A great day of practice in Latrobe, PA Monday as the Pittsburgh Steelers put on the pads for the first time. Full-contact, living hitting, and a ton of excitement. Also plenty for us to discuss. Let’s dive in.
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Camp Notes (Day Five)
– Injury roundup. Not practicing today were: WR Chase Claypool (shoulder), TE Pat Freiermuth (hamstring), LB Marcus Allen (hamstring), S Miles Killebrew (pec), RB Jeremy McNichols (shoulder), and I don’t think I saw Levi Wallace out there, at least not in team drills today. Larry Ogunjobi continues to not see work during team drills. Good news is Connor Heyward (right ankle) practiced in full after getting rolled up on late during Saturday’s practice. Freiermuth also jogged on the side, a positive sign for his return.
One mid-practice injury to note. RB Najee Harris hurt his left foot on his first carry of team session. He did try to take a couple more team reps but did not finish out the day. He spent the back half of practice with head trainer John Norwig. They appeared to be looking at a tablet, perhaps going over the play/injury, and talked for at least six minutes according to my notes. Harris had his left shoe/sock off for part of practice before putting it on towards the end. Mike Tomlin called it minor and that matches up with what I saw.
– Newly signed WR Javon McKinley will wear #21. An odd number for a big receiver like him but hey, it beats sitting at home. He got to work right away with reps in team drills.
– FS Damontae Kazee on the JUGS machine early. He dropped his first pass so he could use the work.
– On cue, Karl Joseph first one on the field at 1:16, more than a half-hour before practice actually began.
– Connor Heyward was healthy but played the role of Alfredo Roberts’ helper, getting the blocking sled and chutes in position for the tight ends when they went through positional drills.
– While Danny Smith is technically the only special teams coach listed on the Steelers’ staff, he certainly doesn’t work alone in camp with a 90-man roster and need to maximize the few special sessions the team gets. Blaine Stewart is one of the coaches who helps out and has an active role during practice with the special teamers and as Frisman Jackson’s assistant WR coach. I do wonder if Stewart is a little bummed not being named the full-time WRs coach with Jackson coming in instead. Frankly, I thought Stewart would’ve gotten a bigger role in the college game, his name was gaining buzz a few years ago, but maybe COVID impacted things.
– I don’t like to be hypercritical of drops but WR Steven Sims drops a lot of them. Haven’t seen it in team, he hasn’t been targeted much, but he lets a lot through his hands working on air, including one today.
– While George Pickens has been impressive and I don’t want to put cold water on that idea, there’s still work to do. Mostly as a route runner and being more nuanced and on-time. Broke too early on a ten-yard dig today and Fris Jackson told him “too quick” as he went through and (double-caught) the football. He cleans up his routes and he’ll be a star.
– Heard some of the coaching points during the special teams session working on coverage unit block deconstruction.
“Head across, thumbs up!”
“Don’t put your head [in the block]” – Danny Smith on not getting into the blocker’s pads so you keep sight of the ball.
– Ok, let’s talk about team sessions.
First Team Session (Seven Shots)
1. Kevin Dotson first team LG. Mitch Trubisky in at QB. Zach Gentry excited and claps his hands while the defense gets the crowd cheering. George Pickens, Anthony Miller, and Calvin Austin the three WRs. Devin Bush and Myles Jack the ILBs. Ahkello Witherspoon and Cam Sutton the CBs with Najee Harris in the backfield. Shotgun handoff to Harris who churns his legs and falls over the goal line for a score.
2. Gentry goes in motion pre-snap. Trubisky fade left side for George Pickens with Cam Sutton covering. Sutton may have been a little grabby and the pass is incomplete, falling over Pickens’ left shoulder as he never really found the football and got his body turned around.
3. Harris on the carry again. Close to see if he got in but it appeared Robert Spillane and Damontae Kazee teamed up to stop him inside the one-yard line.
4. Benny Snell in at RB. Trubisky looks for Miller on a slant but he can’t clear the underneath defender and the pass clips off his extended left hand as Miller dives out. Incomplete.
5. Kenny Pickett coming in, running 2nd team. Fade for Miles Boykin in the back right corner is incomplete. Justin Layne good coverage but Boykin wasn’t in position to catch it.
6. Pickett has Connor Heyward open on a pivot route, Heyward stemming inside and breaking outside, but Heyward slips as he breaks out, causing Pickett’s pass to fall incomplete.
7. Mason Rudolph coming in for a lone rep. Anthony McFarland in the backfield with Heyward and Jace Sternberger the tight ends. 12 personnel. Shovel pass to Sternberger as he dives over the goal line for a touchdown. Defense wins seven shots again, 5-2. They’ve been in control of these settings.
