After an off-day Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers returned to Heinz Field for a Monday practice. And though there’s a game Thursday, today’s session was as physical as any so far in camp. Pads on, live tackling, and a goal line drill. Imagine things will be much calmer tomorrow as the team gets ready to travel to Canton.
As always, let’s break down what happened today.
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– Injury report. Overall, good news from an offensive line that was getting awfully thin. The only linemen who didn’t dress today was OG/OT Anthony Coyle who left Saturday’s practice with a left should/arm injury. The biggest news of the day was getting OT Zach Banner back to what I would call *almost* full work. He dressed, went through individual drills, and participated in the non-tackling/live team sessions. He was held out of those with Joe Haeg getting those first-team reps. C JC Hassenauer also practiced in full though he wasn’t part of the goal line drill. Hassenauer had a brace on his left knee for stability.
RG Trai Turner and C/G BJ Finney practiced in full after sitting out Saturday’s practice. Turner did have some sort of brace/contraption on his left leg. It’s common for linemen, even totally healthy ones, to wear braces these days but I don’t recall Turner wearing that before. I’ll have to look back to confirm.
OT Chukwuma Okorafor went through individual work but was not part of team drills in any capacity. And OG Kevin Dotson dressed in pads again but did very little work today. Not part of on-air warmup drills, not part of individual, and obviously not part of team. He did take mental reps on the side.
So overall, the group is coming back. But still not all the way back with 40% of the group still not working in team.
– Elsewhere, those not practicing today included: TE Eric Ebron (elbow), OLB TJ Watt (unknown), DE Stephon Tuitt (unknown), ILB Marcus Allen (unknown), and WR Cody White (hamstring). White’s work was a little more spirited today but he’s not going to play Thursday and clearly behind the eight-ball. Gotta be frustrating for him, I’m sure. Ebron, Watt, and Tuitt did some ladder drills on the side today.
– Returning today was RB Jaylen Samuels (leg/quad) and OLB Cassius Marsh (leg/lower body). Both worked in full, including team.
– Haven’t mentioned him much but LS Christian Kuntz getting a couple extra snaps in during the early portions of practice. Next to them was Kameron Canaday snapping to Pressley Harvin who was working by himself on holds. Important job of the team’s punter.
– Eddie Faulkner working on ball security with Najee Harris. Harris held a football in both hands while Faulkner used boxing gloves, uppercutting each one, to try to punch the ball out. Faulkner is always doing something different with those guys. Mixes up the day’s work to avoid the monotony
– Ben Roethlisberger jogged along the sideline then rode the exercise bike for a few minutes early in practice. That’s his pre-workout. He doesn’t take part in the stretch line with the other players, including QBs. Sometimes he’ll throw passes to a coach (he no longer uses the rugby ball like he used to) and today, he did some light running.
– Adrian Klemm worked a lot with Kendrick Green and Trai Turner on down/pull blocks. Then the two offensive groups they pair off into worked on picking up twists and stunts.
– Didn’t chart every rep but watched RB/LB-DB tackling/leverage drills. A semi-full contact drill which you don’t normally see. But Pittsburgh is known to have one of the league’s most physical camps. Some notes.
– Antoine Brooks Jr. and Najee Harris had good battles. Brooks Jr. cut down Harris below the knees and tripped him up on one rep, Harris losing the football at the end before picking it back up. Brooks tried to do the same low move on the next rep but Harris jumped over him. On the final rep, Harris ran through Brook’s arm tackle.
– Minkah Fitzpatrick does a tremendous job with his leverage and angles, able to play inside/out before closing and making the stop. He’s not an impactful hitter but he’s a smart one and that can sometimes be just as good, if not more valuable than a missile-type of SS.
– Anthony McFarland got to show off his burst and speed here. Even when LBs had the angle, like UG3 did on one rep, McFarland still ran away from him and caught the corner.
