Welcome back to your daily dose of Pittsburgh Steelers’ training camp news and notes. Let’s talk about what happened during Day Four of practices open to the public. Quick turnaround from evening to afternoon practice and the team was in pads for today. Refs were also on-hand for another day. They’ll have a much-needed day off tomorrow before returning Monday.
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– Injury Report: Those who didn’t practice today in any capacity were: BJ Finney (left hand/wrist), Trai Turner (unknown), Cassius Marsh (unknown), Stephon Tuitt (unknown), Eric Ebron (elbow), Cody White (hamstring), Jaylen Samuels (hamstring/quad), TJ Watt (unknown), Chukwuma Okorafor (unknown), and Zach Banner (rehab/ACL?). Banner was at least in some of the early warmups though he was still in dress clothes and not a jersey like the others. But it was good to see him do something out there, even if it was very little.
Cody White had a bit more spirited of a rehab today. Little more activity, backpedaling, shuffling, and something of a brisker walk.
– Returning to practice in full were: QB Ben Roethlisberger, CB Joe Haden, and WR JuJu Smith-Schuster. None were in team drills yesterday. Half-day for Roethlisberger but he still participated in a couple 11 on 11 periods.
– Kevin Dotson and JC Hassenauer were in pads for the first time in camp. Both ran with the second team during some early warm-ups drills. The two squared off in individual work away from the rest of the group under the watch of assistant offensive line coach Chris Morgan and didn’t work in team sessions.
– Offensive linemen Anthony Coyle suffered a left arm/shoulder injury during team sessions today on a screen to FB Derek Watt. He rotated his left shoulder after getting off the training table and did not finish practice. That’s the second injury he’s suffered of camp. Hopefully it’s minor. On the surface, it didn’t seem too serious.
But the Steelers finished the day with just eight healthy and practicing offensive linemen: Rashaad Coward, Kendrick Green, Joe Haeg, Dan Moore Jr., John Leglue, Chaz Green, Aviante Collins, and Brandon Walton. Seven of them didn’t practice in full or didn’t finish. Line’s getting pretty thin, though guys like Dotson and Hassenauer are clearly close to a full return. John Leglue continued to get center reps with Finney down and the team only having one other available center (Green).
– Stephen Denmark, Miles Killebrew, and Mark Gilbert on the JUGS machine early. Denmark caught, by my count, 81 passes on the JUGS after practice. And he was on there a minute or two before I noticed and began to count. He dropped just one, over his head and through his hands.
– More ball drills for the secondary as they do every day. Safeties would hit the sled, shed, and then a coach would roll a ball for them to scoop up. Grady Brown was with the safeties today, Teryl Austin with the cornerbacks. Flipped from yesterday.
– Watched some 7 on 7 with o-line/d-line not sparring today. Corner package in dime were: Haden/Pierre on the outside, Brooks/Sutton slot. That’s probably how dime will look Week One against the Bills.
First Team Session (Seven Shots)
1. Moore-Coward-Green-Coyle-Haeg the first team offensive line. 10 personnel with four WRs on the field: Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Chase Claypool on the field. Najee Harris the other skill player.
Steelers with six DBs: James Pierre, Cam Sutton, Joe Haden, and Antoine Brooks Jr. Alex Highsmith and Melvin Ingram the OLBs. Miles Killebrew and Minkah Fitzpatrick the safeties. Mason Rudolph in at QB. Empty set.
Slant from Rudolph for Chase Claypool. A little high but definitely catchable and it slides through Claypool’s hands incomplete. Coverage from Pierre but Claypool should’ve scored.
2. Pat Freiermuth the starting Y tight end. Rudolph looks for Smith-Schuster right side but the pass is too far outside and JuJu can’t get a hand on it. Haden covering.
3. Rudolph throws over the middle to Diontae Johnson on a crosser. Minkah Fitzpatrick might’ve gotten a hand on it, he celebrated like he did, or maybe Johnson dropped it. But it was incomplete.
