulk of practice talking with one of the assistant coaches. So coming along but slowly it appears.
Several injuries today per Mike Tomlin. WR Ryan Switzer with a quad, think that happened on a swings screen taken down hard by Mike Hilton, Derwin Gray with an apparent heat related issue (Steelers.com’s Missi Matthews said it was pretty early in practice), and CB Herb Waters with a shoulder. We’ll see who can work tomorrow. Would imagine Gray will be back. Not sure about the others.
– First players down on the field at 2;35 PM: Josh Dobbs (who signed one or two autographs before making his way down the stairs), Trevor Wood, and Devlin Hodges. After practice, Ben Roethlisberger signed autographs along the fence line. JuJu Smith-Schuster again signed right before the first practice horn sounded.
– UDFA rookie specialists Ian Berryman and Matthew Wright walked down the stairs together. Gotta lean on each other.
– Mason Rudolph has the funniest looking warmup he does every day. Finds a quiet part of the near field, tracing the sideline forward and backward while doing this silly-looking arm flapping thing. Hey, whatever works.
– Ryan Shazier was at practice today in a grey shirt and shorts.
– With DeCastro getting the day off, the first team line was: Villanueva-Foster-Pouncey-Finney-Feiler.
2nd team? Hawkins-Hassenauer-Morris-Johnson-Okorafor
– Return line: Switzer, Diontae Spencer, Eli Rogers, and Cam Sutton.
– Kameron Canaday, Trevor Wood, and Vance McDonald working as snappers today. Berryman and Jordan Berry holding. Wood did have one high snap though Berryman did a nice job snagging and putting it down. Danny Smith closely watched the unit work.
– PR challenge. Try to catch/hold onto as many returns as you can. Believe the record is six, held by Cam Sutton and probably someone else. Diontae Johnson had four, unable to catch the fifth, falling backwards. Diontae Spencer had five, running up to make the snag on the fourth one. Switzer asked the JUGs machine coaches to wait so Spencer could arrange himself, putting one of the balls between his legs. Spencer tried to make the catch on the 6th one, hopping backwards (again, the football was between his legs) but couldn’t make the snag. Switzer had four, unable to grab the fifth, and Roethlisberger gave him a consolation prize afterwards.
– Rare outfit for Mike Tomlin today. White, short-sleeved T-shirt.
– Justin Layne took about five minutes to get taped up today. Missed the entire stretch line and had to get worked out by one of the trainers.
– Sutton Smith got some work at fullback today. Went with the running backs/fullbacks during individual sessions and got at least one rep there in team session, switching from his yellow defensive jersey to a white offensive one for the latter.
– Shaun Sarrett not accepting any of his linemen cheating the drill. Working on their punch on the bag. Someone didn’t do it right. And Sarrett, walking up and down behind the group, noticed.
“Two hands! Restart it!” and made them do it over.
– Xavier Grimble has done well on the blocking sled this year. Enough that he doesn’t do much of it anymore. Maybe took one rep and walked across the field with McDonald to run some routes with the receivers. More reps for all the young guys. And they need it.
– Just on air (no DBs), but McDonald made a nice snag behind on a throw from Ben. “Great catch!” Roethlisberger praised.
– Later on in the day. Worked on kick returns for the special teams sessions. Getting return work were: James Washington, Johnny Holton, Diontae Spencer, and Diontae Johnson. Ralph Webb and Benny Snell worked as the “next two” in front of them with Roosevelt Nix/Jaylen Samuels the pair of wings another ten yards in front.
In another ST session, Washington, Spencer, and Cam Sutton got work on kick returns. Half-speed work, no tackling, but Sutton flashed some open field speed.
– After practice, Ben Roethlisberger broke down the huddle for the entire offense.
– Vince Williams and Mark Barron first two players on the JUGs machine after practice. RBs went over to the far field to work on tackling for punt and kick coverage.
– LBs worked against the backs/tight ends in coverage today. Here’s what happened:
1. Ola Adeniyi blanketed McDonald on a corner route, the pass incomplete.
2. Vince Williams with a hard jam on James Conner at the line of scrimmage. Pulls up and throws his arms out to try and avoid the hold but Conner goes to the ground. Throw hits him in the left hip.
3. Bud Dupree trails Xavier Grimble, feels like it was intentionally a step behind but Grimble is able to burst away on this corner route and makes the grab fairly uncontested.
4. Jaylen Samuels breaks down in front of Mark Barron for an easy decision.
5. Kevin Rader makes a nice combat catch on a pivot route against Marcus Allen.
6. Really nice rep by Benny Snell. Swims over Devin Bush as the rookie linebacker misses the jam. Snell has space vertically and tracks the ball over his left shoulder, making a soft, snug snag.
