The Pittsburgh Steelers returned to Heinz Field for one of their final days of training camp. After today, their last two camp practices are on Tuesday and Wednesday. Let’s talk about what happened today.
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– Injury Report: Not practicing today included: CB Antoine Brooks Jr. (left leg), DL Stephon Tuitt (undisclosed), OG Trai Turner (undisclosed), OT Chaz Green (undisclosed), C Kendrick Green (undisclosed), and OG Brandon Walton (undisclosed). I didn’t even see Kendrick Green nor Walton on the field today. Not sure if they’re being evaluated off-site. (Update: Tomlin said Green had an excused absence).
Practicing in limited fashion were: WR James Washington, WR Ray-Ray McCloud, CB Joe Haden, RB Kalen Ballage, RB Benny Snell, and OLB TJ Watt. All went through individual sessions but did not practice in team. Good signs for those wide outs and backs. All four working their way back and should be healthy enough to play in Saturday’s game against Detroit even if they’re not 100% yet. Washington and McCloud ran sprints along the sideline while Ballage and Snell spent plenty of time on the side working with strength and conditoning coach Marcel Pastoor.
– Coming off a game, the team predictably worked in shells today. No full pads.
– John Leglue is Mr. Versatile. In camp, he’s played center, guard, and tackle. And before the first horn today, he got some long snapping in to the punters. Specialists were first on the field today. Leglue trying to wear as many hats as possible to maximize his value and snag a practice squad spot. Like his chances of doing it.
– Cassius Marsh and Ben Roethlisberger walked out of the tunnel together. Assume Marsh was giving Ben some solid trading card tips (“Hey Ben, go buy your own rookie card. It’s worth a lot”).
– Pressley Harvin III stood in the end zone next to the offensive linemen early in practice. You can barely tell the different.
– TJ Carter and Abdullah Anderson got in plenty of work on the side today. Before practice, during special teams sessions. First wave of cuts from 90 to 85 is coming up soon. And those guys know it.
– Center J.C. Hassenauer continues to wear a brace on his left knee since injuring it in camp.
– First team offensive line today. Looks different with some of the guys missing. Okorafor-Dotson-Hassenauer-Finney-Banner
– Second team offensive line today: Haeg-Coward-Leglue-Pridgeon-Moore
So Dotson jumping Coward after a strong game against the Eagles. That story should finally be over. And Moore getting cross-trained at right tackle now, as the team does with its young guys and backups.
– Ray-Ray McCloud, Mathew Sexton, and Isaiah McKoy in the kick return lines today.
– James Pierre had another 7v7 interception, his second of camp. Picked Ben deep down the right side, looking for Eric Ebron who had trouble locating the football.
– Alex Highsmith and Eric Ebron working on the side during a STs session. Ebron on pass sets, Highsmith on pass rushes, under Alfredo Roberts’ watchful eye.
– Cool scene during some down time in ST sessions today. Ebron hanging out with the defensive players: Highsmith, Alualu, Tuitt, Heyward, and Mike Tomlin (pictured below). Guys joking, laughing, having a light moment in the dog days of camp and the preseason.
– Also saw Kevin Colbert walking around today, as he does for most days. Fist bumps from Marsh and Highsmith.
– During a STs session, Danny Smith pulled Marsh aside to work on his hands. Think he wanted them tighter and more controlled hitting through one of the bags. Carlos Davis was part of this coverage drill too. He was on the kick coverage/punt return unit in Thursday’s game.
– No actual punting today aside from specialists warming up pre-practice. Used the punting machine to substitute a punt during PR drills today. Just for kicks, I charted what the hangtimes were to get an idea of what a machine hangtime is. The results: 4.92, 4.81, 4.81, and 4.82 seconds. Pretty elite stuff. And makes me feel a little more confident about my stopwatch ability that I got a pretty consistent time on a punting machine.
– Defensive line not resting during 7v7 sessions even when other groups were. Dunbar putting them through drills, working on their hands and beating double-teams.
