UNITY TWP, Pa — The Pittsburgh Steelers pushed ahead into its second day on Friday with plenty of fireworks and fanfare abounds on the campus of Saint Vincent. It was a lengthier practice and we got a glimpse of some fascinating things that are going to be pertinent for the future. What did we learn from the Steelers training camp on Friday?
1st Play: Kenny Pickett comes out with Najee Harris out of the backfield and motions him back in to make the formation 3×1 to the boundary side. Stepping back to pass on a five-step drop, no one got open as Pickett looked to the right side for someone, but no one was open. He threw the ball into no man’s land either in the direction of Pat Freiermuth or George Pickens but it falls incomplete. Defense 1-0.
2nd Play: Pickett has a balanced formation with Harris motioning back into the backfield. Allen Robinson II runs an out and up with no one carrying him to the back of the endzone against zone coverage. He altered his route a bit to the weak spot in the zone and toe tapped for the touchdown. Tied 1-1.
3rd Play: Pickett has a 3×1 set to the field side. Tre Norwood shows blitz off the edge and creeps down. Norwood gets stunned by Moore but holds his own and disengages. Multiple players pressure Pickett and he slides left with Norwood chasing him. He throws it back across his body and Damontae Kazee knocks it down in the area towards Freiermuth. 2-1 Defense.
4th Play: The Steelers come out in a condensed set to the left side with Cody White and Allen Robinson. Robinson runs a drag route while White runs a slant to pick the defenders. Mark Robinson and Elijah Riley get picked as Anthony McFarland heads uncovered into the flat for a touchdown. Tied 2-2.
5th Play: In the first play they come out in a pony (2 RB) set with Jaylen Warren flexed out into the slot. There is some pressure from Markus Golden, but Broderick Jones runs him around the arc. Mitch Trubisky steps up and runs into the end zone untouched for a touchdown. Offense 3-2.
6th Play: Trubisky has an unbalanced look in trips to the right. Gunner Olszewski is the most inside guy matched up against a linebacker. On a three-step drop, Olszewski reads the zone coverage on a choice route and settles in the endzone on a hitch. Trubisky fires on time and finds him for the touchdown. Offense 4-2.
7th Play; Trubisky steps back to pass and the Steelers run another pick play on both sides of the ball, this one being a slant-flat combination. Duke Dawson tries to go underneath but gets picked and Dez Fitzpatrick is wide open for the touchdown. The offense wins 5-2.
Allen Robinson II Dominates
One of the biggest takeaways from today was Allen Robinson and what he brought to the table. The standout wide receiver played at a high-level today in a few ways, but all the plays where he stood out were from the slot. His first was the out-and-up touchdown in seven shots that flashed veteran awareness on multiple levels. The second was on what would have been a sack from Alex Highsmith. But Robinson completely fooled the secondary on a seam route and went about 60 yards for a touchdown.
He had no problem getting dirty and made a few nice blocks. On one play, he came inside on a condensed formation off the tight end and crack-blocked on the slot cornerback. I thought that was new and refreshing. Lastly, he made a really solid catch going to the ground by flashing late hands. Overall, I thought he was the best player out there, other than the obvious.
Herbig Stacks Days
Nick Herbig is the most surprising rookie at the start of camp to me. I’m not sure I expected him to look this good this early. But when you watch him, the explosiveness jumps off the field. Moreover, he’s getting consistent pressure from multiple spots. The Steelers had him stand up over the A-Gap in an off-ball role at one point today and Herbig just buzzed right on through. That was unique from what I’ve seen them do with him.
They’ve dropped him back in coverage a number of times and throughout those times, Herbig looks comfortable. It’s only two days, but Herbig is vying for a role on third downs here as a sub-package rusher. That’s where he’s stood out the most through two days. That’s a positive sign for him.
Broderick Jones First Team Rep
Are we starting to see the signs of s new first-string left tackle at Steelers training camp? It’s possible that Broderick Jones could very well end up being a guy who gets some more first-team reps even earlier than we thought. He got a first-team rep today in a team period, and it was rather spontaneous. Thus far, he’s only faced Markus Golden, but that’s the first step in Jones taking the leg up in the competition at Steelers training camp.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that Jones will win the job soon or anything. But there is a baseline level that he’s seen a rise over the past day.
Rotating Slot Cornerbacks
The Steelers’ slot cornerback position is a rotation on all teams right now. Five different guys have seen reps there. Duke Dawson, Elijah Riley, Patrick Peterson, Tre Norwood, and Chandon Sullivan have all played there in some capacity during training camp. That’s notable in a few ways, but most importantly, it shows that this team could employ a committee in that role. I imagine next week is when we dive into that battle even more, but for right now, they might just be learning more about these guys and what they do well from that position.
Defensive Communication Questions
One thing that was apparent on Friday at Steelers training camp was the lack of defensive communication. Coaches lamented some breakdowns in coverage and chewed players out across multiple periods. Other players were screaming at others for busts. Linebackers ended up on wide receivers when they were not supposed to be there. It was an odd array of things that occurred over the whole day that added up to a lackluster day for the second and third levels of the defense with their communication.
The group has a lot of new faces, so growing pains are going to happen. But the frequency of them today was somewhat concerning. We will see how this evolves but it’s something to watch in the coming days.