Back at it for Day Eight of Pittsburgh Steelers’ training camp. Let’s talk about what went down at Heinz Field Sunday.
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– Injury Report: Not practicing today included: DB Antoine Brooks Jr. (left knee/leg), RB Benny Snell (undisclosed), RB Kalen Ballage (lower body), Stephon Tuitt (undisclosed), Calvin Taylor (left foot), and WR Ray-Ray McCloud (right knee). Snell was jogging in the end zone during a special teams session later in practice and rode the exercise bike during its early portions. So I don’t think the injury is serious. Ballage didn’t appear to be on the field today. Ditto with Tuitt, who has been away the last two days. Taylor was out of the boot he wore yesterday so that’s a promising sign his summer isn’t done yet. McCloud didn’t do much but carried/secured a football throughout practice. Working on ball security even when you miss.
TJ Watt continues to be limited to individual work.
WR Cody White returned in full today after suffering a hamstring early in camp and missing most/all of practice so far. Good to get him back out there. He was first one on the field right around 1:00. He took some “QB” snaps with JC Hassenauer early in practice before Josh Dobbs jogged onto the field to take over.
And OG Kevin Dotson finally graduated to team reps, though I only saw him in seven shots. Might have worked in some other team sessions.
WR James Washington didn’t finish practice. Looked ok but had ice on his right knee.
– As you probably know, RB Pete Guerriero was signed today. He’ll wear James Conner’s old number of 30. He immediately got some work in team drills even though I think he showed up right as practice was beginning.
– Steelers worked in shells today for the second-straight day.
– Brothers and teammates Derek Watt and TJ Watt walked onto the field together today.
– Pretty crazy ball security drill the skill players, receivers and running backs, worked on. Got in a big circle. Holding a football, a coach in boxing gloves tried to punch the ball out. Walk in the circle to the next “level” with a coach whacking you with a bag. That was followed by a boxing glove on a stick trying to poke the ball out. Next station had the play lay on the ground, get up and step over a small hurdle (probably six inches off the ground) while a coach (assistant Blaine Stewart), went to punch the ball out with a stick. Last, the player rolled on a big medicine ball and a coach again tried to hit the ball out.
Heavy focus from Eddie Faulkner and company on taking care of the football. I didn’t see anyone cough it up in this drill.
– Long snapper Christian Kuntz, who we don’t mention much on here, snapping to Jordan Berry and Pressley Harvin III early on in practice. Extra reps.
– Kevin Dotson working with assistant o-line coach Chris Morgan on his first two steps in pass pro early on in practice. Dan Moore Jr. was working on a mirror drill with head o-line coach Adrian Klemm.
– Punting data. Spirited day, lots of punts. Here are the yards and hangtimes I have for each.
Jordan Berry: 4.37 seconds (40 yards, down to the 11 so a good pin-deep punt), 4.60 (59), 4.40 (59), 4.81 (59, well placed pinned to left sideline), 4.44 (49), 5.05 (45), 4.28 (47), 4.18 (51).
Pressley Harvin III: 4.61 seconds (36 yards, down to the 11 on a pin-deep/red zone punt), 4.35 (41 yards), 4.44 (50), 5.06 (49), 5.23 (64), 4.38 (45, not a great punt), 4.83 (55), 4.87 (59, pinned to right sideline).
Here are their averages.
Berry: 4.52 seconds, 51.1 yards
Harvin: 4.72 seconds, 49.9 yards
Berry edges out Harvin in yards, Harvin with a pretty big lead in hangtime. Harvin had some really impressive punts, the 5.23, 64 yarder is one of the best we’ve ever charted. The hangtime is *the* best I’ve ever charted, breaking Jordan Berry’s 5.18 punt on August 6th, 2019. But he followed that up with his worst punt of the day though finished on a hard note. I don’t want to say he was inconsistent but Berry felt more consistent. Three straight punts of 59 yards and good to very good hangtimes shows that. Both placed the ball well, too along the sideline and in the red zone.