– Rico Bussey with a pretty one-handed snag and toe-tap in 7 shots. “Rico, you gotta chill man,” Marcus Allen called out to him.”
First Team Session (Seven Shots)
1. OL of: Okorafor-Dotson-Hassenauer-Finney-Banner. Melvin Ingram and Alex Highsmith at OLB. James Pierre at LCB, Cam Sutton at RCB, Arthur Maulet in the slot. Ben Roethlisberger in at QB. Empty set, three receivers on the field with Chase Claypool, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Diontae Johnson with Najee Harris and Eric Ebron split out.
Roethlisberger throws inside the right, front pylon for Harris. Bush closes well and breaks up the pass down the middle of Harris’ chest for the incompletion.
2. Devin Bush, Robert Spillane the ILBs. Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds at safety. Roethlisberger hits Johnson left side on a speed out against James Pierre for the TD.
3. Pat Freiermuth the Y tight end. Cam Heyward, Tyson Alualu the DTs. Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster in the slot. Fade to Johnson in the right corner is caught but both of his feet land out of bounds. Well-defended by CB James Pierre.
4. Mason Rudolph in at QB. Throw a little high and over Zach Gentry’s outstretched arms incomplete.
5. Chris Wormley, Henry Mondeaux the defensive linemen. Miles Killebrew, Tre Norwood the safeties. Pick route, slant/flat concept with Mathew Sexton successfully running under Tyler Simmons. It works, defense doesn’t pass off, but Rudolph’s throw is out in front. Sexton dives but can’t make the catch and a sure touchdown falls incomplete.
6. Dwayne Haskins in at QB. Nice touch throw and catch to Rico Bussey right side against Stephen Denmark in the back left corner for the TD.
7. Haskins looks for TE Marcus Baugh crossing left to right but Donovan Stiner has tight coverage and the pass is incomplete.
– Defense wins seven shots, 5-2. I’ll have an updated tally on this battle for the next camp diary.
RB/TE vs LB Coverage Drills
1. Najee Harris easily bears Robert Spillane on an angle route.
2. Pat Freiermuth doesn’t create much space at the top of his route against Marcus Allen on this dig route, Allen with inside leverage, but Freiermuth is able to work over him and make a contested grab.
3. Zach Gentry makes a pretty one-handed snag over Calvin Bundage, who was desperately grabbing the back of his jersey the whole way.
4. Anthony McFarland bursts away from Bundage here for the catch on an out route. Bundage playing inside leverage so hard to make a play here.
5. Out ‘n up by Eric Ebron. Devin Bush stays in-phase and the pass is over Ebron’s head incomplete.
6. Same route by Freiermuth, out ‘n up. Marcus Allen runs with him but gets grabby and Freiermuth went to the ground at the catch point incomplete. Probably worth a flag.
7. Tony Brooks-James swims over Cassius Marsh on an angle/Texas route but Marsh undercuts the ball and knocks it away.
8. Pete Guerriero bursts to the outside but Ulysees Gilbert closes and breaks up the throw. His teammates, especially Marcus Allen, were pumped for him.
9. Pat Freiermuth slows up at the top of his route against Devin Bush, bursting to the inside and making the catch.
10. Marcus Baugh with a good rep, beating Buddy Johnson deep. I think it was caught but not 100% sure of my notes here.
11. Najee Harris catch left side versus Arthur Maulet. Bit of a scary moment. Harris tried to cut back inside but lost his footing and his left leg got bent back behind him. But he was ok, getting back in line. But in that moment, not gonna lie, my heart dropped.
12. Nice stem to the outside allowing Brooks-James to run vertically, beating Robert Spillane.
13. Guerriero shows his track speed, gaining two steps on Bundage but the QBs pass is a step or two in front and falls incomplete.
Second Team Session
1. Chris Wormley, Tyson Alualu, and Cam Heyward the defensive line. Pierre and Sutton the CBs, Ingram and Highsmith the OLBs, Spillane and Bush the ILBs, with Fitzpatrick and Edmunds the S. 21 personnel with Derek Watt in at FB, Pat Freiermuth at TE. Ball at the offense’s 45.
