With the Pittsburgh Steelers first preseason game less than 48 hours behind us, the team returned to Heinz Field for another training camp practice. Let’s talk about what happened this afternoon.
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– Let’s dive into the injury report. Not practicing today were: RB Benny Snell (unknown), WR Cody White (hamstring), RB Kalen Ballage (lower body), Stephon Tuitt (unknown), and DE Calvin Taylor (left foot). Snell was on the field today and rode on the bike for about 20 minutes early on in practice. Just good to see him back out there. White was running close to full sprints today so hopefully he’s out there soon. Taylor wasn’t in a jersey and I didn’t see him until late in practice when he was standing on the sideline closest to me. His left foot was in a boot. That could be somewhat precautionary but it also obviously could mean something serious. No roster move yet. In fact, the Steelers still have an open roster spot they’ve yet to fill after moving DeMarkus Acy and Anthony Coyle to IR. Acy’s spot has been filled, Coyle’s hasn’t.
TJ Watt did some limited individual work and got some work in on the side, including some reps on the blocking sled and working on exploding out of his stance. Kevin Dotson’s finally made some progress, working in individual drills with the rest of the offensive linemen today. Still not working in team drills though.
Chukwuma Okorafor was part of team drills for the first time this camp and ran as first team left tackle. The team is easing him back in though, giving him 2-3 reps before pulling him, just as they did with Zach Banner last week. Banner, though, today was in shells and without tackling, felt like a full-go and got as much work as he has this entire camp.
Eric Ebron was full today after missing five practices and Thursday’s game (not that he was likely to play anyway) with an elbow injury. Pat Freiermuth was full after missing the game with a shoulder injury. Chase Claypool was also a full participant and James Washington, who reportedly asked for a trade, was also full.
RB Najee Harris looked a bit hobbled after one RB/LB coverage drill rep, having his right shoulder look on and worked out by head trainer John Norwig. But it was a brief discussion and Harris finished the day full. No worries there, thankfully.
– Steelers were in shells for just the second time of the last seven practices. Makes sense 48 hours removed from their game. No tackling today and a lighter day of work overall.
– Minkah Fitzpatrick first player on the field, offense or defense, today. Immediately got on the JUGS machine.
– Though the team didn’t have to be in full pads, Zach Banner was. All the time he’s missed, he’s putting on the pads as often as he can.
– Eric Ebron was amped to be back to work, a hearty jog across the field while yelling out “Let’s go!” as he came onto the grass.
– Rico Bussey, Ray-Ray McCloud, and Mathew Sexton worked in the kick return line early in practice.
– Karl Dunbar taking the d-line and linebackers through a “shrug” release in drills. Here’s a clip of what that looks like.
– Newly signed CB Lafayette Pitts will wear #30, the same jersey DeMarkus Acy wore before tearing his ACL. He worked in team drills today.
– Lamont Wade with an INT of Dwayne Haskins in 7v7 work.
First Team Session (Seven Shots)
1. First-team OL left to right. Okorafor-Coward-Green-Turner-Banner. Devin Bush and Robert Spillane the ILBs. Melvin Ingram at LOLB and Alex Highsmith at ROLB. Carlos Davis and Cam Heyward the nickel defensive linemen. Interesting to see Davis there. Joe Haden, Cam Sutton, and Arthur Maulet the CBs, Maulet in the slot. Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds at safety.
At WR, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and Chase Claypool were the three WRs in 11 personnel. Najee Harris the RB, Ben Roethlisberger the QB. Empty set.
Ball is snapped. Roethlisberger half-roll to the right. Jump ball to Chase Claypool who reaches up and over Haden’s head to make the twisting catch as he goes to the ground. Great jump-ball win for the TD.
2. Angle route to Najee Harris right-middle. Devin Bush reaches in and swats it away. Looked like Harris wanted a call for a facemask or holding or something. But no refs on hand so it’s incomplete. Sorry, rook.
3. Anthony McFarland in at RB. Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster stacked to the right. Shovel pass from McFarland right side with Coward pulling left to right. Maulet comes in and tags him at the one and McFarland crosses the goal line. Both sides celebrate their win but I’m giving this win to the defense for touching McFarland before he crossed the goal line. Not like you’re allowed to tackle the guy.
4. Mason Rudolph in at QB. Similar to the first play, jump ball to James Washington right side. Leaps over Justin Layne and makes a nice catch for the score.
5. Rudolph another TD, this time to Freiermuth. Rudolph fit the throw between James Pierre and Tre Norwood. Pre-snap, looked like FIB with the formation to the boundary/closed side.
6. Second-team OL. Collins-Walton-Leglue-Finney-Green. Dwayne Haskins in. Haskins fires right side towards Eric Ebron. He dives out but it hits off his hands and incomplete. Nice coverage by Mark Gilbert. 50/50 if you want to call this one a drop. I’ll lean towards yes but this wasn’t an easy play for Ebron.
