UNITY TWP., Pa. — Jalen Ramsey arrived at Jacksonville Jaguars training camp in a Brinks trucks. Antonio Brown made his grand entrance to Oakland via hot air balloon.
On the campus of St. Vincent College, things have been mostly quiet.
Star receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster snuck in the side door instead of a flashier arrival on report day, taking the lead from the long-time routine of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
It reflected a quiet summer for the Steelers after a tumultuous first part of the offseason. Since the team reported to OTAs, there’s been almost no sniping on social media, no inflammatory comments from former players, no baby mamma drama, no one was arrested and no one was even accused of throwing furniture from a balcony window.
“It’s quiet in Pittsburgh right now,” defensive lineman Cameron Heyward said on Thursday. “Surprise, surprise.”
In some ways, it is a surprise, given how the 2018 season and its immediate aftermath went for the Steelers. It was a year that the team made more news for drama than it did for football, and that’s almost never a good sign.
But in other ways, it shouldn’t be a surprise. As the Steelers piled into Rooney Hall for camp and begun to work out on Chuck Noll Field, it’s easy to think about the history of the teams that have taken to the rolling hills outside of Latrobe for camp. Over the course of the history of the Steelers, quiet has been the norm.
“We needed that,” offensive lineman Ramon Foster said. “We had nothing from nobody. We usually never do.”
Smith-Schuster, who speculated on Instagram that he might skydive into camp, said he decided to play it cool with his camp entrance and let his work do the talking.
“I’m just here to work, win games and win the Super Bowl,” he said. “That’s my main focus, just focus on the team and work together.”
That’s a change from a year ago.
“Most definitely, man,” Smith-Schuster said. “You see everyone on the same page. We started practice [Friday] 10 minutes early. It’s unusual for us to do that. No one is late. Everyone is 10-15 minutes early on the field. We’re in it for the right reasons. You see that mindset with the team. It’s very positive.”
Even the Steelers’ lone outlandish entrance, when Eli Rogers showed in a Peterbilt truck with a hard hat on, was focused on the idea of getting ready to work. Rogers reprised his costume on Friday for the team’s entrance to the field.
Ten minutes later, the hard-had was discarded in the grass and forgotten about. It was time for the actual work to begin.
That work will have a renewed importance in 2019. The Steelers became a less-talented team on offense with the losses of Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown over the last two seasons. Players like James Conner, Rogers, Smith-Schuster and Ryan Switzer have the ability to take their places, but if the Steelers want to return to the postseason, it will require that work that everyone is talking about to pay off.
“There’s not too much to talk about when you don’t make the playoffs,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “Actions speak louder than words.”
Highlights from Steelers Practice 9/25/20
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
Highlights from Steelers Practice 9/24/20
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
Ben Roethlisberger Says Form, Mechanics Can Be Better Despite Hot Start
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.