We. Are. Back.
It’s been a long time coming – far too long – and we’re still not at St. Vincent College. But we’re at training camp.
And we’re so glad you’re here with us.
The Pittsburgh Steelers had their first padded practice of camp Wednesday. As expected, it was an intense, competitive session. There’s so much for us to talk about, so let’s get into the action in a moment.
If you’re new to these reports, first, welcome. We should be at every single practice open to the public to cover camp. Our goal for camp, and hopefully the below report reflects that, is to make you feel like you’re sitting right next to us. Steelers’ Nation is everywhere. Coast to coast, all corners of the globe. You don’t need to be from Pittsburgh to bleed black and gold.
But not everyone can make it to practice. So we’re here to fill-in the details and offer as much information as possible about what happened that day. We cover everything, big and small (we especially nerd out about the small stuff).
Of course, feel free to ask in the comments about anything we missed or anything you want/need clarified. I’ll do my best to answer as many questions as possible tonight. Be sure to check out our daily podcasts recapping the day’s action, too.
With all that spoken for, let’s talk about what went down at Pittsburgh Steelers’ training camp.
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– Like we’ll try to do each practice, let’s start off with the injury/participation report. Not practicing at all today were: OG Kevin Dotson, C J.C. Hassenauer, DE Stephon Tuitt, and WR Cody White. Hassenauer is still wearing a sleeve on his injured left leg/knee but he went through the stretch line, stretching out that left leg and putting pressure on it. So it doesn’t seem to be a major injury and he should be day-to-day as Tomlin classified him over the weekend.
Dotson went through the stretch line too and looked to be OK, though he’s yet to practice this camp. So we’ll watch what he does, if anything, tomorrow. Tuitt looked fine. White didn’t have a visible injury but he’s clearly dealing with something to keep him out of practice.
– As our injury report noted, TE Eric Ebron is dealing with an elbow injury. Not sure when that happened. OT/OG/emergency center Anthony Coyle suffered a scary-looking injury during practice. Not sure what happened but on a run-play, he stayed on the ground and laid flat on his back for several moments before being helped to his feet and walking off the field under his own power. Tomlin called it a stinger so hopefully it looked worse than it was.
T.J. Watt did not go through team sessions but was in pads and went through individual work. Ditto with Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner. I don’t think Devin Bush got 100% of team reps but I would classify him as “full.”
– WR Diontae Johnson was the first player on the field at 1:04 PM for a 1:30 practice. He spent 20 minutes playing catch with a coach (I believe WRs coach Ike Hilliard but I’m not 100% sure). Just a light toss but passes thrown low, away, behind his back/over his shoulder. And he spent a few minutes post-practice doing the same. Catching the ball more consistently is his #1 goal.
Ray-Ray McCloud followed Johnson onto the field a minute or two later. Minkah Fitzpatrick was the first defensive player out there, putting his pads on the sideline before making his way onto the field (which looked in great shape today, by the way. How it’ll look two weeks from now is a different story).
– Several DBs hit the JUGs machine before practice. Teryl Austin has brought a more ball-aware mindset since being hired as the de facto DBs coach (and he ran drills today so he’s still in that role even with the hire of Grady Brown). Fitzpatrick was one of them along with: James Pierre, Arthur Maulet, Stephen Denmark, and Mark Gilbert.
– Kendrick Green putting in extra work. Shotgun snaps to Mason Rudolph on the side before the first airhorn sounded.
– Adrian Klemm jogged along with B.J. Finney before practice. Former NFL lineman who will run around with those guys. Coaches in solidarity with the players for a hot Wednesday. Klemm wore all-black but wore shorts to try to stay a little cool. Mike Tomlin donned all-black as he often days except for the especially hot days: Long-sleeve black T-shirt and black sweatpants. And ILBs coach Jerry Olsavsky wore a grey hoodie pulled tight over his head.
– TEs coach Alfredo Roberts keeps his TEs busy before practice, going through a couple drills working on their footwork/cuts. Those guys get worked start to finish. And they need to. Ebron aside, there really isn’t a vet in that room.
– In warm-ups, the first-team offensive line looked like this: Okorafor-Coward-Green-Turner-Banner. Ben Roethlisberger, of course, the QB. In past years, they’d rotate in at least the second-stringers for a couple of reps before the first horn sounded. Not today. First-team took all the reps, perhaps a sign of the need to get some snaps together as a collective five, even if it was a low-tempo, on-air drill.