7. Tony Brooks-James in at RB. He runs to the right flat and Haskins hits him for the tiebreaking score, running away from LB Tegray Scales. TD.
Offense wins seven shots on that final play, 4-3.
LB/RB-TE Coverage Drill
1. Eric Ebron beats Marcus Allen to the left corner for a long catch.
2. Devin Bush is a couple steps behind Pat Freiermuth initially but closes well on a slightly underthrown ball. Catches up and breaks up the pass, Bush and Freiermuth falling to the ground.
3. Pivot route by Kevin Rader who can’t shake Calvin Bundage and Bundage breaks it up.
4. Dig route by Marcus Baugh against Ulysees Gilbert III but the pass is off his hands and incomplete.
5. Freiermuth runs through Melvin Ingram’s jam and whoops him downfield. Makes the catch vertically.
6. Ebron runs an out route and makes the grab vs Cassius Marsh.
7. Rader gains two steps on Jamir Jones deep down the left side but he can’t find the football and it’s incomplete.
8. Freiermuth stems outside then swims and crosses Alex Highsmith’s face to the inside for the grab. Nice route, even if it is in space in this 1v1 drill.
9. Another breakup by Bundage underneath working on Rader.
10. Harris runs an out but Devin Bush crashes in and knocks it away. Play where Harris got a little nicked and checked out by the training staff.
11. Ebron boxes out Marcus Allen underneath and hauls in this grab. Allen really wanted to break it up and joked/jawed a bit that Ebron still caught it.
12. Jerk route by Freiermuth across Edmunds’ face for the reception.
13. Harris back in this drill. Runs through/past Devin Bush and beats him downfield for the long TD. Good route and finish and throw by whoever the QB was.
14. Baugh runs a seven route to the right corner but the pass is incomplete. Quincy Roche covering.
15. Bundage grabby on Rader, who still manages to make the catch away from his body as Bundage goes to the ground.
16. Didn’t catch the whole thing but it looked like Zach Gentry caught the ball against…Cam Heyward? A “for fun” rep, I guess. Steelers don’t drop their DL too much these days. Not like the mid-2000s.
Second Team Session
1. Ball at the offense’s 43. Harris in at RB. Haden/Sutton the corners, Fitzpatrick/Edmunds the safeties. Claypool/Johnson/JuJu at WR. JuJu aligned as the wing. Inside zone run to Harris. Touched up by Spillane for a gain of two. Faked the jet away (to the right) and ran it to the left.
2. Roethlisberger half-roll to the right. Throws right side intended for Diontae Johnson but high over his head and out of bounds incomplete. Melvin Ingram with pressure in Roethlisberger’s face.
3. Todd Haley special. Fake bubble screen to the right side and Chase Claypool. Roethlisberger progresses and hits Pat Freiermuth down the right seam for a big gain of 25 yards. Edmunds first man to tag him.
4. Dan Moore in at LT. Play action. Screen left to Freiermuth but Ingram reads it well and touches him up at the line of scrimmage. Nothing doing here.
5. Derek Watt aligned as the wing. James Washington jets across. Mason Rudolph in at QB. Inside zone left to McFarland, who squirts through the defensive line and pops out the other side before getting tagged from behind. Four-yard run.
6. Chris Wormley/Tyson Alualu the defensive linemen. Marcus Allen shifts to LOLB at the last moment and blitzes. Run to McFarland for two. Miles Killebrew good run fit and Marsh tags McFarland.
7. OL. Moore-Finney-Hassenauer-Leglue-Haeg. Rudolph throws to Samuels in the left front. Pass is forward but still behind the LOS. Caught by Samuels. Good block by Trey Edmunds in front on Shakur Brown before Marcus Allen comes in to tag him up. Gain of five.
8. Marsh and Jamir Jones the second-team OLBs. McFarland inside zone left side. Jones chasing backside. Calling it a run of three.
9. OL of Collins-Walton-Finney-Coward-Green. Haskins in at QB. Screen left side to Jaylen Samuels, who aligned as a WR. Pushed out of bounds for a gain of two. Bundage was strong at the POA against Rico Bussey’s block.
10. Samuels carry right side but doesn’t go for much. Back to the line of scrimmage. Wade with an aggressive run fill to come downhill. Mark Gilbert was second in line.
11. Gilbert LCB, Stephen Denmark RCB, Shakur Brown in the slot. Brown saw increased reps with Brooks out. Jamar Watson and Quincy Roche at OLB. Haskins boots to the right, hits Samuels in the right flat. Scales and Brown combine to tag him for a short three-yard completion.