4. Dwayne Haskins coming in at QB. Boots left and then shovels the ball middle complete to Kevin Rader, who had to reach back for the football a bit. He gets swarmed by Tre Norwood and Henry Mondeaux and taken down to the ground a yard short of the goal line.
5. Haskins faces pressure up the middle, three defenders come free, and Haskins throws a floater to the goal line. James Pierre steps in front of it and picks it off. Second INT he’s had in seven shots in the last two days. Five straight stops for the defense.
6. Rashaad Coward flagged for the false start. Pushes the offense back five yards. Ball at the seven. Second team o-line of: Aviante Collins-Brandon Walton-John Leglue-Rashaad Coward-Chaz Green. Coward getting double the reps, first and second-team. Good progression and read by Josh Dobbs, working right to left to hit a wide open Kalen Ballage for the score. Defense blew the coverage.
7. Empty set, Ballage motioned out. And Dobbs hits him on a slant for the score in front of Jarvis Miller.
Defense wins the day, 5-2.
– I don’t normally chart it but since Mike Tomlin hyped it up so much I decided to chart TE/LB run-blocking drills. To be fair, it can hard to judge who “wins” because it can be tough to exactly understand assignment and where the ball would hypothetically go. But here’s my crack at it.
1. Melvin Ingram swims over Zach Gentry.
2. Ingram turns out Gentry, who is too tall and out-leveraged by the much stockier Ingram.
3. Alex Highsmith wins the rep late against Pat Freiermuth. Finishes the rep better and Mike Tomlin makes that known. “Don’t let him outfinish you, Pat!” Tomlin yelled out.
4. Highsmith rips through Freiermuth late.
5. Kevin Rader gets overextended as Jamir Jones uses a push/pull and helps take him down to the ground and sheds.
6. Quincy Roche swims over the newly signed Marcus Baugh.
7. Roche is able to re-punch to get into Baugh’s pads and sheds him late, Baugh going to the ground.
8. Roche rips late but sheds the block well of the tight end (not sure if it was Baugh or someone else).
9. Gentry shows better leverage and though Jamar Watson sheds him late, it was a better rep for Big Blue.
10. Highsmith swims over Freiermuth.
11. Push-pull by Highsmith to swim over Freiermuth, who doubles over.
12. Nice job by Rader to lock out Jones, who does win late.
13. Rader sets outside and seals Jones initially but struggles to finish the rep and Jones is able to break through inside.
14. Better rep from Baugh on Roche, who wins late. Defense does tend to win late in a setting like this because no one is going to hold their block forever.
15. Roche with an easy win to get past Baugh, who goes to the ground.
16. Nice pad level and finish by Gentry on Watson.
17. Gentry wins initially against Watson but loses his hand placement and the block.
18. Freiermuth stays square in front of Highsmith but Highsmith is in his chest and controls the point of attack well.
19. Better job here by Freiermuth to drive his feet and ride out Highsmith wide.
20. Good power and leverage by Jamir Jones to drive back Kevin Rader. More than holds his ground.
21. Another win by Jones on Rader. Rader went to the ground.
22. Baugh sets maybe a little too wide to the outside and doesn’t run his feet enough to wash Roche. Roche is able to work through the block, knocking Baugh’s hands down.
23. Better rep here from Baugh but Roche wins late.
24. Another good win by Gentry against Watson. Plus drive and finish.
25. Same result on the next rep. Gentry took to his coaching (TEs Coach Alfredo Roberts always talking to those guys after most reps) and he got better throughout this drill.
26. Rader and Highsmith get tangled up and go to the ground.
27. Rader gets forklifted but holds on vs Highsmith. Highsmith still won the rep overall though.
28. Freiermuth does well to drive his lower half and ride Jamir Jones wide.
29. Same thing starts to happen, Jones down the line, but he’s able to rip through late.
– Jarvis Miller got yelled out by coaches not to punch the ball out on Kalen Ballage in a one-on-one tackling/leverage drill. Tried for the FF without wrapping up the runner.
