A much better and crucially, drier Friday than what we experienced Thursday. Overcast skies as I arrived soon turned to sun and it was a beautiful practice today at Saint Vincent College. Let’s talk about what went down on Day #3.
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Camp Notes (Day Three)
– Great crowd on hand for today. No surprise with it being Friday and good weather overall but the place was packed. More people today than Day One. Photographer Tim Rice told me he heard 15,000 tickets were bought for tomorrow’s session, though it’s doubtful that many people actually show up. Still, Saturday should be rocking so get there early if you’re attending.
– Injury Recap: Not practicing today were SS Miles Killebrew (pec) and TE Pat Freiermuth (hamstring). Looks minor but they may wait until Monday to bring him back, if not a little longer. Didn’t see much of CB Levi Wallace today so there may be something going on there (update: Tomlin said Wallace has an illness). DL Larry Ogunjobi was part of individual, not team, as has been the case the first two days. Status quo for WR Diontae Johnson while EDGE T.D. Moultry was full today and had a pretty good practice. Minkah Fitzpatrick remains on NFI but it looks like he’s making progress. Didn’t catch anything with his right hand on Day One, caught tennis balls with it on Day Two, and caught footballs with both hands today. I don’t think he’ll be out too much longer.
During practice, WR Chase Claypool suffered a shoulder injury. Have to see what’s going on with that.
– Like Day One, DB Karl Joseph was first one onto the practice field at a very early 1:17 for a 1:55 practice. He caught passes with a coach before the rest of the team joined him.
– Two random Steelers’ jerseys I spotted in the crowd today: a #2 Mike Vick and #11 Stefan Logan.
– WRs Calvin Austin III and Tyler Vaughns played catch very early in practice to warm each other up.
– John Leglue helping with some center snaps to warm quarterbacks up. Even Kendrick Green took some snaps though both played guard the rest of the day. Green ran second-team left guard so they’re clearly rotating him and Dotson first-team basically every other day. At this point, it’s not really worth updating until someone does it two days in a row.
– For those keeping score, Connor Heyward works exclusively with the tight ends in positional groups. Derek Watt is with the running backs. Coach Alfredo Roberts has the tight ends working early in camp, before all the other groups start going through drills. He’s the team’s most underrated coach and developed a young group.
– Haven’t seen anyone else besides Christian Kuntz long snap so far. Unless Chris Boswell messing around counts.
– Saw more Pony today, including Najee Harris and Anthony McFarland in one snap during beginning warmups. McFarland was standing up to the left of left tackle.
– Return line work: Gunner Olszewski, Tyler Snead, George Pickens, Anthony Miller, Tyler Vaughns, and Calvin Austin III.
– Punt return game trying to see how many balls a player can catch in one session. Anthony Miller had a controversial sixth catch. With five balls already in hand, he grabbed the sixth, went to the ground on his back, and then a ball squirted free. I don’t count it so he’s at five. Olszewski also had four and couldn’t bring the fifth in. Here’s a video of it.
– Energy could even be felt in the stretch line today. There’s also an eclectic playlist ranging from old-school rap to Zach Brown Band. Something for everyone.
– Anthony McFarland took a quick rep with the WR group, running a slant, before moving back over to the RB room. Just a note to file away.
– Defensive backs working turnover circuit. Fumble recovery drills. Shed the block against the sled, then pick up the ball that’s rolled to them by an assistant coach/intern. Something Teryl Austin’s stressed since being hired.
– Assistant WR Coach Blaine Stewart the third “receiver” in one drill, the point man as the other two receivers worked on their releases out of stacked/bunched sets.
– New WRs Coach Frisman Jackson very vocal with a teaching mindset after almost every rep. Some of the things he called out to receivers as they ran routes against makeshift zone coverage with Jackson playing the defender and the receiver needing to sight adjust off his leverage.
“Don’t drift” – to George Pickens on a five-yard out
“Sell hard” – to Tyler Vaughns on a pivot route, wanting him to sell the crosser before bursting back out
” Finish up the field” – to Calvin Austin stopping out of bounds on an out route and not running up the field
“Maintain depth” – to Steven Sims
– Mike Tomlin loves hanging around the tight ends. He watched over the QB/TE group as they threw and ran routes.
– 7v7 notes. Mitch Trubisky pretty deep ball to Anthony Miller to beat Cam Sutton, who fell mid-way through the route.
– Miles Boykin couldn’t haul in a deep ball later in the session. Good finish by Chris Steele.
– Ok, let’s talk about team sessions.