12. Kevin Rader aligned as the FB in the backfield. Brooks-James run right side. Nice little crease created by Walton and Coward. Healthy run of ten.
Third Team Session
1. Ball at the offense’s 34. OL. Okorafor-Coward-Green-Turner-Banner. Harris in at RB. Alualu and Heyward the nickel defensive linemen. Pat Freiermuth the starting TE. JuJu Smith-Schuster finds a soft spot in the deep middle and after a brief run-after-catch, goes for 21 yards from Roethlisberger’s on-target throw.
2. Now Gentry in at TE. Roethlisberger throw short right side to Harris. Ingram swipes at the ball and misses but Harris makes a nice catch low-ish and away from his body. 11-yard run before Fitzpatrick touches him up out of bounds.
3. Maulet in the slot. Devin Bush and UG3 the ILB pairing. Diontae Johnson out of a stacked look runs an option route on UG3, breaking to the inside and making the catch. Gain of 8. Maulet blitzed in. Bush had the tag on Johnson.
4. Eric Ebron in at TE. Moore at LT. Watt sidecar to Roethlisberger in shotgun. Watt leaks out to the left and Roethlisberger hits him for a gain of six. Ingram and Norwood on the sotp.
5. Justin Layne/James Pierre at CB. Henry Mondeaux/Isaiahh Loudermilk the nickel pairing along the d-line. Rudolph fires over the middle and hits Ray-Ray McCloud on an over route for a solid, 19-yard completion to the 47. Norwood covering.
6. James Washington aligned as the backside, X receiver. McCloud in the slot, Anthony Johnson as the Z. Rudolph’s throw to McCloud is high and off his fingertips, incomplete. Brown covering. Brown might have slightly been grabbing McCloud’s jersey.
7. Pony backfield with Samuels and McFarland split out wide. Samuels motioned out, McFarland aligned there out of the huddle. Samuels left side, McFarland right side. Tyler Simmons the slot receiver. Shakur Brown blitzes. Rudolph connects with Samuels on a shallow cross working right to left. Marcus Allen on the stop. Just a three-yard play.
8. Marsh and Jones the OLBs, Loudermilk/Mondeaux the DTs. Rudolph complete left side to McCloud. Brown pushes him out of bounds. I’m not sure of the yardage here, don’t have a good feel for what I wrote in my notes, so not going to be able to count it. Hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive me.
9. Haskins in at QB. Complete to Mathew Sexton left side. Denmark used his length to try and contest but Sexton wrestled the ball away. No breakup. Five yard gain.
10. WR Isaiah McKoy and Rico Bussey on the outside, Anthony Johnson in the slot. Isaiah Buggs in at NT. Haskins complete to Johnson left side, stepping out of Maulet’s tackle and this goes for a solid gain of 15.
11. Haskins pumps right and then looks left, finding Bussey over the middle. Goes for 14. One of the safeties, either Donovan Stiner or Lamont Wade in on the stop.
12. Marcus Baugh in at TE. Haskins pushes the ball downfield again and Baugh makes a snazzy, one-handed grab with his left hand working away from Scales. 23-yard completion.
Fourth Team Session
1. Freiermuth the Y tight end. Roethlisberger in at QB. Alualu/Davis the DTs. Najee Harris left side for three yards. Alex Highsmith ducked inside Zach Gentry’s block and Davis shed his to track Harris down.
2. Wormley-Alualu-Heyward the defensive linemen. Unbalanced look, Chukwuma Okorafor shifting over from his LT spot to RT. Another wrinkle in this offense, though the team has occasionally done that in the past. Harris a gain of five. Alualu strong at the POA against the base block by RG Trai Turner. Nice job by Banner to run his feet and move whoever he was blocking from Point A to Point B.
3. Roethlisberger play action. Dart over the middle to Diontae Johnson, who reaches over his head but doesn’t need to leave his feet to make the grab. Devin Bush could’ve made a play on the ball but never saw it, throwing up his hands over his head after the play knowing he missed a great chance. Gain of ten.
4. Ebron in at tight end. Spot concept – three man route of a flat, curl (spot) and corner. Roethlisberger wants JuJu on the curl/spot but UG3 faceguards him. JuJu leaps but can’t make the catch, the ball hitting off UG3 and incomplete. “I see you, UG!” Mike Tomlin yelled out.
5. Buddy Johnson and Marcus Allen the ILBs. Rudolph in at QB. Completion to McCloud right side for eight. Pushed out of bounds by Killebrew.
6. McFarland up the middle for two. Brown ducked in there and Mondeaux got off Hassenauer’s block too.
7. Jaylen Samuels carry up the middle for two.
8. Wormley and Buggs the DTs. McFarland split out, Samuels at RB. Downfield throw complete from Rudolph to McCloud – a favorite target of the day – for 23 yards right sideline. Beat James Pierre but he finished the rep, punching the ball out as McCloud went out of bounds.
