– A sunnier and much drier Wednesday afternoon of practice at St. Vincent College. Tomorrow is the final day of camp before they break for 2019. Lot more to talk about today than yesterday so let’s get into it.
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– Injury report. Little bit longer today but still in a pretty good place for this time of year. Not practicing at all today were: C Maurkice Pouncey (unknown), OG David DeCastro (unknown), CB Joe Haden (ankle), TE Christian Scotland-Williamson (left hamstring), TE Zach Gentry (chest), ILB Devin Bush (unknown), and ILB Vince Williams (left hamstring).
Williams was running and cutting full speed by the end of practice. I’m hoping he can go tomorrow and get the final practice in. Haden did some jogging and played catch with Terrell Edmunds in the stretch line, jumping around to catch one-handed passes. Ankle looks fine and I think he’ll be able to play in the third preseason game, the tune-up for the starters.
Scotland-Williamson traced the field throughout practice. He’ll still be a few days away, I’m not optimistic he can play this weekend but think he’ll be back for the final two games.
Limited in practice was OLB Sutton Smith. Had his shoulders pads removed before they even started 7 shots. Left hip issue it appears with him. He worked on the side throughout practice, taking reps on his punch during the ST sessions so I don’t think he’s terribly far away from a return.
Humid day and that might’ve chased some of the players from the field. BJ Finney went off pretty early in the day. And OT Zach Banner battled the heat throughout. Sat on the cooler in the middle of the field after seven shots, talking with a couple of trainers, getting a drink of water, before putting his helmet on and attempting to finish the day. It didn’t happen. Got through most of it but looks like he got sick during OL/DL, they moved the group ten yards away (which reminds me of this scene from The Replacements) and he didn’t participate in the rest of OL/DL or the final team session. While he’s done well to get his weight down and logged a lot of reps this camp, there is still a small conditioning issue with him on those really muggy days.
– Expected but a much bigger crowd on-hand today. And though hearts were still heavy, a much more spirited practice. Team was in pads after working in shells yesterday which naturally ups the tempo and spirits were higher. Saw JuJu Smith-Schuster joke around and feel more like his usual self, picking off a pass in warmups while playing defense and flipping it back to Donte Moncrief, who threw it forward to him in the end zone. Just the small stuff that makes you know the team will get through this, as difficult a time as it was.
– New face for the first one out. Cam Sutton first dude down the steps at 2:33 PM, hopping onto the JUGs machine.
– Assistant OL coach Adrian Klemm working with Jerald Hawkins on his kickslide before the first practice horn sounded.
– First team OL: Villanueva-Foster-Finney-Feiler-Okorafor
Patrick Morris replaced Finney as first team center when Finney left early.
– Second team OL: Banner-Johnson-Morris-Gray-Hawkins
– Third team OL: Prince-Brumfield-Morris-Hassenauer-Hawkins
– William Gay, Blaine Stewart, and Ray Sherman all worked with the WRs today as they went through drills.
– Return line: Eli Rogers, Diontae Spencer, Ryan Switzer, Diontae Johnson, and Cam Sutton.
Spencer dropped two punts in the return line. No one should drop any in these low-pressure situations. Switzer had one too. Sure the group is still working on trying to put their focus back on football. So you can still sense it in those moments even though, like I said at the top, spirits were better today than yesterday.
– Sutton set the record with eight footballs caught in the PR challenge but he cheated – or was brilliant, depending how you look at it – and Danny Smith was getting on him for it. Tucked two footballs in his jersey. One in the front, one in the back. Allowed him to finish with eight. You can see how it looked here.
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) August 14, 2019
– Looked like there was work with the FG unit. Mostly defenders there, as you’d expect, but Danny Smith stole Fred Johnson and Zach Banner away from Shaun Sarrett for a few minutes. Wonder if you’ll see either of them there in the preseason. Banner’s height and length makes him an interesting prospect there.