Ben Roethlisberger in at QB, trying to get the defense to jump on a hard count. They don’t. Throw complete over the middle to JuJu Smith-Schuster for a gain of five.
2. 12 personnel. Najee Harris run to the left, Melvin Ingram closing behind unblocked on a zone “read” play (Ben’s never going to keep the ball and run it – playaction could be the only threat here). Just a gain of two.
3. 11 personnel now. Play breaks down, good coverage, and Cam Heyward basically bumps into Roethlisberger for a would-be sack. Roethlisberger almost gave up on the play but fired it downfield at the last moment, Diontae Johnson leaping and making a nice grab over his head for a gain of 25.
4. High snap and to the right and Roethlisberger is a little late hitting Smith-Schuster on a screen to the left. Arthur Maulet making the play, coming downhill and tagging him up for a loss of three, defeating the block to make the play.
5. Trey Edmunds in at FB. Buddy Johnson and Marcus Allen in at LB. Anthony McFarland the RB, Mason Rudolph under center. Playaction. Hits Isaiah McKoy on a dig to the 41 for a 15 yard completion.
6. Justin Layne at LCB, Lafayette Pitts RCB, Shakur Brown in the slot. Jaylen Samuels the back. RPO, power run with a WR bubble screen. Rudolph complete to Rico Bussey left side but Pittts is there for the tag-up. Call it a loss of two, though Bussey ran after Pitts ripped through him for the mock tackle.
7. Haeg-Coward-Leglue-Pridgeon-Moore the second-team o-line. Cassius Marsh, Jamir Jones the OLBs. McFarland run left side, Robert Spillane chasing from behind. Good second-level crease, going to give him five, though it’s hard to determine when a guy is down in these lighter sessions.
8. 12 personnel. Ebron and Kevin Rader the tight ends. Rudolph with some solid velocity on the football, hitting Samuels in a tight window down the right seam. But he can’t make the grab and it’s a drop, another one for him this camp. Jet motion on the play with McKoy running in front of Rudolph.
9. Jamar Watson, Quincy Roche the OLBs. Dwayne Haskins at QB. Draw to Brooks-James. Maulet flies in to make the tackle for two yards. “There you go, Art!” a coach yelled out.
10. Samuels and Brooks-James the pair of RBs. Pony backfield. Haskins complete to Sexton right side. Cuts inside and then explodes upfield for a gain of six.
11. Rader and Freiermuth the pair of TEs. Run to Guerriero. Not sure who the defender was but Coward hooked his man down for a would-be hold. Run of no gain.
12. Haskins playaction. Hits Cody White over the middle to the defense’s 35 for 19 yards.
Third Team Session
1. Ball at the offense’s 46. Roethlisberger in at QB. Johnson, Claypool, and Smith-Schuster the three receivers. Johnson running a dig and Roethlisberger wants to hit him but I think Johnson slowed up on the route. Minkah Fitzpatrick comes flying in and dives out, getting his hands under the football, and makes the grab for the INT.
2. Bubble screen from Roethlisberger to Johnson. Gain of four. Najee Harris blocking out in space.
3. Pierre at LCB, Sutton at RCB, Maulet in the slot. Roethlisberger hits inbetween two defenders for the grab – think it was Maulet and Edmunds. Gain of nine. Banner pushed Alex Highsmith up the arc.
4. Empty set. Roethlisberger hits Freiermuth on a stick route for a gain of five. Melvin Ingram dropping into coverage on a zone blitz, a defender coming in hot off the offense’s right side. Ingram with the wrap and stop.
5. Layne and Pitts the outside CBs. Mason Rudolph in at QBs. Floats pass complete to McFarland leaking out over Marcus Allen. Gain of nine. Marsh got pressure on this one.
6. Nice drive, close, and finish by Pitts to break up this deep curl intended for Sexton from Rudolph.
7. Loudermilk-Buggs-Mondeaux the 2nd team base defensive line. Derek Watt sidecar to Rudolph in the run. Throw complete right side to Tyler Simmons. Justin Layne tapping him upside the helmet after a seven yard gain.
