Last day in the books. The Pittsburgh Steelers concluded their 2019 training camp today, another abridged practice with a nasty storm rolling into Latrobe. But the team got a lot of good work in and were in *just* shells so it was a light day for them anyway. Let’s talk about the finale.
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– Let’s begin with the injury report. Not practicing today were: OG David DeCastro (soreness), TE Christian Scotland-Williamson (left hamstring), TE Zach Gentry (chest/upper body), C BJ Finney (heat?), CB Joe Haden (ankle/foot), ILB Mark Barron (looked like rest), and OLB Ola Adeniyi (unknown). Haden is moving around fine but wore a compression sleeve on his right leg, from his knee down.
Vince Williams didn’t work in individual or team but was in his jersey and shorts instead of his typical grey sweatshirt and sweatpants so it was a small upgrade in participation today. He worked on his hand use a bit with TJ Watt very early in practice.
The good news. Practicing full were: OLB Sutton Smith, ILB Devin Bush, and C Maurkice Pouncey. Good news for Bush, his injury that caused him to miss yesterday was very minor and big for Smith, who now has a chance to play this weekend. Still not a guarantee but a chance. Nice to see Pouncey get back. He hasn’t worked since getting dinged ten days ago.
– Steelers made a pair of roster moves. Waived OLB JT Jones and CB Jermaine Ponder. Lines at CB are a lot healthier now so Ponder wasn’t needed, losing out to Trevon Mathis, while Jones seems to be a healthy cut. He didn’t play well against Tampa Bay and is a classic case of someone who faded from the beginning. In their place, they signed TE Micky Crum and OLB Christian Kuntz. Crum was needed because Scotland-Williamson almost certainly won’t play this weekend and I doubt Gentry will either. Depth was needed. Crum and Kuntz got thrown into team sessions today. Getting them up to speed for Saturday’s contest versus the Chiefs.
– And it was Crum the first player down the stairs, soaking up the camp atmosphere by signing a few autographs as he made his way down at 2:36. Following behind him were Matthew Wright, Devlin Hodges, Trevor Wood, Travon McMillian, and Josh Dobbs.
– The Hodges fever is here. Fan bellowed out behind me “LET’S GO HODGES!” and the rookie QB waved to the bleachers. Zach Banner got into a “Woo” off with a fan too. Fun mood to end camp. Nice crowd too. Lot of people for a Thursday.
– Today was definitely a little different in terms of how the team practice, a signal that it was the final day in Latrobe. The DBs didn’t get on the JUGs machine before practice as they have every other day. Machines weren’t even set up for them where they normally work (the JUGs machine for the TEs was in use today though). There was no return line either and the team skipped 7 shots today, which has happened before on the final today. There was still a strong emphasis on situational football which is a good way to work when you’re only in shells.
– First team OL: Villanueva-Foster-Pouncey-Feiler-Okorafor
– Second team OL: Banner-Johnson-Hassenauer-Gray-Hawkins
– One minor note watching the WRs work in individuals. Ray Sherman to Tevin Jones after the receiver caught an out route to the sideline. “Catch it, plant, get upfield.” Jones didn’t do that last part.
– Don’t have a lot of other notes beyond the team sessions today. Do have some kicking info for you.
Chris Boswell and Matthew Wright each had successful days, both going 6/7. Boswell hooked one just a little wide left from 52 yards out while Wright’s kick from there fell short, landing in the end zone. They each hit from 51 two times, though Wright’s final attempt from that distance barely glanced over the crossbar. Noticeable difference in leg strength with Boswell having a clear advantage. Both guys show accuracy with a clean, repeatable motion.
– One interesting note I picked up on from Danny Smith coaching up the blockers. Smith talked to the whole group but made a special note with the wings on the field goal block team. Smith said he wants the wings to punch with their outside arm to defend the outside. He doesn’t want them to stick their arm out ahead of time. If you do that, he said, the defender is going to have a much easier time chopping or ripping through that arm if it’s static. Harder to do on a punch. So that’s something I learned today and can watch when the All-22 film rolls out during the regular season.
– Let’s jump into the final batch of team sessions.
1. Again, no seven shots today. We’ll have the final camp tally below. Instead, team began with a two minute drill. Ball at the 45, one timeout. Ben Roethlisberger and the rest of the starters in. Defense was in dime this whole time with Devin Bush the lone off-ball linebacker and Kameron Kelly, not Cam Sutton, working as the 6th DB. Kelly, however, played a deep safety spot with Sean Davis rolled down closer to the line of scrimmage.
Session starts with a middle screen from Roethlisberger complete to James Conner. Looked like TJ Watt tagged him up around the line of scrimmage (there was no tackling today with the team in shells) but Conner bounced to his left and gained a few more yards. Cam Heyward pointed to where Watt tagged him to plead his case. No dice. Gain of six.
2. Roethlisberger finds Ryan Switzer running an out to the right. Ran away from Devin Bush. Gain of 9 to the defense’s 40 yard line.