7. Hard jam by Sutton Smith that’s pretty effective on Christian Scotland-Williamson. High throw, Sutton contests it well, and the throw is incomplete. Skipped off Scotty’s hands.
8. Tyler Matakevich smushes Ralph Webb at the line. Webb breaks free but late, Matakevich won the rep, and makes the catch on a quick cut to the left.
9. Zach Gentry out route to the left. Throws up just his right hand and the pass is incomplete. Two hands, rook.
10. Trey Edmunds beats Robert Spillane’s jam for an easy reception.
11. Trevor Wood boxes out Tuzar Skipper and makes the catch on the slowest curl route ever (that’s what it felt like, at least).
12. Malik Williams tracks the ball and adjusts on this backshoulder throw on a wheel route against Ulysees Gilbert III.
13. McDonald beats Adeniyi off the line of scrimmage. Adeniyi tries hard to recover and offers a hard shove on McDonald to send him to the ground but the tight end makes the grab, completing the catch.
14. James Conner swims over and beats Vince Williams but lets the pass into his face, hitting off his mask, and clanging incomplete.
15. Nice jam by Dupree on Grimble at the LOS. Wheel route. Thrown a little too far inside and Grimble never sees it. Probably wouldn’t have caught it anyway.
16. This time it’s Roosevelt Nix on a wheel. Slowed down too early and looked back for the ball and it fell incomplete out in front of him.
17. Pass deep downfield for Rader is incomplete against Allen, Rader sprawling to the ground and rolling over. Legs may have gotten tangled up, caught the rep already in progress.
18. Quick out by rookie back Travon McMillan complete on Sutton Smith.
19. Gilbert covers CSW. Pass behind and incomplete.
20. Short catch from Jaylen Samuels on Barron.
21. Nice double-move by Gentry on JT Jones, slowing up and Jones biting on it, driving and thinking it was a curl, before taking off down the seam. Fingertip grab. Nice rep. Down the seam is where Gentry will do his damage.
22. Out route, burst away from Bush goes Benny Snell.
23. Out ‘n up by Snell beats Devin Bush, really pretty move, but Snell drops the ball. Good route though and Snell got the better of Bush.
– Random two notes I have from WR/DB, watching a few reps while the RBs and LBs were going 2v2. Don’t chart those. Dravon Askew-Henry had a nice breakup on a nine route against Tevin Jones, playing the pocket and chopping through Jones’ wrist to pop the ball out.
– Diontae Johnson is a good route runner but want to make sure he’s selling vertical on breaking routes. Dig route he can had him at slower speed upfield than normal, which is a good tell for the DB you’re about to make a cut. Make everything seem vertical and you’ll get the corner to open his hips, making it a lot easier to create space on your break.
– Some notes from OL/DL:
1. Cam Heyward with the initial bull rush to get into Villanueva’s chest before swimming over him.
2. Ramon Foster anchors on Lavon Hooks.
3. Javon Hargrave runs through and then past poor Patrick Morris.
4. Stephon Tuitt unable to swim BJ Finney.
5. Nice anchor by Matt Feiler on Ola Adeniyi.
6. Two man work but wanted to note Sutton Smith having a nice chop to knock down Ramon Foster’s hands.
7. JC Hassenauer seals Vince Williams upfield.
8. Williams bull rush pushes Finney back, good leverage and the low man, but unable to rip through to disengage.
9. Winston Craig lost his balance and couldn’t corner on Jerald Hawkins.
10. Isaiah Buggs flashes quick hands and swipes past Hassenauer.
11. Mondeaux swims past Morris late in the rep after his initial bull rush fails.
12. Nice hand placement and power by Casey Sayles, getting under Fred Johnson’s pads and getting him uprighted.
13. Zach Banner wins on JT Jones.
14. JT Jones doesn’t know how to get around Chukwuma Okorafor. Tries to win the edge, Okorafor seals him, wants to counter inside, Okorafor mirrors, and then tries to go outside again, which Okorafor seals.
15. Tight hands by Okorafor on Jones gets him in control and easily wins the rep.
16. Jerald Hawkins sitting too far back in his stance, maybe cheating and expecting Ola Adeniyi to win the edge. Adeniyi reads the set and counters inside, winning and beating Hawkins with a rip.
17. Now Adeniyi goes straight power, getting under Hawkins’ pads, into his chest, and knocking him back.
– Let’s talk team sessions.
