Night practice at Heinz Field, wrapping up nine practices in ten days, the longest stretch of camp. But we’re less than a week out from the first preseason game and the journey is just beginning. Let’s talk about Sunday’s practice.
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– Injury report: Not practicing at all tonight were: OG David DeCastro (rest), CB Derrek Thomas (unknown), FS Sean Davis (left ring finger), ILB Vince Williams (hamstring), OLB Anthony Chickillo (hamstring, and Christian Scotland-Williamson (groin). QB Ben Roethlisberger, WR Donte Moncrief, and OLB TJ Watt were all limited to individual sessions. Third day Roethlisberger hasn’t worked in full but he looked fine out there. Watt came off PUP and should be in team for Tuesday’s practice.
Practicing in full were: ILB Mark Barron, WR Diontae Johnson, TE Xavier Grimble, and CB Artie Burns. Johnson and Burns, according to Mike Tomlin, didn’t finish practice due to groin injuries. Kameron Canaday also went full and snapped in team sessions at speed and with contact so he’s in good health. No worries there after the MRI he had on his injured groin.
– Coach Tomlin led the Steelers out of the tunnel and players were accompanied by members of Pittsburgh’s Torch Run. Loud applause for the usual players: Tomlin, Roethlisberger, JuJu, and Ryan Shazier, who attended practice.
– First team o-line with DeCastro sitting out: Villanueva-Foster-Pouncey-Finney-Feiler
– Return line: Ryan Switzer, Eli Rogers, Diontae Spencer, Cam Sutton, and Diontae Johnson.
– DE Casey Sayles, who I saw snap once yesterday, snapped several times today.
– Mark Barron spent part of pre-practice talking with defensive assistant Teryl Austin. Looked like they were working on how to shed blocks in the run game.
– Austin, by the way, and I mentioned this before, runs the DB drills. He’s the dude who appears to be in charge, not Tom Bradley.
– I finally got eyes on WR/DB for camp. Here are my notes.
1. JuJu Smith-Schuster vs Steven Nelson. JuJu knocks Nelson’s hands down off the line and gets a step on him. Nice throw over his shoulder and he makes the catch.
2. Switzer does well to sell vertical against Mike Hilton, breaking down and creating space on Mike Hilton but the throw is off line and incomplete.
3. Good jam at the line by Burns on Johnson. Slant, Johnson head around a little late and the pass is behind, clipping through the rookie’s left shoulder pad and bouncing away incomplete.
4. Eli Rogers on a post corner post. Shakes Cam Sutton but the throw is a little out in front and hits off Rogers’ outstretched left hand. Incomplete.
5. James Washington easily crosses Brian Allen’s face on a post for the catch.
6. Justin Layne with the speed to run step-for-step with Johnny Holton. Breaks up nine route, incomplete.
7. Steven Nelson plants and drives to close and break up throw for Diontae Spencer running a curl.
8. Tevin Jones runs to the back left pylon. Nice throw over Artie Burns, who gave up some space at the end of the route looking for the ball, and it’s lofted over a leaping Burns. Jones comes down with it.
9. Smith-Schuster finds the ball working on Terrell Edmunds, it was underthrown any tough for the DB to track, and makes the reception as the crowd cheers.
10. Dig route by Tevin Jones easily beats Kameron Kelly.
11. Brandon Reilly runs an out ‘n up on Dravon Askew-Henry. DAH has good inside position and finds the ball, picking it off.
12. James Washington’s diving effort on a backshoulder throw fails, losing it on his way to the ground. Versus Nelson.
13. Nice stem on his route by Switzer to beat Hilton on a skinny post.
14. Cam Sutton tries to trail inside of Spencer but loses some ground with Spencer’s speed. Ball a low liner and falls in front of Spencer, incomplete.
15. Tevin Jones plucks the ball over Burns but it’s caught out of bounds, at least according to the refs, for the incompletion.
16. Pivot route by Eli Rogers is incomplete against PJ Locke.
17. Layne covering Washington on a post corner. Incomplete.
18. Marcelis Branch misses his jam at the line against Trey Griffey. Creates enough space for Griffey to make a diving catch in the end zone.
19. Diontae Johnson stem outside and able to run around Brian Allen as he breaks on his in cut, making the catch. Nice rep.
20. Good fight on this backshoulder throw, JuJu vs Nelson, but JuJu makes the catch.
21. Jones with a shove on Burns as he makes his cut on a five yard out, finishing the play with a catch.
22. Ball near moved near the goal line. Out route by Switzer beats a stiff looking Kelly.
23. Joe Haden, despite jamming his hand into Washington’s chest, can’t pull the ball out as Washington ran a slant. Good route, getting on his toes before making his break.
24. Out route by Spencer on Locke. Throw off line and incomplete.
25. Reilly beats press coverage to haul in a back shoulder throw for the score. Not sure who the corner was. Allen or Layne.
