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Sights and Sounds from Steelers Minicamp, Day 2

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PITTSBURGH — On the defensive side of the ball, the Steelers want to focus in on situational football.

Whether its sub packages, goal line situations or two-minute drills, the Steelers feel like some of those situations held them back in 2018.

“To me, winning football games has a lot to do with what’s happening in two minutes,” defensive coordinator Keith Butler said. “If you look at what’s happened the last couple of years in football, the games are coming down. … The bottom line is, we’ve got to make sure we’re good at it.”

So on the second day of minicamp, Mike Tomlin and company spent the day working on those situations.

“Just infusing a little more situational ball,” Tomlin said. “A bunch of third-down things. Our second day of two-minute. We’ve got an emphasis on it here in the last week. It’s good to see guys operate in situations. … It’s been productive on a lot of fronts.”

OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN

From 2015 to 2017, William Gay and Roosevelt Nix were Steelers teammates. Now, Gay is a coaching assistant, working with the team’s wide receivers.

Nix stopped to talk with Gay during a break in the action on Wednesday, one of several such interactions for the former defensive back during this spring.

The Steelers also have former tight end David Johnson working with the defensive line this spring.

SIGHTS AND SOUNDS

The defensive linemen worked with coach Karl Dunbar on splitting blockers as a four-technique, while the defensive backs and linebackers worked on dropping into zone coverage. Check out the sights and sounds:

PHOTO GALLERY

Steelers

Highlights from Steelers Practice 9/25/20

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It was all about wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster’s return and the Watt brothers at the final practice before the Steelers week 3 game against Houston.

Footage courtesy Pittsburgh Steelers

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Highlights from Steelers Practice 9/24/20

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While it’s odd to see referees standing out in a clip of highlights, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin’s plan to incorporate actual refs into practice this week happened on Thursday.

Tomlin explained he is adding refs to practice to ensure his team is more disciplined, which hopefully leads to less penalties in their game this week compared to last week.

Wide receivers James Washington, Diontae Johnson and tight end Eric Ebron run routes and catch passes in this clip.

Footage courtesy Pittsburgh Steelers

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Ben Roethlisberger Says Form, Mechanics Can Be Better Despite Hot Start

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To hear Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger tell it, he can better than what he’s shown on the field in his first two weeks since returning from elbow surgery.

He’s not happy with his footwork, he thinks he’s dropping his arm a bit and needs a more consistent release point.

The statistics, however tell another story. They say Roethlisberger has been operating at a higher level of precision than ever before. So which is it? Maybe both.

“I do feel I got a little lazy with my feet, which then, in turn, translated to a lazy arm,” Roethlisberger said. “There were some throws that I kind of dropped my elbow, if you will. I don’t want to get too technical, but it became more of a three-quarter release instead of an over the top when I didn’t need to. There are obviously times you have to change your release point. There were too many throws, I felt looking back, that I just have to get my feet working better, and that will then translate, hopefully, to the rest of the body. Then, I won’t be guiding some of the throws.”

Here’s an example from the game Roethlisberger’s form getting a little sloppy. He throws this ball flat-footed and almost all with his right side, getting less power behind it than usual and resulting in a pass that ends up behind JuJu Smith-Shuster instead of allowing him to build a head of steam toward the defenders at the line of scrimmage.

Is this a big deal here? Not really. Smith-Schuster probably couldn’t have done much better than he did at bulling over the defender, anyway. But this is also a route into the flat on the near side of the field. Over longer distances, that can make a big difference.

“I’ve gotten away with it in the past being able to not necessarily be perfect from the ground up and just letting my arm kind of make up for a lot of things, a lot of imperfections if you talk to quarterback people,” Roethlisberger said. “I feel great. I just need to get it in my mind that I can still make the throws when I’m not in the perfect position to make them.”

All of that can be true, and yet, it’s hard to argue with the results. Through two games, Roethlisberger has a 68.5 completion percentage. His career season high was 68% in 2015. In a game and a half last year, it was 56.5%.

His passer rating, even with an interception against the Broncos, is 107.1. His career season-long high came in 2o07, when he finished with a 104.1 mark. Last season before his injury, it was 66.

Some of that can be explained by a passing scheme that has take fewer deep shots down the field than it has in years past. His yards per pass attempt sits at 7.4, lower than all but four of his other 16 seasons.

Mechanical inconsistency can certainly have a greater impact on longer throws, so the Steelers’ somewhat more methodical offensive approach could be helping Roethlisberger get into the swing of things.

“Maybe some of that just comes from not playing a lot of football,” he posited. “I played two games this year. I played a game and a half last year, so really, it’s about three and a half games in two years if you think about it. It’ll come. Like I said, if I’m having these issues and we are still winning football games, that’s a plus.”

If a 2-0 record with career highs in passer rating and completion percentage is what he looks like with mechanical issues, the NFL should be very worried about what might happen if he gets into a groove.

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