UNITY TWP., Pa. — When the Steelers reconfigured their practice schedule for the final week of training camp at St. Vincent College after the death of wide receivers coach Darryl Drake on Sunday, the team had one final full practice in pads before packing up and heading back to Pittsburgh.
On Wednesday, they made it a good one. After slogging through an emotional, rain-shortened affair on Tuesday, the Steelers were back to business with the proper emotion, mindset and attitude required to get things done on the practice squad.
“A good, spirited day up here in pad, our last day here in Latrobe in full pads,” Tomlin said. “There’s a certain urgency to that. .Certain things that we do here, the nature in which we work — carrying pads, the drills that we do — it’s just a captured moment. I thought the guys displayed that understanding today.”
It was also a fairly even practice, as the offense won the seven shots goal-line drill, the defense won the two-minute drill to close practice, and many, many competitive battles went back and forth across the practice fields.
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
As the team gets into the finer details of situational football, they’ve been playing a lot more personnel groupings, especially on defense as they defend the Steelers’ typical three-receiver sets on offense.
That will change a little bit as practice transfers to the team’s practice facility, cuts are made and a scout team emerges.
But for now, its mostly ones vs. ones and twos vs. twos. So that means a lot of Nickel and Dime. Wednesday, the Steelers’ defensive linemen were working on how to deal with double teams out of their two-man, sub-package front.
After having near full participating on Tuesday, the Steelers were missing a host of players on Wednesday.
David DeCastro (soreness), Joe Haden (foot contusion), Maurkice Pouncey (undisclosed), Christian Scotland-Williamson (soft tissue), and Vince Williams (hamstring) all missed practice for the second straight day.
Joining them on the sidelines were Devin Bush (undisclosed), Zach Gentry (undisclosed), Sutton Smith (abdomen). Bush and Gentry were still pending evaluation. Tomlin said Smith has fallen behind with the amount of time that he’s missed.
B.J Finney left practice with a heat-related issue. Tomlin said Pouncey is expected to practice on Thursday. He called DeCastro and Haden day-to-day and Williams “close” to returning.
Patrick Morris stepped up for Pouncey when Finney went down. Matt Feiler slid to guard and Chukwuma Okorafor played tackle to fill in for DeCastro. Tyler Matakevich started at inside linebacker in place of Bush and Williams.
Cameron Sutton made a mockery of the team’s punt return hands contest. Players usually try to catch as many balls as they can without setting one down. He stuffed one under his shirt, then another, and then one under his pad backplate to “win” for the day.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Projects Alabama C Landon Dickerson to Steelers in Latest Mock Draft
ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. predicted that the Pittsburgh Steelers will select Alabama center Landon Dickerson in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft in his latest mock draft.
Kiper, who released his second mock draft of the season on Thursday, has the Steelers staying with the No. 24 overall pick in the first round to take Dickerson in a mock draft that has three trades in the first round.
The 6-foot-6, 325-pound Alabama grad could play center or guard, but would be immediately be slotted in as a replacement for retired starter Maurkice Pouncey at center.
Dickerson spent his first three seasons at Florida State before transferring to Alabama in 2019. He started four games at right guard and nine games at center in 2019 and started at center in 2020, where he was the winner of the Rimington Trophy as the country’s best center.
Dickerson suffered an ACL injury in the SEC Championship Game in December and concerns regarding that injury have depressed Dickerson’s draft value, but he is generally considered to be the best center in the class and no worse than a second-round pick.
Poll: What Was Biggest Issue with Steelers Running Game in 2020?
The Steelers finished dead last in the NFL in rushing in 2020 and general manager Kevin Colbert has seen it as a top offseason priority to rectify that standing going into 2021.
The Steelers have already made a change in coaching, with Matt Canada and Adrian Klemm taking over as offensive coordinator and offensive line coach.
There will also be substantive changes to the personnel, as starting center Maurkice Pouncey has retired and starting running back James Conner, left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, left guard Matt Feiler and right tackle Zach Banner are pending free agents.
“You can’t say the runners weren’t good enough or the quarterbacks weren’t good enough or the line wasn’t good enough,” Colbert said in speaking with the media last week. “To put out the kind of running game we did, no one was good enough. And again, that is a collective effort. … We need to finish (seasons). And I think having a strong running game helps teams finish in that time of year.”
With that being said, Steelers fans, which area of the running game do you think was the biggest issue in 2020?
NFL Insider John Clayton: Steelers Out of Running for J.J. Watt
One of the league’s most prominent insiders believes the Steelers are out of the running for free agent defensive end J.J. Watt.
Joining The PM Team on 93.7 The Fan on Wednesday, NFL insider John Clayton said Watt will not be joining his brothers T.J. and Derek in Pittsburgh.
Clayton sees the Tennessee Titans, Green Bay Packers and Buffalo Bills as the favorites to land Watt’s services.
For a potential dark horse, Clayton says the Las Vegas Raiders as an outside-the-box candidate to sign the veteran pass rusher.
.@JohnClaytonNFL says JJ Watt won't be coming to Pittsburgh. Tennessee, Green Bay, and Buffalo are the 3 teams. Raiders as a dark horse.— Andrew Fillipponi (@ThePoniExpress) February 24, 2021
Watt leaves Houston as one of the greatest players in franchise history. He was selected to five Pro Bowls, named First-Team All-Pro on five occasions and earned three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards.
A future Hall of Famer, Watt is the Texans’ all-time leader in sacks (101), tackles-for-loss (172) and forced fumbles (25).
Watt recorded 52 total tackles, 14 tackles-for-loss, five sacks, two forced fumbles and returned an interception for a touchdown in 2020.