UNITY TWP, Pa. — One of Mike Tomlin’s favorite stops during Steelers practices is a defensive get-off drill.
The linebacker and linemen spread out across a yard line, and at the snap of a ball, charge up field. The first one to get to a certain point about three yards up field is the winner. It’s a regular staple of the team’s early period individual practice sessions.
But on Wednesday, Tomlin changed things up, bringing in speedy cornerback Mike Hilton to participate in the drill alongside the larger defensive players.
Perhaps surprisingly, Hilton got routed and never contended in any of his reps, with Bud Dupree, Cameron Heyward, J.T. Jones and Vince Williams earning wins instead.
“See what I mean, Mike Hilton?” Tomlin yelled. “These big jokers can get off.”
“Bring them down to my territory,” Hilton responded, referring to the agility drills the defensive backs were doing at the far end of the field.
Check it out:
Wide receiver Ryan Switzer suffered a quad injury, tackle Derwin Gray had fatigue symptoms and cornerback Herb Waters has a shoulder injury. All are still being evaluated.
Linebacker Anthony Chickillo did not practice because he was being evaluated for a minor issue.
Safety Sean Davis (dislocated finger, left hand), linebacker T.J. Watt (left hamstring tightness), and wide receiver Donte Moncrief (dislocated finger) did not practice and are still day-to-day.
Wide receiver Johnny Holton (left hamstring) had a helmet and pads on, but did not participate in full-contract drills.
Offensive guard David DeCastro was given the day off.
Diontae Johnson and Tevin Jones replaced Moncrief on the first unit. Johnson also worked inside some, where Switzer usually plays, as did Eli Rogers. Ola Adeniyi switched sides to fill in for Watt and Chickillo. Kameron Kelly continued to work at free safety in place of Davis. B.J. Finney worked with the first team at left guard. He previously filled in for right guard Ramon Foster and center Maurkice Pouncey.
Tempers flared in the second team period, as offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva and defensive lineman Cameron Heyward got into a confrontation that turned violent when Villanueva threw a big overhand punch over the top of an intervening player. The fight was quickly broken up.
In a situational team period where the offense was playing from its own 2-yard line, Ben Roethlisberger called a silent snap and took the ball around the right end himself while the rest of the line stayed put, Statue of Liberty style. No one gave chase after the defense realized they’d been had, but Roethlisberger ran out the 98-yard play — with some help from JuJu Smith-Schuster — to the applause of the crowd.
Sutton Smith got his first work in during training camp at fullback after starting out exclusively at outside linebacker. He also played some fullback during OTAs and minicamp.
Roethlisberger was stymied on his first of seven red-zone plays when rookie linebacker Devin Bush broke up a pass intended for James Washington.
He countered with three touchdown passes to Xavier Grimble over Mark Barron, Vance McDonald in front of Kameron Kelly and a wide-open Johnson after a long scramble.
Josh Dobbs got the second-team reps. He picked on rookie safety P.J. Locke for two touchdowns, one to Washington and one to Jones. His other pass, also intended for Jones, was broken up by Brian Allen.