– Spotted Ryan Shazier again at practice today. Chatted up TJ Watt, Bud Dupree, and Keith Butler early on. Devin Bush hung around him for a bit later on.
– Matt Symmes, tabbed as an assistant but works closest with the QBs, chatted up OC Randy Fichtner while the team was in the stretch line.
– Hard to beat the environment at Latrobe. James Conner signed for fans before practice as he so often does. He also quickly signed for two kids during practice who were on the field with their family via a field pass. Made their day. JuJu high-fived a throng of fans walking down the sideline after a catch in individual work. Around the same time, Ben Roethlisberger and Donte Moncrief missed on a curl route and the ball skipped into the fans on the side. A SVC staffer went to retrieve the ball back but Roethlisberger called over to left the fan keep it. Just cool moments you don’t see pretty much anywhere else.
– In drills, receivers forced to catch the ball with one-hand. Went in a line, making left-handed grabs (right hand behind their backs), then turned and went the other away for right-handed grabs.
– Mike Tomlin impressed with Xavier Grimble on the blocking sleds today. “Wow, good lick! Good lick, X” he yelled out.
– Daniel McCullers ran some gassers after practice. More evidence of the work he’s been putting in.
– Some special teams notes. Have some punters yardage and hangtime.
Jordan Berry: 4.72 (50 yards, ball at the one), 4.55 (52 yards), 4.46 (48 yards, ball at the offense’s own 21), 4.38 (57 yards), 4.36 (52 yards)
Ian Berryman: 3.41 (38 yards, ball at the one), 4.47 (56 yards, ball at the offense’s own 21), 4.27 (47 yards), 4.39 (54 yards).
Berryman had one blocked. Believe OLB JT Jones got a hand on it.
– Tomlin impressed with upback Trey Edmunds on one rep. “Way to get stout, 33!” His special teams value give him really good odds of making the practice squad.
– William Gay acted as a gunner on at least one rep.
– Spotted GM Kevin Colbert and area scout Dave Petett on the practice field today.
– Let’s jump into OL/DL.
1. Zach Banner, before the heat got to him, seals Anthony Chickillo upfield, Chickillo falling to the ground. Banner working as the left tackle here.
2. Isaiah Buggs got upfield and hit Fred Johnson with a wicked inside spin, beating him clean and sending Johnson upfield as Buggs won. Awesome rep by Buggs.
3. They go again. Buggs shows power this time to slowly work his way through Johnson.
4. JC Hassenauer anchors against Daniel McCullers.
5. Derwin Gray shows power to sit on Henry Mondeaux’s bull rush.
6. Mondeaux shows more success on this bull against Gray.
7. Nice club and swim from Ola Adeniyi against Jerald Hawkins. Quick victory.
8. Hawkins wins the rematch, chopping Adeniyi’s hands down as he hit the ground. Ramon Foster gives Hawkins a well-earned chest bump.
9. One more time through, Hawkins vs Adeniyi. Adeniyi starts outside, tries to counter inside, but Hawkins is able to sit and stay square. Wins the matchup and takes the series.
10. Swim to bull from Anthony Chickillo fails on Banner.
– Notes from team sessions.
First Team Session (Seven Shots)
1. TJ Watt first man in the end zone, dapping up his teammates as they make their way in. Tyler Matakevich and Mark Barron at ILB. Ben Roethlisberger hits Vance McDonald left slot, McDonald lined up in the slot, to make the grab boxing out Steven Nelson, who couldn’t manage to break it up.
2. Roethlisberger hits Smith-Schuster in the right flat for the touchdown, crossing the goal line with Terrell Edmunds tugging on the back of his jersey.
3. Floater from Roethlisberger to JuJu left side, near the back of the end zone, but Edmunds wins this time, flying in from centerfield to bat the ball away with a right hand.