In team drills, the first-team OL looked different. It went: Dan Moore-Rashaad Coward-Kendrick Green-Trai Turner-Joe Haeg.
– In 11 personnel with the 1’s, Chase Claypool was the Z, Diontae Johnson the X, and JuJu Smith-Schuster the F. But those guys mixed and matched throughout practice. And will during the season.
– John Mitchell was on the field today, active in working with the defensive linemen in warmups, leading the get-off drill. Karl Dunbar is the team’s D-line coach, and a good one at that, but Mitchell still has a presence.
– Getting eyes on OLB Melvin Ingram. Whew. The dude is built. Thick guy with a monster lower half. Seeing photos is one thing, we knew he was stocky in a Woodley (I mean that in a good/neutral way) built but seeing him up-close is an even different perspective.
And he’s happy to be a Steeler, too. As Ingram walked to sit on the sidelines during a special teams session. Didn’t get near fans (no one is allowed to sign autographs, waves from T.J. Watt and JuJu Smith-Schuster was the closest any fans got) but one fan yelled out to him “How’s it feel to be a Yinzer!”
Ingram replied, “Amazing.”
– Kick return line in warmups of practice. In order: Ray-Ray McCloud, Isaiah McKoy, Rico Bussey, Anthony McFarland, Mathew Sexton, and even Minkah Fitzpatrick snuck in there.
– Punt return line: Diontae Johnson, Lamont Wade, Jaylen Samuels, and Tyler Simmons.
Someone asked where was James Pierre since he’s listed as a return man on the depth chart. He was working with the DBs in individual drills.
– Danny Smith still the loudest voice at camp. More things change, the more things stay the same.
– QBs (at least, Mason Rudolph, Josh Dobbs, and Dwayne Haskins, not Big Ben) worked on half-rolls on air early in practice. Going to see that a lot in this offense.
– Usual suspects on special teams. Kameron Canaday and Christian Kuntz the long snappers (Ben Roethlisberger “took” one rep, there was no kick, which is a good thing) Pressley Harvin II and Jordan Berry the holders, and Chris Boswell and Sam Sloman the kickers. Couple of kicks today early in practice but the special teams sessions weren’t focus much on kicking and punting during practice. Maybe tomorrow.
– Similar to past seasons, the offensive line was split up into two groups for individual work. But unlike past years, it wasn’t split into interior linemen and tackles. Here, it was broken up into run drills and pass drills. Some went to head offensive line coach Adrian Klemm to work on picking up twists/stunts from three-man surfaces (groups of three offensive linemen) while the others worked on zone/combo blocks in pairs (often tackles and tight ends) with assistant offensive line coach Chris Morgan.
So that’s how things were broken up today.
– Calvin Bundage and Jarvis Miller worked with the off-ball linebackers while Jamir Jones worked with the EDGE rushers. Wondering how some of those hybrid guys were going to get classified. This seems to be our answer.
– TEs hit the sleds today and maybe it’s because I haven’t seen it in awhile but it didn’t feel like the guys had to finish their block as much as they did under old TEs coach James Daniel. Where they had to unlock their hips and drive the sled for 3-5 yards (at least try to). Here, it was more about focusing on punch and exploding out of your stance and taking two steps and then dropping the sled. So it’s a little more difficult for me to compare this year to past years. Thought Pat Freiermuth looked OK. Popped up a bit on contact, I think.
– Teryl Austin having DBs focus on punching the ball out in drills. Wrap the upfield shoulder and then punch through the arm of the runner (another DB, they worked in pairs three groups at a time). And you can see that in practice during team. Lots of guys trying to knock the ball out, especially if the back is held up.
– The “WR1” group in on-air sessions, QBs/TEs/WRs working together. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, Chase Claypool, and Ray-Ray McCloud plus all the tight ends. They caught passes from Roethlisberger.
The “WR2” group were the rest sans Cody White, who missed practice. Rico Bussey, Mathew Sexton, Tyler Simmons, Anthony Johnson, and Isaiah McKoy. They caught from Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins, and Josh Dobbs.
– Depot photographer Tim Rice was at practice today. He watched more of the WRs/DBs during 1v1s when I was focused on backs-on-backers. He said Arthur Maulet looked good in that session, one designed for the offense to win and look good.
– Assorted special teams session notes from throughout the afternoon.
– Several different players working as the wings on the field goal kick/protect team. Included Isaiahh Loudermilk, Kevin Rader, and Calvin Taylor. When they got together as an 11 v. 11 unit, Pat Freiermuth and Zach Gentry were the starting wings.
– Later in the punt return line (ball shot out of the machine, no one punted). Ray-Ray McCloud, Anthony McFarland, and Isaiah McKoy. McKoy muffed one. Definitely don’t want to see that and nearly bumped into Cam Sutton trying to recover it. Sutton was catching passes from Dobbs, Rudolph, and Haskins and had to dance out of the way.
– Really strong double-team rep on one punt from Stephen Denmark and Tre Norwood. Teamed up to take WR Anthony Johnson to the ground just a couple yards from the line of scrimmage. If those guys want to stick, they have to impress on that unit.
– Ok, let’s talk about the first team session of padded practices. Seven shots returns.
First Team Session (Seven Shots)
1. Again, O-line of: Moore-Coward-Green-Turner-Haeg. Ben Roethlisberger at QB, Najee Harris the starting running back. Melvin Ingram and Alex Highsmith the starting OLBs, Ingram LOLB, Highsmith ROLB. 12 personnel with Freiermuth and Ebron. Claypool and Johnson at WR.
Ben Roethlisberger skies a fade to the left corner of the end zone for Chase Claypool. Cam Sutton makes a great play to leap at the catch point and play through Claypool’s hands to knock the ball out on the way to the ground. Incomplete. Believe he made a similar play on Sunday so he’s giving Claypool fits. Incomplete.
2. Zach Gentry on the field. Najee Harris motioned initially to the slot and then out wide. Steelers in empty. Harris runs a slant back to the middle and Roethlisberger hits him over the middle with Devin Bush covering. But Harris boxes him out and makes the catch. TD.
3. Handoff to Benny Snell off left side. Stumbles but crosses the goal line and stays on his feet. Looked like Freiermuth had a key cutoff block on Alex Highsmith to help open up the lane. TD.
4. Mason Rudolph in at QB. Anthony McFarland at RB. Rookie Isaiah McKoy runs a pivot route out of the right slot and creates a little bit of separation. Rudolph throws it and McKoy makes the grab, absorbing the shoulder blow from Marcus Allen and making the grab. Nice catch.
5. Second-team offensive line. Left to right. Aviante Collins-Brandon Walton-B.J. Finney-Anthony Coyle-John Leglue. Slant/flat with RB Kalen Ballage running to the flat. Rudolph’s throw is a little high, maybe Ballage didn’t get great depth, but Ballage makes a nice snag over his head, adjusting to the ball and coming down with it uncontested. TD.
6. Dwayne Haskins coming in as the #3 QB. Boots to the right and scampers into the end zone for the TD. Window dressing with Anthony McFarland coming in motion as they faked the jet handoff away. Don’t believe it was a designed run for Haskins but he had space, the fake worked, and he scrambled into the end zone.
7. Fade to the right corner, Haskins throwing for Tyler Simmons working on LCB DeMarkus Acy. Simmons made the catch and I think got both feet in (Acy waved his hands incomplete but you can’t trust a DB in moments like these) so I’m giving Simmons the TD. Probably would’ve required a booth review to see if Simmons got the second foot down.
Offense wins seven shots, 6-1.
Backs On ‘Backers
First day of pads means backs on ‘backers. I’ve charted almost every rep from it today though I apologize because I missed 2-3.
1. Robert Spillane blows past RB Benny Snell.
2. No Devin Bush in BoB today. Instead, Najee Harris saw a lot of Marcus Allen. Allen goes with a bull rush to test the rookie. Gets under Harris and uprights him but Harris is big and strong enough to hold one and stall it out.
3. Mike Tomlin wants to see them go again. Najee Harris takes a step up and flashes his hands, getting Allen to try to counter with a spin. Harris anchors and slides with him as Allen falls to the ground. Good rep from Harris.
4. Melvin Ingram rushes inside against Eric Ebron, knocking his hands down. But Ebron does recover and move with him to win the overall rep.
5. Alex Highsmith makes quick work of Pat Freiermuth, spinning and dipping past him.
6. Jaylen Samuels seals Ulysees Gilbert III.
7. Cassius Marsh rips through Kevin Rader.
8. Robert Spillane tries run through Anthony McFarland but both end up on the ground.
9. Take two. Spillane can’t swim McFarland.
10. Melvin Ingram wins the edge past Ebron.
11. Alex Highsmith powers past Freiermuth. Wasn’t a TKO type of win but I’m giving the W to Highsmith here.
12. Buddy Johnson can’t spin past Kalen Ballage, who holds his ground and stays square. Good rep from Ballage.
13. Ballage’s base gets a little narrow here but he regains his balance and base and wins the rep against against the rookie Johnson.
14. Kevin Rader seals Jamar Watson upfield.
15. Tegray Scales swims over FB Derek Watt but loses his balance at the top of the arc.
16. This time, Scales is able to successfully swim Watt and turn the corner.
17. Bit hard reading my notes here but I think I have Quincy Roche losing to Rader on this rep.
18. Trey Edmunds with a good base to win against Jarvis Miller.
19. Competitive battle between Marcus Allen and Najee Harris. Allen swims him, they lock up and Harris throws Allen to the ground at the end. Most of their battles ended locking arms (with Harris looking to his coaches in some quizzical sense to say, “this guy’s still going at it?”) or the two on the ground. Fun battles.
20. Allen with bull this time again getting under Harris’ pads.
21. Melvin Ingram with a nasty spin move against Zach Gentry. Drill makes it easier for a pass rusher to have a two-way go but still, a good move.
22. Highsmith again flashes power through Freiermuth.
23. Benny Snell rips down Calvin Bundage with ease. Wouldn’t call it holding either. Just a good, physical rep.
24. Bundage can’t duck under Ballage who wins another rep.
25. Roche pushes through TE Dax Raymond.
26. Robert Spillane runs through Anthony McFarland.
27. Like Ingram on Gentry, Highsmith with a wicked inside spin against Ebron.
28. Ulysees Gilbert with an inside spin against Jaylen Samuels.
29. Here, Samuels is able to steer and slide UG3 up the arc.
30. Gentry stalls out Marsh’s bull lrush.
31. Ballage wins again. Believe it came against Scales but it could’ve been Watson too. Couldn’t fully identify the number.
32. Rader drives out the rookie Watson.
33. Ballage wins against Jarvis Miller, who falls to the ground by the rep’s end.
34. Bundage rips under Watt but falls to the ground. Couldn’t keep his feet.
35. Roche is able to turn the corner on Gentry.
36. Quick swim over Edmunds from Marcus Allen.
37. Edmunds catches Haeg’s bull rush. Allen spins and turns as a counter move.
38. Edmunds seals Allen as they go out it again.
39. Final rep goes to Harris, who is able to stall out Robert Spillane’s bull. Spillane rips through him late in the rep.
Second Team Session
1. Live session. Run session. And full contact. Ball at the offense’s 45. First-team defensive line of: Chris Wormley-Tyson Alualu-Cam Heyward. Cam Sutton and James Pierre the outside corners.
Jet motion, fake it, handoff to Najee Harris left side. Good crease left side into the second level and he carries a couple defenders the last five yards, immediately showing off his size and power. Call it a 15-yard gain.
2. Cam Heyward wins the point of attack against LG Rashaad Coward. Harris is dropped at the line of scrimmage.
3. Roethlisberger under center for the first three plays. Alex Highsmith quickly and easily sheds Pat Freiermuth to tackle Harris in the backfield for a loss of three yards. Really good rep. Mike Tomlin calls out from the sideline: “I see you, Alex.”
4. Jet motion again. Harris another carry. Highsmith another block shed. Great job to get-off rookie Dan Moore Jr. and again makes the tackle. We’ll call it a loss of two. Back-to-back great reps from Highsmith, though they are coming against rookies (Highsmith is a second-year guy though, he’s not an eight-year grizzled vet). But context is a little clear because Highsmith knows what these moments are like. The rookies are just finding out.
5. Benny Snell stuffed right side. Cassius Marsh set the edge and turned the run back inside with rookie Isaiahh Loudermilk cleaning things up.
6. Mason Rudolph in at QB. Playaction, boot to the right. Hits McFarland in the flat. Justin Layne makes the tackle downfield. Nice gain, going to call it about 15.
7. Second-team D-line of: Loudermilk-Buggs-Mondeaux. Anthony McFarland makes the first defender miss at/behind the line of scrimmage and cuts upfield. Gain of two yards before he’s swarmed. There was an OT shift pre-snap. Don’t know if it was unbalanced or a tackle-eligible but John Leglue came over right to left (from the offense’s point of view).
8. Kalen Ballage bounces right side and meets Justin Layne. Ballage tries to stiff arm but quickly just puts his shoulder down and through Layne. Layne hangs on though and makes the tackle after a gain of three.
9. Jamar Watson and Quincy Roche the EDGE rushers. Buddy Johnson and Calvin Bundage the ILBs. Trey Edmunds at FB. Ballage stopped at the line of scrimmage. T.J. Carter sheds B.J. Finney to be first in on the stop.
10. Dwayne Haskins checking in. Under center. Fake the jet right side to Tyler Simmons. And then fake the handoff to that side too. So get the defense going the wrong way as Haskins boots to the right and hits an open Zach Gentry running a seven/corner route right side. Lamont Wade eventually pushes him out of bounds but it’s a long completion of about 30-35 yards. One of the biggest gains of the day.
11. This time, they hand the ball off on jet action to Isaiah McKoy. Left side. Tegray Scales on the stop for a gain of four.
12. Another jet, this time to Mathew Sexton right side. Sexton finds a crease and cuts upfield before Miller tackles him after about a ten-yard gain.
Third Team Session
1. Ball at the offense’s 30. Joe Haden and Cam Sutton the starting outside corners with Arthur Maulet starting in the slot. Robert Spillane and Devin Bush at ILB. Terrell Edmunds and Minkah Fitzpatrick the safety pairing, Chris Wormley/Tyson Alualu the two men up front in the team’s nickel package.
Roethlisberger in shotgun. Hits Chase Claypool on a curl right side. Haden tags him up (no full-tackling here). Five yard gain. Najee Harris again working as the starter.
2. WR grouping looked like Washington, Claypool, and McCloud. Roethlisberger hard count gets Robert Spillane to encroach off the edge. Free play. Roethlisberger fires deep down the right seam but it’s a step or two in front of Claypool. Good carry vertically by Devin Bush while Minkah Fitzpatrick was closing space. Better to see an overthrow than underthrow, I guess.
3. Now the three WRs are: Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Chase Claypool. Spillane and UG3 the ILBs. Roethlisberger complete left side to Johnson. Sutton closes and touches him up. Six-yard gain.
4. I think the Steelers were in dime here? This was a 3rd and 5 team session so it makes sense. I saw Sutton roaming over the middle with Joe Haden in the slot (that’s new) and James Pierre at RCB with Justin Layne at LCB. Haden blitzes from the slot. Roethlisberger pass for JuJu Smith-Schuster left seam but the pass zips through JuJu’s hands and incomplete. Fitzpatrick on the coverage. Harris had a good pickup of the blitzer (not sure if it was Haden or a LB).
5. Loudermilk and Carlos Davis the nickel defensive lineman with Jamir Jones at ROLB. Mason Rudolph coming in at QB. Checkdown to Anthony McFarland underneath. Allen tags him up. Tomlin happy with McFarland. “Good hands, catch, finish” as McFarland jogs the rest of the way into the end zone, as the other backs did. Call it a gain of five.
6. Rudolph another checkdown to Ballage in the right flat. Gain of five. Antoine Brooks Jr. on the stop. Rudolph looked left before bringing his eyes right to hit the back.
7. UG3 and Marcus Allen the ILBs. Miles Killebrew and Tre Norwood the second team safeties. Rudolph complete on a crossed to McCloud. UG3 giving chase (Tomlin praised it after the play). Call it another gain of five. Cassius Marsh got pressure free off the edge, shedding the block of whoever was on him.
8. Rudolph complete to Anthony Johnson right side on a curl. Gain of eight. Killebrew on the stop.
9. Lamont Wade and Donovan Stiner the third-string safeties. Buddy Johnson at ILB. Haskins at QB. Maybe some miscommunication. Mesh point held too long between Haskins and Edmunds. Calvin Bundage decides for them and blows the play up, putting a good shot into Edmunds who finally takes the football. Got a little heated with Edmunds trying to go after Bundage but it’s broken up and calmed down pretty quick. No punches thrown or anything like that. Bundage never even really looked at Edmunds. Just strutted back to the huddle. Kind of a baller move.
10. Jaylen Samuels in the backfield. Haskins complete to Zach Gentry right side on a curl. Pops Bundage, bit of a revenge move for the offense, before Buddy Johnson tags him. Calling it a gain of 12.
11. Shallow cross complete from Haskins to Dax Raymond. Johnson again on the stop. Short gainer of three.
12. T.J. Carter and Isaiah Buggs the nickel D-linemen. Jamar Watson and Quincy Roche at OLB. Haskins looks for WR Tyler Simmons but he can’t make the grab. Nice closed and breakup by Stephen Denmark, a lanky, athletic corner trying to put it together this year.
Fourth Team Session
1. Ball on the offense’s 46. Joe Haden/Cam Sutton the first-team corners. D-line of Wormley-Alualu-Heyward. Ingram and Highsmith the OLBs. Bush and Spillane the ILBs. JuJu Smith-Schuster orbit/return motion (comes across to the center and then returns to original spot). Harris carry left side. Heyward again wins the POA against Coward, total mismatch, and makes the thud stop around the line of scrimmage.
2. Diontae Johnson with the same return/orbit motion. Play action. Pass from Roethlisberger to hit Johnson in the right flat. Interesting wrinkle. Motion as window dressing, looks like a run but nope ball is going to the motion guy in the end. Nice constraint play off them running the ball the play before. Maulet on the stop out of bounds (not live tackling). Gain of seven.
3. Melvin Ingram floating around the LOS and aligns over the A gap. Roethlisberger playaction. Defense blitzes and Pat Freiermuth is wide open deep downfield. Makes the catch before Fitzpatrick tags him up. Calling it a gain of 19 yards. Might have been more.
4. Pony with Anthony McFarland split out wide on a jet motion and Najee Harris in the backfield. Inside zone handoff to Harris. Nice step in the hole against Joe Haden filling the alley (not a live tackling session though) and Harris’ nice cut gains five yards.
5. Cassius Marsh and Jamir Jones the second-string OLBs. Marsh LOLB, Jones ROLB. Fake a power run with Turner pulling left to right. Playaction with Rudolph firing over the middle to Dax Raymond, plucking the ball away from his body as Justin Layne dives but is just shy of breaking the pass up. 14 yard completion.
6. Isaiah McKoy as the Z. Ray-Ray McCloud as the F (slot). Handoff to Snell. Steps out of Jamir Jones tackle, Jones slipping away and falling to the ground, for about a five-yard gain.
7. Loudermilk and Mondeaux the nickel defensive linemen. Rudolph looks right, comes back left, and hits McFarland in the left flat. Marsh with pressure to force the throw, Pierre with the stop. Pickup of four.
8. Killebrew/Norwood the safety pairing. Pierre and Layne the corners (Pierre RCB, Layne LCB). Jet run to McCloud left side. Pierre again with the stop. Couldn’t catch the number but TE with a good block in front out in space.
9. Dwayne Haskins in at QB. Chaz Green getting team reps as a third-string RT. Play action with Simmons coming across in motion at the snap. Throw over the middle is broken up nicely by UDFA corner Mark Gilbert intended for fellow UDFA receiver Rico Bussey.
10. Lot going on here pre-snap. Two tight ends right side. Raymond and Gentry go in motion across the formation but they split up with Raymond coming the whole way across and Gentry returning to his initial spot. Motion Anthony Johnson across the formation. Inside zone run to Ballage who gets a bend/bring read to cut the run back right side. Defense flowing the wrong way and Ballage has a crease right side. Nice nine-yard gain before Wade cuts across to tag him.
11. Edmunds the RB. Bunch set left side. Haskins scrambles to the right and nearly takes off before finding and hitting Mathew Sexton down the right sideline, escaping DeMarkus Acy. Nice catch by Sexton. Call it a 21-yard pickup. Play Coyle was hurt on.
12. John Leglue comes in to replace Coyle at RG. Toss left to McFarland. Has some space before Roche chases him to the sideline. Will give him a gain of six. Haskins booted away after the toss. Another possible constraint play (toss one play with the fake boot, fake the toss and boot the next/later in the drive or game).
Offensive Line/Defensive Line
– Some notes from these 1v1 battles.
1. Dan Moore Jr. does a nice job to mirror Quincy Roche’s outside/inside counter.
2. Cam Heyward pushes past Rashaad Coward. Think he clubbed him but either way, got past with power and good hand use.
3. Green catches Tyson Alualu who misses on his punch and has his right, outside hand too far outside. Alualu rips late but Green won the initial battle.
4. Chris Wormley rips through Trai Turner late in rep.
5. Cassius Marsh blows by Joe Haeg around the edge pretty quickly.
6. Gentry stalls out Watson’s power rush but he rips through the out-leveraged tight end late in the rep.
7. Haeg knocks Ingram off balance/base to win this rep.
8. Turner knocks down Wormley’s hands and takes him to the ground, Wormley stumbling and falling at his feet.
9. Alualu successfully powers through Green this time.
10. Cam Heyward with a quick win against Rashaad Coward.
11. Pretty sick spin to the inside by Alex Highsmith, beating up rookie Dan Moore Jr.
12. They go again. Highsmith tries to cross chop and Moore has more success, sealing him upfield.
13. Ingram tries to head fake and then just goes with power to get under Gentry. Gentry is able to hang on well-enough. Tough spot for Gentry to be in on a rep like this.
14. Aviante Collins keeps his base and wins this rep against Highsmith’s club.
15. Nice rep here from the rookie Isaiahh Loudermilk, quickly getting past Brandon Walton.
16. Go again and Walton wins this battle, mirroring Loudermilk.
17. BJ Finney works Buggs upfield.
18. Henry Mondeaux wins to the inside against John Leglue.
19. Watson rips under Chaz Green.
20. Jamir Jones shows power through Freiermuth.
21. Go again. Freiermuth, like Harris did in backs on ‘backers, flashes his hands to try to get Jones to bite. Jones tries to rip under and through but the rookie seals him.
22. Green loses his balance and falls down going against Marsh.
23. Not sure who the opponent was but Mondeaux with a quick win.
24. Finney runs Carlos Davis up the arc.
25. Finney mirrors Davis’ spin. They eventually both go the ground but Finney’s fellow linemen are happy with the rep.
26. Abdullah Anderson can’t turn/bend the corner against Brandon Walton.
27. Anderson uses power here and turns Walton, who opens up his left hip allowing Anderson through.
28. Go one more time. Tiebreaker. Anderson with one of the moves of the day, a quick swim over Walton for a TKO type of victory. Gets tapped up by his teammates as he walks back, winning the war, including from Cam Heyward, who definitely took notice.
29. Collins mirrors Roche’s spin move. Good rep here from Collins.
Fifth Team Session
1. Ball on the offense’s 46. Spillane/Bush the first-team ILBs. Haden/Sutton the CBs. Wormely-Alualu-and Loudermilk the first-team defensive line (Heyward’s day was done. Carlos Davis initially huddled up as the RDE but was pulled off). Ingram the LOLB, Highsmith the ROLB. Edmunds/Fitzpatrick the safeties.
Roethlisberger in at QB. Toss right to Harris. Pin/pull scheme with Haeg pulling. Gain of three.
2. Smith-Schuster, Claypool, Johnson the receivers in 11 personnel. Orbit motion from one of the WRs. Bad under-center exchange between Roethlisberger and Green. Roethlisberger recovered (always a little scary seeing him reach for the ball around a pile of bodies) but it’s a dead play.
3. Green’s shotgun snap is a little off the mark, Roethlisberger needing to make a one-handed snag to the right, but he corrals it. Freiermuth the starting TE with Ebron out. Roethlisberger climbs and checks down to Harris. Gain of nine. Sutton on the stop.
4. McFarland aligned wide in a Pony set. Defense knows what’s coming. Someone yells out “Watch the motion!” Rader trades across the field and then McFarland jets across right before the snap. Harris run right side. Jamir Jones strong at the point of attack against Haeg. Just a gain of one.
5. Rudolph in at QB. Snell up the middle for a gain of three. Good push by the line but Miles Killebrew came in to fill the alley.
6. Norwood/Killebrew the safeties. Layne and Pierre the CBs. Brooks in the slot. UG3 and Allen the ILBs, Marsh and Jones the EDGE rushers. Rudolph feels pressure, lot of bodies around him, and he checks down right side complete to James Washington for eight yards. D-line ran some sort of twist up front that may have helped generate pressure.
7. Play action. Rudolph hits Derek Watt in the right flat. Gain of six. Marcus Allen with the thud stop. Then Killbrew tags him up to finish the job.
8. McCloud in the slot, Sexton as the Z, Freiermuth aligned wide as the X. Single up the TE. Rudolph checkdown to McFarland short over the middle. Buddy Johnson tries to tag him but McFarland skates away, bending but keeping his balance and staying off the ground. Isaiah Buggs gives good chase, nice hustle play, and knocks the ball out. Hard to tell live but you can see it on the replay Buggs was the one who had the FF. Jamir Jones recovers the ball for the turnover.
9. Simmons jet run right side. Watson contains it well. Calling it a loss of two. Simmons got away a bit upfield but there was also probably a hold on the perimeter (Alex Highsmith was signaling a flag from the sideline).
10. Gentry and Rader both go across the formation. Fake the jet to Simmons this time. Inside zone run to Ballage. Carter and Killebrew there. Run of four.
11. Wade and Stiner the safety pairing. Haskins drops back but quickly takes off. Maybe a little too quick but it’s tough to judge progressions live. Call it a run of five. Watson was providing some pressure off the edge.
12. Collins-Walton-Finney-Leglue-Green the offensive line. Some miscommunication and the team has to re-huddle almost as soon as they leave it. Haskins at QB. Pony with Samuels split out wide and Ballage in the backfield. Haskins boots to the right. Well-defended by the defense, pass intended for Ballage leaking out, and the throw is high and incomplete. The final play of practice.
– Not as active of a group post-practice. Just less room than SVC. Antoine Brooks Jr. was on the JUGS machine for a couple minutes. T.J. Watt, Tyson Alualu, Alex Highsmith, Jamar Watson and others working on pass rush moves.
Camp Report Summary
– The TL;DR version we’ll include in each report because I know, that’s a lot of information to take in.
– I’d call Alex Highsmith the winner of the day. As I wrote above, some of his wins came against wide-eyed rookies. But he looks bigger, certainly stronger, with plus hand use and a variety of moves to win. I hope that inside spin can be a real weapon for him. Sure looks like he can do it.
– I’m assuming there will be a QB rotation and there will be more reps to go around when Roethlisberger has off/half days (he was a full-go today) but Haskins clearly ran ahead of Josh Dobbs. Dobbs didn’t get a single rep in team drills. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.
– Najee Harris held his own in backs on ‘backers. Wasn’t perfect but he’s strong and competitive. Liked his battles with Allen. Kalen Ballage looked the best of any of the backs/tight ends, though. I remember him doing well there at the Senior Bowl and he’s a big guy, too. So that helps.
– Will need to run some of the numbers but certainly feel Matt Canada’s presence right away. All the jet, motion, constraint plays, half-boots, and play action. Play action numbers tick up in run sessions but feels like there was a lot more of it today than I’ve seen in season’s past. Hoping to give you more info on that for tomorrow morning. And will this be the year of Pony? Maybe.
Offense also had one rep of pistol today. Don’t know where it is in my notes but it was with Haskins. So put that on the board too.
– Don’t know if any receiver stood out today. Big plays downfield were more manufactured off playaction than anything else (which is a good sign, to be clear).
– Rashaad Coward is definitely overmatched against Heyward. It’s not a surprise, Coward is a developmental guy, but it’s a mismatch. Thought Aviante Collins moved well while Chaz Green isn’t getting many snaps. Very early but not seeing him, based on reps and his play, as being a real threat for the 53.
– Buggs running ahead of Davis as backup nose tackle, as reflected in the depth chart. But I think all those backup D-line jobs will be a good battle and go wire-to-wire. Here for it.
– Cassius Marsh had some wins against tight ends and on boots/playaction but he constantly got pressure today. And had at least one nice rep against the run. Running ahead of Roche right now.
– Not a whole lot to report for the ILBs. Just nice to see Devin Bush fully out there. Will be ready for Week 1 against the Bills.
– Liked seeing Mark Gilbert and Stephen Denmark use their length to make plays on the football today. That’s their strength and they’re using it accordingly. I didn’t watch really any of WRs/DBs but I don’t think I had Shakur Brown in my notes anywhere today. Will have to look for him tomorrow.
Heinz Field Snapshot
End of practice today. You can see Tuitt in shorts and Bush, to the right, in full pads. Great sight to see him back out there for hopefully a big Year #3.
Twitter Camp Question Of The Day
how much of a "Jump" do you expect from Highsmith?
— Mario Lopezze (@Slick_Lopez) July 28, 2021
Just one day in for myself but it looks like he’s capable of doing it. Very positive first day of padded practice for him.
Vintage Steelers’ Photos
An awesome colorized photo of QB Bobby Layne after being traded from the Lions to Steelers (and placing the ongoing curse against Detroit, saying they’d never win for 50 years after dealing him. And they pretty much didn’t.) Layne was an old-school QB, even for the times. The kind of guy who’d go out drinking the night before a game and then throw a couple touchdowns on Sunday.
They don’t make ’em like Bobby Layne (or those facemasks) anymore.
Dale Gribble’s Best Quotes
“They wanted to see me wet my pants from fear… but they’re too late!”