PITTSBURGH — The first official Steelers practice in advance of the 2019 season took place on Friday at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side.
The team’s draft picks took center stage, as first-round linebacker Devin Bush and third-rounders wide receiver Diontae Johnson and cornerback Justin Layne were among the 59 players involved in the practices, 18 of which were tryouts.
Bush worked in a small group of players with inside linebackers coach Jerry Olsavsky, while Layne was in a mixed group of cornerbacks and safeties on backpedal drill. Johnson was part of a big group of receivers working with coach Darryl Drake.
When the teams broke out in 11-on-11 drills, Bush called the plays for the defense, despite the presence of more experienced players, showing the coaching staff’s level of trust in the No. 10 overall pick.
Layne worked at corner, while local products Dravon Askew-Henry and Tre Tarpley played a good bit of safety.
Here’s more of the sights and sounds of the first day of rookie minicamp:
James Conner Surprises Mom with New House
Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner warmed hearts last month when he surprised his father with a new truck.
Now, he is taking care of mom.
Conner recently surprised his mother with a brand new house, sharing her emotional reaction to Twitter on Saturday.
Welcome HOME Ma! You’ve sacrificed so much and we can’t thank you enough! You’re the reason I go to work day in and day out, to finally give you a place you can call Home. I Love you❤️🏡💪🏽💯🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/c25KyOphAo— James Conner (@JamesConner_) July 4, 2020
Conner was able to pull off the surprise for his mother, Kelly Bibbs, with the help of his brothers. While Bibbs may have not realized what exactly was going on at first, seeing her son James and the golden balloons arranged to say “Welcome Home” quickly gave it away.
Steelers running backs coach Eddie Faulkner and Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry shared their thoughts on the big surprise, among other on social media.
Wow! The best thing I’ve seen in a long time! https://t.co/BO3x1RkvDL— Eddie Faulkner (@coachfaulk) July 4, 2020
❤️ Absolutely, man that’s a amazing feeling… Making sure your people Straight forever ✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾— Jarvis Juice Landry (@God_Son80) July 5, 2020
Conner’s gesture is a continuation of an offseason of giving that saw him gift his father a brand new truck back on June 6.
Bought my pops a truck! He was hype 😂🙏🏽💪🏽 pic.twitter.com/QSrH2bdiTS— James Conner (@JamesConner_) June 6, 2020
Entering his fourth season out of Pitt, Conner is looking for a bounce back season following an injury plagued 2019 campaign. He rushed for 464 yards and four touchdowns, but played in only ten games for the Steelers.
Last season was a far cry from 2018, when Conner was a breakout sensation replacing Le’Veon Bell. He ran for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns, earning Pro Bowl honors.
Entering the final year of his rookie contract, the 25-year-old has something to prove in 2020.
Bill Cowher Reveals He and His Wife Recovered from COVID-19
Former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher and his wife Veronica have and recovered from COVID-19, the future Hall of Fame told Ed Bouchette of The Athletic.
While not diagnosed at the time, the couple experienced symptoms back in March following a trip to Hawaii, and tested positive for the virus antibodies in April.
According to Bouchette’s story, Cowher first knew something was wrong when he was unable to smell flowers he had purchased from a florist, and could not taste his wife’s cooking. Cowher also said he experienced shaky joints and a fever, while Veronica had a cough.
Cowher also shared his thoughts on the NFL season going forward, and if he thinks the league will be able to start up without a hitch. He seems skeptical.
“I don’t know,” Cowher said via Pro Football Talk. “No. 1, the players have to feel comfortable with whatever they come up with from a testing standpoint, from a protocol standpoint. I totally understand the reluctance. Even though they say young people aren’t getting it, you also have people who have asthma, people who have underlying conditions in their families — they’re going back to their homes with parents who may now be elderly. It’s not like you can isolate yourself from everybody, particularly during a season that’s five months long. . . . I still think we have a long way to go.”
Cowher added that players needed to be respected with regard to how they choose to handle the virus personally, including if they decided to skip the 2020 season entirely.
“It’s going to come down to the league and the NFLPA feeling comfortable moving forward, and even within that, if they come up with a set of guidelines, and now a player who doesn’t feel comfortable, he may not want to be part of it. It affects people differently not only from a physical standpoint but from a mental standpoint. . . . I think we have to respect that.”
A Super Bowl champion in 2005, Cowher spent his entire 15-year head coaching career with the Steelers. His 149 wins are top-20 in NFL history.
Cowher has worked as an analyst for The NFL Today on CBS since 2007.
The legendary coach was supposed to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this August, but the ceremony and festivities were moved to the summer of 2021 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
Lawrence Timmons Donating $500,000 to High School Alma Mater
Former Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons is giving back to the next generation of football players at his high school alma mater.
Timmons donated $500,000 to Wilson High School in Florence, South Carolina to remodel their stadium. The renovation process is expected to get underway in September.
“All of these upgraded facilities, around the school and athletic complex, give students a renewed pride in their school. I’m glad to play a part in that,” Timmons told Clint Buckley of 247 Sports.
The renovation plan for Tiger Stadium includes a new track, additional seating and an updated, brick entrance to the complex.
“I am very appreciative of Mr. Timmons’ contribution,” said Eric Robinson, Wilson’s principal. “This just goes to show that he remembers where he came from and that he will always be a Tiger. I am excited to see what everything looks like when it is done. Our students and our alumni deserve the best. I think this will motivate them to be even better on the field.”
A 2003 graduate of Wilson, Timmons played linebacker and tight end, posting 150 tackles and two sacks along with 47 receptions for 800 yards and five touchdowns as a senior.
Trading Florence for Tallahassee, he earned All-ACC honors behind 79 tackles and 18 tackles-for-loss in his final season with the Florida State Seminoles.
Timmons was selected 15th-overall by the Steelers in the 2007 NFL Draft. He spent ten seasons in Pittsburgh, earning both a Pro Bowl appearance and Second-Team All-Pro during his stellar 2014 season. He won Super Bowl XLIII with the Steelers over the Arizona Cardinals in 2009.
Timmons recorded 983 tackles, 35.5 sacks, 13 forced fumbles and 12 interceptions over his Steeler career.
Timmons has been out of the NFL since being released after a single season with the Miami Dolphins in 2018.
Still, it is great to see Timmons staying close to the game by giving back to the place that gave him his football start.