First Team Session (Seven Shots)
1. Ball at the two. Like always. O-line of: Okorafor-Coward-Green-Turner-Haeg. Light day for Zach Banner, who didn’t work in team. Melvin Ingram and Alex Highsmith at OLB. Chris Wormley and Tyson Alualu at DT. Robert Spillane and Ulysees Gilbert III at ILB. Joe Haden, Cam Sutton, Arthur Maulet at corner, Maulet working in the slot.
Roethlisberger in pistol. Haven’t seen that in a practice since early on. Playaction. Hits Diontae Johnson on a crosser a yard deep into the end zone for the TD.
2. Empty. Roethlisberger throws hot with the blitzer coming free right side. Hits JuJu Smith-Schuster on a quick slant, Minkah Fitzpatrick a step away from getting a hand on it. Touchdown.
3. Fitzpatrick and Edmunds at safety. Anthony McFarland at RB, Eric Ebron at tight end. Melvin Ingram with pressure and a would-be sack, beating Haeg to the inside. Roethlisberger rolls right and hits Smith-Schuster on the right side, making an impressive toe-tapping catch working on Joe Haden for the score.
4. Mason Rudolph in at QB. Pony backfield. Rudolph hits Anthony Johnson left side for the score.
5. Cassius Marsh and Jamir Jones at OLB. Pocket collapses at Rudolph’s feet. Throw right side to Jaylen Samuels but Buddy Johnson has tight coverage and the pass is incomplete. Marsh ripped through Chaz Green to the inside to generate some pressure.
6. O-line of: Collins-Walton-Leglue-Finney-Green. Low snap rolls through Dwayne Haskins’ legs. He turns around and picks the ball up but the play is falling apart. Tries to salvage it left side but Quincy Roche gets a hand on it and knocks the pass down. Incomplete.
7. Haskins throw right side is incomplete, looking for Isaiah McKoy in the corner. Pass well over his head.
Offense wins seven shots, 4-3. TDs on the first four, incompletions on the last three..
RB-TE/LB Coverage Drill
– Couple of notes here.
1. Eric Ebron crosses Melvin Ingram’s face for the catch.
2. Good coverage by Robert Spillane, running step-for-step with Pat Freiermuth vertically. Pass thrown in front of Freiermuth incomplete but really good rep by Spillane.
3. Najee Harris good burst and swipe to beat Ulysees Gilbert III to the inside and makes the grab.
4. Anthony McFarland rips down Calvin Bundage’s hands, stacks him, and makes a catch in front of his body into the end zone for about a 40-45 yard touchdown. Nice rep here.
5. Over route by Ebron. Terrell Edmunds with good coverage but he doesn’t contest it well enough and Ebron makes the snag. Edmunds was there, just couldn’t make the play but this was also a nice pass and catch.
6. Jaylen Samuels bursts away from Marcus Allen vertically. Great one-handed grab with his left-hand to finish the play.
7. Zach Gentry runs an out route left side. Covered by Cam Heyward, who is picking up reps in these drills for one reason or another the last two days. Gentry makes the grab despite Heyward’s effort to finish, knocking him down to the ground at the end.
8. Calvin Bundage with an impressive, diving breakup on this in-cut by Guerriero.
9. Freiermuth pivots into Marsh and then runs away to make the grab.
10. UG3 playing with inside leverage here and Tony Brooks-James runs an out route for the reception.
11. Melvin Ingram OLB turned WR, running a route against Terrell Edmunds. Edmunds blanketed him initially and then let him go, Ingram running a curl and then catching the ball.
12. This came in a combination route with two defenders and two receivers (they cycle between 1v1 and then 2v2) but Zach Gentry skied and high-pointed the football over Miles Killebrew on a corner route. Gentry couldn’t keep his feet on the way down and seemed to be a little frustrated by that.
13. Post route by Kevin Rader. Nice timing and leap by Robert Spillane to break it up.
Second Team Session
1. Ball on the offense’s 46. OL of: Okorafor-Coward-Green-Turner-Haeg. Mason Rudolph in at QB. Ebron the starting tight end. Spillane/UG3 the ILBs, Haden/Sutton/Maulet the CBS, Ingram/Highsmith the OLBs, Fitzpatrick/Edmunds the safeties. Claypool/D. Johnson/Smith-Schuster at WR.