First Team Session
1. Seven shots. Anthony Miller, George Pickens, and Chase Claypool the three receivers in 11 personnel, Claypool in the slot. Miller getting an early nod over Cody White. Zach Gentry #1 tight end with Freiermuth out. Ahkello Witherspoon and Cam Sutton the CBs. Najee Harris in the backfield.
Trubisky floats a fade to the left side of the end zone but Terrell Edmunds plays the pocket well and with his back to the football, breaks up the throw as Gentry tries and fails to come down with it. Incomplete.
2. Nothing there for Trubisky. He runs right, has some pressure from T.J. Watt and runs over the goal line, though Devin Bush had the angle and would’ve tackled him. It’s a touchdown but I give QB scrambles as a point to the defense for a job well done and forcing a tuck and run.
3. Pickens the X WR, Claypool and Miller stacked opposite. Harris still at RB. Trubisky throw towards the back right corner is incomplete. Good coverage by Ahkello Witherspoon.
4. Anthony McFarland in at RB. Trubisky remains at QB. Empty set with McFarland split out and Kevin Rader goes in motion. Trubisky throws a dig towards the back middle of the end zone, around the left upright, but FS Damontae Kazee makes a nice play on the ball to break it up. Incomplete.
5. Mason Rudolph comes in. Defense playing well to this point but someone blew a coverage and Jeremy McNichols is wide open in the right flat for an easy score.
6. Second-team offensive line: Haeg-K. Green-Hassenauer-Leglue-Scott. Rudolph fires and hits Steven Sims on a slant for the score working against James Pierre. Connor Heyward lined up Y-off pre-snap.
7. Delontae Scott at LOLB and Tuzar Skipper at ROLB. Mataeo Durant at RB. Tyler Vaughns in the slot. Some confusion here over the personnel and Connor Heyward tried to get on the field late. Had to reset the huddle, the first of camp. Rudolph pass right side is incomplete to I believe Vaughn. Leal tried a spin move but it didn’t work.
Steelers’ defense started 4-0 and win the session 5-2.
Second Team Session
1. Chris Wormley/Cam Heyward the DTs. T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith at OLB, Myles Jack and Devin Bush at ILB. Kazee and Edmunds at safety. Witherspoon and Sutton on the outside and Arthur Maulet in the slot. Third down session.
Mitch Trubusky in at QB. Claypool in the slot. Trubisky complete to Jace Sternberger right side, getting extra reps with Freiermuth out. Maulet tags him up but a nice gain of 11. Frisman Jackson praises Sternberger for immediately getting upfield and gaining YAC.
2. Green in at left guard. Zach Gentry flexed and standing up. Harris at QB. Defense shows blitz/Mug look. Trubisky fires right side along the sideline. Witherspoon makes an aggressive play and tries to dive and bat it away but can’t. Pickens is able to track the ball and pull it away and tear off down the right sideline for a gain of 31. Nice throw by Trubisky and hands catch by Pickens to pluck and then get upfield.
3. Trubisky looks for Pickens again right side on what could’ve been a corner route. But Pickens broke things off and the pass sailed out of bounds. Perhaps some miscommunication but it’s hard to say who was at fault. Might’ve been Pickens. TJ Watt bull rushed Chukwuma Okorafor back into the pocket.
4. Empty set with Derek Watt split out. He motions back behind the line to Trubisky’s right. Then Sternberger motions across the formation. Watt again with a great rush, countering and spinning inside on Okorafor. Would-be sack but still forces pressure and Trubisky’s pass to Pickens left side is incomplete and not catchable.
5. Mason Rudolph in at QB. Throw incomplete to Austin. Austin cut in, Rudolph’s throw went out. Incomplete and not on the same page.
6. Derrek Tuszka and Genard Avery the EDGE rushers. Marcus Allen and Ulysees Gilbert III the inside linebackers. Empty set for Rudolph. Justin Layne and James Pierre at CB, Donovan Stiner and Tre Norwood at safety. Rudolph complete to Anthony Miller on a slant, nine yard gain. Carlos Davis dipped past John Leglue to the outside and got free for a pressure.
7. McFarland in at RB. Karl Joseph now aligning at safety. Rudolph complete to Tyler Vaughns right side who gets both feet in before his momentum carried him out of bounds. Gain of seven.
8. Delontae Scott and Tuzar Skipper at OLB. Isaiahh Loudermilk and Henry Mondeaux the DTs with Layne and Pierre outside corners and Joseph in the slot. Norwood and Stiner still the safeties. 3×1 formation with three receivers left and Zach Gentry the “nub” tight end opposite. Miles Boykin tries to make a diving grab down the left sideline but James Pierre closes the gap at the top, impacting the throw and helping to force the incompletion.
