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Steelers Analysis

Steelers Rookie Camp Takeaways: Washington Impresses, Benton Learns Tricks



Steelers Darnell Washington

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers took the field for the second time in the 2023 offseason as rookie minicamp continued on Saturday. While it is just in shorts, players are trying out and rookies are getting acclimated. So, what can be taken away from the second, rainy day out at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex?

Keeanu Benton’s Stance

Just like yesterday with Joey Porter Jr. and Broderick Jones, the team focused on technique with its rookies, with this one being Keeanu Benton. Benton has worked from a three-point stance and four-point stance, but Karl Dunbar focused on his three-point stance today. Specifically, it was how he viewed Benton as being almost hunched over in his stance rather than extended out to be ready to explode.

Dunbar talked to Benton about this ‘hunching’ when he should be bending over more at the knees rather than the waist. One of the big talking points about Benton coming out of Wisconsin was his leverage problems, well, it seems this is where Dunbar believes they partially extend from on tape. You can only work on so much in shorts, but firing out of that proper stance to maintain a good pad level is one thing that Dunbar is starting to go into depth with Benton on in rookie minicamp.

Footwork and Timing with Quarterbacks

I focused a bit more on the quarterbacks in Tanner Morgan, Bryce Perkins, and Hunter Johnson today above just an ancillary view to see what coaches were emphasizing. It seems that timing and footwork were keys here for Matt Canada and Mike Sullivan. Perkins, in particular, had a few reps where he seemed off with his feet and his eyes, and it sent the mock play haywire right off the bat, even in individual drills.

All of the quarterbacks are learning the footwork, but Sullivan especially focused on the front foot facing forward when throwing the ball on the third beat. There were multiple instances where feet seemed too lateral at times and the ball came out late as the quarterbacks took an extra gather step. On thing, Perkins did praise on was unlocking his front leg and hip to drive the ball downfield. However, Matt Canada’s offense is so timing based that the footwork is the key to it at most times.

Darnell Washington Makes it Look Easy

You know, the Steelers are just in shorts right now, but it is hard for rookie tight ends to get blocking down so effortlessly right away. So much so, that Alfredo Roberts never had much to say to Darnell Washington about his blocking technique. When the bag was placed in front of him, he got fantastic hand placement and moved his guy right from the jump. Honestly, that is the bare minimum, but I have seen far too many rookie tight ends struggle with the basics over the year in blocking in Steelers’ rookie minicamp. Make no mistake, Washington is leaps and bounds ahead of most guys the team has brought in at tight end as blockers. It’s like poetry in motion. When you can make some of the hard stuff in this area of the game look easy as a rookie, you have my attention.

Tomlin Watches Jones

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin seemed to have a special focus today at practice, and in the individual, it was watching Pat Meyer work one-on-one with a first-round draft pick Broderick Jones. They worked on many of the same things we talked about, though today they focused even more on posture with Jones. Meyer wants Jones to get deeper into his stance to expedite his kick step and explosiveness out of the stance.

One of the things that Meyer could be overheard noting was that Jones can often stay in his stance too high, and once he does that, he can lose the leverage battle. In addition, it causes his head to go on a swivel rather than stay balanced and can throw his mechanics, including footwork erratically. There seems to be a kinetic chain that Meyer and the Steelers are teaching Jones to fix his technical issues.

Herbig Works on Long Arm

Nick Herbig worked with the edge rushers today and Denzel Martin tried to get the fourth-round draft pick to maximize his length. That is one of his weaknesses, but Martin still wants Herbig to have a power move in his arsenal. So, the team seems to be teaching him to have a long arm, specifically so he can cross the face of tackles in the run game. I don’t anticipate this being a go-to move in his pass rush plan, but I can see Herbig uses this as a useful tool to hold the edge on run downs as he develops as a run defender on the edge.