8. Rudolph complete to Simmons four yards, tapped up by Buddy Johnson.
9. Offensive line of: Collins-Coward-Leglue-Pridgeon-Moore. Dwayne Haskins in at QB. Samuels and Brooks-James the Pony RBs. Samuels split out. Carlos Davis flies in and gets pressure. Haskins hits Freiermuth down the seam and plucks the ball off UG3’s left shoulder. Nice grab. Gain of 14.
10. Haskins looks to fire over the middle. But a defensive linemen gets his hand on the football and the pass pops up sky high into the air. Sea of defenders around it but Tony Brooks-James makes the catch before the ball hits the ground. We’ll call it a gain of three. Cue the wacky music.
11. Lamont Wade blitzing, RB picked him up. Anthony Johnson gets open on a crosser to the 34 before being hit out of bounds by Stiner. Pass and catch of 20.
12. Mark Gilbert and Stephen Denmark the CBs. McKoy, Bussey, Johnson the WRs. Trips right with three receivers initially until Johnson motions across. Short completion from Haskins to McKoy to midfield, touched up by Gilbert.
Fourth Team Session
1. Ball at the offense’s 44. Roethlisberger in at QB. Bunch right. Najee Harris running an angle route and Ben looks for him but Highsmith reads Roethlisberger’s shoulder, times his jump, and bats the pass down incomplete.
2. Bunch right again. Spillane slipped as the underneath/overhang zone defender. Roethlisberger complete to Diontae Johnson for nine yards out of bounds left side.
3. Johnson and Allen the ILBs. Roethlisberger under center. Jet run to Johnson to the left side. Ingram strings the run out wide and Allen takes a good angle as Johnson slips down and loses his footing. Loss of one.
4. Layne and Pitts on the outside with Brown in the slot. Fake the draw. Roethlisberger looks for Chase Claypool dee down the left sideline, who has a yard on Pitts. Good throw but Claypool can’t make the catch over his shoulder, dropping a would-be 57 yard TD.
5. Felt like Banner jumped early here but the play lived on. Complete to Smith-Schuster on a hank (over the ball route) for seven yards.
6. After the play, Mike Tomlin called it a neutral zone infraction. Think Leglue snapped it as soon as he saw it for the free play but Rudolph nor the rest of the offense was really ready. Still a smart play to snap it. Ugly looking play and it ends with Pitts breaking up a throw intended for Bussey. Finished down through Bussey’s hands to break it up.
7. Loudermilk and Mondeaux the DTs. Throw on an over route from Rudolph to Sexton was a little off-line, hitting off Sexton’s outstretched right hand and into Justin Layne’s waiting arms, who runs it back right side for probably 15-20 yards.
8. Mesh/shovel option with Rudolph pitching the ball to Kevin Rader for free. UG3 on the tag.
9. Ball on the defense’s 47. Rudolph complete to Cody White left side for three. Maulet covering. Bundage beat his man blitzing in. Not sure who it was. Tight end or a running back.
10. Jamar Watson rushing in free. Rudolph throws deep left side for Marcus Baugh but he never gets his head around to see the ball. Incomplete.
11. Lot of reps here for Rudolph in this team session. Again complete to Cody White right side, UG3 making a diving tackle after a gain of five. White may have gotten a little nicked here, working out his right calf for the next ten minutes during a special teams session he sorta gutted his way through. He would finish the day. Might be a little sore in the morning.
After Claypool dropped the pass, he spent time during the next STs session replaying that moment, making the catch from “QB” Marcel Pastoor, who has a really good arm. Claypool then ran a similar route and caught passes from QBs, though he dropped another one on air. But clearly working on correcting those negatives.
Fifth Team Session
1. Two minute drill for Ben Roethlisberger and the first-team offense. Ball at the defense’s 48 with 48 seconds left and on timeout. Dwayne Haskins, by the way, listens into the huddle before walking back to the sideline, even though he wasn’t working in two-minute today.