First Team Sessions (Seven Shots)
1. James Conner pumping up the crowd before the first snap. Devin Bush the ILB as the Steelers are in dime against four receivers, Switzer motioned out slot right. Ola Adeniyi the 1st team LOLB (no Watt or Chick) opposite Bud Dupree. Sutton comes free on a slot blitz from the offense’s right. Ben Roethlisberger wants Washington over the middle but Devin Bush breaks it up.
2. Better success for the offense this time. Xavier Grimble wide open left corner of the end zone and Roethlisberger easily hits him. Pitch and catch for the score.
3. Artie Burns jumps in at LCB. Washington, JuJu, Johnson the receivers in 11 personnel. Empty set. Bush/Vince Williams the ILB pairing. Stick route complete from Ben to McDonald against either Vince Williams or Kameron Kelly. Either way, a score.
4. Now it’s Vince and Barron at ILB. Empty again. Good coverage, long drill of 5-7 seconds. Roethlisberger finally hits Johnson for the score on Kelly.
5. Dobbs in at QB. Finds Washington moving left to right versus PJ Locke for the score.
6. Diontae Spencer the X receiver. Josh Dobbs wants Tevin Jones to the left side but it’s tipped by Brian Allen. Caught by Jones but out of bounds and incomplete. Good rep by BA.
7. Robert Spillane/Ulysees Gilbert III the ILB pairing. Dobbs and Jones connect for the score this time though there was considerable pressure. Sutton Smith came in free while Isaiah Buggs worked off Fred Johnson’s block.
Offense wins the day, 5-2. Here are the tallies through five practices. Offense creating some space.
Second Team Session
1. Ball at the offense’s own 30. Vince Williams and Mark Barron at ILB. Haden/Nelson/Hilton at corner. Adeniyi shed the block of Xavier Grimble and was in on the tackle of James Conner. Ditto with Stephon Tuitt. Just a gain of two.
2. Roosevelt Nix at FB. Javon Hargrave holds the point of attack and Ramon Foster ended up on the ground. Jaylen Samuels wrestled down by Williams after a one yard rush.
3. Stephon Tuitt with the stop on Benny Snell for a gain of two. But that’s not the highlight here. Caught most of what happened. Alejandro Villanueva gave Heyward a shove near the end of the play and Heyward took exception. Turned around at Villy and *think* (it happened fast) threw an open hand slap his way. Villanueva basically reared back and threw a left hook at Heyward’s helmet, thankfully missing, and then the two got together as the rest of the team converged to break it up.
Heyward and Villanueva with the first camp fight. Didn’t see that one coming. But wow, it upped the intensity of the rest of the session. I kinda liked it.
4. Snell carry off left guard, running off BJ Finney’s inside hip. Terrell Edmunds comes screaming in to filly the alley with a loud tackle on the rookie back for a gain of four. Defense was hyped up, ILBs coach Jerry Olsavsky slapping Edmunds on the helmet for making that tough run stop.
5. Playaction with Dobbs at QB. Daniel McCullers slowly walks back Jerald Hawkins, coaches after the play praised Big Dan for that, flushing Dobbs to the left and throwing it away incomplete.
6. Tuzar Skipper and JT Jones the OLBs. Power run with Ralph Webb having the carry. Skipper shed Gentry’s block and got in on the stop. Pickup of five.
7. Matakevich/Spillane at ILB. Trey Edmunds run left side. Cam Sutton first man in going low to take out Edmunds’ legs while Daniel McCullers made sure Edmunds wasn’t going anywhere. Tomlin praised Sutton’s toughness. He’s been solid against the run. Feels like an improvement over his first two years.
8. Sutton Smith at FB. Spillane must’ve known what was coming, flying in the backfield to blow Smith up in the backfield and the first man to bump into Webb. Pinballed around by nearly half the defense but somehow kept his feet and fell forward for a gain of three. Tough run. Gonna feel that one in the morning.
9. Bubble/swing screen from Mason Rudolph complete to Ryan Switzer. Mike Hilton reads it and makes the stop for just one yard. Believe this is the play where Switz hurt his quad.
10. Bush/Barron at ILB. Throw left side complete from Rudolph to Eli Rogers. Nice run after catch, throwing a stiff arm to Edmunds’ helmet, juking Kameron Kelly, and forcing Edmunds to recover and chase him down from behind. Eight yard play.
11. Snell carry left side. Bud Dupree blowing the run up. Snell bounces it left side and finds a crease. Mason Rudolph got out in front and squared up to Vince Williams (uh, bad idea) but I think he let him go. Hilton cut Snell down for a run of five.
12. Herb Waters and Justin Layne the CBs. Malik Williams off left side. Reserve defensive linemen Conor Sheehy helped string the run out wide. Ulysees Gilbert III flew in to make the tackle while Jordan Dangerfield helped clean it up. Call it a loss of one.