Up front, Marsh easily beat Gentry to the inside.
9. Haskins in at QB. Johnson and Bundage the ILBs. Hits Tyler Simmons over the middle for a gain of 11. Bundage on the tag. Poor pass-off by the defense and Simmons got open underneath as Buddy Johnson carried the new #2 vertical.
10. Nice jump cut by Brooks-James left side, showing some agility and burst. Good second-level block by Leglue on Bundage to wash him. Run of five.
11. Gentry and Baugh the TEs. Haskins boots right. Hits Brooks-James in the flat for a run of 12. Back was open. Pitts came in to put an end to things.
12. Pitts at LCB, Denmark at RCB, Brown in the slot. Trey Edmunds rare carry right side. Lamont Wade comes in and rips the ball out of Edmunds’ hands. Edmunds fell on it but nice play from Wade. Gain of two. DL Abdullah Anderson – who continues to work as hard as anyone on this roster – flowed down the line well.
Fifth Team Session
1. Two-minute drill. Favorite of this team to close out practices. 1:48 on the clock, ball on the offense’s 33, one timeout. Ben Roethlisberger in at QB. Complete over the middle to Diontae Johnson for 12. Alex Highsmith dropping and covering him.
2. Dan Moore in at LT this drive, by the way. Still taking it easy with Okorafor, not making him jog in a potential no-huddle situation. Roethlisberger wants to Pat Freiermuth down the right sideline. But Minkah Fitzpatrick shows his playmaking skills again, stepping in front and picking off the pass. Quick end to this drill.
Sixth Team Session
1. Believe it was the same set of circumstances for Rudolph. Short throw complete to Anthony Johnson for five.
2. Throw over the middle for Derek Watt for seven. To the offense’s 45.
3. Rudolph fires deep downfield right side to Isaiah McKoy, who shows his deep threat chops he displayed at Kent State. Beats Justin Layne and makes the extended catch, stumbling down to the 11. 46 yard completion. Really good throw and great catch by McKoy.
4. Rudolph throw left sideline sails over Sexton’s head and incomplete. Not a competitive throw/catch opportunity.
5. False start backs the offense up to the 16. Sounded like a coach yelled at Kevin Rader for not getting on the ball. Play gets underway and Rader makes up for that lost yardage, catching the ball over the middle down to the five. Caught between two defenders. Layne was one, not sure the other.
7. :24 seconds left and counting. Throw in the right flat to I believe Rader – going off memory, not my notes – but Layne is right there for the stop at the line of scrimmage.
8. :17 seconds left. Derek Watt in at RB sidecar to Rudolph. Rudolph rolls right. Hits Sexton on a very low throw. Not 100% sure if he caught it but he appeared to and they called it a TD. Killebrew coming down on top of him.
Skirmish breaks out between JC Hassenauer and TJ Carter. Looked like Hassenauer ripped off Carter’s helmet. No punches and it gets broken up in about 10 seconds to end practice.
– Really good day overall for Mason Rudolph. Solid downfield throws, especially the one to McKoy, and he led a solid, efficient two-minute drill. I’d argue his best day of practice of camp.
– Good to see this offensive line getting healthier. Okorafor back in team, Dotson taking some sort of step forward.
– Zach Gentry still taking his lumps as a blocker. Some tougher matchups, working on Alex Highsmith, pass pro against Cassius Marsh. There’s been some development as a blocker but I don’t know if it’ll ever be a strong suit of his.
– McCloud with a good showing today, working downfield quite a bit. McKoy flashed with that great downfield catch, too.
– I don’t want to jump to conclusions because Ebron missed about a week with an injury but Freiermuth got a lot of the first-team reps today. Ebron received some too but it felt like Freiermuth was working ahead of him in team. Maybe that’s easing Ebron in. I’m planning on keeping an eye on it.
– Felt like DT Carlos Davis had an increased amount of reps today. At least in nickel. Again, going to monitor that over the next three days of practice.
– Lamont Wade a really solid practice today. INT in 7v7, FF in team drill. Liked his run fills and fits. Lot of young DBs hungry to capture a final spot of two on the 53 or at least, a practice squad spot.
Heinz Field Snapshot
Ebron sprinting out onto the field at the start of practice.
Twitter Question of the Day
No update. Good news is he was on the field today. I didn’t see anything visibly wrong with him. So hopefully it’s minor. We’ll see if he can get back for one of these next three practices.
Vintage Steelers’ Photos
LB John Reger, a highly underrated player in team history, tackles Packers’ FB Jim Taylor in a game.
Dale Gribble’s Best Quotes
“That makes a whole lot of sense… A whole lot of nonsense!”