Day Six of practice is in the books, the final one before the team plays its first preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys. It also marks the halfway point of our camp coverage. Let’s get what into happened today.
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– Off the top, I was wrong. Figured it would be a lighter practice with the game two days away and the team in pads/contact yesterday. Nope. Pads on today and live tackling sessions. Again, Steelers have among the most physical camps.
– Injury report: Not practicing today was: OG Kevin Dotson (unknown), TE Eric Ebron (elbow), WR Cody White (hamstring), RB Benny Snell (unknown, wasn’t on the field again), OLB TJ Watt (unknown), DE Stephon Tuitt (unknown), TE Zach Gentry (unknown), OT Chaz Green (unknown), and WR Ray-Ray McCloud (unknown). Ebron caught passes on the side later in practice so I’m optimistic he can return for the team’s next public practice Saturday. Gentry had a sleeve on his left knee but he’s worn it for the past couple practices too so it’s hard to be positive of the issue. White had a half, three-quarters sprint on the side so hoping he can come back over the weekend or early next week. Dotson again was in pads but didn’t do much of anything.
– RB Tony Brooks-James was signed to give the team RB depth. Have to consider what that means for Snell’s status. Brooks-James was with the team in 2019 and will wear #40. ILB Jarvis Miller was released in a corresponding move. Calvin Bundage made the cut after getting the axe before camp.
– White was the first player on the field at 12:58. Diontae Johnson soon follow to catch passes. Minkah Fitzpatrick first defender on the field and hit the JUGS machine, a testament to his work ethic. Mark Gilbert and Miles Killebrew hopped on with him a minute or two later.
– First-team o-line in warmups. Moore-Coward-Green-Turner-Haeg.
– Second-team o-line in warmups: Colllins-Finney-Hassenauer-Coward-Leglue
– Sight that showed how thin the TE group was today without Ebron or Gentry. Early in practice in a STs session, the only TE working with coach Alfredo Roberts was Pat Freiermuth. Kevin Rader and Marcus Baugh, the only other two healthy tight ends, were with Danny Smith. Quality 1v1 time for the rookie though.
– Brooks-James was part of the return/upback line today.
– In individual work, offensive line working on more man/combo blocks and overtakes today. Again, split off into two groups. Adrian Klemm with the interior offensive linemen and Chris Morgan with the offensive tackles.
– During this time, the secondary worked on coverage structures and safety rotations. Minkah Fitzpatrick dropping from deep 1/2 to the middle with Antoine Brooks Jr. and Cam Sutton rotating with him on separate reps.
– Tracked punter hangtimes and distances today. Here are the numbers for each man.
Jordan Berry: 4.98 seconds (49 yards), 4.54 (40 yards), 3.79 (52 yards), 4.17 (45 yards – snap was off and to the right), 4.83 (59 yards), 3.74 (41 yards), 4.33 yards (52 yards)
Pressley Harvin III: 4.49 seconds (51 yards), 4.25 (35 yards), 4.52 (60 yards), 4.74 (46 yards), 4.64 (55 yards), 4.88 (60 yards), 5.09 seconds (56 yards).
Here are the averages for each.
Berry: 4.34 seconds, 48.3 yards
Harvin III: 4.66 seconds, 51.9 yards
Harvin clear winner of the day from a hangtime and distance perspective.
First Team Session (Seven Shots)
1. Offensive line. Moore-Coward-Green-Turner-Banner. Devin Bush in at ILB. Ingram and Highsmith at OLB. Fitzpatrick and Killebrew at safety, Haden and Sutton at CB. Empty set. Roethlisberger wants to hit Harris on a slant to the left but Highsmith reads it, jumps it, and picks it off. Coward wrestles him down. Nice play by Highsmith.
2. Better result for the offense this time. Diontae Johnson bursts away from Joe Haden to the inside, no safety presence to help, and Roethlisberger hits him for the TD. Johnson is a superb route runner.
3. Haeg in at RT, the team still limiting Banner’s team snaps. Kalen Ballage at RB. Roethlisberger drops sidearm to make a pinpoint throw to Freiermuth, who takes on contact from Killebrew and holds on as they go to the ground. Antoine Brooks Jr. couldn’t close in time.
4. Mason Rudolph in at QB. Throw for James Washington right side. Incomplete. Justin Layne poked his hand in and broke it up. Arthur Maulet came blitzing off the edge.
5. Rudolph looks left to right and checks down to Trey Edmunds in the right flat. Open for the TD. Offensive line of: Collins-Finney-Hassenauer-Coward-Leglue
6. Dwayne Haskins comes in. Empty. Hits Jaylen Samuels on a slant right in front of Buddy Johnson. Stack look with Rico Bussey Jr. gave Samuels a free release. Touchdown.