3. Pretty throw from Roethlisberger over Artie Burns’ head and caught by a leaping JuJu Smith-Schuster down the right sideline. JuJu took it into the end zone but I think the coaches called him “down” at the 15, a gain of 25.
4. :27 seconds left. Quick throw left from Ben to Switzer. “Get out of bounds” Roethlisberger called out as Switzer caught it and Switzer ducked to the sideline. Good pocket from the o-line. Goes for five.
5. Nod route by Donte Moncrief, lining up in the slot running a little out ‘n up, is over his head. He couldn’t find the football. Bush on the coverage.
6. Fade from Ben to Smith-Schuster is defended well by Burns and incomplete.
7. 4th down. Out route complete to JuJu, working on Burns, for a five yard pickup.
8. Tyson Alualu and Heyward the nickel defenders. Five seconds on the clock, 1st and goal. Throw to the front right pylon for Moncrief on a five yard out is out in front and incomplete. Burns covering but didn’t impact the play too much.
9. :02 remaining. Good pocket, lots of time for Roethlisberger to move around, and tries to hit Smith-Schuster in the back of the end zone center left. Terrell Edmunds blanketed the throw and it fell incomplete. Nice coverage.
10. Devlin Hodges gets to come in and try to run the show. Ball at the offense’s 45. Benny Snell split out to the right. Tuzar Skipper working 2nd team LOLB opposite Anthony Chickillo, taking advantage of reps with Adeniyi sitting out. Good pressure, Stephon Tuitt gets in there and tags Hodges up for a “sack,” a loss of one.
11. Chickillo appeared to jump offsides, which has been a little too common for him. Hodges finds Diontae Spencer on the right side against Justin Layne. Complete for 13.
12. Hodges again complete to Eli Rogers on a curl with a quick cut upfield to make the linebacker miss. Gain of 14.
13. Boswell came out to nail a 46 yard field goal to end the session.
Second Team Session
1. Ball at the offense’s own two for this play. First team offense vs 2nd/3rd team defense. Rudolph complete on an out route to Smith-Schuster right side against Trevon Mathis. Gain of 15.
2. Now the ball is placed at the 20. Kuntz jumps into team drills at ROLB. Power run to the left. Nice block by Xavier Grimble. Conner with the carry, tagged up by Dravon Askew-Henry after a gain of five.
3. Toss right Jaylen Samuels bends left. Mathis tags. Gain of three.
4. Marcus Allen and PJ Locke the pairing of safeties, working as the third team. Matt Feiler pulls from right to left, Samuels following behind. DAH again on the tag. Goes for five.
5. Josh Dobbs jumps in at QB. Playaction, rolls to the right, throw high but through Kevin Rader’s hands. Marcus Allen covering.
6. Ball at the 30. Snell carry right side for about five.
7. Sutton Smith jumping in at RDE. Trey Edmunds right side, cutting off the inside hip of Jerald Hawkins for six yards.
8. 3-4 over front. Skipper with his hand down as the de facto LDE and Sutton Smith now off ball to the right side. Dobbs again rolls right and looks for Rader and again, it’s off/through Rader’s hands. I would call this one more of an off-target throw than I would a drop, to be clear.
9. Now Skipper and Smith both have their hand down. Nice hole created for Malik Williams right side off right guard. Goes for ten.
10. Williams again right side with the carry. Layne first guy to tag him. We’ll call it four.
11. Hodges airs it out, hitting an open Smith-Schuster who got behind the coverage of the backup/reserve secondary. 47 yard score.
12. Williams again with the carry. Goes for three to close out the session .
Third Team Session
1. Ball at the opposing 40. Bush and Tyler Matakevich the ILB pairing. Travon McMillian left side. Bud Dupree works off his block and makes the stop for a loss of one.
2. Dobbs playaction. Slant intended for Spencer incomplete, broken up by Burns.
3. Burns and Steven Nelson the outside CBs with Kameron Kelly in the slot. McMillian another carry and goes for three.
4. Tuitt-Hargrave-Buggs first team d-line. Buggs getting an extra look. TJ Watt beats Hawkins around the edge to pressure Dobbs. Would-be sack but play goes on, Dobbs hitting Rader left side over a defender – a nice throw – and complete for 20.
5. Nice blocking up front. Williams goes for six.
6. Attempted end around to Johnny Holton. Read well by Ulysees Gilbert III and it’s only a run of three. Play you see in the header photo.
7. Layne and Sutton the outside corners, Dangerfield and Kelly the safeties. Crum in at tight end. Trey Edmunds at FB and McMillian in the backfield. Hodges on the drop back, drifts to his right. Pressure by Henry Mondeaux and Skipper and Hodges hits Edmunds at the last second. Complete but only back to the line of scrimmage, hugged by Chickillo.
8. OL: Prince-Brumfield-Hassenauer-Morris-Hawkins. Hodges airs it out deep down the right sideline. Trey Griffey find the ball before Layne and high points it out of the air, a nice grab and gain of 35.
