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Steelers OTAs Takeaways: Calvin Austin Shows Out, Heyward Reps With TEs



Steelers Calvin Austin

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers OTAs kicked off and into session on Tuesday for their first activity as an organized group in a practice setting. They are only laying the groundwork to build upon it in the coming weeks, but there are a few things that jumped out to me right away. Here are just a few of them:

Conner Heyward With the TEs

To start off Steelers OTAs, Connor Heyward did not go with Eddie Faulkner and the backs but rather stuck with Alfredo Roberts and the tight ends during individual drills. The tight ends did work on some fullback and ‘YAC’ oriented drills, including jump cuts and getting upfield after the catch. But what I took from the session I watched is that Heyward could be the fullback, but he will be a different type of fullback and a player that can be used all over the formation. That will be different from Derek Watt. Heyward is likely to stick it out with the tight ends most of the time.

Curry Emphasizes Block Shedding

The ILBs is probably the thinnest room on the roster with only five true players right now, but of the group that was there, Aaron Curry ended up going at them about as hard as I’ve seen a new coach walk into the building. It’s clear that Curry watched a tape from last year and is bent on making sure things do not go the same way. He saw the block-shedding issues at the second level and seems to be out to change that.

Curry could be heard exclaiming that he wanted quick, violent hands but that he did not want the play to turn into a wrestling match. In other words, he did want a sparring match as one would have in a pass-rush scenario. He just wanted his linebackers to use quick hands and zoom past the climbing blocker by attacking their near shoulder and slipping right into the backfield.

Cover 3 Undertones

Pittsburgh seems to be working a lot of Cover 3-oriented drills. Throughout rookie camp and now into the first day of Steelers OTAs, they repped bail technique with the back turned to the sideline for their sideline-based cornerbacks. On Tuesday, they began to work the press bail popularized as Seattle Cover 3 during the Legion of Boom era in individual drills. To no one’s surprise, the press coverage technique was worked for all the outside cornerbacks, with Joey Porter Jr. getting particular focus.

Porter’s false steps were criticized by secondary coach Grady Brown yet again, but so was his hand usage. Oftentimes, his hands went before his feet, and Brown wants his feet to dictate where he goes more than his hands right off the line of scrimmage. Porter is working on it and appears uncomfortable, but that’s not concerning since they are reworking his technique. The rest of the cornerbacks repped through it, too, and I think Cover 3-based ideas are going to be incorporated heavily into this defense.

Calvin Austin III Looks Healthy

Coming off a lisfranc injury, I was interested to see how Steelers wide receiver Calvin Austin III looked right out of the gate. I won’t say he knocked your socks off or anything, but he looked healthy. There was no gimpiness in his breaks or cuts, and I think the fact that Austin can push off that foot as well as cut on any angle is a great sign for his participation throughout the entire offseason program.

When he did run his routes, Austin looked sudden and shifty. That is not surprising, but there has not been anything just yet that has been revealed about his long speed, so I will comment on that when I get a bit more clarification. For now, Austin looks healthy and quick.

Sullivan in the Slot

Newly-signed slot cornerback Chandon Sullivan started out working with the safeties as an interesting twist but did confirm that on the first day of Steelers OTAs, he was the guy who repped in the slot. The team began working on some blitzes with him, and he told me that he had a little bit of experience with blitzes, but that would probably be the biggest learning curve for him in the Steelers scheme.

A lot of it seemed to be timing-based things that Arthur Maulet and Mike Hilton had mastered over time. The Steelers could bring someone in to be that thumper, downhill slot cornerback they like, but for now, it seems like they are trying to add a new dimension to what Sullivan brings to the football field.


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