7. Throw over the middle is picked by CB Mark Gilbert from Haskins. Intended for WR Isaiah McKoy. Nice play by Gilbert on a probably not-great throw by Haskins.
Offense wins 7 shots, 4-3.
RB/LB Coverage Drill
– Charted the reps of each.
1. Najee Harris swipes Robert Spillane’s hands down and beats him vertically to separate.
2. Seam route right side by Pat Freiermuth to dust Ulysees Gilbert III. Freiermuth makes the fingertip grab for a great rep and finish.
3. Slot fade by Jaylen Samuels left side. Has a step or two on Calvin Bundage but can’t make the catch and drops the ball.
4. Kevin Rader double-move against Marcus Allen but he drops the pass.
5. Harris rips through Devin Bush and bursts away to the outside for the catch. Eric Ebron pulled Harris aside after the rep and they went over something.
6. Marcus Baugh makes the catch right corner. Buddy Johnson played to his hip but couldn’t play the catch point, unable to punch the ball out.
7. Kalen Ballage runs past Tegray Scales and high points the ball over his head for a nice snag.
8. UG3 jams Freiermuth but Freiermuth bursts to the inside and makes the catch. Drill tailored for the offense – important to keep that in mind.
9. Derek Watt boxes out Bundage and brings the ball into his chest, holding on.
10. Double-catch by Rader against Quincy Roche, who got grabby at the top of the route.
11. Good coverage by Bush on Brooks-James. Pass is incomplete.
12. Baugh separates away from Watson and makes the catch on an in-cut.
13. Scales breaks up the curl to Trey Edmunds. Throw was inside and allowed Scales to make the play.
14. Y nod by Freiermuth, flashing his eyes/helmet to the right before taking off vertical. Fools UG3 and he wins easily vertically. Crips route.
15. Harris runs away from Spillane and makes an easy catch. Spillane looked slower than normal in this drill.
16. Rader makes the grab but doesn’t create much space against Marcus Allen. Rader is a marginal athlete.
17. Bush with another breakup, this time on Samuels.
18. Baugh runs a ten-yard out and makes the grab versus Melvin Ingram.
19. Hank route by Harris, running over the middle on a short curl before bursting away from Bundage to Harris’ right and makes the grab.
20. Angle/Texas route by Brooks-James but UG3 is able to close and break it up.
21. Rader on a seven/corner route. Tracks the ball over his shoulder but can’t make the catch working on Alex Highsmith.
22. Scales breaks up the throw to Watt on an out route.
23. Baugh rips through Cassius Marsh. Breaks to the inside but stumbles and drops the pass.
24. Nice jam by Johnson who turns and runs with Bundage and face guards him well as the pass is incomplete.
25. Weird one here. Melvin Ingram is the receiver here and runs a route, beating Jamir Jones to the corner. That’s a new one, linebacker being the WR in this drill.
26. Angle route by Harris is incomplete, timed well and tipped underneath by Marcus Allen.
27. Rader drops a curl against Spillane.
28. Ballage beats Scales vertically but the pass is overthrown.
29. Baugh makes the catch on an out route against Jones. Jones tried to punch down through Baugh’s hands but missed completely.
30. Samuels burns Spillane vertically.
Second Team Session
1. Ball on the defense’s 48. Haeg in at RT. Spillane/Bust at ILB. Wormley-Alualu-Heyward the defensive line. Mason Rudolph in at QB, Najee Harris at QB. Run up the middle. Melvin Ingram runs through the crack block of a WR, I think JuJu (may have been Claypool) and is first one in on the tackle – a live tackling session – as Harris falls forward for a gain of two.
2. 12 personnel. Johnson/Smith-Schuster twin set initially before Johnson motions across. Playaction. Throw to Johnson left side but Sutton runs through Smith-Schuster’s block for a loss of four. Nice play by Sutton.
3. False start on the play. UG3 now in at ILB with Bush coming out, on a pitch count similar to Banner. Harris tackled for a two-yard loss. UG3 came in 100% unblocked and Spillane got in there too.
4. Kalen Ballage at RB. Dwayne Haskins in at QB. Toss right. Marsh does well to secure the edge and turn the run back. Pullers did a poor job here, several free defenders, and Marcus Allen is first one in to make the tackle for a big loss. Call it a loss of seven.