Alex Highsmith lined up with his hand down. O-line of: Okorafor-Dotson-Hassenauer-Finney-Moore (Banner still not used 100% yet, guess team doesn’t want him running downfield in hurry-up).
Roethlisberger hits Diontae Johnson on a shallow crosser for a gain of four. But he can’t get out of bounds, tagged by Maulet, and the clock keeps ticking.
2. Already down to 28 seconds. Roethlisberger’s pass over the middle is batted down by Tyson Alualu. Incomplete.
3. Third down. Roethlisberger rolls right, nothing available initially. Good coverage. Tries to throw slightly across his body for JuJu Smith-Schuster. But the pass has too much air, floats, and Maulet makes a leaping INT to end the session for the defense.
Sixth Team Session
1. About 1:40 on the clock, the ball at the offense’s 30 for Mason Rudolph. First pass is thrown into the ground, Bussey the closest defender and incomplete. Good coverage again.
2. Rudolph complete right side to Rader for a gain of six.
3. 3rd and 4. Throw right side is incomplete. Looked like it was intended for Tyler Simmons.
4. 4th and 4. Rudolph wants to hit Johnson moving right to left but Spillane closed on it well. Still thought Johnson could’ve made the catch but he can’t hang on and the pass is incomplete. Defense wins again.
– Nice day for the defense in two-minute. Roethlisberger and Rudolph went a combined 2/7 for 10 yards and one interception. Didn’t even record a first down. Really good coverage by the LBs/secondary.
– Arthur Maulet your clear winner of the day. Came downhill in the run/screen game and had the INT in the two-minute drill. With Brooks still out, Maulet is trying to create some space. Been pretty quiet up until today and I don’t know if I’m comfortable with him being the guy come Week One. But he took advantage of the chance today at least.
– You throw the ball near Pat Freiermuth and he just gobbles it out. Unless things go sideways the final two days of camp, he may wind up having one or possibly *the* highest catch rate I’ve ever charted. Anthony Johnson is also up there too.
– Don’t talk about him much but TE Marcus Baugh has decent hands. Can make some contested catches. But I don’t think there’s a whole lot more than that.
– Zach Gentry has flashed in practice with some high degree of difficulty grabs. But he’s gotta do that in games. He’s improved as a blocker and receiver but he’s still such a tall, rigid and stiff player who really can just go above his head to win. Not going to succeed really anywhere else. It’s like throwing to an NBA power forward.
– In terms of the practice squad WR guys, I’d say Rico Bussey is the most talented strictly as a wide receiver. Problem is basically all the other guys have stronger special teams value. In order: Johnson, Sexton, McKoy, Simmons. Interested to see who gets kept on the taxi squad. With 16 spots, they may keep three. Something like: Johnson, Sexton, and Bussey.
– Just want to see Chase Claypool make the routine plays. Will have some drops that frustrate you. He can make some great plays with his skillset and athletic profile. Like Tomlin says, make the routine plays routinely.
– Active day for the d-line/linebackers at the line of scrimmage. Three batted balls.
– Continue to see Alex Highsmith succeed in camp. Very strong jump from Year One to Year Two.
– With an interception against the Eagles, Lafayette Pitts might be jumping Stephen Denmark up the depth chart. Denmark ran ahead of him in 7 shots but Pitts did the rest of practice as second-team RCB. Got beat by Claypool on that dropped TD but also had two BUs today.
– Minkah Fitzpatrick your camp leader with three INTs. Dove for the football today like it was the Super Bowl. No off switch with that guy.
Heinz Field Snapshot
Tomlin and company yukking it up like I mentioned above.
Twitter Camp Question of the Day
Johnson’s hands have been fine. He’s dropped a couple but they all do. I haven’t seen it as a big issue this camp. And the dude really works hard on getting better. His hands are good. He can make some pretty unbelievable passes. He just has to show consistent focus.
Vintage Steelers’ Photos
Cool shot of Jim Finks (#7) defending this end zone pass. Back in the days were the uprights were as sturdy a defender as anyone on the field.
Dale Gribble’s Best Quotes
“What would you do with unlimited free time and no income?”