We are back. All the way back. To 2022, to Latrobe, to Day One of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ training camp. And we’re so glad you’re here with us. If you’re new – welcome! – and hopefully we can provide you with all the camp coverage you need to know. This will serve as our daily practice recap of everything I observed during Steelers’ training camp. We’ll throw a lot of information at you but will include a cliffnotes version at the end.
With that said, here’s our notes from Day One of training camp. We hope you enjoy it.
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Camp Notes (Day One)
– A solid first day of training camp. Different feel to it. Shorter practice, barely 90 minutes, without things like seven shots. The padless practices always have lower energy than the padded ones but perhaps the NFL’s tweaked “ramp-up” schedule for camp is causing them to be shorter and feel more like OTAs than training camp. Could be one reason why the team has 18 practices this summer, more than the norm.
– Good crowd today though not quite as packed as you’d expect. But it’s a Wednesday and rain was in the forecast, though it largely held off, that may have kept the number of people attending down.
– Soon as I pulled in, the first person I saw was the Steelers’ Pope. Training camp’s truly back. It was good to see his Black and Gold Holiness.
– From an injury standpoint, as Dave Bryan covered, S Miles Killebrew suffered a pec injury. Not sure when/how that happened. Rookie EDGE T.D. Moultry went down with what Tomlin called cramping late in the day. He was carted off but looks to be ok.
WR Diontae Johnson will be a big storyline from the day. He worked in warmups and in stretch line but didn’t do anything beyond that. No positional or team work as he looks for a new contract. But he was active early on, catching from the same coach he had last year, with WR Cody White playing DB and trying to swat the ball away from behind him.
DL Larry Ogunjobi was not in team but did go through individual work as the team eases him back from a foot injury.
– First Steeler to hit the field for the 1:55 practice was veteran safety Karl Joseph. He came down extra early at 1:23 PM with a coach. He’ll have a tough path to crack the 53 and might be doing everything, big and small, for that opportunity. The next group of guys to come down were QB Mitch Trubisky, TE Pat Freiermuth, DB Damontae Kazee, and OLB Derrek Tuszka. Trubisky and Freiermuth are roommates and might quickly be developing a good bond. Most of the players hit the field around 1:40. Rookie offensive lineman Chris Owens was nice enough to sign for some of the youth football kids, believe from Norwin High School today, who lined the walkway to the field.
– Before practice got going, it was Owens, Mason Cole, and J.C. Hassenauer working center reps. No Kendrick Green, who was with the guards and tackles, really confirming his move to guard.
– One quick footnote. The Steelers’ website lists punter Cameron Nizialek as #16. That is incorrect. He is #4. Kicker Nick Sciba is #16.
– Tyson Alualu had a sleeve on his left knee. So that is the injured one. Minkah Fitzpatrick caught passes mid-way through practice, just short underhanded tosses, with his left hand, signaling it’s a right wrist injury. No wrap/cast that was visible, though he did wear long sleeves. He and Diontae Johnson ran on the middle field together during special teams sessions.
– First horn came at 1:54. Next voice following that was Special Teams Coordinator Danny Smith’s for an early session of punt/kick return lines. Speaking of which, the initial kick return line consisted of: WR Anthony Miller, WR Gunner Olszewski, CB Cam Sutton, WR Steven Sims, WR Tyler Snead, and WR George Pickens. WRs Calvin Austin and Tyler Vaughns soon came over from the PR line to join the kick returners. Late in the period, Danny Smith had them hold on football while fielding another from the JUGS machine, throwing the ball they were holding in the air as they caught the other, then catching the one they originally had.
– The theme of the day was rotation. At WR, along the o-line, at cornerback, at inside linebacker. Along the line, Kevin Dotson took more first-team reps than Kendrick Green but they both saw work with the 1’s. Dotson had the first team sessions. So he’s slightly ahead now but Pittsburgh will at least entertain the idea of things being a battle. Here’s how the lines went.
