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Steelers Sights and Sounds: Putting on Pads for Camp Day Three

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UNITY TWP, Pa. — For the first time in 2019, the Pittsburgh Steelers practiced in pads on Sunday, as head coach Mike Tomlin took off the hitting restrictions for the team’s third practice session.

The Steelers performed their somewhat notorious backs-on-backers drill that features linebackers in a pass-rush setting with a full head of a steam and running backs and tight ends in their way, attempting to slow down the rush — without the benefit of being able to cut block.

It’s a drill that generally features some slick moves and big collisions. Before Sunday’s practice, linebacker Bud Dupree predicted that someone would “go to sleep” after a big hit.

Well, no one went to sleep, but the drill lived up to its usual hype. Anthony Chickillo and Tuzar Skipper put big hits on blockers with forward-charging bullrushes and Ola Adeniyi made several look silly with speed rushes and inside jukes.

With veterans like Dupree, Vince Williams, James Conner and Rozelle Nix sitting the full-contract drill out, the spotlight was put on the some of the team’s youngest players.

Benny Snell might have been the one that shined the brightest. He was the only one to stop Adeniyi (they split their two reps) and held his own in general in the drill, drawing positive praise from Ben Roethlisberger.

Linebacker Devin Bush was mostly neutralized on his rushes, while tight end Zach Gentry was hit or miss, making one nice stop, but getting badly beaten on another.

Here’s what Adeniyi and Snell had to say about their battles:

CAMP STANDOUTS

On the first day of play with pads, it was natural to focus more on the running game, since that’s the aspect of the game that’s the most difficult to replicate in shorts.

The first-day run offense seemed to be a good bit ahead of the first-day run defense with several big plays from Snell and many of the third-team running backs.

“There were some chunk runs and you don’t necessarily like that from a defensive perspective,” Tomlin said. “But I don’t want to take away any credit that might be deserving of the offense. We’ll take a look at the tape. I know there was some spirited play there, both sides.”

Adeniyi said that run fits are especially tough without pads on, and now that the defense has some film to work with, they can improve that aspect of their game.

“When you go through OTAs and minicamp, you don’t have shoulder pads on,” he explained. “So you can’t really know where you’re fitting as much as you can when you have pads on. Today, we have film and we can watch and go based off that and just learn.”

INJURY UPDATES

J.T. Watt (left hamstring tightness) did not practice for the third consecutive day. Chickillo continued to replace him at left outside linebacker. Watt is still day-to-day and worked out off to the side during practice.

Johnny Holton (left hamstring) also did not practice after being injured on Saturday.

Sean Davis was injured during practice, suffering a potentially dislocated finger. His status has not yet been determined, Tomlin said.

Some veteran players like Mark Barron, Maurkice Pouncey and Roethlisberger were given the day off. Tomlin said that was a much about rest for those players as it was to give more looks to younger guys.

SEVEN SHOTS

With Roethlisberger on the sideline, Josh Dobbs took over with the first-team offense in the seven shots red zone drill.

Dobbs started out strong, finding JuJu Smith-Schuster for a touchdown on a coursing route and scrambling to his left to hit Xavier Grimble in the back of the end zone for a second score.

But he missed Donte Moncrief high on a corner route and then threw an interception for the third straight day when an underneath pass went off the hands of Smith-Schuster and was picked off by Artie Burns.

With the second team offense in the game, Mason Rudolph had a pass to James Washington broke up by burns, but hit Diontae Johnson for back-to-back scores.

PHOTO GALLERY

Steelers

Packers Could Pass Steelers in All-Time Playoff Wins in NFC Championship Game

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The Green Bay Packers can pass the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL record books with a win in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.

The Packers and Steelers are currently tied with 36 all-time NFL playoff wins, the second-most behind the New England Patriots, who have 37.

The Packers will be playing the man responsible for most of those wins in New England, now-Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady.

Both the Packers and Patriots have a higher postseason winning percentage than the Steelers, with New England holding a 37-21 record and Green Bay 36-23, while Pittsburgh is 26-26 after a Wild Card Round loss to Cleveland this month.

None of the other top five teams, including Dallas (35-28) and San Francisco (32-30) are still alive this year. Tampa Bay has just eight playoff wins in its history, the sixth-fewest in league history.