Second Team Session
1. 12 personnel. Najee Harris gets the carry. I thought he slipped but this seems to be when someone stepped on his foot as Harris tried to cut and bounce to his left. Myles Jack came in free to take him down. No gain.
2. Jack and Bush the ILBs. Witherspoon and Sutton the outside CBs. Kendrick Green now in at LG. Snell run left side, Devin Bush making the tackle from behind for a gain of two.
3. 21 personnel. Spillane sheds James Daniels’ block and tackles Snell after a run of five. “Good run, Benny!” Mike Tomlin calls out. Mike Tomlin loves him some Benny Snell Football™.
4. Chris Wormley and Montravius Adams the DTs. Mitch Trubisky in at QB for the final of his four reps. Alex Highsmith comes in backside to chase down Anthony McFarland for a loss of three. Good team defense here. Highsmith wasn’t the only one and they were swarming.
5. Kenny Pickett now in at QB. McFarland puts his head down and plows ahead. Karl Joseph fills the alley with a healthy collision. Gain of three.
6. Carlos Davis and Henry Mondeaux the DTs. McFarland run of six, good blocking by the o-line. Joseph ends things again with a pretty big stick. Joseph throwing his weight around with the pads coming on.
7. 21 personnel. Playaction. Pickett throws a strike to Miles Boykin on a dig over the middle with the LBs sucked up. Gain of 12. Could’ve been more run-after but the DB pulled up instead of clocking him and Boykin dove down to the ground.
8. Pop pass on a jet motion by Calvin Austin from Pickett. Austin turns the corner left and has space with two defenders trying to corral him. Austin shook the one (didn’t catch who) and nearly got out of James Pierre’s grasp, who had to flip his hips and drag Austin down in this full-tackle drill. Nice quicks from Austin here. Call it a gain of 13.
9. Mason Rudolph in at QB. Jaylen Warren with a good run and leg drive. Well-blocked two and gains eight.
10. Tyler Vaughns and Calvin Austin the WRs. 12 personnel with Zach Gentry and Kevin Rader in the game. Jordan Tucker false starts and gets pulled out of the line. Joe Haeg comes in to replace. On the snap, Mataeo Durant run right side. Tre Norwood threw his body into the alley but Durant was able to keep trucking and stay on his feet for a good gain of nine.
11. Chris Steele and Linden Stephens on the outside with Carlins Platel in the slot. Gunner Olszewski mentioning across. Jaylen Warren run left side. Sees a crack but Mark Robinson shuts it down with a strong knock. Tomlin’s impressed and audibly says as much after as the defense gets pretty amped up.
12. Mataeo Durant swallowed up as the front seven swarms. Khalil Davis was in there and I think Robinson was too. He was geeked going to the sideline and got plenty more praise.
Third Team Session
1. Devin Bush and Myles Jack the ILB. Chris Wormley and Cam Heyward the DTs. Trubisky in at QB with Kazee and Edmunds the safeties. Mitch Trubisky at QB. Zach Gentry at TE. TJ Watt standing up as the LOLB, Alex Highsmith as the RDE. Trubisky hits Gentry in the right flat for a gain of three.
2. Bush and Spillane the ILBs. Witherspoon and Sutton the CBs. Watt the LDE and Highsmith the ROLB. Trubisky good zip on a throw over the middle with George Pickens plucking it coming across running left to right. Arthur Maulet making the tackle here as he can’t knock the ball out. Gain of six.
3. Benny Snell in at RB. Screen right. But Jack sees it the whole way and tags him up (no full-tackling in this drill, more like thud contact) at the line for no gain. Good recognition and finish by Jack.
4. Derrek Tuszka and Genard Avery the EDGE rushers with Carlos Davis/Montravius Adams the DTs. Dime personnel with just Myles Jack on the field. Don’t see dime too often in camp. Six DBs were: Witherspoon, Pierre (RCB), Sutton (slot), Kazee/Edmunds and Tre Norwood. Trubisky to Jace Sternberger in the right flat but Kazee gets in on the stop. Gain of seven. Carlos Davis good bull rush to get pressure.
5. Kenny Pickett coming in. Eight-yard completion to Connor Heyward on a curl. Karl Joseph tosses him down to wrap things up.
6. Cody White and Miles Boykin on the outside with Gunner Olszewski in the slot. Pickett hands in the pocket too long before finally scrambling right and hitting Boykin along the sideline who makes the catch for a ten-yard gain before getting shoved out of bounds and to the ground. It was a good ball on the run for Pickett.