9. Snell stuffed at the line of scrimmage. Chickillo was in there. No gain.
10. Edmunds again in at FB. Hodges wants to take another shot, a low line throw for Eli Rogers deep down the left side. Not a great throw and should’ve been picked. PJ Locke took a good angle, got in front of the route, but disappointingly dropped the pick.
11. Late shakeup in the offensive line. Derwin Gray playing his first snaps at left tackle, where he played at Maryland, Damian Prince kicked over to right tackle, where he played with the Terps, while the interior line remains the same. Snell carry right side. Goes for one, Skipper and Greg Gilmore combining for the stop.
12. Griffey/James Washington/Brandon Reilly trips left. Crum, for some reason, isolated to the right. Looked like miscommunication on an attempted handoff by Hodges to Snell. Awkward moment but Hodges improvises well, chucking it left flat to Washington for a short two yard pickup.
Fourth Team Session
1. Ball on the offense’s own 30. Conner jumps in and out of lanes for a six yard gain. Roosevelt Nix at FB.
2. Sheehy-Hooks-Craig along the defensive line with Sutton Smith at RDE, his hand down outside shoulder of the LT. High throw in the right flat complete to Kevin Rader but him having to adjust for it didn’t allow for much YAC. Askew-Henry with the tag. Goes for two. Rudolph on the throw.
3. Patrick Morris in at center. Diontae Johnson beats Layne downfield left side and Rudolph hits him in stride, a 40 yard completion on a nine route.
4. Slot fade complete from Rudolph to Smith-Schuster, a gain of 28.
5. Nice double-catch by Holton along the right sideline on a difficult catch above his head, thrown by Dobbs. Brings it in, tapsh his foot, and it’s a 15 yard pickup.
6. Slant for Spencer is behind, Spencer needing to adjust for it, and it’s through his hands. Not a great throw but I’ll put it down as a drop, too. Dobbs again the QB here.
7. Edmunds carry up the middle and then bounces left. Marcus Allen steps up to tag him for a gain of two.
8. Edmunds motioned out to an empty set. Dobbs connects with Tevin Jones on an out route left side against Trevon Mathis. Gain of eight and the final play for camp, Mike Tomlin telling the team “off the grass” to usher them off the field. Team called the end of practice a few minutes later and about 10 minutes after that, the skies opened up.
– Devlin Hodges wasn’t shy about letting it fly today on the final practice. Has a strong arm and spins a nice ball. Just like he’s willing to take chances. He’s not here just to be able to tell this story to his kids 25 years from now. He wants a job.
– Malik Williams gotten a lot of work the last two days. Possibly a sign he’s going to see action this weekend. He deserves a couple snaps, though they probably won’t come until well into the second half.
– Trey Griffey didn’t catch a lot of passes this camp but he made them count. Couple big plays downfield. Good leaper who finds the ball in the air. I just don’t think it’ll be enough though.
– Jerald Hawkins has had a slightly better couple of days, including Friday’s game. I still have him on the outside though behind Zach Banner.
– I’ll have to crunch the camp stats but Kevin Rader is the one dude this camp, there’s always one, who weirdly saw a lot of targets. Had some tough targets, lot of throws over his head, but his hands aren’t very reliable.
– It’s funny we talked about on yesterday’s podcast wanting to see Diontae Johnson make a play deep and today, he finally has one. But it still didn’t happen in the most competitive, padded situations, even understanding he missed a few days of practice. He’s a YAC guy who has done damage after the catch but you can’t make a living off turning one yard throws into 11 yard gains.
– Not a whole lot to note for the front seven. Let’s hope Adeniyi can play this weekend. Still a lot to evaluate with him, getting him plenty of snaps. Only way the coaches will feel comfortable with him possibly playing defensive snaps early in the year.
– Nice day for Artie Burns, the JuJu snag over him aside. Another strong camp for him. Let’s just hope it actually translates.
– With the safety lines getting healthier, Kameron Kelly got some more work in the slot today. Began camp with slot work and ended there too in addition to second team FS snaps behind Sean Davis. Feeling pretty good about his odds of making the team. Just throwing out a number but I’d put it at 75%.
– A very good camp for Chris Boswell. We’ll try to get the final numbers on that for the morning.
St. Vincent Snapshot
Shot up the field where everyone parks as I walked in.
Twitter Camp Question
Yes. His leg strength is a primary concern. I don’t see him really competing with Boswell. It’s Boz vs Boz and if he doesn’t win it, someone not on this roster will be your new kicker. But for now, with the camp he had, I’m anticipating Boswell to be the Steelers’ guy.
Steelers Highlight (You Probably Don’t Remember)
Fun, random one to close out camp. Lee Flowers and Levon Kirkland force this fumble on Stanley Pritchett in 2000 OT loss to Philly, recovered by Joey Porter who drags former Steelers wide receiver Charles Johnson into the end zone for a 32 yard touchdown. Wacky.
Bob Belcher Quote Of The Day
“Lin, this isn’t a crazy day. This is a perfectly average day at Bob’s Burgers. This kind of stuff happens all the time, and I am so glad that you came by to take it in.”