9. Kenny Pickett’s first rep of the day. Pass is behind Jace Sternberger and incomplete, knocked away by I believe Linden Stephens.
10. Third-team OL: Jake Dixon-Chris Owens-Nate Gilliam-Chaz Green-Jordan Tucker. Pickett pass for Steven Sims falls incomplete. Carlins Platel covering. DeMeavin Leal dusted RG Chaz Green.
11. Pickett over the middle to Connor Heyward. Incomplete but Chris Steele was all over him, a clear DPI as Heyward throws up a hand to signal a flag but everyone knows it would’ve been a penalty.
12. Pressure all around Pickett, especially from LOLB. May have been T.D. Moultry but I didn’t have the player listed in my notes. Pickett has no chance to throw and just holds onto the ball.
Third Team Session
1. Anthony Miller and George Pickens on the outside with Calvin Austin III in the slot. Chase Claypool’s day was done at this point. RPO with Trubisky hitting Austin over the middle at midfield. No pads, no (supposed) contact but Kazee flies in and pops Austin pretty good. I think Kazee wanted to make a play on the ball to break it up but didn’t quite get there in time and ended up hitting Austin as he secured and took a step. Ball came out at the end with Kazee grabbing it. As hard a hit as we’ve had so far, though not really something coaches want to see with them not in full pads. I’ll call it a gain of eight.
2. Playaction. Trubisky climbs, Alex Highsmith puts pressure on the EDGE. Trubisky dumps off to Najee Harris underneath. Cam Heyward gives chase with Devin Bush tagging him for a gain of eight.
3. Pony backfield with Anthony McFarland on the field. Benny Snell run left side. Karl Joseph forces the ball back inside. Gain of four.
4. Miller and Austin stacked WR set. Trubisky under center. Austin orbit motion behind the LOS. Trubisky complete to George Pickens right side for a gain of 18.
5. 12 personnel. Don’t have the exact outcome here. Rudolph completion of four.
6. Tuszka and Avery the EDGE rushers. Gilbert and Robinson the ILBs. Rudolph boots to the right and looks for WR Cody White along the sideline but James Pierre breaks the throw up. Carlos Davis and Kendrick Green get into a scrap at the end of the play.
7. McNichols on a carry up the middle for a gain of four. Tre Norwood came flying in and got squished in the mob pit and fell to the ground.
8. Delontae Scott and Tuzar Skipper the OLBs. Norwood and Joseph at safety, Layne and Pierre at CB. Rudolph playaction. UG3 blitzing/rushing free up the middle. Completion to Olszewski on a crosser for a gain of 13.
9. Kenny Pickett in at QB. Jaylen Warren at RB. Linden Stephens and Chris Steele at CB. DeMarvin Leal and Khalil Davis at DT. Pickett working under center. Miscommunication here. Pickett goes to hand the ball off but Warren doesn’t expect it and is standing straight up. He takes the ball and just stands there. Dead play. Looks to be on Warren because the line run blocked here. He must’ve thought it was playaction.
10. For the mistake, Warren is taken out. McFarland comes in along with Mataeo Durant in a Pony grouping. OL of Dixon-Owens-Gilliam-Green-Tucker. Buddy Johnson and Marcus Allen at ILB. Pickett hits Durant short underneath for a gain of five. Platel meets him with a thud.
11. Standing on the sideline, Cam Heyward calls out to the 11 yellow defensive jerseys out there “Got ’em on the ropes.” WR Tyler Snead in the slot. Connor Heyward Y-Off alignment. Pickett throws to Miles Boykin right side on a slant but Linden Stephens breaks it up.
12. Pickett under center. Playaction. Rader seals Moultry up the edge. Pickett checkdown complete for a gain of four. 21 personnel on this play with Derek Watt in the game.
Fourth Team Session
1. Ball on the offense’s 29. Kendrick Green in at LG. Austin and Pickens and White the three receivers. Mitch Trubisky at QB. Devin Bush and Myles Jack the ILB with Watt and Highsmith the EDGE rushers. Chris Wormley and Cam Heyward the DTs. Jet run to Calvin Austin who gains 13 before Kazee takes a good angle and touches him up. Can feel Austin’s speed to the edge.
2. Trubisky boots left and hits Cody White in the left flat. Gain of six before Myles Jack gets there.
3. Witherspoon and Sutton the outside corners with Maulet in the slot. Montravius Adams and Carlos Davis the DTs. Calvin Austin in the slot with Miller and White on the outside. Pretty touch throw by Trubisky over LB Myles Jack and Zach Gentry stretches out to make the catch, securing it to the ground as Jack tried to take it away. Gain of 20. One of the plays of the day.