– Jerry Olsavsky was coaching up rookie Calvin Bundage quite a bit. Bundage was a little out of control, overrunning plays or diving too early.
– Buddy Johnson had a solid wrap-up tackle on Trey Edmunds.
– I don’t think any player on the field takes more mental and side reps than DL Abdullah Anderson. Dude is always working and maximizing his practice time. Working with a coach, working on the sled/bag, he’s making the most of limited reps in a crowded d-line room.
– Mathew Sexton, Isaiah McKoy, Rico Bussey, and Lamont Wade took kick returns during one STs session. Anthony Johnson and Kalen Ballage served as the upbacks.
– Watched Banner take his first individual rep of camp. I think he was excited to get out there. Combo/zone block, Banner to the second level and throws a healthy punch into Chaz Green (holding a bag) but it still snaps Green’s head back. Either Banner came in hot or a guy like Green isn’t used to absorbing a blow from someone as big and strong as Banner.
– Isaiah McKoy made a nifty grab on a go-ball in 7v7. Not sure who the DB was. Dropped another opportunity later in the session though it was a harder one to track over his shoulder.
– Fans booed the “no autographs” announcement after practice.
First Team Session (Seven Shots)
1. Offensive line: Moore-Coward-Green-Turner-Banner. Melvin Ingram dapped up Banner as he stepped into team session for the first time. Arthur Maulet working first team nickel. Ben Roethlisberger in at QB. Joe Haden and Cam Sutton the outside corners. Maulet blitzes free so Roethlisberger throws hot to JuJu Smith-Schuster for the TD.
2. Roethlisberger backpedals, backpedals, and backpedals some more. Nothing open. Floats the ball through the back of the end zone and I believe over the upright. Smith-Schuster in the area with Minkah Fitzpatrick providing sticky coverage. Incomplete.
3. Robert Spillane/Ulysees Gilbert III the ILBs. Miles Killebrew and Minkah Fitzpatrick the safety pairing. Empty set. Roethlisberger wants to hit Harris on a fade to the right corner. But UG3 pressed him well at the line of scrimmage and screwed up the timing of the route/throw. Harris made an attempt but the ball never hit his hands and Roethlisberger’s throw is incomplete.
4. Second-team offensive line: Collins-Finney-Hassenauer-Leglue-Chaz Green. Mason Rudolph in at QB, Anthony McFarland at RB. Rudolph looks for Anthony Johnson right side but Justin Layne makes a nice play to break it up. Incomplete.
5. McFarland runs a crosser right to left and catches the pass from Rudolph. Tre Norwood covering but can’t rip the football out. Cassius Marsh lined up at LOLB on this play, according to my notes.
6. Isaiah McKoy and Rico Bussey Jr. the outside WRs. Dwayne Haskins coming in at QB. Little nod route complete to McFarland for the score.
7. Haskins boots right. Nothing there in the flat so he tucks, runs, and crosses over the goal line.
Offense wins seven shots 4-3 with Haskins’ rushing score being the tiebreaker, though it sucks that the winning score came on a QB run.
Second Team Session
1. Alex Highsmith and Melvin Ingram the OLBs. Wormley-Alualu-Heyward the defensive linemen. Spillane and Bush the ILBs. Haden/Pierre the CBs, Edmunds/Killebrew the safeties. Haeg replaces Banner at RT. Live tackling session.
Harris carry left side. Drives his leg as he meets Robert Spillane in the hole, who tries to get and stay under Harris’ pads. Ingram goes low to grab Harris by the ankles and bring him down after a run of four.
2. 21 personnel, Derek Watt in at FB. Roethlisberger playaction. Hits Watt on a wheel down the left sideline for a gain of 25 yards. Minkah Fitzpatrick throws his shoulder into Watt’s back to take him down. Looks like counter action with Watt pulling before he leaks out.