Harris carry left side. Alex Highsmith swam past Chukwuma Okorafor left side and gets into the backfield to stop Harris for a two-yard loss.
2. Rudolph pump fake before hitting Diontae Johnson left side. Maulet tags him up, swiping through with a half-hearted try to punch the ball out. Doesn’t work. Gain of six.
3. Highsmith now at LOLB, Ingram at ROLB, flipping from their initial spots. McFarland and Harris on the field in a pony look. Playaction. Highsmith rushing in free off it. Short throw right side from Rudolph to McFarland, Maulet again on the stop.
4. Freiermuth in at tight end in 12 personnel. Short throw over the middle complete from Rudolph to Harris. Non-tackling drill, important context to note, but he puts a nice juke on Robert Spillane to the right and cuts upfield. 20 yard pickup in total, yardage and plays a little more generous in these non-tackling sessions.
5. Dwayne Haskins checks in. Inside zone left with McFarland. Big lane into the second level and he runs left side before Norwood tags him up from behind. Big run of 25 yards.
6. Hasksins boots left. Hits McFarland in the right flat. Call it a gain of nine. Buddy Johnson coming in from behind though he slowed up a bit in this drill.
7. Gentry in at tight end. Haskins hits Anthony Johnson right side, a chunk play of 22 yards. Chris Wormley ripped through JC Hassenauer for a would-be sack. But in camp, the play lives on.
8. Three WRs to the left pre-snap with James Washington motioning across to the right. Intended screen for Isaiah McKoy but Jamir Jones tips Haskins’ pass. Ball pops up and lands incomplete.
9. Josh Dobbs boots left. Strong, off-platform throw left sideline to Rico Bussey, right on the money for a 19 yard gain against Arthur Maulet. Perfect accuracy.
10. Fake jet to Tyler Simmons, running right to left, and fake the handoff to Tony Brooks-James. Boot right to Trey Edmunds, the wing pulling across and he’s wide open for a gain of 14. Nice play design, lot of window dressing and misdirection and it fools the Steelers’ defense here.
11. Screen right from Dobbs to Sexton. Nice burst upfield before Mark Gilbert tags him. Have this as a run of 13.
12. Quick snap. Not sure who the RB was but Jamar Watson comes in free and makes the top at the line of scrimmage. Back was probably Brooks-James but I’m not 100% sure.
Third Team Session
1. At this point, it started to rain. Not something in the weather forecast. So my notes got kinda short for the next couple of plays. Sorry. Ball at the 31. Roethlisberger in at QB. Hits Freiermuth right side against Maulet for a gain of six.
2. Roethlisberger rolls right but there’s nothing there. Looked intentional, Roethlisberger trying to throw it into DT’s Tyson Alualu’s hands, blocked by Trai Turner. Maybe he wanted to give Alualu the chance to run into the end zone in the rain. But Alualu certainly didn’t expect it, can’t blame him, and he dropped the ball.
3. Roethlisberger complete over the middle to JuJu to midfield. Gain of 19.
4. Quick throw left side from Roethlisberger to complete to Diontae Johnson left side. Gain of three, Cam Sutton on the stop.
5. Mason Rudolph comes in. Looks to hit Eric Ebron over the middle but Tre Norwood breaks well on the ball, breaking it up as Ebron hits the ground.
6. Rudolph complete to McKoy left side for a gain of 16. James Pierre wrapping him up.
7. Layne and Pierre the CBs. Shakur Brown blitzes. Rudolph hits Sexton on a crosser left to right running away from Pierre. Think Sexton could’ve/should’ve kept running but he stopped on a dime and cut back to the left side. Giving this as a gain of 18 with a decent amount of that coming as YAC.
8. Rudolph throw to Cody White – his first team session target of public practices – but Shakur Brown has good coverage and it’s incomplete. Brown might have been a bit grabby/physical at the top of the route.
9. White in the slot. Haskins complete right side to either Tyler Simmons or Rico Bussey, can’t tell who (I think Simmons) but Tegray Scales tags him after just a gain of one.