First Team OL: Dan Moore-Kevin Dotson-Mason Cole-James Daniels-Chukwuma Okorafor
Second Team OL: Trent Scott-Kendrick Green-J.C. Hassenauer-John Leglue-Joe Haeg
Third Team OL: Jake Dixon-Chaz Green-Nate Gilliam-Chris Owens-Jordan Tucker
– During individual sessions, the quarterbacks were on the move. First they rolled to their left. Then the next time they went through, they hitched up and ran to their right. No straight three/five/seven step drawbacks. Don’t want to pretend like that’s never been done before, it most certainly has, but the idea being getting a more mobile QB room on the move and changing up the launch point. You’ll see that a lot this year.
– Ball security was an early emphasis for the WRs and RBs. Having to carry and duck under one of the chutes with WRs Coach Frisman Jackson holding a boxing glove on a stick to try to poke it out while RBs Coach Eddie Faulkner had a big bag to bop them with. Faulkner definitely placed a big emphasis on these drills last year and it paid off.
– During STs sessions, LBs Myles Jack and Devin Bush worked with LBs Coach Brian Flores on the far field hitting the blocking sled. Working on punch and hand placement. Putting in all the work they can get. During the same time on the middle field, Najee Harris worked on footwork for routes when split out with Eddie Faulkner, looked like they were running slants (but walking through it, not running) while Chase Claypool was working with Frisman Jackson.
– The “first team” WR grouping on the one side during individual drills consisted of: Anthony Miller, Chase Claypool, Cody White, Steven Sims, and George Pickens. Running with the second-team group was Miles Boykin, Calvin Austin III, Tyler Vaughns, Gunner Olszewski, and Tyler Snead. Don’t want to make too much of that but it is something we annually note.
– At one point, Karl Joseph, Carlins Platel, and Arthur Maulet were off on the far field away from the other DBs talking with a coach. Some potential slot/nickel options there.
– New RB Jeremy McNichols will wear #33.
– Larry Ogunjobi did go through individual drills and for what it’s worth, was running next to the 1’s in TJ Watt, Cam Heyward, and Alex Highsmith on get-off drills.
– Quick special teams session notes. Tre Norwood ran first-team upback, a job held by Marcus Allen last year. Instead, Allen worked as a wing. Jaylen Warren backup upback. Mataeo Durant also saw time as the right wing.
– Some quick 7v7 notes. Saw Ahkello Witherspoon and Cam Sutton on the outside with Arthur Maulet in the slot. Lots of mixing and matching today. Soon after, it was Wallace and Sutton on the outside with Maulet in the slot.
– Pickens had a nice grab deep down the left sideline against Cam Sutton but couldn’t keep his feet inbounds and it was incomplete. Day of “almosts” for Pickens.
– Tyler Vaughn nice combat catch against James Pierre short over the middle.
– Kenny Pickett hit an open Anthony Miller down the right seam. Donovan Stiner slipped on the play, delaying his ability to get there in time. Pickett later showed good zip to hit Kevin Rader over the middle on a dig, leading him away from Mark Robinson’s coverage.
– Active day post-practice. Quarterbacks did pushups, maybe for the late Pickett INT we’ll talk about. Afterwards, Mason Rudolph and Mitch Trubisky were throwing with a couple of players hanging around. I saw TE Jace Sternberger and WR Anthony Miller. On the other end of the field, I saw Terrell Edmunds and James Pierre as the first two on the JUGS machine. BFFs Zach Gentry and Pat Freiermuth were working together after the final horn while plenty of offensive linemen were working individually: Nate Gilliam, John Leglue, and Chris Owens. But that’s a shortlist of the players still doing something. Very few went straight up to the stairs immediately after the team broke down the huddle.
– Alright, let’s talk about team sessions.