4. Reverse, Switzer taking the ball and pitching it back to Smith-Schuster. Don’t know if there was a planned pass element to this or not but JuJu threw it anyway, the reverse sniffed out by the defense, and Mark Barron tapped both feet inbounds for the pick along the left side of the end zone.
5. Josh Dobbs in at QB. Throw in the back of the end zone caught by Xavier Grimble over the middle with a step on Justin Layne. Think it was inbounds but one DB seemed to think Grimble didn’t get both feet down. For now, I have this as a TD.
6. Dobbs pump fake. Hits Diontae Johnson in the end zone, Marcus Allen pulling up for only minor contact just over the goal line.
7. Dobbs to Diontae again. Curl route, one yard deep, complete to the rookie as Justin Layne pushes him out of the end zone. Still a score.
Offense wins the day 5-2. They’ll win the camp battle. Here are the updated numbers.
Second Team Session
1. Ball at the offense’s own 10. Tuitt-McCullers-Alualu along the defensive line. Artie Burns and Steven Nelson at CB. Edmunds and Davis at safety. Watt and Dupree the OLBs. Morris in at center for Finney. Run right side with James Conner. No full-tackling session but Conner still able to jet away from Burns and turns the corner, tearing off down the right side. 18 yard gain.
2. Mark Barron sheds his block to stop Jaylen Samuels in the hole. Gain of four.
3. Conner carry left side. Nice job by Nelson to keep a lid on it and keep Conner contained. Dupree with the stuff at the line of scrimmage.
4. Dobbs playaction. Well covered deep so he smartly checks down to Conner in the left flat. Matakevich trips him up for a completion of six yards.
5. Dobbs playfake again. Little bit of a low throw on a crosser for Donte Moncrief working left to right but still catchable. Clicks off Crief’s hands, incomplete. Going to put it down as a drop.
6. Mailk Williams carry left side. Lavon Hooks and Henry Mondeaux combined on the stop, together literally lifting Williams off his feet and into the air. I assume to shake him out for his lunch money. Gain of one.
7. Williams with more of a lane here. Tagged up after a run of eight. Cam Sutton chases him downfield before peeling off.
8. Mason Rudolph comes in. Chucks a deep ball right sideline for James Washington. Justin Layne with perfect coverage, running step for step, and the pass falls a half-yard over their heads incomplete. Nice rep by Layne.
9. RPO, Rudolph firing right side to Johnny Holton on a screen. Looked like Layne made the stop in the backfield. Loss of four. Good read and react.
10. Devlin Hodges complete to Holton on a curl working on Brian Allen. Gain of 10. Chickillo beat Garrett Brumfield pretty bad to get pressure.
11. JT Jones/Tuzar Skipper the OLBs. Hooks and Conor Sheehy the DL. Tegray Scales and Ulysees Gilbert III at inside linebacker. Good blocking up front by the o-line. Benny Snell has a lane and picks up ten before Marcelis Branch lays a hand on him.
12. Prince-Brumfield-Hassenauer-Gray-Hawkins the offensive line combination. Marcus Allen creeps in to meet Williams at the LOS but Williams is able to juke right and cut upfield. Pickup of four.
Third Team Session
1. Ball at the 15. 3rd and 4th down, situational session for this whole team drill. Hargrave/Alualu the nickel d-tackles. Roethlisberger complete to McDonald in the right flat for a gain of seven before Burns comes in for the stop.
2. Hot throw over the middle by Roethlisberger complete to Grimble, really zipped it in there, so Hilton couldn’t knock it away. Gain of 20.
3. Moncrief and JuJu on the outside, Eli Rogers in the slot. Hilton nickel blitz off the offense’s right side. Unblocked so Ben throws quick to hit Rogers on a five yard out.
4. Screen left to McDonald. Ramon Foster out in front to lend a block. Gain of nine before the whistle blows.
5. 3rd and 9. Low snap from Morris and Roethlisberger can’t handle it. Play blown dead.