5. Ballage pushes ahead behind a pulling Coward. Allen again in on the tackle. Gain of three.
6. Empty set initially before the team shifts tight with Sexton and Simmons as the wings. Ballage cuts his run to the right. Allen active in this session, going low on him with Norwood and others cleaning it up. Nice to see Norwood throw his body a bit.
7. Loudermilk and Mondeaux the nickel defensive linemen. A would-be sack with Marsh getting pressure. Derek Watt is open to the right corner and Haskins hits him down the sideline. Nifty grab, reaching out with his left hand to pull the ball in.
Nearly a touchdown, probably worth a challenge/review but Norwood went low and cut him down at the half-yard line. Big play for the offense, even though it wouldn’t have played out so well if the QB could be hit. 46 yard gain.
8. Josh Dobbs in at QB. Nice run from Trey Edmunds right side. Juked inside to make Stephen Denmark miss before I believe Lamont Wade came in on the stop. Run of ten.
9. 22 yard completion from Dobbs to Edmunds, making the catch right side working against Johnson. Johnson sorta slaps him down. Back-to-back big plays from Edmunds. Good to see.
10. DeMarkus Acy and Stephen Denmark the outside CBs with Shakur Brown in the slot. Tony Brooks-James gets his carry. Not a memorable one. TJ Carter in on the tackle and I believe Shakur Brown was able to rip the ball out and recover it. Definitely a fumble that Brown fell on top of.
11. Jaylen Samuels run right side for a gain of seven. Good push by the o-line.
Third Team Session
1. Ball at the offense’s ten. Wormley/Heyward the nickel defenders. Ben Roethlisberger in at QB. Banner in at RT. Roethlisberger with a money throw to JuJu Smith-Schuster working on Arthur Maulet for a good gain of 25 yards. Nice job by Dan Moore Jr. to seal Melvin Ingram upfield. Roethlisberger good throw in a tight window.
2. Watt and Harris split back before Watt is motioned to the right. Roethlisberger looks for James Washington to the left sideline. Cam Sutton great man coverage, using his leverage and pushing Washington to the sideline while playing the ball in the air. Tips the pass and then comes down with it on the bounce. Great rep by Sutton.
3. Several defenders running free and we have our first “sort of” sack of camp. Roethlisberger pulled the ball down as Ingram came in, being careful not to touch Roethlisberger but doing enough to get Roethlisberger to give up on the play. Tyson Alualu beat Trai Turner with a rip to the outside.
4. Roethlisberger with a low throw left side, JuJu making a diving grab. Gain of six yards against Sutton.
5. Marsh and Jones the 2nd team OLBs. Layne and Pierre the CBs. Mason Rudolph in at QB. Throws right side but incomplete with Layne covering. Leglue pushed Marsh upfield.
6. Rudolph complete to Anthony Johnson right side. Gain of 12. Mondeaux dipped past Finney. Marsh also got pressure. Not sure what happened but Coward wasn’t blocking anyone and looking lost.
7. Quick throw in the right flat complete from Rudolph to Sexton. Just a pickup of three before Layne tags him on the ground.
8. Marsh applies pressure again. Swiped past Leglue. Rudolph rolls left and hits Isaiah McKoy for five.
9. Dwayne Haskins in at QB. Sexton runs past Denmark down the left sideline. Think Haskins wanted to make the throw but with the pocket breaking down, he spins out and rolls to the left. Throws off-platform and out of bounds with the TE Baugh the only receiver in the general direction. But this was a throwaway, really.
10. Screen/bubble to Sexton left side. Rookie Shakur Brown flies in and makes the tackle, taking Sexton to the ground for a good hit. “Stay on your feet” the coaches call out for this non-tackling session. But Brown wanted to show he could hit. And he did.
11. Haskins hits Simmons over the middle for a 20-yard gain against Denmark. Good throw and catch.
12. Nice timing to hit McKoy on a five yard out to the left. McKoy reaches out and the pass is off his hands and incomplete. Denmark covering but he didn’t impact the outcome.
Fourth Team Session
1. Ball at the offense’s 47. Banner in at RT. “Everyone stay up!” Tomlin yells out. Rudolph in at QB. Playaction. Ingram and Highsmith sealed up the arc and Rudolph hitches up into the pocket. Holds onto the ball for a fair amount of time in NFL seconds before firing downfield, incomplete well over Chase Claypool’s head. Felt like a semi-throwaway. Claypool had no real chance at it.
2. Haeg now in at RT. Banner, by the way, wearing a brace on that right knee. I-Form with Watt and Harris in the backfield. Good push up front, looked like solid blocks from Moore and Coward and Harris is off into space. Give Harris a gain of ten.