Second Team Session
1. Ball at the offense’s 37. Wormley-Alualu-Heyward the defensive linemen. Haden and Sutton the outside corners. UG3 and Spillane the ILBs. Ben Roethlisberger in at QB. Under center. Botched exchange between he and Kendrick Green. Play is dead. Think Green was trying to get away from center to work down the line as fast as he could.
2. Derek Watt aligned as a wing, trading from the left to right side. 21 personnel. Highsmith beats Freiermuth off the edge to go after Najee Harris in the backfield. Harris does well to spin off and bounce the run to his left. Gains six. Live tackling session.
3. Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool on the outside, JuJu Smith-Schuster in the slot. Cam Heyward blows the play up in the middle. Forces Harris to again run to the left. Antoine Brooks Jr. comes in to make the ankle tackle for a loss of about five.
4. Heyward in the backfield again. So is Highsmith. Again, Harris has to do it on his own and he’s able to go to the outside (feels like Heyward pulled up a little and let him go) and Harris runs left sideline before a host of defenders tackle him after a pickup of four.
5. Justin Layne the LCB, James Pierre the RCB. Mason Rudolph in at QB. Benny Snell off right guard. Line doesn’t get a push and Snell gains about a half-yard. That’s it.
6. Tre Norwood and Lamont Wade the safety pairing. 12 personnel. James Washington motions left to right to a Twin set. Post/wheel concept by the WRs. But Rudolph checks it down to the right flat complete to Kevin Rader. Quincy Roche grabs him and drags him to the ground. Just a gain of two.
7. Anthony McFarland aligned as a wing like a Wing-T formation. Another botched snap, this one between Rudolph and Leglue (new to playing center) under center. Dead play.
8. Isaiah McKoy and Tyler Simmons the outside WRs with Anthony Johnson in the slot. McFarland steps out of Marcus Allen’s tackle at the line of scrimmage. Gets three yards.
9. Mark Gilbert the LCB, Stephen Denmark the RCB. 12 personnel. Roche beats his block and tackles McFarland for a loss of two. Nice run fill by Calvin Bundage. Dwayne Haskins in at QB.
10. Watson and Roche the OLBs. Haskins boots right. Complete to an open Ballage for a gain of 15 yards, getting every yard he can before a defender — Stiner, I think — makes the tackle after a 14-yard gain.
11. Jet action to Tyler Simmons to the left. Jarvis Miller reads it well and makes the tackle at the line of scrimmage.
12. Trey Edmunds in at FB. Power run with the guard pulling. Ballage tackled for a loss by a combination of Watson, Calvin Bundage, and Carlos Davis.
Third Team Session
1. Ball at the offense’s 37. Third down session, no full tackling. Haden and Sutton on the outside with Brooks in the slot. Edmunds/Fitzpatrick at safety. Roethlisberger in at QB. Complete to Diontae Johnson on a shallow cross, tagged up by Robert Spillane for a short gain of three.
2. Brooks blitzes, Harris picks him up. Roethlisberger complete to Freiermuth right side for eight yards before he’s pushed out of bounds.
3. Washington and Johnson on the outside, Smith-Schuster in the slot. Roethlisberger complete to JuJu on a slant for a gain of four.
4. Melvin Ingram lined up off-ball. Throw from Ben to Najee Harris in the left flat is a little behind. Harris turns back for it but can’t make the catch. Not a great throw but I’ll call it a drop. A ball Harris can catch.
5. Mathew Sexton, James Washington on the outside, Ray-Ray McCloud in the slot. Roche and Jones the OLBs. Mason Rudolph looks for Sexton left side. Sexton had to reach out for it but it hits right off his hands. Pierre covering. Another drop, incomplete.
6. Justin Layne and DeMarkus Acy on the outside with Arthur Maulet in the slot. Screen to the right. Well-read by Arthur Maulet who tags him for a loss of two. Nice play by Maulet.
7. Buddy Johnson and Marcus Allen the ILB pairing. Praised Kevin Rader’s hands yesterday and he makes me look bad. Throw over the middle from Rudolph is off his chest and the ball pops straight up before falling to the ground.