13. Travon McMillan now off left side. Tegray Scales on the stop after a five yard rush.
14. Williams back in. Good down blocks, Scotland-Williamson had the key on working against Skipper. Williams steps out of a Dangerfield tackle, races down the right sideline before getting pushed out of bounds. Great run of 20 to around midfield.
15. Clogged lane up the middle for Travon McMillan. Henry Mondeaux and JT Jones there. No gain.
Third Team Session
1. No huddle period. Barron/Bush at ILB, Steelers in the nickel. Diontae Johnson seeing first team work, on the outside with James Washington and JuJu Smith-Schuster in the slot. Swing pass complete by Ben to Conner left side. Edmunds touches up for a two yard gain.
2. Ben throws a fastball to McDonald on a dig route in front of Kelly. 12 yard gain.
3. Smith-Schuster, running a curl, catches this throw from Ben. Two yard pickup.
4. Empty set. Five yard out from Ben to Eli, Edmunds with the shove out of bounds left side.
5. Empty again. Deep throw by Ben down the right seam for Smith-Schuster. Can’t quite fit it in between Edmunds and Kelly, the pass tipped by one of them, then by JuJu, and the ball falls incomplete at JuJu’s feet as he falls onto his back.
6. Another out route, Ben to Washington working on Haden. Nine yard throw and catch.
7. 2nd team comes in. Rudolph empty. Scramble drill and Spencer slowed up too much. Rudolph points to him to break off his route and go to the left side. Complete as Brian Allen tags him up. Gain of a couple, 4 or 5.
8. Rudolph finds Tevin Jones complete moving left to right for six.
9. Complete to Spencer from Rudolph for 13 yards.
10. Six yard completion from Rudolph to Grimble on a crosser. JT Jones ripped under Jerald Hawkins to apply pressure.
11. Weird snap. Line didn’t move or something. Dobbs complete to Jones, who gained a little traction today though it was only a gain of about one.
12. Dobbs hard count gets the defense to move. Dravon Askew-Henry flies in free. Dobbs hits Trey Griffey, his first catch of camp. Jordan Dangerfield congratulates him by driving him into the ground for a four yard reception.
13. Nice ILB blitz by Tegray Scales, swimming over Trey Edmunds. Dobbs rolls right and hits Trevor Wood downfield. Decent pickup, call it a 13 yard gain.
14. Final play of the no huddle session, only 14 this time instead of the standard five. Curl complete from Dobbs to Jones. Nice stunt pickup by the offensive line.
Fourth Team Session
1. Situational football day. Ball at the one yard line. Barron/Bush at ILB. Tuitt-Hargrave-Heyward. Ben with the QB sneak, bouncing right side. Has some fun with it, sprinting downfield, turning back and waving at JuJu to get him to run along. Pitches it back to Smith-Schuster and they run the last 40 yards into the end zone, high-fiving each other before crossing the goal line. You can see a photo I snapped of it here.
2. Short throw over center from Dobbs to Conner incomplete. Broken up again by Devin Bush, his second of the day.
3. Vince/Bush at ILB. Conner carrying left side.. jump cut before hitting the hole. Tuitt sheds Finney. Gain of three.
4. Ben back in at QB. Washington beat Haden down the right side, catching the ball at the 35 and juking Edmunds facing over to the ball. Call it a gain of 39.
5. Snell carry left side. Outruns PJ Locke, who had an angle but didn’t seem to be moving full speed, and throws a stiff arm at Sutton’s helmet. Run of 19.
6. Nice blocking up front, Snell hitting the B gap and bursting through the other side before Tyson Alualu can close the hole. Another 19 yard run though this was a non-tackling session.
7. Hooks-McCullers-Alualu the d-line. Matakevich/Spillane at inside linebacker. Playaction. JT Jones again dipping under Hawkins. Spillane gets pressure on Rudolph and the coaches blow it dead in the end zone for a “safety.”
8. Tuitt and Hargrave stuffs Samuels up the gut. Gain of just one.
9. Williams up the middle. Watched Bush in particular on this play, reading the Lead Strong action, planting his left foot in the ground, and firing downhill to help blow it up. Tuitt shed Foster for a short gain, 2 or 3.
10. Adeniyi/Sutton Smith the first team pairing, a lot of mixing and matching this session on both sides of the ball. Throw from Roethlisberger to Webb is off his hand and incomplete. Villanueva sealed Smith upfield.
11. Sheehy-Mondeaux-Craig the DL pairing. Roethlisberger a ten yard completion to Tevin Jones working on Justin Layne. Smith looked fluid in his hook/curl drop.