3. Watt lined up as a true, in-line tight end with his hand in the dirt. Ingram and Highsmith meet Harris and it’s a run of two. Highsmith easily discarded TE Marcus Baugh here.
4. Bubble screen to the right from Rudolph to JuJu. He throws his hand up to stiff-arm Haden and JuJu goes out of bounds after about a gain of five.
5. Anthony Johnson and Washington in a Twin set. 21 personnel. Watt comes across the field and Haskins hits him for a gain of 27 down to the 26 before Watt puts a shoulder into Tre Norwood for the thud-stop.
6. Kalen Ballage cuts left and gets three before being stopped, Marcus Allen running from behind.
7. Haskins hums a throw over the middle complete to Washington to the 41. Completion of 12 with Pierre covering. Norwood came down over the middle as first man there.
8. Screen to the left, Haskins to Bussey. Maulet breaks through, Collins can’t reach him out in space in time, for the thud stop. Gain of three. Samuels/Ballage both on the field in a pony look.
9. Fake the draw. Haskins complete short right side to McKoy right side. Gilbert hugs him and wraps him after a gain of three.
10. Dobbs scans the field before checking to the right sideline complete to Johnson. Think Gilbert in on the stop again. Calling it a gain of six. Bit of a low throw but Johnson made the grab.
11. Samuels and Brooks-James both on the field. Samuels jets across on the snap of the football. Brooks-James run inside zone left. Has a lane and picks up nine. Nice job by Brandon Walton to wash out Abdullah Anderson. Hassenauer climbed to Bundage but basically grabbed and tossed him around the neck. So I think the refs would’ve called that healthy run back.
12. Dobbs boots right. Hits Trey Edmunds in the right flat with Watson pressuring Dobbs. Goes for nine yards before Gilbert goes low and nips Edmunds at the ankles, taking out his legs and sending Edmunds sliding to the ground. “Stay up, stay up!” a coach called out, though the team session is over.
1. Alex Highsmith swipes and bends the corner past Dan Moore Jr.
2. Cam Heyward bull rush to get into Coward’s chest. Then he swims over him.
3. Strong hands and grip by Green, who locks onto Alualu, trying to disengage but can’t. Alualu converts to a bull but Green anchors and stones him.
4. Chris Wormley rips to the corner against Trai Turner, who tries to seal him.
5. Joe Haeg sits and anchors against Marsh, who tries to spin inside to no avail.
6. Moore mirrors Highsmith’s rush well.
7. Highsmith with a cross chop to beat Moore along the edge.
8. Carlos Davis quickly sheds Rashaad Coward.
9. Nice power by Buggs who finishes the rep by swimming over Green.
10. They go again and Green hangs on.
11. Mondeaux beats Turner to the outside.
12. Aviante Collins drops his hands and Jamir Jones runs through him.
13. Loudermilk tries to club Brandon Walton but it fails and Walton stalls him outl.
14. BJ Finney mirrors TJ Carter, Carter spins late in the rep.
15. Leglue traps and knocks down Calvin Taylor’s hands, sending Taylor into the ground.
16. Leglue shifts over a spot to align as a RG. They go again and Taylor uses a nice push/pull to win the rep.
17. Close battle between Roche and Collins here. Not sure if Roche was able to gain the edge or not here.
18. Walton mirrors Loudermilk, who spins late but can’t win.
19. TJ Carter rips through Finney.
20. Active hands by Carter but he can’t fight through Finney, who anchors and wins.
Fifth Team Session
1. Another two-minute drill, a popular one this summer. 1:48 on the clock, one timeout, ball on the offense’s 33. Dwayne Haskins up first. Looks for Bussey Jr. on a crosser and it’s high off his fingertips and incomplete. Probably could call it a drop but the throw was high off the mark.
2. Throw over the middle complete to Rader for a 11 yard pickup. Allen right on top of him for the stop.
3. Haskins throw right side intended for Anthony Johnson. Justin Layne closes well and breaks it up, meeting Johnson at the ball and throwing a shoulder into him. “Way to go, J-Lay” someone yelled out.
4. Bussey and McKoy on the outside, Johnson in the slot. Ballage as the RB. Layne and Pierre the outside corners. Haskins complete to Johnson this time on a deep cross. Complete for 19.
5. Haskins again complete to Rader on a Hank. Ten yard pickup. Would-be flag on the play, OLB Jamir Jones failing to get back to the LOS in-time before the ball was snapped. Gotta pick it up a little quicker. Defense with a penalty and effectively playing with just ten.