8. Pressure, Rudolph searching for a target but just tucks and runs. Refs threw a flag at the LOS. Don’t know who/what but probably on the offense.
9. Dwayne Haskins comes in. Has Zach Gentry open over the middle but it hits him in the facemask. Like Rader, the ball pops up into the air and this time it’s caught, rookie CB Shakur Brown capitalizing for the INT.
10. Quincy Roche jumps offsides from his ROLB spot. Free play. Haskins takes a shot deep down the left sideline. Stephen Denmark runs with Rico Bussey, turns and finds the ball, and bats it away with his left hand. Good play.
11. Haskins complete to Simmons left side for a 12-yard gain.
12. Gilbert and Denmark the outside corners, Brown the slot corner. Haskins hits Sexton on a crosser for six with Denmark behind and tapping him for the stop. Jones beat Collins around the edge but had some trouble turning the corner and steering upfield.
Fourth Team Session
1. Ball at the offense’s 39. Bubble screen to JuJu in the slot right. But Terrell Edmunds reads it, drives, and tags him for a loss of three.
2. Same design but the bubble throw to Diontae Johnson. Ben’s throw is a little behind and Johnson has to turn his body for it and drops it. Possible fumble, Tomlin urges to get on the ball since it’s close to being thrown backwards and Johnson picks it up to avoid the turnover. Pony set with McFarland and Samuels on the field.
3. Roethlisberger under center. Claypool moves illegally on Ben’s hard count. Once the play gets underway, Roethlisberger hits Smith-Schuster right side on Edmunds to midfield for a gain of 11.
4. 12 personnel, heavy theme of the day. Gentry and Rader the TEs. Under center again. Inside zone run to Harris. Has a crease, one of the few good run-blocking efforts by the line on the day, left side. Always hard to judge when a player is “down” in these non-tackling sessions but I’ll give him about ten.
5. Mason Rudolph in at QB. Play action. Throw for Washington is broken up by Justin Layne. One of the first positive plays we’ve written about so far. Henry Mondeaux gets pressure up the middle.
6. Jet run to the left with McFarland. Marcus Allen on the stop after a gain of four.
7. Layne and Acy the outside corners. Gentry and Watt trade motion. Rudolph play action. Hits Watt in the right flat, Allen again on the stop, for a gain of five. This was the play Coyle got hurt on. Drill moved downfield while trainers attended to him.
8. Ball now at the opposing 31. Collins-Walton-Leglue-Coward-Green the offensive line grouping. Rudolph rolls left and hits McCloud for a three yard gain.
9. TJ Carter and Isaiah Buggs the nickel pairing. Haskins fakes the jet touch-pass. Wants to hit Ballage on a wheel to the left. Ballage doesn’t see the ball and the pass is behind him incomplete.
10. Ballage run left side. Bit of a crease here. Tegray Scales on the stop, throwing his right shoulder into him.
11. Trey Edmunds motions left wing to right wing. Haskins boots left with Edmunds now coming back underneath to the left flat, nice bit of misdirection, and he’s wide open. Call it a 25 yard gain down the left sideline.
12. Toss to the right to Ballage. Mark Gilbert one of a couple Steelers in on the stop. Gain of four.
Fifth Team Session
– More situational football. Two-minute drill. 52 seconds on the clock, one timeout, ball at the defense’s 44 for Ben Roethlisberger and the first-team offense. O-line of: Moore-Walton-Green-Coward-Haeg.
1. Empty set. Roethlisberger floats one left sideline to Diontae Johnson. A tad underthrown but Johnson tracks it well over his left shoulder and makes the catch, wrestling the ball away from James Pierre. 24-yard gain on the first play of the drill. And Johnson gets out of bounds.
2. Roethlisberger complete left side to Freiermuth for a gain of 14 down to the six. Two plays and the Steelers are in position to score with hardly any time off the clock.
3. :42 seconds left. Empty again. Roethlisberger wants Harris in the left flat but he drops the football. Incomplete.
4. Johnson and Claypool on the outside, Smith-Schuster in the slot. Roethlisberger wants Freiermuth on an out ‘n up in the back right of the end zone. Off his right hand and incomplete.