6. Robert Spillane and UG3 at ILB. Jaylen Samuels aligned slot right. Deep ball from Roethlisberger down the right sideline intended for Johnny Holton but Burns ran with him and broke it up. Got a high-five from Teryl Austin after the play was over.
7. Think Chickillo jumped offsides. Dobbs threw a jump ball right sideline for Johnson but he either slipped or got bumped by Layne. Pass easily incomplete.
8. Ryan Switzer and Diontae Spencer on the outside with Johnson in the slot. Receivers moving around. Dobbs complete to Trevor Wood on a hank (curl) route. Gilbert bumps him down. Goes for 10.
9. Mondeaux and Casey Sayles the d-line pairing. Dobbs in an empty set. Good pass pro and pocket given to him. Hits Samuels on a crosser working left to right. Pickup of 10.
10. Kameron Kelly and Jordan Dangerfield the safety pairing. Screen left that’s well defended. Not 100% sure which defender nearly had the pick but someone did. Might’ve been Skipper.
11. Nothing open downfield so Mason Rudolph simply tucks and runs.
12. Jermaine Ponder and Trevon Mathis at CB. PJ Locke and Marcus Allen at safety. Brandon Reilly and Trey Griffey on the outside at receiver with Tevin Jones in the slot. Another 10 yard out complete from Rudolph on the money to Reilly working on Mathis.
Fourth Team Session
1. Ball at the opposing 30. Roethlisberger still in. Empty. Both Conner and Samuels split out in this Pony grouping. Little pop pass from Ben to hit McDonald over the middle. Dupree collides into him and knocks the tight end down. Gain of 10.
2. JuJu, Washington, Moncrief trips right, McDonald isolated split out left. Scramble drill, Roethlisberger peeling to his right. Points to Moncrief, getting him to run across the field, and hits him in the end zone right side for the touchdown. 20 yard TD. Great play.
3. Short gain, call it two yards, by James Conner. Matakevich meets him with a thud.
4. Switzer again seeing reps on the outside. Empty set. Throw down the right seam a little high but catchable. Threw JuJu’s leaping hands, Sutton on the coverage. Incomplete.
5. Jaylen Samuels carry left side. Cam Heyward chases him laterally and Dupree works off McDonald’s block for the stop. Gain of just one.
6. Four receivers: Washington, Moncrief, Switzer (slot), and Smith-Schuster (slot). McDonald in the backfield next to Big Ben. Slant right complete from Ben to Moncrief for the touchdown, a five yard score.
7. Rudolph in at QB. Throw to the left sideline for Spencer but Brian Allen drives on the ball and takes it away for the INT. Defense got hyped for the takeaway.
8. Malik Williams up the middle for four.
9. Trey Edmunds now in at RB. Rudolph flushed left. Probably a forced throw, broken up in the end zone by Brian Allen. Chickillo beat Banner to the inside and Buggs chased Rudolph to force the ball out of his hands.
10. Williams another carry. Stuffed at the LOS. Kelly comes in from the edge to hit him up. No gain.
11. Benny Snell follows his blocks and ducks his head as he crosses the goal line. Five yard score.
12. Fade on the right side nearly caught by Holton but Ponder competes until the end and breaks it up as the two go to the ground. Incomplete.
Fifth Team Session
1. Two-minute drill. Ball at the offense’s own 42. Roethlisberger in at QB. Slot fade right side incomplete for Eli Rogers. Nice coverage by Hilton.
2. False start, offense has to kick back five yards. Out route intended for McDonald high and incomplete. Gilbert III covering.
3. Ben and McDonald connect this time, beating UG3 down the right seam. 17 yard pickup.
4. Roethlisberger spikes to stop the clock.
5. Short completion, JuJu making a high snag, for a gain of two on a shallow crosser.
6. Attempt for Rogers is incomplete, broken up by Hilton.
7. 4th and 8. Roethlisberger scrambles right and fires down the middle about 20 yards. Not sure who the target was. Matakevich should’ve had the pick but broke it up, a stop all the same.