3. Harris carry right side, Highsmith chasing and trying to close from the backside. Harris stiff-arms through Killebrew who, to be fair, looked like he was getting held pretty good by Freiermuth. Keeps fighting for a gain of nine.
4. Harris again up the middle. Cam Heyward first man in on the stop. Two-yard run.
5. Collins-Finney-Hassenauer-Leglue-Green the OL. Mason Rudolph in at QB. McFarland carry up the middle. Buddy Johnson swallows him up after a gain of three.
6. Justin Layne and James Pierre the CBs. Donovan Stiner and Tre Norwood the safety pairing with Marsh and Jamir Jones the OLBs. Left side run to McFarland. Bundage spins him down after a gain of four.
7. Johnson and Bundage the ILB pairing. Rudolph boots right but there’s nothing immediately open. Marsh applies pressure for a would-be sack. Rudolph eventually checks it down to the flat to McFarland but he juggles the ball and loses control, dropping it to the ground with Layne closing quick.
8. McFarland bounces the run to the right. Stiner comes up and thuds him down. Run of five. Chaz Green lost his block on Brooks though it would’ve been tough to maintain it out on the perimeter.
9. Stiner and Wade the safety pairing. Watson and Roche the third-string OLBs. Haskins in at QB. Jaylen Samuels finds a crease and gets six before Bundage makes the tackle.
10. Abdullah Anderson and Calvin Taylor the nickel defensive linemen. Toss to Samuels to the left. Denmark rides him out of bounds for a gain of four. Puller on the play. Not sure if it was the guard or tackle – might have been LT Aviante Collins but I’m not positive.
11. Draw to Kalen Ballage up the middle. Good blocking up front. Chaz Green and Tyler Simmons sealing their defenders to create an alley for Ballage who gains nine before CB DeMarkus Acy comes up and makes the stop.
12. Jaylen Samuels the slot/wing with Ballage in the backfield. Bussey and McKoy the WRs with Marcus Baugh at TE. Fake the jet to Samuels and the ball is given to Ballage at the line of scrimmage.
Third Team Session
1. Banner back in this team session at RT. Harris at RB with Chase Claypool as the Z, Diontae Johnson in the slot, and JuJu Smith-Schuster on the X (yes, on the outside, like he’s asked for). Runs a deep in-cut and Roethlisberger hits him, beating Joe Haden as JuJu gets wide open (there was no MOF defender, not sure why) and Smith-Schuster takes it into the end zone for a 56-yard touchdown.
2. Screen left to JuJu for a short gain of two. Devin Bush tagged him up. Pat Freiermuth had a heck of a block, engulfing NCB Arthur Maulet and driving him down on Maulet’s back. Nice effort and finish from the rookie.
3. Diontae Johnson open left side and Roethlisberger hits him. Nine yard completion before the DB tagged him.
4. Edmunds/Fitzpatrick the safeties with Haden/Sutton/Maulet the corners. Harris motioned out wide to an empty set. Maulet blitzes. Roethlisberger throws hot to McFarland on the slant but he drops it with Edmunds converging.
5. Mason Rudolph in at QB. McFarland run left side, Killebrew and Johnson chasing and the run goes for a healthy gain of seven.
6. Screen left to Bussey for five with UG3 tagging him. Looks like a two-way screen with options to the left and right. Saw Leglue and Chaz Green pull out to the right side.
7. 21 personnel. Rudolph looks right to left, finding Derek Watt in the left flat. Killebrew closes quick for a gain of four.
8. Dwayne Haskins at QB. Simmons and Sexton on the outside, Anthony Johnson in the slot. Screen left intended for Jaylen Samuels. Buddy Johnson flies in, dipping past Finney to the inside and applies pressure on the catch. Samuels can’t hang on and it’s incomplete.
9. Acy and Gilbert the outside CBs with Shakur Brown in the slot. Smash concept with the defense not distributing it well. Mark Gilbert jumped Freiermuth on the curl, the flat receiver held the defender and Stiner can’t close on the corner route. All leads to Simmons being open left side for a gain of 20.