5. Dime package the same as I listed above. The four CBs with Fitzpatrick and Edmunds at safety. 34 seconds left. Third down. Roethlisberger floats to his right, steps up a bit, there’s pressure all-around and would’ve been a sack if they could’ve hit QBs, but Roethlisberger hits Johnson in the back of the end zone working across and beating Pierre. Six-yard TD.
Sixth Team Session
1. Two-minute work again. Little different set of circumstances. 1:39 on the clock, ball at the offense’s 38. One timeout. O-line of: Collins-Walton-Leglue-Coward-Green. Dwayne Haskins in at QB. First throw is left side for Anthony Johnson. But it’s played well by a leaping DeMarkus Acy. Pass was a little underthrown.
2. Short crossing pattern to James Washington. Dropped. Incomplete. Loudermilk and Mondeaux the nickel pairing up front.
3. Layne and Acy the starting CBs. Norwood and Killebrew the safeties. Haskins complete to McCloud for six. Buddy Johnson on the tag/stop.
4. Haskins rolls left. Completes to a sliding Kevin Rader along the left sideline. Watson had pressure. Pickup of seven for a fresh set of downs.
5. Haskins complete to McCloud for 11 yards, running for a moment before sliding to give himself up and save clock. Offense calls its only timeout.
6. 35 seconds. Haskins makes his best throw of the drive, probably of the day, hitting McCloud in stride over the middle working on Arthur Maulet. Gain of 18 to the 20.
7. 28 seconds remaining. Haskins has Anthony McFarland wide open in the right flat, who does most of the damage after the catch for the TD. 20-yard score. On the sideline, Cam Heyward tosses his helmet in some frustration for the defense not getting the stop on either dive.
That’s the end of practice.
– Sloppy day for the Steelers’ offense. Bit of a tired group, I suspect, and the o-line issues aren’t helping. Tons of drops, By my quick count, at least eight of them. U-G-L-Y.
– Defense won the day. Offensive line struggled at the point of attack and the drops compounded the issue. Najee Harris did well to create in team session, he had no choice, though I suspect had the line played that way in a game, Harris wouldn’t have gotten away. Defense wasn’t going 100% intense like a game situation, if that makes sense.
– I did like to see Gentry’s immediate improvement with leverage and pad level in the blocking drill. The good news is Gentry is a big, 6’8″ dude. The bad news is Gentry is a big, 6’8 dude. Sometimes that monster height works against you.
– Alex Highsmith continues to have positive moments. But I want to get to write about him beating someone who isn’t a rookie for a change. Most of the notes are him on Freiermuth, Harris, or Moore.
– Calvin Bundage is a good athlete who can move around the defense. Plays with more physicality than his size, too. Excited to see him in the HOF Game.
– Nice day for Quincy Roche, who showed his hand use and able to defeat blocks.
– James Pierre can take his lumps like any corner but did makes big plays. Two picks in last two days of seven shots.
– Hope some of these offensive linemen get ready for Monday. Or else this team will need to make a roster move.
– For the morning, I hope to have stats and camp data from the first four practices I’ve attended. No idea what the numbers will say. Interested to see how they match our eyes.
Heinz Field Snapshot
Drumline performing for fans outside Heinz Field for Steelers Fest today. Good crowd and atmosphere.
Twitter Camp Question of the Day
Practice squad or legit chance of making the 53?
— Brett Baron (@brettbaron) July 31, 2021
Practice squad for Bundage, unless UG3’s back flares up again (possible!) But there’s some talent there to stick around. A guy like Spillane began his Steelers’ career on the PS. Stuck around, climbed the ladder, and how he’s a starter.
Vintage Steelers’ Photos
One of my favorite photos ever taken. Big Daddy Lipscomb against a Cowboys guard and tiny, 5’7″ QB Eddie LeBaron dropping back.
Dale Gribble’s Best Quotes
“Booooo! I am a high-priced Washington lobbyist, peddling influence! Who wants candy?”