7. McFarland in at RB. Trent Scott false starts and has to do a semi-lap, jogging about 30 yards down the left sideline, crossing out of bounds, and circling back. Derek Watt screen left from Pickett once the play is reset and snapped. Twelve-yard gain with Henry Mondeaux chasing hard and tackling Watt from behind.
8. OL of Dixon-Owens-Gilliam-Green-Tucker. Mason Rudolph i at QB. Throw left side for Heyward is incomplete, hitting off Heyward’s outstretched hand. Karl Joseph had the coverage.
9. Rudolph hitches up and fires but it’s batted down by Delontae Scott at the line. Incomplete.
10. Steele/Stephens the outside corners with Platel in the slot. Norwood and Stiner at safety. Screen left to Warren goes for five before Norwood gets there.
11. Doug Costin and Donovan Jeter the DTs. Scott and Moultry the OLBs, Robinson and Gilbert the ILBs. For the second time in three throws, Rudolph has his pass batted down. This time by Costin who has done well to get his hands up in throwing lanes this camp.
Fourth Team Session
1. Ball on the offense’s 38. Run to Snell goes nowhere with Jack filling it.
2. Trubisky playaction. Chris Wormley had the “sack” and Trubisky just tucked and ran.
3. Snell up the middle for seven. Good blocks. Kazee with the tackle to the ground.
4. One of the best throws of the day. Trubisky rolls right. Low-high read with Cody White in the flat as the #1 read. But it’s well-covered and taken away. Trubisky works to his next read and hits Anthony Miller on a crosser right to left for 15 yards. Good progression and throw on the move to his left.
5. Kenny Pickett would’ve been sacked about six times as he searched for a receiver. He eventually just ran with the ball. Playaction here.
6. Thud tackle. McFarland run right side for five. “Ball search” coaches call out to the defense.
7. 21 personnel. Derek Watt and Jaylen Warren out there. Isaiahh Loudermilk flushes Pickett to his right. He hits checkdown to Warren for three with UG3 throwing a high shoulder into Warren’s body.
8. OL of: Scott-Dotson-Hassenauer-Leglue-Haeg. RPO with Pickett firing to Olszewski on a slant over the middle. Similar to the Kazee/Austin play and hit the other day, Olszewski takes a pop from Norwood but he holds on here. Gain of seven. Good catch.
9. Durant shows burst right side for six.
10. Rudolph in the game. Fakes the handoff to Warren and then hits Warren in the right flat. Gain of four. Carlins Platel runs through Warren to touch him up.
11. Tuzar Skipper sheds Jake Dixon’s block to stop Warren at the line of scrimmage.
12. Rudolph connects with Tyler Vaughns over the middle for 15. T.D. Moultry came up the middle and I think he made helmet-to-helmet contact with Rudolph, unable to fully pull up at the end. That’s a no-no for the QBs and based off his body language and some coaches talking with him, I think he was made aware of that fact.
Fifth Team Session
1. Red zone drill. Ball on the 24. Trubisky in at QB, Snell at RB. 3×1 “nub” formation. Trubisky checkdown to Snell for a gain of five. Spillane on the tag.
2. Witherspoon and Sutton the outside corners. Cody White and Calvin Austin on the field. 21 personnel, Derek Watt at FB and Connor Heyward as a hand-down, in-line tight end. Snell right side for a gain of two with Montravius Adams shedding the block and making the stop.
3. Anthony McFarland in at running back. Good gain of six. Toss left with LT Dan Moore Jr. out in space, throwing a great pancake block that put Cam Sutton flat on his back.
4. Trubisky feeling pressure from Loudermilk. Flushed left and hits Cody White front left pylon for the TD from ten yards out.
5. Kenny Pickett in the game, ball on the 21. Playaction. Pass to Anthony Miller is short-armed and low, skipping incomplete.
6. Steven Sims and Cody White on the outside with Gunner Olszewski in the slot. Kevin Rader the Y. Inside zone by Anthony McFarland left side. Spillane fills after a gain of four.
7. 21 personnel. Jet run to Calvin Austin who gains the edge and gets into the end zone, celebrating with John Leglue lifts him up over his head Grease style. 13 yard TD.
8. Pickett gets one more rep to finish out his work. This isn’t a two minute drill so coaches will play fast and loose with downs and the spot of the ball to work on different situational things. Empty set initially before Warren motions in. Throw in the end zone intended for Heyward is well over his head and incomplete. Might have been a semi-throwaway because Heyward wasn’t really open.