First Team Session
1. Again, no seven shots today. Unsure why, unclear if it’ll return, but I hope it does. Instead, the ball was placed on the offense’s own 48. Again, first-team line of Moore, Dotson, Cole, Daniels, and Okorafor. Mitch Trubisky in at QB, Najee Harris lined up to his left in shotgun. George Pickens, Cody White, and Chase Claypool the three WRs on the field. T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith the OLBs, Chris Wormley and Cam Heyward the DTs, Myles Jack and Devin Bush the ILBs.
Trubisky looks for Najee Harris left side but Harris converts his flat route to a wheel and doesn’t see the pass until it’s far too late. Well-behind and incomplete.
2. Damontae Kazee benefitting from Fitzpatrick’s absence, running 1st team FS next to Terrell Edmunds. Ahkello Witherspoon LCB, Levi Wallace RCB, Cam Sutton in the slot. 12 personnel with Zach Gentry in-line and Pat Freiermuth standing up slot right. Trubisky wants to hit Claypool on a dig left side but Levi Wallace has good coverage and the throw is a little low. Incomplete.
3. Trubisky fires right side trying to float one to Pickens. Cam Sutton is underneath, gets depth, tracks the ball, and times his jump well to break up the pass over the leaping Pickens. Great play by Sutton. Trubisky starts things off 0/3.
4. Mitch Trubisky nets his first completion, hitting Chase Claypool sitting against zone left side. Gain of ten.
5. Mason Rudolph checking in. Justin Layne at LCB, James Pierre at RCB. Rudolph checkdown underneath to Benny Snell for a gain of five before being tagged by Myles Jack. Again, no contact today. Won’t happen for a few more days.
6. Derrek Tuszka and Genard Avery running 2nd team EDGE rushers. Montravius Adams and DeMarvin Leal nickel defenders with Tre Norwood and Karl Joseph at safety. Miles Killebrew also in as part of a three-safety package. He blitzes off the edge. Rudolph complete to Kevin Rader left side for a short gain of three. Joseph first man on the stop.
7. Gunner Olszewski in the slot. Connor Heyward lined up as an “off Y” tight end. Rudolph throws shallow crosser to Anthony Miller working right to left. Pass is behind but Miller adjusts and makes a nifty one-handed snag before speeding upfield. Call it a gain of ten.
8. Henry Mondeaux and Isaiahh Loudermilk now the DT pairing. Layne and Pierre outside corners with Arthur Maulet in the slot. Rudolph full field read working left to right. Checkdown to McNichols for a short gain. We’ll call it four.
9. Kenny Pickett’s first camp snap. Chris Steele and Linden Stephens now the outside QB pairing. Pickett, working out of the shotgun, dumps it off on a checkdown to McNichols. Another gain of four.
10. Pickett is a little more aggressive this time and tries to fire it over the middle, roughly 5-7 yards, for TE Jace Sternberger. But rookie LB Mark Robinson is draped all over, good coverage, and gets in the way of the throw that misses Sternberger right and falls incomplete.
11. The first “technical difficulties” of my notes. Can’t really read what I described. Something to do with Jaylen Warren. Did note Jake Dixon buried his man around the edge. So at least you have that.
12. Olszewski in the slot. Pickett complete right side to UDFA Tyler Snead, who makes a nice sliding catch to secure it. Had it been a real game, his head might’ve been taken off though. Call it a gain of seven.
Second Team Session
1. Run-oriented session. Ball on the offense’s 44. Najee Harris left side, cuts, and finds a lane. Devin Bush tags him. Call it a nice gain of six but again, the non-contact helps the RBs out.
2. Watt and Highsmith on the EDGE, Wormley and Heyward the DTs. Kendrick Green working left guard. Playaction. Mitch Trubisky ends up tucking and running up the vacated middle. We’ll give him five though he could run for a TD if he wanted to because no one touches the QB.
3. Montravius Adams the base 3-4 NT. Jet run right side to Cody White but it only gains one. Defense isn’t fooled.
4. TJ Watt dusts Zach Gentry off the edge, ripping through him. Trubisky tries to thread one right side who contorts his body and tries to make a falling catch. Grabbed it out of the air and nearly secured it but couldn’t finish the play and lost it on the ground. Gotta finish the play but nice effort.