3. Najee Harris carry. Cuts left, shakes right. Avery and Edmunds run-fill. Gain of three. Sutton runs with Harris as they race down the sideline at the end.
4. Mason Rudolph in at QB. Rudolph boots right and hits Harris who stays inbounds to get what he can. Robert Spillane eventually meets him after a gain of four.
5. White and Miller on the outside with Gunner Olszewski in the slot. Jeremy McNichols at RB. Well-covered downfield and Rudolph tries to force the checkdown to McNichols but UG3 is all over him and bats it, knocking the ball into the air but no one can get there in team to pick it. Forced throw but McNichols probably should’ve tried to run away from the linebacker instead of sitting there.
6. Rudolph under center. Snell carry right side with DeMarvin Leal chasing. Gain of five.
7. Miles Boykin on the outside, Steven Sims in the slot. McNichols up the middle for five with Khalil Davis spinning him around at the end. Doug Costin also in the game with some 4th-team rotational snaps.
8. Kenny Pickett in at QB. Heavy personnel, team starts under center and then goes shotgun empty. A very Matt Canada thing to do. Pickett tries to throw a bubble screen to the right but Leal breaks through, reads it, and bats the pass down. Nice play.
9. Forward jet pass to Calvin Austin to a gain of nine. Quick-hitter to the speedy Austin.
10. Moultry/Tyree Johnson the EDGE rushers. Allen and Johnson at ILB. Stephens and Steele the cornerbacks with Norwood and Joseph at safety. Pickett under center. Durant runs for four. “Ball search” someone calls out, calling to the defense to try and punch the ball away. Best thing they can do in these non-tackle situations.
11. Pickett under center. Snead goes in motion and Pickett hits him in the left flat for a gain of four. Jake Dixon went to the ground on top of someone, it makes sense if it was Johnson but his jersey was pulled up and I couldn’t tell, as the two got into it.
At this point, Carlos Davis, who wasn’t on the field for the play, comes running over from the side, full sprint, and just straight up ear-holes Dixon to the ground. Big skirmish breaks out, Jaylen Warren shoves Davis, and that’s how practice ends. Wild moment. Never seen something like that at camp. Two guys on the field getting tangled up? Sure. Lots of times. Not someone off the sidelines though. Davis got into that scrap earlier and he must’ve still been seeing red.
– Nice day for George Pickens. Showed chemistry with Mitch Trubisky. See the strength in his hands, his body control, ability to make tough catches. Pickens may be able to make an immediate impact in this offense.
– Several rookies had good days. Austin flashed his speed, though the padless setting, you’d expect that to be on display. Leal showed some juice as a pass rusher and his batted pass was a good IQ play.
– Three days in and there’s no final conclusions. But I’m willing to make an opening statement. Kenny Pickett is not making a push for the starting QB gig. Right now, it’s Trubisky vs Rudolph. Could that change? Sure. But Pickett’s play will need to change for that to occur.
– Miles Boykin needs to finish some of the chances he’s getting. Downfield chances he couldn’t corral. Tougher players but he’s gotta be a vertical guy.
– James Pierre with an impressive performance today. He and Justin Layne are off to good starts, two guys battling for one potential spot.
– Mentioned this earlier but the energy at practice was really high today. Sparked some fights. Alex Highsmith said it best. Time to put the pads on. That wont’ happen though until Monday.
– Before he started trying to fight people, Carlos Davis looking explosive off the ball. He’s got talent. Just injured last year and forgotten about.
– I admit I didn’t watch much of him today but Cam Heyward seemed to be singing T.D. Moultry’s praises. Reps are hard to come by but it seems like he’s got burst off the edge. Quick first step.
– Damontae Kazee impressing. Getting first team reps and making plays with an end zone breakup and big lick on Austin today. He’s taking good angles to the football in the run game and as a tackler.
St. Vincent Snapshot
Quick shot of 11 v 11 team drills.
Twitter Question Of The Day
Pierre is the better defender/cover corner/run stopper so he should have the edge. There’s more upside there if he can maintain consistency in his technique and understand/process situational football. So he might have the edge right now but we’ll see. We’ll keep tabs on it.
Random Steelers’ Fact
The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t have a single pick until the eighth round of the 1963 draft. Still, they came away with LB Andy Russell, taken in the 16th round.
George Carlin’s Quote Of The Day
“Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?”