9. Mason Rudolph comes in. Hits Olszewski on a shallow cross for three. Buddy Johnson on the stop. Olszewski’s Guardian Cap nearly came off and he had to smush it back on his helmet like a bad toupee.
10. Sims and Boykin the WRs in 12 personnel with Sternberger and Gentry the TEs. Warren carry left side. Mess of bodies piled up that side and Warren gets popped by Stiner on the other side, knocking him down. Gain of three.
11. Sims and Olszewski on the outside with Miller in the slot. Warren toss right side. Gain of say five. Good burst there to the corner.
12. Rudolph scrambles right. He misses an open Sims for too long but eventually finds him and hits him for a five-yard TD to end the day.
– Though not listed chronologically, here’s every rep of the backs on ‘backers, always a crowd favorite and one the team does on the first day in pads.
Backs on ‘Backers
1. Najee Harris anchors and wins against Myles Jack, who couldn’t power his way through.
2. Alex Highsmith with the long-arm into Zach Gentry’s pads but he can’t dip or disengage past him.
3. Genard Avery with a good bull rush on Kevin Rader, though Rader saves a little face at the end and lands on top of Avery.
4. Nice anchor by Anthony McFarland to rebuff Buddy Johnson’s bull rush. Johnson taps McFarland’s helmet at the end to say “good job.”
5. Najee Harris again winning against power, locking up and controlling Devin Bush.
6. Tuzar Skipper turns the corner on Connor Heyward late. Not a great rep for Heyward who was trying to stay balanced.
7. Skipper with a bull/swim to beat Heyward.
8. Jaylen Warren and Mark Robinson collide and both are off-balanced with Robinson trying to shove Warren off as he stumbles a bit to his right (Warren’s left). Good battle.
9. The two go again Warren runs his feet on contact and stalls out Robinson’s bull rush. Najee Harris is hyped for Warren and jumping up and down.
10. Delontae Scott rips the edge working on Gentry.
11. Scott this time with an outside head-fake and swim to the inside to cleanly beat Gentry.
12. Mataeo Durant mirrors Ulysees Gilbert III’s spin, though he falls off late in the rep.
13. Kevin Rader anchors against T.D. Moultry’s bull rush.
14. Devin Bush tries to club Benny Snell here. Not sure who the winner was.
15. Here, Snell wins, mirroring Bush’s inside spin attempt.
16. Jace Sternberger seals the edge against Alex Highsmith’s speed rush.
17. They re-rack things and Highsmith wins with a bull/swim over Sternberger.
18. Bit of a strange one here. Harris and Robert Spillane going up against each other but Harris barely puts hands on Spillane, who wins around him.
19. They go again and Harris wins, again anchoring down with a strong base. Can’t win with power against Harris.
20. Genard Avery wins against Connor Heyward.
21. Heyward saves a little face here, sealing the edge and then getting square as Avery tries to turn back in.
22. Myles Jack with one of the pops of the day, a heavy collision with Derek Watt. Hit so hard Watt’s guardian cap shifted atop his helmet.
23. Jack with finesse this time, winning with an inside spin move though it came pretty late in the rep.
24. Derrek Tuszka can’t rip past Zach Gentry.
25. Delontae Scott with a good bull to knock Zach Gentry back, getting under his pads. At some point during the drill, Gentry was talking with TEs Coach Alfredo Roberts about hand placement and leverage.
26. Nice rep by Buddy Johnson, using power to run through McFarland.
27. Johnson wins again, this time swiping McFarland’s hands down and running past.
28. Tuzar Skipper misses his punch on Kevin Rader though the two battle and Skipper wins late.
29. Skipper beats Rader around the edge.
30. Jaylen Warren seals Robert Spillane.
31. Warren again wins against Spillane. Nice job by Warren here.
32. Connor Heyward hop stepping backwards to defend T.D. Moultry’s bull rush and Moultry swims him late.
– And here’s OL/DL reps.
1. Alex Highsmith rips through Dan Moore Jr. around the edge.
2. Cam Heyward pushes back Kendrick Green on a bull rush though I’ve seen Green lose worst against it, I guess.
3. Nice push/pull by Montravius Adams to cause Mason Cole to double-over and fall.
4. James Daniels hop steps backward against Chris Wormley’s bull rush before regaining some control and tossing Wormley down.
5. Chukwuma Okorafor gets too much depth and allows T.J. Watt inside pretty easily.
6. Dan Moore jumps early and they reset, a running theme of the session with a lot of early movement on both sides of the ball. Highsmith again rips through at the top.