5. Jeremy McNichols carry up the middle. Good team run defense, no gain here.
6. Devin Bush and Myles Jack the ILBs. Mason Rudolph in at QB. Complete to Olszewski on a crosser right to left for a gain of 16. Whoever the running back was, may have been Anthony McFarland, had a solid pass pro rep.
7. Jace Sternberger a little unsure of his trade motion across the line, left to right but Rudolph brings him across. He may have tried to leave a little early. McFarland run right side. Five yard gain, good blocking in front.
8. Mark Robinson and Ulysees Gilbert III the ILB pairing. Rudolph boots left side but Karl Joseph flies off the edge for a would-be sack. Sternberger makes a good hand catch with UG3 all over him.
9. Carlos Davis LDE, Donovan Jeter at NT, Khalil Davis at RDE. Rookie Jaylen Warren on the carry with Derek Watt providing a burly lead block. Warren jumps over a pile and gets about five. Pickett in at QB for this rep.
10. Jet run right side with WR Tyler Snead. Good run, gain of eight.
11. Buddy Johnson and Marcus Allen the ILB pairing. 12 personnel. Pickett complete to Connor Heyward right flat. Donovan Stiner tags him up, a little high around the next, for a short gain of a couple.
12. Linden Stephens and Chris Steele the outside CBs with Arthur Maulet in the slot. Stiner and Killebrew at safety. Pickett screen to Steven Sims right side. Good block out in front by Olszewski for a gain of seven. Sims ended up on the ground at the end despite this session and day being no-contact.
Third Team Session
1. Jack and Bush the ILBs. Watt and Highsmith the EDGE rushers. Heyward and Wormley the DTs. Kazee and Edmunds the safeties. Witherspoon LCB, Sutton RCB, Maulet in the slot. Trubisky in at QB, Harris in at RB. Pickens and Claypool the receivers. Connor Heyward goes in motion. Harris carry off left side. Myles Jack good run fill to force him to bounce. Gain of one.
2. Ball at the offense’s 37. Pickens and White and Claypool the receivers. Trubisky screen to Pickens left side. But it’s a pretty slow developing play and Maulet comes through to make the stop before Pickens can barely get upfield. Loss of two. Frisman Jackson had a couple of teaching words for Pickens on the sideline after the rep.
3. Claypool and White the WRs. Wormley-Adams-Heyward the base d-line. Wallace and Sutton the CBs. Trubisky complete to Harris in the left flat for a gain of two. Harris tried to spin away from Alex Highsmith but Highsmith broke down, came to balance, and mirrored him. Good defense.
4. Adams and Leal the nickel pairing. Wallace/Sutton on the outside, Karl Joseph in the slot. Benny Snell carry right side. Right on cue, TJ Watt blows it up, crashing through his side. Loss of two.
5. Tuszka and Avery the EDGE pairing. Rudolph boot right. Wants Freiermuth in the flat but it’s covered so he’s forced to move to his second option (Steelers boots are almost always read low to high, some teams read it high to low. Fires to Anthony Miller running a crosser left to right. Pass is in front of him and he dives for it but the ball clips off his hands and incomplete.
6. Robinson/UG3 the ILB pairing. Norwood and Stiner at safety. James Pierre at RCB and rolled up on his man. Screen right side to Calvin Austin who jets down the right sideline and into the end zone. But again, there is no contact here so I don’t think he would’ve scored if that were the case. So I’m going to call it a gain of five. Rudolph threw it.
7. Rudolph still in at QB. Leal makes a nice play to knife through and blow up this Benny Snell run, forcing him to cut it to the right for minimal gain. James Pierre with the low-five of Leal after the play is over.
8. Rudolph under center playaction. Justin Layne makes one of the plays of the day with a great diving breakup on this pass intended for Anthony Miller, running a crosser/over route right to left side.
