UNITY TWP, Pa. – It’s finally game week.
On the 10th day of 2019 training camp, the Steelers practiced at Saint Vincent College following a much-needed day off. The team performed with a noticeable sense of urgency during the 2-and-a-half-hour session in anticipation of their first preseason game Friday night against the Buccaneers.
There were several players out of practice with bumps and bruises typical of this point in training camp, notably on the offensive line, where three starters in Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey and Alejandro Villanueva were sidelined. Matt Feiler moved to left guard in Foster’s place, Chukwuma Okorafor replaced Feiler at first-team right tackle and Jerald Hawkins repped second-team left tackle.
But nonetheless, the session was hard, physical and competitive – reflecting the harsh reality that comes along with the dog days of NFL training camp. Almost half of this group is competing for their job, with a roster spot – and their NFL future – on the line.
Mike Tomlin relayed that message at the start of individual drills this afternoon.
“Punch (in) that clock, or give your jersey up,” he said.
Check it out below:
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
Ben Roethlisberger was his usual self, directing the Steelers’ offense, most notably the young receiving core – with tips and adjustments as the day went on.
He was crisp and on target. On one play during 11-on-11, he escaped the pocket, rolled left and connected an off-balance throw to JuJu Smith-Schuster over Joe Haden that drew “ahhs” from the crowd.
But for as crisp as Roethlisberger was, there was a stretch during the team segment where his receivers/tight ends were anything but. It started with Vance McDonald, who dropped a wide open, would-be catch on a curl route. “You’re unconvered! No one’s there,” offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner quipped. However, McDonald later hauled in an impressive 20-yard catch across the middle later to make up for it.
Mason Rudolph (1st team) and Devlin Hodges (2nd team) were both efficient during the two-minute drill segment to conclude practice. Neither unit scored, though, as the defense bent but didn’t break in the red zone.
Trey Griffey made the best play of the afternoon with a diving grab on a beautifully placed ball from Hodges down the left seam.
The hardest hit of the day came from Trey Edmunds, who stepped up in pass protection and delivered a crack on Mike Hilton as he blitzed off the edge. The Steelers heavily rely on their RBs to block in blitz pickup (think Le’Veon Bell).
Every time Jordan Dangerfield made a play during team drills, he yelled to the sideline (likely the media) “Good morning!” or “Stop sleeping on me!” He performed well with a couple of notable pass breakups.
James Conner, Artie Burns, Sutton Smith, Trevor Wood, Justin Layne, Vince Williams, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, and Diontae Johnson either did not participate or exited early. Tomlin said all are being evaluated, but didn’t express immediate concern.
Villanueva, who exited midway through practice, was seen with an ice wrap on his right shoulder.
The offense won Tuesday’s red zone drill with ease, 6-1.
1st play: Roethlisberger put the offense up 1-0 on a connection to Eli Rogers.
2nd play: Xavier Grimble hauled in an inside slant in traffic on a tight ball from Roethlisberger.
3rd play: Ryan Switzer, who lined up next to Roethlisberger out the backfield, found the end zone on a short pass to the left.
4th play: Roethlisberger drew the defense off-side on a hard count.
5th play: Hodges found Switzer for the receiver’s second conversion of the drill.
6th play: The defense finally tallied a W on a pass breakup by Cameron Sutton.
7th play: Hodges found Tevin Jones on a curl route, who barely stretched the ball over the plane.