10. Dig from Haskins to McKoy, who slips and falls. Pass incomplete.
11. Haskins tries to float a pass to Marcus Baugh but it’s over his head and incomplete. Good coverage by Jarvis Miller. Ballage had strong blitz pickup against Tegray Scales.
12. Miller and Scales the ILB pairing. Quick throw from Haskins to Samuels in the right flat for a pickup of two.
Fourth Team Session
1. Ball at the offense’s 40. Spillane/Bush the pairing at ILB. Highsmith/Ingram at OLB. Killebrew/Fitzpatrick at safety, Haden/Sutton at corner. Wormely-Alualu-Heyward the linemen. Roethlisberger under center.
Jet handoff to Chase Claypool, the first of camp, and it’s a good one. McCloud and Freiermuth key lead blocks, Freiermuth knocks Fitzpatrick out of bounds and Claypool follows him into open grass. Robert Spillane charges hard to grab the back of Claypool’s jersey after a long gain of 40.
2. Nice sidestep by either McFarland or Harris (I thought it was McFarland but looking back through my notes, I’m not positive) to make Spillane miss and get upfield for a run of five. Live tackling session here.
3. Harris stopped at the line of scrimmage. Skirmish between Moore and the defensive line and Kendrick Green looked pretty heated after the play.
4. Second-team offensive line rotates in, maybe a play early, so the rookies don’t go brawling again. Rudolph is flushed right. There’s pressure, no one open, and Rudolph makes an awkward looking thrown basically directly to his right, the ball not even reaching the sideline even though Rudolph wasn’t far from it. Kalen Ballage was the closest receivers, at least five yards ahead of the ball. A very weird-looking throwaway, I suppose.
5. Loudermilk-Buggs-Mondeaux the defensive line. TE Marcus Baugh false starts. The consequence? Pulled out of the play, replaced by Zach Gentry. Ballage spins away from Buddy Johnson at the line of scrimmage and gains six before Jamir Jones and Tre Norwood get in there to take him down. Short-team session but it was full-contact.
1. Quincy Roche brings his right hand down into Dan Moore’s breastplate but can’t move him. Tries to work inside but Johnson rides him down and wins the rep.
2. Roche with a head-fake outside before running inside but Moore mirrors and wins a second time.
3. Cam Heyward beats Rashaad Coward on an outside spin move.
4. Tyson Alualu makes quick work of rookie Kendrick Green, swimming over and past. Green shakes his right hand/thumb.
5. Alualu uses power, bulling his way through Green here, the rookie doing his best to hold on.
6. Chris Wormley dips past Trai Turner along the edge. Turner tries to seal the edge. Hard to tell if he was successful or not against the dummy QB (an assistant coach).
7. Melvin Ingram initially uses power against Joe Haeg and then rips past him late to the outside.
8. Moore mirrors Highsmith’s spin to the outside. Good day from Moore here.
9. Soft inside shoulder here by Coward against Wormley. Wormley rips through. Coward flashed his hands at the snap and that might’ve screwed him up the rest of the rep, trying to re-set and re-punch.
10. Great rep here from Kendrick Green. Locks up Isaiah Buggs whose swim move fails and Green finishes the rep, driving his feet and burying Buggs into the ground. The two roll over into Zach Banner, standing on the side, who is hyped and congratulates Green for a strong rep.
11. Heyward knocks Turner’s hands down and wins the edge against Turner.
12. Cassius Marsh charges hard with a speed bull rush, knocking back Haeg but he’s able to re-anchor and stall out the rush.
13. Aviante Collins seals Jamir Jones up the arc.
14. Isaiahh Loudermilk gets into Brandon Walton’s pads and controls the rep but he struggles to rip through at the end and finish things. Spotted Heyward working with him on hand placement/punch after Loudermilk went back to the sideline.