9. Jaylen Warren left side with the carry but not much doing. Tuzar Skipper in at ROLB and tries to punch the ball out to no avail. But good fundamentals all around. Gain of one.
10. Stephens and Steele on the outside with Norwood in the slot. Good team run defense and rookie UDFA Mataeo Durant has nowhere to go. Gain of zero.
11. Buddy Johnson and Marcus Allen the ILB pairing. T.D. Moultry in at LOLB, Tyree Johnson at ROLB. Kenny Pickett hitches up, looks, keeps his eyes downfield, but eventually takes off left side. Newly signed DL Doug Costin gives chase. Tuck and run of five. Moultry cramped up here and was replaced by Delontae Scott at LOLB.
12. Under center, 11 personnel. Pickett playaction. Pressure, pocket starts to condense, and Pickett tries to fire it right side. Not sure who. But pass hangs and is short and UDFA rookie Carlins Platel, signed out of rookie minicamp, finds it and picks it off. Defense goes crazy. Last rep of the day is Pickett’s first INT, the first turnover of camp.
Cliff Notes Version
– For those who didn’t want to read all my words.
– First day, very much an OTA type of feel so there are no big takeaways. Would say defense won the day, especially the disadvantage to them of not being able to really hit. Cam Sutton’s had some good battles with George Pickens already that remind me of the ones he had with Chase Claypool early last season. Justin Layne some nice plays too while Mark Robinson held his own in coverage. No big defensive coverage busts or miscues.
– Certainly will see WR jet runs a good bit this summer and probably into the regular season. Specifically worked on during one part of drills and a couple of them today with Cody White and Tyler Snead. Snead is so small and is easy to lose behind the line.
– Plenty of rotation at left guard between Dotson/Green, CB with Wallace/Witherspoon and the slot guys, a little bit at ILB with Bush/Spillane as well. Plenty of moving pieces here to consider.
– Despite being just signed, RB Jeremy McNichols seeing a lot of action early. Jaylen Warren appears to be getting more work than Mataeo Durant whereas Anthony McFarland wasn’t in my notes much today. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.
– Cody White and George Pickens seeing plenty of first-team work at WR with Diontae Johnson extremely limited. Damontae Kazee early leg up at FS. Karl Joseph is also seeing slot reps in addition to his safety work, though there’s obvious overlap there.
– QBs were generally non-aggressive today, taking profits and hitting the RB. Not always a bad thing. But at some point, they’ll have to open things up. If you’re scoring at home, no reps or passes for 4th stringer Chris Oladokun. He’ll get something at some point but that’s the life of a #4 when a guy like Ben Roethlisberger is no longer around for half days/off days.
– Overall, good early showings from DeMarvin Leal and Mark Robinson, the team’s two defensive draft picks. Nice start for each being disruptive and making plays.
– But remember, this is day one. It’s all about looking as good and better three weeks from now as you did today.
St. Vincent Snapshot
Stretch line. With some music, carried over from what the stadium then known as Heinz Field was able to provide last year.
Twitter Camp Question Of The Day
Ha, that’s a good one. It’s always a surprise. Someone gets pissed off one play or is already in a bad mood. I’m not sure. Probably Kendrick Green. He’s always a scrapper. I could see him mix it up with someone like a DeMarvin Leal. Two young dudes going at it. But we’ll let you know. Maybe some skill guys in WRs/DBs. Those guys all have big egos. Comes with the territory if you want to play the position well. They’re always looking for reasons to be mad, lol.
Random Steelers’ Facts
Everyone knows the Steelers are among the most successful NFL franchises. But they didn’t achieve a winning record as a franchise until Week 9 of the 2002 season, a 23-20 win over the Cleveland Browns. That made them 453-452-19 overall.
The very next week, they recorded their 20th career tie, 34-34 against Atlanta (Plaxico Burress tackled at the one on a Hail Mary) making for the team’s first draw since 1974.
George Carlin’s Quote Of The Day
“What does it mean to pre-board? Do you get on before you get on?”