7. Bull to rip from Cam Heyward but he can’t shed Green.
8. Mason Cole sticks and mirrors against Montravius Adams.
9. Wormley bull rushes Daniels and swims over him late.
10. Okorafor rides Watt up the arc.
11. Genard Avery with an effective long-arm against Trent Scott who loses his footing and slip ‘n slides down to the ground on his belly.
12. Scott gets some revenge and mirrors Avery well here.
13. Kevin Dotson anchors against Isaiahh Loudermilk.
14. Loudermilk’s rip move fails against Dotson.
15. Good power by Henry Mondeaux to overwhelm J.C. Hassenauer.
16. Quick burst and swipe by Carlos Davis to beat John Leglue.
17. They go again and Davis uses a bull rush to walk Leglue back.
18. Joe Haeg seals Derrek Tuszka upfield.
19. Tuszka tries a quick spin but runs himself right into Haeg’s punch, knocking himself to the ground in a TKO.
20. Trent Scott shoves Delontae Scott up the arc, who tried but couldn’t rip through.
21. Scott with a good punch and beats Scott inside, who is slow-footed and can’t mirror.
22. Really nice push/pull by Loudermilk on Dotson. Strong rep and I want to see him use it more often.
23. Mondeaux a win against Hassenauer.
24. Good bull by DeMarvin Leal on John Leglue who walks him back, though he couldn’t shed.
25. Leal moves early and they have to reset. But on the snap, Leal with a great burst to get upfield and rip through for one of the quickest wins of the day. Leal keeps flashing when he can fly upfield.
26. Haeg steers Avery upfield, who has to get real skinny to corner and win very late in the rep.
– Anyone who says Kenny Pickett had a great day is overstating things but his last two practices have been a bit better. Second-team didn’t mean getting more reps but obviously playing with more talented players (though facing a 2nd team defense of course). Still has to get the ball out quicker.
– RB Jaylen Warren might be the name to watch. Squatty body with good leg drive and I loved his output and competitive nature, his fearlessness, in backs on ‘backers. Dude put his face in the fan with good bend and feet. Working as an upback, involved in special teams…I’m keeping an eye on him.
– With McNichols and Harris dinged, we could be seeing another RB brought in tomorrow. Lines getting short in the backfield as the pads come on.
– Like I mentioned above, George Pickens has all the talent in the world. Coaches job is to make him a more refined and technical player, especially with his routes. That’s the #1 thing he’s gotta work on. Will say while I didn’t watch WRs/DBs, did catch Pickens make a great diving catch deep down the left side in an early rep.
– No need to freak out over one day and it’s not like we have All-22 to comb through every rep but from what I saw, James Daniels didn’t have a very good days. Looking for something better tomorrow.
– Praised the offensive line for being mistake-free last week. Two false starts today by Tucker and Scott and the whole OL/DL group was jumping like crazy in 1v1. On the positive side, their overall run blocking looked pretty solid.
– Isaiahh Loudermilk’s gotta use power rushes to his advantage. Push/pull and bull should be his top moves. Finesse isn’t his game and he needs to realize that.
– Carlos Davis’ cheap shot on Jake Dixon the other day aside, he’s looked explosive as a pass rusher in drills and in team. Don’t forget about him in the DL room. Doug Costin also looking like a volleyball player with his batted down passes.
– Delontae Scott one of the big winners of the day. Great in backs on ‘backers and dominated Zach Gentry. Batted ball in team and his run defense has been solid. He’s fighting hard for a roster spot.
– Myles Jack has been Steady Eddie. Run defense, coverage, general availability. Here’s hoping he’s the answer at ILB. So far, so good.
– Karl Joseph physical in run session. Throwing his weight around. Miles Killebrew missing time has been Joseph’s benefit.
Saint Vincent Snapshot
George Pickens on the blocking sled. New WRs coach Frisman Jackson getting serious about improving WR run blocking. I’m all for it.
Twitter Camp Twitter Question
Good so far. Haven’t had a lot of notes on him. But in good shape, a good athlete, that block on Sutton was something else, and he’s a hard worker. But long ways to go in a big second year for Moore.
Random Steelers’ Fact
Jerome Bettis tied the NFL record few fewest yards in a game while rushing for three touchdowns. Bettis carried the ball five times for one yard and three touchdowns in a 2004 win over the Raiders. He tied Hank Bauer’s 1979 mark.
George Carlin’s Quote Of The Day
“Some people see the glass half full. Others see it half empty. I see a glass that’s twice as big as it needs to be.”