26. Burns misses his jam off the line. Jones breaks inward in the back of the end zone and then tries to pivot away. Burns grabs his jersey, drawing a flag, but Jones makes a diving catch anyway.
27. Crisp out route by Rogers to beat Edmunds.
28. Switzer runs a pivot but Askew-Henry undercuts it. Switzer falls backward on an attempted catch but it’s incomplete.
29. Nelson breakup at the catch point on backshoulder throw for Johnson.
30. Ball thrown by Ben right there as JuJu comes out of his out cut to the front left pylon. Can’t get his hands up in time and it’s incomplete. Burns covering.
31. Brian Allen breaks up attempted throw on out route to Jones.
32. Nice stem by Griffey to beat Sutton for the score.
33. Nelson another breakup, again on Spencer.
34. Nice catch over his head in the back of the end zone by Washington working on Hilton.
35. In/out/in stem by Rogers gets space on Branch. Pass high, over his head, and it’s through Rogers’ hands and incomplete.
36. Nelson rides JuJu along the left sideline. Clips off Smith-Schuster’s left hand and incomplete.
37. Ball out of bounds intended for Switzer on Sutton.
38. Layne breaks up pass to Jones.
39. Washington beats Nelson off the line and wins to the inside. Nelson stops up, throws his hand at him as if to say “go ahead, kid” and Washington makes the grab.
– Ok, let’s go through the couple of OL/DL I have.
1. Cam Heyward gets into Jerald Hawkins’ pads and walks him back.
2. Isaiah Buggs can’t rip under Garrett Brumfield.
3. Javon Hargrave fails to swim Patrick Morris.
4. Outside jab, inside counter by Tyson Alualu burns Fred Johnson.
5. Took awhile and he got moved up the arc but Stephon Tuitt eventually ripped past Chukwuma Okorafor.
6. Either Winston Craig slipped or Morris did a nice job of chopping his wrists, sending Craig to the ground at Morris’ feet.
7. They go again. Craig can’t disengage but walks Morris back with a bull rush.
8. Tuzar Skipper’s rip fails and Jerald Hawkins throws him to the ground. Good rep for Hawk.
9. Coaches want a rematch. Hawkins doubles over but hangs on against Skipper, sealing his inside counter.
10. Buggs works upfield but spins back to the inside to beat Brumfield.
11. Daniel McCullers knows how to win with power. Here though? Shows some finesse. Morris waiting for the bull rush that never comes, gets dusted by McCullers clubbing him and swapping hips past. I’m not sure if the smiles and looks of “woah” on the expression of players like Tuitt was about McCullers pulling that rabbit out of his hat but it sure felt like it.
12. Zach Banner able to repunch after missing and wins on Lavon Hooks.
13. Bull to swim combo by Ola Adeniyi beats Okorafor.
14. Banner seemed to give too much ground and Sutton Smith spins off him to win.
15. Take two. Smith able to dip under Banner, that’s easy enough when it’s 6’9 vs 6’0 but Smith can’t win the edge, Banner using his size to seal him.
16. Johnson and Banner had one terrible stunt pickup vs Sayles and Smith, Banner not taking the looping Sayles.
– Some notes from 7v7. Just random observations.
– PJ Locke broke up a throw to Zach Gentry over the middle, punching the ball out at the catch point.
– Spencer had another drop over the middle on a dig route. Hit him in the chest and popped out.
– Dravon Askew-Henry knocked away throw by Ben to Switzer over the middle.
– Lot of special teams emphasis today. Specifically, with the kickers, now that Canaday is back to snapping. Here are the results:
Chris Boswell went 7/8. Makes from: 32, 36, 38, 32, 36, 42, and 52. Only miss was from 50. Believe it was wide left.
UDFA rookie Matthew Wright went just 5/8. Makes from: 32, 38, 32, 36, and 43. Misses from: 36, 50, and 52. 36 yarder was wide left, the 52 yarder short and maybe a little right. His leg was one concern coming out of UCF. And this clearly wasn’t a great day.
– Jordan Berry had a great punt that landed inside the ten, Switzer let it go, and Sutton knocked back at the one yard line, downed at the two by Brian Allen.
– During ST sessions, today or otherwise, Dobbs, Rudolph, and Hodges are always working with an assistant coach to get a few throws in. Maximize the opportunity.
– Ok, let’s talk team sessions.
First Team Session (Seven Shots)
1. Ball on the two, like always. Josh Dobbs in at QB. With Williams out, Devin Bush and Mark Barron the ILBs. Empty set. Touchdown to Grimble on a curl, boxing out Edmunds.
2. Ola Adeniyi and Bud Dupree the OLBs. Dobbs wants McDonald along the right sideline but it’s broken up nicely by Edmunds.