10. Ebron runs an out route to the right side and makes the catch to the opposing 47, running away from Scales. Don’t have the yardage recorded, unfortunately.
11. TE Marcus Baugh running an over route right to left but Haskins throw is low and dies near his feet incomplete. Scales covering.
12. Going after Scales one more time. Haskins redeems himself with a tremendous throw deep down the left sideline to RB Tony Brooks-James, who has two steps on Scales. Perfect throw, should be a long touchdown, but it’s dropped by TBJ, off his hands, and incomplete. Rain had let up at this point but maybe the ball was a little slick. Still, gotta make that play.
Fourth Team Session
1. Ball at the offense’s 37. Ebron in at tight end, Rudolph in at QB. Alex Highsmith hand-down as the RDE. Quick screen complete to Johnson for six before Edmunds closes him out of bounds.
2. Alualu/Heyward the nickel linemen. Harris carry right side, cutting up with Robert Spillane meeting him in the hole. Gain of four. Fitzpatrick and Harris jokingly lock up at the end, Minkah trying to pull the ball out to no avail.
3. Highsmith and Ingram flipped OLB sides. Rudolph under center. Ingram then shifts to play off-ball. Playaction. Maulet blitzes. Rudolph fires right flat to Samuels but he takes his eyes off the ball trying to get upfield, dropping the pass.
4. Bussey and Anthony Johnson the WRs. Rudolph playaction. Ingram beats Chuks. Juggling catch but Johnson makes it left side for a gain of 23 yards against Joe Haden.
5. Marsh and Jamir Jones the OLBs. Jones easily beats Ebron to the inside. Throw to Johnson right side is incomplete.
6. Layne and Pierre the CBs, Norwood and Killebrew at safety. High snap. Samuels carry left side. Davis gets off the block and bear hugs him for a run of about two.
7. Samuels another carry, this time right side. Stopped at the LOS.
8. Haskins looks deep down the right sideline for FB Derek Watt running a wheel. But Miles Killebrew is step-for-step and breaks it up, Watt falling to the ground as he tries to reel it in.
9. Baugh and Rader the TEs. Trey Edmunds cuts left side. Quincy Roche closes backside to tag him up for a gain of one. Dobbs in at QB.
10. Pocket breaks down all over the place, including Roche beating I believe Rader. Throw left side to Bussey is low, away and incomplete with Gilbert covering.
11. Dobbs under center. Trey Edmunds aligned as the wing. Edmunds to Brooks-James in the right flat for three. Lamont Wade coming in on the tag.
12. Guerriero thrown into team drills and gets his first carry. Bounces this run wide to the right. Nice job by CB Shakur Brown to string the run out. No gain on the play though Guerriero cut upfield late.
Fifth Team Session
1. Two-minute drill. Ball at the offense’s 33, 1:46 on clock, one timeout to work with. Dwayne Haskins in at QB. OL of: Moore-Coward-Green-Turner-Haeg. Sexton as the X WR, McKoy as the Z, Anthony Johnson as the F. First-team WRs not working here.
Maulet blitzing. Haskins hits McKoy on a sliding catch over the middle to their own 46, a pickup of 13.
2. Nine yard gain on a crossing route hits Anthony Johnson.
3. Tyson Alualu good play. Blocked by Kendrick Green but reads Haskins’ eyes, batting down this pass right side intended for Sexton. Alualu clapping his hands after the play.
4. 1:02 on the clock. Haskins again finds McKoy on a curl for five.
5. Haskins hitches up and finds Bussey open for a good gain over the middle down to the defense’s 15. 25 yard throw and catch.
6. Haskins hits Freiermuth over the middle to the five. Offense calls a timeout with 16 seconds left. Felt like Freiermuth was even closer than that to around the two but they put the ball at the five.
7. First down. Ingram beats Haeg. Haskins throw is out of the end zone, a throwaway.
8. Second down. Throw over the middle in the area of Johnson and McKoy on a hi-low concept. But it’s off-line and incomplete.