12. Roosevelt Nix with the rare carry left side. Shows a little wiggle before Scales taps him up. Run of four.
13. Malik Williams on the edge. Allen tagged him for three. Mike Hilton getting a rep at free safety, something Keith Butler suggested yesterday.
Fifth Team Session
1. Ball at the offense’s own 21. Vince Williams dapping up the whole defense before the first play. He stands opposite Devin Bush. Adeniyi/Jones at OLB, Kelly/Edmunds at safety, Haden/Nelson on the outside with Hilton slot corner. Toss left to Jaylen Samuels. Hilton flying in to tag him up for a loss of three. Gave the Dikembe Mutombo finger wag – No no no – to the sideline.
2. James Conner right side. Trap block, Foster pulling. Adeniyi gets sealed down by Bush scrapes over and tags him up after a pickup of two.
3. Barron/Bush at ILB. Roethlisberger throw for McDonald broken up nicely by Mark Barron. Adeniyi’s punch on Matt Feiler had no effect.
4. RPO, or a hot read by Ben, complete to JuJu down the left seam for nine yards.
5. Snell run right side. Spillane chases him while Hassenauer logged one of the linebackers. Good run of eight.
6. Dobbs throws sidearm complete to Snell on Dirty Red for three. Sutton Smith couldn’t bend the edge.
7. Sayles/Buggs at DL. Dobbs throw to Samuels is a little behind and incomplete. Smith dipped past Hawkins.
8. Locke/Allen at safety. Burns/Sutton at CB. D-line slow off the line. Webb has daylight left side before Locke tags him. Gain of 14.
9. Trey Edmunds right side, bending it back from the left. Kameron Kelly first man in with Vince Williams cleaning it up. Goes for five.
10. Rudolph a hurried throw complete to Johnson for seven. False run key, Foster pulling around. Rudolph got squeezed between him and Finney, bouncing into #67 before getting the pass off.
11. McMillan toss left. Steven Nelson first man there while Alualu knocks the rookie back down. Four yard pickup.
12. Scales/Gilbert III at ILB. Devlin Hodges complete to Snell on a screen. Fred Johnson out in front, moving well and blocks Askew-Henry. Scales comes in and gives Snell a hard, high shove after an 18 yard pickup.
13. Garrett Brumfield whiffs on his pull left to right on Sutton Smith, the rookie ‘backer giving him the olé. Malik Williams still goes for eight until Jordan Dangerfield tags him.
14. Mondeaux/Craig at d-line pairing. Dangerfield/Marcelis Branch at safety. Askew-Henry roles down in the slot. Hodges complete to Griffey right side on an RPO. Five yard pass.
15. Greg Gilmore at NT. Sutton Smith and Tegray Scales converge on Williams for a gain of three to end the day.
– Like the running back group. Athleticism to win the corner. Malik Williams is a particularly above average athlete and someone to watch.
– Mentioned it before but like Christian Scotland-Williamson’s work ethic. Always improving, taking that extra rep or coaching point. During the KR session he wasn’t involved in, chatted with James Daniel and got a few pointers.
– Little more action from Tevin Jones and to a lesser extent, Trey Griffey today. They needed it.
– LSU linemen struggling. Hawkins and Brumfield. Hawkins looks like a guy who missed a full year while Brumfield can’t stay off the ground.
– Winston Craig still one of the more impressive reserve defensive linemen. Isaiah Buggs had a nice day too. Hand use lets him shed blocks and get after the quarterback. Definitely has the feel of the #6 d-linemen.
– Bevy of talented pass rushers. JT Jones flashed a bit today. May be a little inconsistent with a slighter frame but he’s quick and is going to win enough to pop. Ola Adeniyi ran with the 1’s and was a little quieter, Matt Feiler is a different type of tackle than Hawkins, but liked his run defense today.
– Might have been Devin Bush’s best day so far. Two breakups in coverage in team sessions, though Snell gave him fits in one v one. Off day was a good breather.
– Another nice practice for Daniel McCullers. Way this is going, there won’t be any question if he makes the team.
St. Vincent Snapshot
Players riding up on the cart after practice. Matt Feiler and Brian Allen two of the players pictured below. Allen posed for a fan trying to take a picture as the cart made its way up the hill.
Twitter Camp Question
Steelers Highlight (You Probably Don’t Remember)
1983. A 33 year old Franco Harris moves into 2nd place on the all-time rushing list, passing OJ Simpson while only trailing Jim Brown.
Bob Belcher Quote Of The Day
“Stupid Jimmy Pesto, with his crappy food and… all his customers.”