The Buffalo Bills (16-17) and Kansas City Chiefs (14-19) are 19th and 20th in playoff wins entering their AFC Championship Game showdown on Saturday.

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Pro Football Hall of Fame

Mike Tomlin: Hall of Fame Class of 2021 Incomplete without Steelers Scout Bill Nunn

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Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin doesn’t get a vote when it comes to who enters the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he made his opinions known on who he thinks should be a part of the Hall’s Class of 2021, making a public plea on Monday for former Steelers scout Bill Nunn to be included.

“There is no way the Class of 2021 can be complete without the legend, Bill Nunn, being a part of it,” Tomlin wrote.

Nunn, who died in 2014, was selected as the lone finalist recommended by the nine-member contributor committee in August. He, senior committee finalist Drew Pearson, coaches committee finalist Tom Flores and 15 modern-era finalists, including former Steelers guard Alan Faneca, will all be on the ballot when the voters meet before the Super Bowl.

Nunn, a Homewood native and Westinghouse alum, was a key figure in the Steelers’ success in the 1970s and helped revolutionize the scouting process for players at historically black colleges and universities, that had been previously underrepresented in the NFL after having worked as a sportswriter with the Pittsburgh Courier.

“Bill’s contributions to the Steelers were extraordinary over the 46 years he was part of the organization,” Steelers president Art Rooney II said in a press release in August. “He was a special person that was a close friend and mentor before his passing in 2014. His lessons and stories are still evident in our everyday work. 

“I look forward to hopefully celebrating his induction next year at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His legacy and career deserve to be recognized with the greatest individual honor in football, and we are excited he was chosen by the contributor committee as a finalist.”

Tomlin also wished luck to three players that he coached: former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive backs Ronde Barber and John Lynch and Faneca.

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Steelers

Steelers Minkah Fitzpatrick, T.J. Watt Named to PFWA All-NFL Team

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For the second season in a row, Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and outside linebacker T.J. Watt have been named to the Pro Football Writers of American All-AFC and All-NFL teams for the second consecutive season.

Fitzpatrick was also named an Associated Press All-Pro this season for the second straight year. In 2020, Fitzpatrick had 79 total tackles, eleven passes defended and a team-high four interceptions, one of which he returned for a 37-yard touchdown.

The other All-NFL and All-AFC safety was Tyrann Mathieu of the Kansas City Chiefs.

during a regular season game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020 in Pittsburgh, PA. (192119000006#1 / Pittsburgh Steelers)

Watt was also named a first-team AP All-Pro after leading the NFL in sacks, tackles for loss and quarterback hits. His 15 sacks were one off a franchise record and he racked them up while playing in only 15 games.

Watt was named the FOX Sports NFL Defensive Player of the Year and remains the favorite to win the prestigious AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year award at the postseason NFL Honors banquet.

Watt was also named the Steelers’ team MVP for the second straight season after finishing with 53 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, 41 quarterbacks hits, two forced fumbles and an interception this season.

The other All-NFL outside linebacker was Khalil Mack of the Chicago Bears, while Bradley Chubb of the Cleveland Browns was the other All-AFC outside linebacker.

Both players were also selected to the 2021 NFL Pro Bowl team. The Pro Bowl will not be played. Instead, the Pro Bowl events will be led virtually and the game will be streamed via Madden NFL 21.

Only the Steelers and Los Angeles Rams had two All-NFL players on defense, tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey. The Green Bay Packers had the most players selected with three, quarterback Aaron Rodgers, tackle David Bakhitiari and wide receiver Davante Adams.

Full All-NFL team:

2020 PFWA ALL-NFL TEAM
Offense
QB – Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
RB – Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings; Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans*
WR – Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers; Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills
TE – Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
C – Corey Linsley, Green Bay Packers
G – Joel Bitonio, Cleveland Browns; Quenton Nelson, Indianapolis Colts#
T – David Bakhtiari, Green Bay Packers; Jack Conklin, Cleveland Browns

Defense
DE – Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns; Trey Hendrickson, New Orleans Saints
DT – DeForest Buckner, Indianapolis Colts; Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams^
OLB – Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears; T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers*
MLB – Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers
CB – Xavien Howard, