Back at Heinz Field for our second day of Pittsburgh Steelers’ training camp coverage. Today was a wet one with a storm rolling through but hey, we’re back covering camp. We can deal with a little bit of rain.
Let’s dive into what happened at practice on Thursday.
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– Lighter day of work Thursday with the team in shorts and shells after Wednesday’s physical, padded practice. Good news is the projected storms never came through. Aside from early morning and afternoon showers, things cleared up by the team the team took the practice field.
– Injury Report. Already well-covered earlier on the site. Not practicing in any capacity today included: WR Cody White (hamstring), TE Eric Ebron (elbow) and DE Stephon Tuitt (unknown). Several other names though were limited or very limited. Zach Banner did very little today. He went through on-air warmups with the starting offensive line but that was it. Didn’t even have a helmet on today. J.C. Hassenauer did the same briefly before his day was done. He ran sprints along the sideline near head trainer John Norwig. But he’s working his way back into action.
Kevin Dotson had shoulder pads and a helmet for the first time of camp today. He was part of the second team rotation in on-air warmups, running behind Rashaad Coward. Kind of interesting. But maybe that was intended since he didn’t work in individual or team sessions today. While the OL went through their drills, Dotson worked one-on-one with strength and conditioning coach Marcel Pastoor, coming out of his stance and working on his initial steps and punch. Another guy who seems close. Sooner he gets full reps, the better.
Chukwuma Okorafor also didn’t participate in team drills today. Nor did T.J. Watt, who was in pads and helmet. OT/OG Anthony Coyle dressed today and worked a bit in OL drills but wasn’t part of any team sessions. He suffered a stinger in yesterday’s practice. Melvin Ingram dressed but didn’t work in team drills. Ditto Joe Haden, who was given a rest day. Ben Roethlisberger had a half-day, working in two team sessions: 7 shots and a third down session.
– Kendrick Green working with Mason Rudolph on snaps before practice. Seems like that’s been a daily occurrence. Yesterday was shotgun snaps. Today, Rudolph was under center.
– Stephon Tuitt has an arm. He might be the future of the franchise.
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) July 29, 2021
– Alfredo Roberts puts his young tight end group to work. They don’t get to stand around and talk like some other position groups. He’s on the field, gets the group together, and they go through some drills even before the first horn sounds. I like to see it. This group needs every rep possible.
– Not sure what he said but Matt Canada huddled up the entire offense before practice got going.
– The first team offense, on air, looked like this. Okorafor-Coward-Green-Turner-Banner along the line. Pat Freiermuth at tight end. Chase Claypool, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson at WR. Najee Harris at RB. Ben Roethlisberger at QB.
– Second-team looked like this (I am missing either a TE or WR). Dan Moore-Kevin Dotson-JC Hassenauer-BJ Finney-Joe Haeg. James Washington and Anthony Johnson the outside WRs. Kevin Rader at TE. Benny Snell at RB. Mason Rudolph at QB.
– Kick return line. Ray-Ray McCloud, Cam Sutton, Rico Bussey, Mathew Sexton, Isaiah McKoy, Anthony McFarland. Coaches had another play hit the returner with a bag to simulate ball security and focus.
– Punt return line: Benny Snell, Tyler Simmons, Jaylen Samuels, Lamont Wade. This is probably as much of an “upback” line for the kick returners than anything. Obviously, none of these names are seriously in the mix to be punt returners.
– Offensive line working on zone blocks during their individual sessions. Shade inside, snap your head across and finish the block. Assistant O-line coach Chris Morgan working with those guys. Want to see Rashaad Coward work on using his hands more to get into the defender than just his body. Or else you’re just going to fall off on contact.
– WR order in “Group 2” of QB/WR work. In order. Tyler Simmons, Rico Bussey, Anthony Johnson, Mathew Sexton, Isaiah McKoy. Other WRs (minus the injured Cody White) were with Group 1.
– Some special teams info for you before we get into the team recap.
– Lot of punting today. Marcus Allen served as the starting upback. QB of that unit. Important job held by Jordan Dangerfield for the past couple years. So that bodes well for Allen’s chances to stick. Trey Edmunds was the left wing with Benny Snell the right wing.
– Tracked hangtime and distances for Jordan Berry and rookie Pressley Harvin III today. They punted on air, not as a full group or with a rush, early in practice but I’ll just list the session where they came together for a full, 11v11 session. Here are those results.
Berry: 3.99 seconds (44 yards – ball at own one), 4.79 (59 yards – ball on own 20), 3.98 (45), 4.90 (56), 3.65 (38), 4.45 (52), 4.06 (43)
AVERAGE: 4.26 seconds of hangtime, 48.1 yards distance
Harvin: 4.81 seconds (don’t have yardage), 3.21 (42 yards – ball at on one), 3.87 (45 – low-liner), 3.40 (42), 4.87 (60), 4.28 (45), N/A (56 yards), 5.01 (63 yards).
AVERAGE: 4.21 seconds of hangtime, 50.4 yards distance
Close battle, but based off these numbers and watching it, I give the edge to Berry. Just felt more consistent, which has been the area I’ve harped on the most for Harvin in order to win the job.
No doubt though when it comes together, Harvin can put together some wow punts. This one I charted came earlier on with no rush but I had Harvin down with a 70 yard punt and 4.82 seconds of hangtime. That’s an elite punt.
First Team Session (Seven Shots)
1. Alex Highsmith and Cassius Marsh the first team OLBs. Chris Wormley and Cam Heyward the nickel linemen. Antoine Brooks the starting slot corner with James Pierre, ahead of Justin Layne, running opposite Cam Sutton. Robert Spillane and Ulysees Gilbert III the starting ILBs with Devin Bush not in team. Terrell Edmunds and Minkah Fitzpatrick the safeties.
Offensive line: Moore-Coward-Green-Turner-Haeg. JuJu, Claypool, Johnson the WRs with Freiermuth the Y tight end.
Smith-Schuster motions across. He runs an out ‘n up from the right front pylon to the back of the end zone. Ben Roethlisberger’s throw is a bit out front and JuJu dives for it but can’t make the catch. Incomplete. James Pierre covering but he lost Smith-Schuster on the double-move.
2. Zach Gentry in at TE. Low-lining fade to Chase Claypool with Cam Sutton covering. Ball thrown over Sutton’s right shoulder. Claypool reaches back and plucks it for the score. TD.
3. Quick throw over the middle complete from Roethlisberger to Claypool for the TD. Antoine Brooks Jr. blitzed free off the edge. Claypool made the grab in front of Edmunds.
4. Pony with Anthony McFarland and Kalen Ballage on the field together. Ray-Ray McCloud in the slot, Mason Rudolph in at QB. Arthur Maulet blitzing from his nickel spot and came in free for a would-be sack. Rudolph throw to the back, right corner of the end zone is incomplete, intended for McCloud on a corner route. Thrown between Miles Killebrew and Layne.
5. Rudolph rolls to his left. Throws back to his right and McCloud grabs it off his shoe tops for the TD. In front of rookie Buddy Johnson.
6. Dwayne Haskins in at QB, still running ahead of Josh Dobbs. Nice throw to Tyler Simmons, working back to the football, against CB Stephen Denmark. TD.
7. Haskins looks for Dax Raymond quickly down the right seam. But it hits either off of Raymond or Lamont Wade’s facemask, who covered it well. Incomplete.
Offense won the day 4-3. Adjusting one play from yesterday, no longer counting Tyler Simmons’ catch as a touchdown. But offense still leads the two days, 9-5.
WR vs. DB
– Charted the WR/DB reps today. Low red zone work. Players lining up around the five-yard line.
1. Ray-Ray McCloud pivot route vs Minkah Fitzpatrick is complete.
2. Diontae Johnson runs the fade versus James Pierre for the TD.
3. Nice contest by Terrell Edmunds on a fade to James Washington. Incomplete and off Edmunds’ hand.
4. Chase Claypool runs a comeback to the front left pylon. Caught the ball and tried to drag both feet in. Looks like he got one down, not the second. But it was so close they actually replayed it after the rep. Definitely a booth-review moment. I’ll call it incomplete though. Justin Layne on the coverage.
5. JuJu Smith-Schuster runs a skinny post to the crossbar. Juggling catch with Brooks covering. JuJu caught it the second time but only got one foot down.
6. McCloud stems vertically and glances inside before breaking outside. Mark Gilbert slips trying to match him and McCloud easily scores.
7. Slot alignment, Johnson running an out right. Makes the catch working on Maulet, who can’t punch through despite a very late effort.
8. Nice out ‘n up by James Washington burns DeMarkus Acy for the score.
9. Isaiah McKoy runs a slant and the throw is on-target but Stephen Denmark closes quickly and uses his great length to break the pass up.
10. Tre Norwood covering Chase Claypool. The two collide off the base of the field goal post, looked a little scary, and the pass is incomplete. Both guys were ok.
11. It’s Denmark again, making a diving breakup on Rico Bussey. Making some plays in a tough drill for DBs. Have to cover the entire field and do it for a lot longer than a game since the QB has no rush.
12. McCloud runs out of end zone with Minkah Fitzpatrick offering good coverage. Incomplete.
13. Fade to Mathew Sexton in the right corner of the end zone. Incomplete. Looked a little short and hit off Mark Gilbert.
14. Similar situation. JuJu Smith-Schuster on an out ‘n up. Shakur Brown defends it well and the throw is short, hitting off Brown’s back.
15. Claypool can’t shake Sutton in the back of the end zone. Pass is incomplete. Good coverage.
16. Diontae Johnson pivots away from Cam Sutton and makes the catch over his shoulder.
17. James Pierre times his jump well with a good break-up working on James Washington.
18. Anthony Johnson drops the pass but Lamont Wade was grabbing him. Defensive holding, pass interference, criminal charges with how bad he was tugging at Johnson’s jersey.
19. Nice route here by Simmons to break down on a comeback but the timing and placement is a little bit off. Throw outside and clips off his hand incomplete.
20. Slight push-off by McCloud on Edmunds. Catches the ball in front of him.
21. Foot fire off the line by JuJu. Converts to a fade. Adjusts well and catches the ball over Justin Layne.
22. Johnson catches the ball on a fade route. Fitzpatrick can’t punch it out. Good ball security here from Johnson.
23. Washington mis-times his jump, a little early, and Sutton – never leaving his feet – is able to throw up his left hand and break the throw up on the fade to the right side.
24. Good read and break on the ball by rookie safety Tre Norwood, who undercuts Isaiah McKoy and picks the pass off. Only issue is he double-caught it, hitting off his chest before bouncing in the air and Norwood grabbing it.
25. Stop ‘n go by JuJu. Makes the grab over Acy.
26. Good press and jam by Pierre on Claypool. Throw is high and off Claypool’s hands with Pierre shoving him to the ground at the end.
27. Looked like Fitzpatrick slipped and McCloud makes the catch.
28. Sexton runs a pivot route but Brown is able to break it up.
29. Slant thrown a bit behind Bussey and Gilbert swings his arm down and through for the breakup.
30. Brooks with a physical rep on JuJu, shoving him down. Pass incomplete.
31. McCloud crosses Sutton’s face. Throw slightly behind but caught.
32. Washington boxes out Justin Layne on a slant and Layne can’t rip the ball out after Washington makes the catch.
Second Team Session
1. Ball at the offense’s 29. Gilbert/Spillane the starting ILBs. Rudolph at QB. Playaction. Ball checked down to Najee Harris. Gain of five. UG3 with the tap/stop (no pads, little contact today in team drills).
2. Tight end and wide receiver trading, each coming across opposite ends of the formation. Harris carry left side. Freiermuth looked like he held his own to seal down Heyward and Harris came off his hip. Sutton flew in to tag him. Call it a gain of two.
3. Play action. Screen to Zach Gentry left side. Coward and Moore, so the left tackle and left guard pulling and out in front. Give it a gain of seven.
4. Play action. Blitzer came free. Rudolph hit Smith-Schuster over the middle for a gain of 11.
5. Layne and Gilbert the outside corners with Maulet in the slot. Benny Snell motioned and split out wide. Haskins hits him on a curl complete for 12. Joe Haeg sealed Jamir Jones upfield.
6. Haskins under center. Buddy Johnson and Marcus Allen the ILB pairing. Snell carry right side. Johnson tags him and Roche closed things down on the right side before Snell ran into Henry Mondeaux. Gain of two.
7. Second team offensive line in team drills. Aviante Collins-Brandon Walton-BJ Finney-John Leglue-Chaz Green. Haskins boots right and completes to Anthony Johnson right side. Gain of 10. Working on Gilbert.
8. Pulled the right guard Leglue with Kalen Ballage behind. Good lane opened up getting him into the second/third level. Norwood with the tag after a run of roughly nine.
9. Josh Dobbs getting first team reps at QB since yesterday. Makes the first play count. Play action and finds a leaping Pat Freiermuth down the right sideline. Impressive throw and catch. 21-yard gain.
10. Kalen Ballage run right side. Not much doing. Stopped around the line of scrimmage.
11. Play action. Dobbs boot lefts. Floats the ball up in the air and caught by Ballage but behind the line of scrimmage for a short loss. Quincy Roche was free as the unblocked EMOL, didn’t get suckered in by the fake, and put pressure on Dobbs.
12. Fake the jet to Sexton. Handoff to Jaylen Samuels. Jamar Watson with the tag/squeeze for a gain of four.
Third Team Session
1. Robert Spillane coming on a blitz. Harris picked it up well. JuJu Smith-Schuster beats James Pierre down the right side, has him by two steps, but the ball hits off his hands/facemask. Should’ve been a 60-yard TD. Instead, incomplete. Good throw from Rudolph.
2. Rudolph complete to JuJu this time on an underneath curl. Gain of 12.
3. Brooks in the slot. Cassius Marsh lined up over A Gap. Throw short from Rudolph to Smith-Schuster for a gain of eight to the left side. Highsmith dropped into coverage and touched him up.
4. Anthony Johnson and Diontae Johnson on the outside with Ray-Ray McCloud in the slot. Busted screen play, well defended by the defense. Spillane coming in hot again. Intended for Harris but incomplete.
5. Layne and Gilbert the outside corners. Isaiahh Loudermilk and Isaiah Buggs the down linemen. Good zip on Haskins’ throw to McCloud, hitting him over the middle for a 13-yard pickup in front of Miles Killebrew.
6. Derek Watt aligned as a wing. Pistol set. Haskins looked for either Anthony Johnson or James Washington left side. But the receiver broke the route off on a curl and Haskins threw deep. Miscommunication led to the incomplete pass.
7. Haskins complete to Rico Bussey left side. Complete, Gilbert covering. Call it a gain of 13.
8. Ballage checks in at RB. Haskins throws deep down the right sideline for Rico Bussey. Justin Layne gets the first hand on it, knocking the ball into the air but Bussey stays with the play and catches it on the bounce. About a 31-yard pickup.
9. Josh Dobbs comes in. T.J. Carter free on a screen left to Ballage. Not sure who it was but a DB knifed in to tag for a loss of about five.
10. Hank concept, over the ball route by Anthony Johnson and Dobbs hits him for ten.
11. Acy and Denmark the corners. Defense jumps offsides. Free play and Dobbs hits Bussey down the left sideline working on Denmark. Another good pickup for Bussey. Gain of 17.
12. Chaz Green false starts, coming out of his stance a second too early, though the play goes on. Short throw from Dobbs to McFarland, who reaches out with one hand to snag the ball along the right side. Gain of five. Acy taps him.
Fourth Team Session
– Third down circuit here for the offense/defense.
1. Mondeaux and Loudermilk the DL. Dime defense here. Layne, Pierre on the outside, Brooks in the slot, Sutton in the dime role, Edmunds and Fitzpatrick the safeties. Snap from Green to Roethlisberger is slightly off but caught. Short completion from Roethlisberger to Smith-Schuster. Call it a gain of six.
2. Ball at the offense’s 30. Throw underneath from Roethlisberger to Freiermuth in the right flat. Pickup of two or three. Sutton tags him.
3. Roethlisberger scrambles to the right and I think fully crossed the LOS by the time he threw it. But it’s complete to McCloud for a gain of 14. Nice job by Joe Haeg to mirror Marsh’s spin move.
4. Diontae Johnson runs a slant behind Cam Sutton, who I think got manipulated and pulled to the flat with Johnson running behind him. Ball met Johnson as soon as he passed behind Sutton so maybe he couldn’t see it the whole way but he dropped the pass that hit him square in the hands. Incomplete from Ben.
5. Snell in at RB, Rudolph in at QB. Isaiah Buggs pressure up the middle. Rudolph fires over the middle, didn’t look like anyone was open, and Tre Norwood patrolling centerfield picks it off and runs it back 20-30 yards. Splash play from the rookie.
6. Rudolph hits McCloud coming across the field right to left versus Maulet. Gain of about 15. McCloud came up a little gimpy on an ankle at the end. But looked very minor.
7. Carlos Davis and Isaiah Buggs the two defensive linemen. Layne and Gilbert the outside corners with Maulet in the slot. Allen/UG3 at ILB. Rudolph check left to McFarland to beat the blitz. Mark Gilbert is right there at the LOS and grabs a fistful of McFarland’s jersey. Makes the stop but coaches didn’t want to see that. “Don’t grab, Mark!” one of them yelled out.
8. Rudolph complete over the middle to Zach Gentry in the middle of the field working on Johnson. Gain of five.
9. Abdullah Anderson and T.J. Carter rotating in as the nickel D-linemen. Denmark does well to contest back shoulder throw for Bussey. Incomplete from Haskins. Good break-up.
10. Now it’s little-mentioned Calvin Taylor and Carter the defensive linemen. Jamar Watson/Jamir Jones the OLBs. Acy and Denmark the outside corners with Shakur Brown in the slot. Law firm of Stiner and Wade at safety. Draw to Ballage. Catches the defense off-guard as he gets to the second level for a gain of six before Brown tags him.
11. Pony. McFarland split out with Samuels in the backfield. Haskins flushed and steps left. Zips the ball off-balanced to Kevin Rader who reaches out and makes a good catch (his hands were a problem in 2019 camp) for an 18 yard pickup near the left sideline.
Fifth Team Session
– Two-minute drill. 1:18, offense with one timeout and needing a touchdown. Mason Rudolph ran as first-team QB with the rest of the starters. Ball at the offense’s 46.
1. Antoine Brooks Jr. blitzes. Rudolph throws underneath to JuJu for a gain of four with Maulet tagging him.
2. Short cross to Freiermuth against Sutton. Call it a gain of six.
3. Rudolph again finds Smith-Schuster sitting down in zone for a completion of eight. Spillane tags him.
4. Diontae Johnson running a shallow cross left to right. Soon as he catches the ball, he turns and pivots back to the left and finds running room before going out of bounds at the defense’s 21. 15 yards, most of it YAC.
5. Rudolph short checkdown right side to Najee Harris. Little more of a run-after-catch and I’ll call it a gain of seven. Offense burns its timeout.
6. Nothing immediately available, Rudolph shuffles to his left and hits Smith-Schuster running right to left. Minkah Fitzpatrick doesn’t want him to score and tackles him, even in a non-tackling drill, at the three yard line for no YAC. Offense tries to run up to spike the ball but runs out of time and the defense gets the stop.
– Now Dwayne Haskins comes in with the second team.
1. Similar circumstances. Ball at the offense’s 48, two yards closer to the end zone, the only difference. Finds Bussey on a crosser for a gain of six. Maulet blitzing.
2. Cover 2 hole shot that goes over Bussey’s head between the corner and safety. Maybe an overthrow, maybe Bussey not running enough to get depth. Hard to tell.
3. Ballage at RB. Haskins complete to Anthony Johnson for a gain of seven.
4. Haskins dumps the ball off left side to Ballage. Allen runs him out of bounds. Completion of 12. Collins did a good job to push Roche upfield.
5. Haskins throws middle to Raymond but the pass is incomplete. Marcus Allen had good coverage.
6. Third down. Haskins hits Raymond short on the left side with Allen covering as they tumble out of bounds. Play where Raymond got hurt. On the far sideline from my seat so was hard to see what exactly happened. Four yard gain.
7. Haskins runs to his right. Defense blows the coverage, don’t know whose fault it was, but Rico Bussey is wide open along the right sideline. Haskins hits him and Bussey catches the ball at the two, taking a couple of uncontested steps into the end zone for the TD. And that’s the end of practice. Haskins’ group scores, Rudolph’s doesn’t.
– James Pierre had a forced fumble against Najee Harris in 7v7. Late in the play and Harris didn’t see it, Pierre coming from behind and knocking the ball out.
– Chase Claypool skied over Justin Layne for a back shoulder grab on another play.
– Stephen Denmark ran with the very speedy Mathew Sexton on a go-route down the left sideline to break up a pass. Should’ve had the pick, couldn’t go to the ground with it, but still a strong rep. Just needs to finish.
– Nice day for Dwayne Haskins. Still running ahead of Dobbs (important) and playing well (more important). Showing velocity but making good decisions and pushing the ball downfield more than Rudolph has (though Rudolph should’ve had that long TD to JuJu). Haskins has also been accurate overall with just a couple of minor blips.
– Couple of young guys stepping up today. Rico Bussey had himself a day, even if his two-minute drill TD was more of the defense busting its coverage than probably anything else. CB Stephen Denmark is impressing me his with size, length, and ball skills. And Tre Norwood with two picks in practice. One in WR/DB and another in team. He was drafted to make plays like these.
– Zach Gentry is a big target and showing good hands. Able to catch outside his frame and a definite headache for some of these LBs to cover vertically. Seeing improvement from him.
– Just not seeing Justin Layne make a lot of plays. Getting picked on, not contesting at the catch point, and the one breakup he did have ended up being caught by Bussey. Might have been a bit of bad luck, sure, but the big plays just aren’t coming for him right now. Seeing more from Pierre.
– Could be a Mack/Buck thing but UG3 ahead of Marcus Allen. If UG3 stays healthy, he can certainly make this roster.
– Cam Sutton’s given him fits but Chase Claypool’s ability to go up and get the ball is impressive. Just hard to deal with a guy who is that athletic with his frame.
– The projected first-team offensive line has still yet to take a single snap taken in team sessions. In fact, three of the projected starters haven’t. The only two who have are Kendrick Green and Trai Turner.
– Looks like Antoine Brooks Jr. and Arthur Maulet could be rotating first-team nickel duties every day.
Heinz Field Snapshot
Look at the team in 7v7.
Twitter Camp Question of the Day
Alex are you ready to give Dobbs his bus ticket home?
— John Pennington (@01b453efb5c0436) July 29, 2021
Not yet. Still has to carry over in-game. But Haskins has been sharp in the two days I’ve been there and he’s clearly worked ahead of Dobbs each practice. As of now, Haskins is going to make the team over him.
Vintage Steelers’ Photos
Loved this one of Ernie Stautner. All-time team great and the first Steeler to have his jersey (#70) retired.
Dale Gribble’s Best Quotes
“If you want, you can read a bloated government report on smoking. Or go straight to the horse’s mouth and get the facts from the tobacco industry!”