6. One more time, Haskins to Johnson, over the middle for a 25 yard TD. Alex Highsmith did dip under and past Moore Jr. easily on the play, who has had his issues vs speed rushes.
Sixth Team Session
1. Dobbs gets a crack at a two-minute drill. Same set of circumstances. First pass complete over the middle to James Washington for seven yards.
2. Second throw…not complete. Well, it was, just to the other team. Dobbs tries to fit a pass down the right seam to TE Marcus Baugh. It’s a bit high, over Baugh’s head and Donovan Stiner picks it off, taking a couple steps forward and smartly taking a knee to “win” the game. Not 100% sure who had the good coverage on Baugh, I think it was Bundage. With the INT, practice ends.
– Dwayne Haskins has done well in situational drills. Again, helps that QBs can’t be touched, WRs can’t be hit (sure helps with YAC, Johnson got to run the final five yards into the end zone). But he’s led the offense to a TD on all his two-minute drills. Couple more mistakes lately, two INTs I’d put on him the last couple practices, but still doing well.
– Based on his play, skillset, and Snell’s injury, I would have Kalen Ballage ahead of Benny Snell right now on the depth chart. Could change, Snell has value, but Ballage has a well-rounded skillset for a backup. Leg drive as a runner, good set of hands, very good in pass pro, and special teams value on punt coverage (left wing on punts today) and he can serve as the upback on kick returns, which is typical for the #3/#4 RB on this team.
– Derek Watt, catch the fever! Two catches for 73 yards today.
– Tyler Simmons is built like a RB. But he has hands of a RB too. Drops and muffs too many. Had a muff in the punt return line early in practice.
– Speaking of hands, I just don’t think Jaylen Samuels has great hands. He drops far too many for a guy who is billed as a receiver coming out of school. Harris and Ballage and maybe even McFarland have better hands than him. Samuels was just asked to play in space more often in school.
– Really wonder when Dotson is going to be out there doing something. He’s dressed, he looks healthy, he gets a little work on the side. Don’t know what bar he has to cross he hasn’t yet. If there was a weight issue in the spring, wouldn’t it be a non-issue seven weeks later? Weird one.
– Dan Moore Jr. vs outside/speed rushes will be the thing to watch Thursday.
– Rashaad Coward might have gotten more reps than any other Steeler this summer. He’s struggled though, a developmental prospect who only recently began playing o-line a few years ago. If there’s a position this team should explore adding at cutdowns, it might be as a backup guard. In addition to safety. We’ll see how things look in the four preseason games. Coward figures to see a lot of action.
– Isaiahh Loudermilk is strong and wins the point of attack. Needs to work on his hand use to be able to disengage and finish though. Thing I’m noticing with his game.
– Cassius Marsh with consistent pressure today. Squarely in driver’s seat for the #4 OLB job.
– Marcus Allen active man in run session today. Can’t always see it live but I’m guessing he’s doing a better job diagnosing and working off blocks for him to be around the ball as often as he is. Makes sense since he’s another year to the position.
– Justin Layne was dismissed early on but he has four breakups over the last three practices, including two today. James Pierre has still been better (and had an INT in 7v7 today, overthrow by Ben for Claypool it looked like) but Layne isn’t going away without a fight.
– Shakur Brown popping up in my notes a bit more. Coaches probably didn’t but I like that he attacked and dropped Sexton in a non-tackle session. See ball, hit ball. Dude is aggressive.
– Ditto with Norwood. Not shying away from contact which is good to see.
– Again, Harvin the winner of the day versus Berry. Berry edged out Harvin the first time but Harvin won by a larger margin this time.
Heinz Field Snapshot
Abdullah Anderson on the sleds early in practice. Always working. Hope he can play a bit Thursday.
Twitter Question of the Day
Is it just me or has leglue been really bad in camp so far?
— Steelcity Hackett (@PitMiaSanMia90) August 3, 2021
Don’t get too many questions about Leglue so I’ll address it here. I don’t think it’s been great. But he’s also been shifted between guard, tackle, and center. That’s a lot on a young guys plate. Having to remember your assignment, your steps, your punch, and moving back and forth throughout camp and even during the same practice. He played all three spots today. So that’s context that should be taken into account and that’s versatility that will help him come cutdown date and who the team wants to keep on its practice squad.
Vintage Steelers’ Photos
Brady Keys and another Steeler try to tackle Jim Brown. I’m guessing it didn’t go well.
Dale Gribble’s Best Quotes
“You don’t know who I am, but I know where you live and you better cut it out if you know what’s good for you. Oh, and Hank, we changed that tee-off time to 3:00.”