8. Dobbs comes in to run it. Fred Johnson playing RT with Banner out. Derwin Gray false starts, jumping up mad at himself for moving too early, accidentally fooled by Dobbs’ hard count.
9. Ball now at the 31. Completion on a crosser left to right to Switzer, running away from Tegray Scales. Gain of 10.
10. James Washington creates space on a five yard dig to work away from Brian Allen. Complete. Goes for five.
11. Miscommunication, Washington breaking down on a curl while Dobbs throws deep. Incomplete.
12. Perhaps some miscommunication here, Switzer running a curl and the ball sailing over his head. Picked by Cam Sutton to end practice.
– Donte Moncrief has missed a good chunk of team sessions with that injured finger. Today was a really good practice and he showed a lot of chemistry with Roethlisberger. Learned how to play “Ben Ball” on that scramble drill.
– After getting those RT snaps at the end of today’s practice, Fred Johnson has now played every position except center in team drills this camp. Dude really feels like another Matt Feiler, though understandably, Johnson is more raw. Struggles with his base a bit more, being consistent with his punch and hand use and not getting uprighted. He has the strength to stall out bull rushes though.
– Based on where they’ve been running the last two days, Derwin Gray might’ve passed up JC Hassenauer at guard. Which is fine by me. I want to get a much longer look at Gray.
– Kevin Rader and Trevor Wood more work at TE today. Rader is a better blocker and slightly better route runner. Wood has the edge when it comes to hands. I don’t expect either to make the team, 53 or practice squad.
– Overall, good day for the defense. Coverage was a lot better and more competitive. Getting two stops in the no huddle session, neither offense getting past the defense’s 45 yard line, is awesome. And that was with Roethlisberger running the show one of those times, not the backups.
– Isaiah Buggs seriously flashes as a pass rusher. It may take awhile, considering who is in front of him, but he has eventual starter potential. He may be Heyward and Tuitt’s top backup as soon as next year.
– With the ILBs thin today, lot more reps for someone like Ulysees Gilbert III, who saw work against the starting offense throughout the day. Struggled some, getting burned by McDonald down the seam, but glad to see the chance for him to face different competition.
– Defense getting their hands on a lot of footballs in camp. They’re up to 20 INTs, as many as they had last year (which was a record as long as I’ve been tracking). But as last year showed, it doesn’t always translate. Steven Nelson and Cam Sutton tied for the team lead with three picks each.
– Brian Allen was active today. Got his hand on the football a lot. Still stiff and struggles some with his change of direction but a factor at the catch point.
– Nice practice for Justin Layne too. Get into a game, face starters like he did against Tampa. Practice sure has a way of slowing down a lot.
– Especially now that Davis is back, Marcus Allen is stuck running third team safety.
– Ian Berryman has a big leg but his hangtime and placement feels noticeably worse than Berry’s. That’s why Berry is probably going to keep his job. Hopefully they can get one more kicking session in for tomorrow’s practice with Chris Boswell and Matthew Wright.
St. Vincent Snapshot
View walking into the campus today.
Twitter Camp Question
Do you think that he will be in the roster? Seems that he is having a great camp
— Gagan 💚 (@gagan_78) August 14, 2019
Buggs? 100%. The Steelers always keep six linemen. And Buggs, at worst, is #6. More interesting question is if he can play early this season. If an injury happens, he’s definitely active, but I’d like to see him get 100-ish snaps this season. So he can be in better position to try and take that #3 DE role in 2020. But I know that won’t be easy to do with the talent ahead of him.
Steelers Highlight (You Probably Don’t Remember)
OLB Clark Haggans sacks Chad Pennington in the 2004 AFC Divisional Game.
Bob Belcher Quote Of The Day
“What do we do, Lin? Bribe her to get the filling? Bribe Louise? We don’t have that kind of money.”