9. Third down. Empty set. Three receivers to the right, Harris and Freiermuth stacked left. Haskins looks left and wants Harris on a pivot route but it’s well-defended. Throws right but out of the end zone and over McKoy’s head.
10. Three seconds left. Fourth down. Pressured, and flushed right, Haskins throws low and Sexton can’t get his hand underneath the ball. Incomplete and the defense makes the goal line stop. Impressive stand.
Sixth Team Session
1. Josh Dobbs running the show. Same circumstances. Ball at the offense’s 33 with 1:46 on the clock. Zone coverage and Tyler Simmons finds a soft spot in front of Gilbert, Dobbs hitting him for a gain of 16 to the offense’s 49.
2. Dobbs hits Sexton on a crosser for nine. OL of: Collins-Finney-Hassenauer-Leglue-Green.
3. Dobbs throws into double-coverage, Sexton defended by Killebrew and Layne. Incomplete.
4. Simmons, Sexton, Bussey the WRs. Simmons again open over the middle for eight yards.
5. 3rd and 2, Tomlin calls out as Roethlisberger winding the clock on the sideline. Short completion but a first down to Samuels for four. Down to the 30.
6. Five-yard gain from Dobbs to Johnson, tagged up by Marsh. Could’ve been a big hit in a live-session.
7. Dobbs again hits Johnson in the left corner, looked like a smash concept, for a 20 yard gain down to the five.
8. :28 seconds left. Bussey and Simmons on the outside, Johnson in the slot. Low, diving catch by Johnson, boxing out Shakur Brown for the TD. Nice drive by Dobbs, going 7/8 for 67 yards and that touchdown.
– Fewer takeaways the last two days with the team in shells. Dobbs is making plays when given the chance and I’ve seen his accuracy grow quite a bit this camp. Making routine throws routinely, as Tomlin would say. An area where he struggled a bit in the past.
– Jaylen Samuels did have a really nice-looking one-handed catch in 1v1 drills but he drops far too many. Even with injuries to the position, unless they’re really serious ones, Samuels is going to have a very tough path to make the 53.
– This is probably a backhanded compliment but Rico Bussey seems to shine the most in shells when life is a little easier for those wide receivers.
– Anthony Johnson is Mr. Versatility. Wears a lot of hats. All three WR spots, gunner, jammer, kick coverage guy. Feels like he’s got a good shot to stick on the practice squad, even though he lacks any physical skills.
– Tough day for Joe Haeg and OT Chukwuma Okorafor. Haeg got worn out by Ingram and Okorafor had his hands full with Highsmith. Haeg probably wished Banner would’ve practiced some today.
– Nice day for the front seven. Pressure from Ingram and three breakups at the LOS. Roche, Alualu, and Jamir Jones.
– Robert Spillane looked good in the coverage drill. He’s not as athletic as Devin Bush but it feels like he’s still a better technician right now. Bush still trying to find consistency to match his speed, especially vertically. Though again, it’s a drill heavily favored for the offense.
– Like Tre Norwood’s instincts. Sees and drives on the ball well. Just want to see him be more physical and aggressive playing the run the way he does the pass. There is some level of “want to” but I think he’s afraid about screwing up and missing a tackle.
Heinz Field Snapshot
Ben Roethlisberger. Emergency holder. Probably not the way Danny Smith coaches it though.
Twitter Question of the Day
Do you think there's a chance he stays come September?
— Eddie C-137 (@Edd13Rodriguez) August 8, 2021
Not sure if you’re asking about Dobbs or Johnson but I think it’s yes to both in terms of being on the practice squad. Try to shuttle Dobbs there. Chance he could be claimed but with teams generally carrying just two QBs, he could pass through. Certainly worth putting there if you can (and if he wants to join, he knows how limited reps are for him).
Johnson is versatile like I wrote above. I think he sticks around.
Vintage Steelers’ Photo
Another photo of Bobby Layne, colorized. NFL needs to let QBs wear jerseys in the 20s again.
Dale Gribble’s Best Quotes
“A level three tornado will blow an egg right through a brick wall. Twister chasers call it Humpty’s Revenge.”