3. Bunch left. James Conner in the backfield. Dobbs to Smith-Schuster on a curl underneath the goal posts. Kameron Kelly came flying in to tip it into the air. JuJu nearly caught it on the way back down but Edmunds, active already, helped knock it out again and incomplete. JuJu still almost had the juggling catch.
4. Throw in the left flat from Dobbs for Eli Rogers. Brian Allen tracks it and dives to bat it away at the goal line.
5. Mason Rudolph in at QB. Backshoulder throw intended for Washington right side falls incomplete. Layne with the coverage.
6. O-line: Hawkins-Hassenauer-Morris-Johnson-Okorafor. JT Jones comes in free off the edge. Corner route results in a touchdown to Washington breaking away from safety PJ Locke.
7. Last one. Stick route right side complete to Switzer, thrown away from ILB Robert Spillane.
Defense first win in awhile, 4-3. Your camp tally:
Second Team Session
1. Run session. Full contact. Rudolph in at QB. Johnson and Washington the outside receivers, Rogers in the slot. Ball on the offense’s own 40. Jaylen Samuels carry left side. Xavier Grimble pulled and knocked Barron back but Barron able to keep his feet and make the drag down tackle after a run of seven.
2. Botched snap between Pouncey and Rudolph. Ball rolls on the ground. Dead play but like the heads up nature Benny Snell showed, racing in to scoop it up and run before Devin Bush could recover. Nice ball awareness from the rookie. Those things matter to coaches.
3. Samuels again on the carry, following the pulling Finney. Looked like Dupree made quick work of Gentry, shedding him, and coming in to make the stop. Three yard run with Samuels falling forward.
4. Playaction. Quick throw left side to hit Washington on a curl. Nelson wraps and spins him around a few times before Washington goes to the ground. Four yard play.
5. Ralph Webb off right side. Sutton Smith had the edge but Grimble still did well to turn and run him out. Brian Allen fills the alley with Lavon Hooks flowing to help get in on the stop. Gain of four.
6. Nickel blitz by Cam Sutton, stopping Trey Edmunds at the line of scrimmage. Sutton’s run defense continues to impress.
7. Heave down the left sideline by Devlin Hodges. Good arm and placement to connect with Diontae Spencer. Layne couldn’t find the ball. Jordan Dangerfield races and knocks him out of bounds but not until it’s a 46 yard pitch and catch. Probably 15 yards of those were YAC. Fred Johnson pulled to give a false run key.
8. Edmunds again not having much room to work with. Stood up at the line. Tegray Scales came in free and closed downhill. Call it a gain of one.
9. Skipper with a nice TFL, dipping under and beating Banner off the offense’s right side. Stops Malik Williams for a loss of three.
10. Lot of stop-start for Travon McMillan as he tries to pick a lane. Hops over several linemen on the ground but Scales makes an ankle tackle. Gain of three.
Third Team Session
1. Haden and Nelson at corner. Edmunds/Kelly at safety. Cam Heyward one of the two nickel linemen. Samuels tagged immediately on this throw left flat by Dobbs. Just a catch of one.
2. Dobbs finds Washington along left sideline vs zone coverage. Goes for 16.
3. Tunnel screen from Dobbs to Tevin Jones is dropped.
4. Four receiver set. Dobbs hits Griffey on a crosser working left to right. Goes for 6.
5. Spencer catches a dig over the middle. Locke tags him up. 21 yard pickup from Rudolph.
6. Rudolph throw left side. Locke again on the stop. Three yard reception.
7. Reilly lines up at the X receiver. Rudolph playaction. Pressure leads to a throw away.
8. Pressure again, the pocket collapsing. McCullers came in free up the gut. Smith won his battle too. Incomplete on an over route, Rudolph missing short to Kevin Rader. Scales covering.
9. Edmunds has a hole left side. Villanueva cleared out Dupree. Kelly has to make the top but it goes for 11.
10. Playaction. Tuitt pressure. Dobbs flushed right. Just tucks and runs out of bounds. Looks like attempted TE screen Adeniyi disrupted.
11. Low throw but Jones snags it left side versus Nelson. Devin Bush blitzed and got pressure. 11 yard completion.
12. Nice hands catch by Rader, who has shown suspect hands, between Askew-Henry and Ulysees Gilbert III. Five yard pickup.
13. Rudolph playaction. Another catch by Rader in the right flat. Askew-Henry tags up. Brumfield pulling on this one. Play goes for two.
14. First actual sack of camp. Isaiah Buggs bumps the linemen he was working on, maybe Brumfield, and runs him into Hodges. Hodges falls down onto his back. But he was ok.
15. Hodges shows off his arm deep right side to Washington but misses him by a step or two down the right sideline. Skipper blew through third team LT Damian Prince to apply pressure to Hodges’ blindside.
