UNITY TWP., Pa. —The Steelers had other reasons for giving the team three consecutive days off after the preseason opener against the Kansas City Chiefs last Friday, as the team has been dealing with the unexpected death of wide receivers coach Darryl Drake on Sunday.
But the break has come at a good time for other reasons, as the beat-up Steelers are expecting significantly better participation as they re-take the fields at St. Vincent College for practice on Tuesday.
Steelers cornerback Joe Haden dodged a major injury after being carted off the practice field last week and missing the team’s first preseason game on Friday.
Head coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday morning that Haden will not participate in the team’s re-scheduled practice session, but only has a contusion, and not a more serious ailment.
Tomlin expects a more healthy overall lineup to take to Chuck Noll field on Tuesday, as he listed just Haden, offensive linemen David DeCastro (soreness, day-to-day) and (Maurkice Pouncey (undisclosed) and reserve tight end Christian Scotland-Williamson (soft tissue injury, undetermined) as unlikely participants.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that are working there way back onto the grass today,” Tomlin said. “A lot of the guys that have missed time will at least be working at a partial capacity today.”
Most of the Steelers’ starting lineup was held out of the preseason opener against Tampa Bay last Friday, but only some of those absences were due to injury, with Tomlin choosing to rest most of his veterans.
James Conner, Bud Dupree, Ramon Foster, Cameron Heyward, Vance McDonald, Donte Moncrief, Steven Nelson, Ben Roethlisberger, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Stephon Tuitt were given the night off last Friday.
Sean Davis (finger) and T.J. Watt (hamstring) have been practicing, but did not play.
Brian Allen (undisclosed), Artie Burns (groin), Diontae Johnson (groin), Sutton Smith (undisclosed) and Vince Williams (hamstring) could return to practice on Tuesday after missing the game and at least some time at practice last week.
Of course, it might not be the best day for players with recent lower-body injuries to return to work. An early drizzle is expected to turn into isolated thunderstorms later in the day.
Center J.C. Hassenauer Officially Signs with Steelers
Center J.C. Hassenauer has officially signed his new one-year deal with the Steelers.
This deal was initially reported last week and confirmed by Hassenauer’s agent, but has now been announced by the Steelers.
An exclusive right free agent, Hassenauer was almost a lock to return to Pittsburgh in 2021. His new deal with the Steelers is worth $780,000.
Hassenauer proved a vital piece along the Steelers’ offensive line a season ago, seeing action in 15 games and making four starts. He was on the field for 23% of the team’s offensive stats, while also appearing on 50 special teams plays.
Prior to Pittsburgh, Hassenauer signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 2018, spending the first seven weeks of the season on their practice squad.
He played for the Birmingham Iron of the Alliance of American Football in 2019.
Mic Drop: JuJu Smith-Schuster’s Free Agency is About Business, Not Personal
Ever since the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger decided the future Hall of Fame quarterback will return for the 2021 season with a restructured contract, the attention has shifted to free agent wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. On this episode of Mic Drop on Pittsburgh Sports Live, host Mike Asti explains why fans need to learn that not every JuJu take is a personal attack and why it’s best for the Steelers business if the franchise and the 24-year-old receiver part ways.
Steelers Scout Mark Bruener Shares Insight into Unique Draft Process
The COVID-19 pandemic has altered many aspects of the NFL landscape, especially the scouting leading up to the NFL Draft, making an already unique, tedious process even more challenging.
Pittsburgh Steelers college scout Mark Bruener joined The Standard, the club’s behind-the-scenes web series, and provided some insight into the past year’s unprecedented scouting process.
The pandemic has presented Bruener with his fair share of challenges, but he has not allowed those circumstances to become excuses.
“My first approach was is I’m not going to make an excuse for the situation that I’m in,” Bruener said. “I’m going to figure out a way to do my job to the best of my ability and know that Kevin (Colbert) is not going to tolerate any excuses. And I needed to get my job done.”
Much like every aspect of our life over the past year, Bruener has had to resort to virtual discussions with coaches, as he was largely barred from scouting and meeting players at facilities.
“The ability for us to make contact with the schools, the individual coaches, all had to be done via Zoom,” Bruener said. “There was no personal interaction that we normally would get. And then you would follow up individually with the coaches to gain the information that you needed.”
Without those in-person evaluations, Bruener has had to watch on film more than ever before to ensure his assessments are accurate.
“But the bulk of my fall was spent in my office, watching film on my computer,” he said. “Instead of just watching three games on an athlete in particular to try to bring the evaluation, I tend to maybe watch five or six games, if that’s available. And because I can’t see that live look in some aspects.”
That being said, the virtually, at-home conditions have granted Bruener more flexibility in his scouting process than ever before.
“If you’re at a school, you have to get to the next school the next day. So you have to make sure that you get all that work done that day,” Bruener said. “Whereas now being home, you’re a little more flexible. So if you’re not able to finish that third game or fourth game by two o’clock, then you can get to it later on that evening.”
Bruener, who resides in Washington state, was able to attend a few games in person last college football season, but admits the atmosphere was bizarre at times.
“I went to a handful of games here in Seattle and in Oregon that I was allowed to attend, but it was so eerie Andy weird because there wasn’t any fans there.”
Selected in the first round of the 1995 NFL Draft out of Washington, Bruener played 14 seasons at tight end. He spent the first nine seasons of his career in Pittsburgh, catching 137 passes for 1,197 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Bruener began scouting for the Steelers organization in 2018.