15. Loudermilk able to shed Walton here late.
16. BJ Finney able to sit and anchor against Carlos Davis.
17. Henry Mondeaux dips under John Leglue.
18. Jamar Watson able to punch and then dip under Chaz Green pretty easily.
19. Watson runs the hump upfield against Green again. Not sure if he really got past or just got a lot of depth.
20. Looks like Alex Highsmith used the ghost move (flash long-arm and then dip, avoiding contact) but he can’t turn the corner against Collins.
21. Moore knocks down Highsmith’s hands as Highsmith tries to use the bull.
22. TJ Carter gets a rep here and sheds Brandon Walton, who struggled in this drill. He looks pretty small, at least, compared to his teammates.
Fifth Team Session
– First goal line drill of camp. Tomlin said they’ll probably do it just once more in camp. Ball at the two.
1. Haeg in at RT. Harris at RB, Rudolph in QB. Derek Watt lead block. Good push up front by the offensive line and Harris sorta swims his way over the goal line and into the end zone.
2. 12 personnel. Spillane/Bush the ILBs. They knife in to attack Harris in the backfield for the stop and loss of two. Don’t know what the issue was upfront but wasn’t blocked well across the board. Saw Turner on the ground at the end of the play.
3. 22 personnel. Coach blows a whistle and the group briefly stops before lining up. Wormley-Alualu-Heyward the defensive linemen. Play action. Rudolph wants to hit Claypool. Throw is low and definitely could’ve been better but I think Claypool could’ve/should’ve caught it. His reaction, laying on the ground for a moment before getting up, speaks to that. Off his shoes/hands and incomplete.
4. Second-team o-line in. Collins-Walton-Finney-Leglue-Green. Marsh can’t close backside and Ballage has a lane into the end zone for the TD.
5. Taylor and Anderson the down linemen. Not sure who the NT was, probably Davis. Haskins boots right. Throw to Samuels is off-line and incomplete. Watson had pressure off the edge.
Offense wins goal line session 3-2. Harris went 1/2 on his attempts. Run game in total scored on three of four rushes. Kinda wish they would’ve run it one more time instead of the two play actions. Want to see as many goal-to-go runs as possible, especially as Tomlin said, they don’t get to rep this too often. And you can’t guarantee it’ll happen in-game.
– Happy to see the health of the offensive line take a step in the right direction. Bummed Dotson didn’t take a step forward following an off-day.
– Overall, the offensive line won the point of attack much better than they did on Saturday. More lanes for the backs.
– Like seeing Pat Freiermuth with a couple of impact blocks today. He’s showing finish and physicality, even if he’s not a perfect blocker yet. Probably going to get tagged for holding once or twice in-game.
– You know JuJu Smith-Schuster is going to be in Matt Canada’s ear about playing on the outside more after that long TD he had today on the outside.
– Didn’t get a great feel for how he did in team periods but Dan Moore put together some strong reps in OL/DL. He probably needs to stop trying to fight the entire Steelers’ defense every day though. He’s made his point.
– Don’t have a lot of notes for the defense today. Nothing too high or too low for that group. Maulet and Brooks continue to rotate as the nickel DBs.
– Justin Layne has had two breakups over his last two practices. That’s something positive to say about him.
Heinz Field Snapshot
Group making their way downfield to start seven shots.
Twitter Question of the Day
Patrick also asked about the number of snaps. Good question, I don’t have an exact number for you right now. Most common pairing has been Harris in the backfield with McFarland split out/motioned across. Backups have been either Snell or Ballage in the backfield with Jaylen Samuels split out/motioned across. I’m guessing you’ll get to see it yourself this Thursday with probably Snell or Ballage and McFarland the motion man.
Vintage Steelers’ Photos
John Henry Johnson. The Steelers’ first 1,000 yard rusher.
Dale Gribble’s Best Quotes
“I killed eight gophers last year and a purebred Tennessee walking horse that was looking at me funny.”