Fourth Team Session
1. Another full contact session. Conner left side. Roosevelt Nix his lead blocker. Bush holds Conner up and drags him down for a run of three.
2. Conner right side but it’s clogged and again Sutton in there for the run stop. He was one of several Steelers’ defenders. No gain.
3. Dobbs in at QB. Samuels carry left side. Brian Allen makes the open field tackle but not until Samuels has a pickup of eight. Gets a high five from Tomlin as he heads off to the side, another back rotating in.
4. And Benny Snell is that back rotating in. Nice run. Steps out of a Tyler Matakevich tackle left side, a power run strung out but well blocked and Snell shows balance to keep his feet before falling forward. Justin Layne, trying to work around a block, trips him up after a five yard run.
5. Dart run, Feiler pulling right to left. Snell has the speed to turn the corner. Spillane takes a good angle and Dangerfield helps clean things up but this too goes for eight.
6. Heck of a play by a man we don’t discuss much on here, Tyson Alualu. Turned his shoulders to split the double-team of Alejandro Villanueva and Ramon Foster to stuff Ralph Webb for just a run of a lone yard.
Fifth Team Session
1. Goal line session. Ball at the one. Highlight of camp though it felt a little less intense today. Conner follows Rosie Nix through the hole off right guard, making his way into the end zone without much resistance. Good blocking.
2. Six offensive linemen in. Feiler kicked to RG, Finney to center, Okorafor elevated to RT with Pouncey dinged up at the end of practice. Jerald Hawkins the 6th offensive linemen. Playaction. Rudolph wants McDonald on the corner but like in seven shots, it’s broken up by Edmunds.
3. Feiler pulls right to left. Samuels follows. Stuffed at the 1/2 yard line. Not sure by who, the big screen didn’t show a replay, but I think it was Hooks who stopped him shy of the chalk. Either way, win for the defense.
4. 6 offensive linemen in again. Feiler pulls again. Samuels bounces the run off his left hip and turns the corner for the score.
5. Dobbs in at QB. Snell facing some backfield penetration, cutting left and tries to hit it upfield. Alualu makes the ankle tackle around the line of scrimmage.
6. Feiler pulling again. Lot of guards on the move today. Snell shows patience, putting his hand on Feiler’s back to read and feel the block, and Feiler runs through Brian Allen as Snell follows and falls over the goal line. Touchdown.
7. Trey Edmunds gets a crack at things. Falls over the goal line, Marcelis Branch unable to get there in time. Touchdown.
If you’re scoring at home, offense won this goal line session 4-3.
– Diontae Spencer has a similar issue as Diontae Johnson. Hands aren’t bad but they can be so focused on getting upfield, they’ll lose focus, take their eyes off the ball and not see it in the whole way, and it makes them prone to drops. For Spencer, it’s especially apparent on in-breaking routes when he has space. Two drops on the same route and depth the last few practices.
– Better day for Jerald Hawkins. We’ll see how it goes moving forward but want to note it considering how constantly critical we’ve been. Hope it continues. Fingers crossed.
– Isaiah Buggs, as his college tape suggests, can win in a lot of different ways as a pass rusher. Swipe, swim, bull, even will throw in a spin. Not every pass rusher needs eight ways to get after the quarterback but more options don’t hurt, especially if you aren’t an elite athlete who can win even when the opposition knows what you’re going to do.
– Like Dravon Askew-Henry in coverage more than most of the back end safeties. Think he has a little bit of a corner background, played a handful of slot snaps in camp this year, and it shows one-on-one. Can sink and change directions and drive on the ball better than say, someone like Kameron Kelly, who is predictably stiff in those situations. DAH may have a sneaky home on the practice squad if his preseason goes well.
– Justin Layne can make plays on the ball with his length and size but he has trouble locating it vertically. That’s what happened on the Spencer 46 yard play. It’ll come with time and reps but he’s gotta look for the ball less and let the receiver’s eyes and hands take him to it instead. Still, I am encouraged by the progress he’s shown in a short amount of time.
St. Vincent Heinz Field Snapshot
Ryan Switzer beating Mike Hilton down the seam in one on ones.
Twitter Camp Question
Less so of a question, I know, but since Bradley’s name was brought up. He’s still there, obviously, I know Joe knows that, but it definitely feels like he’s the assistant. He may talk with a player waiting in line directly or someone who just finished their rep to go over a specific coaching point but Austin is the one who previews the drill, runs the drill, the dude standing at the JUGs machine as all the DBs coach before practice. I wouldn’t be shocked if Austin ends up spending this year on the sidelines instead of the booth like planned.
Steelers Highlight (You Probably Don’t Remember)
One of two “rushing” attempts Heath Miller had in his career. This lateral from Roethlisberger in 2011, moving the sticks.
Bob Belcher Quote Of The Day
“Ok, fine, but I’m going to complain the whole time.”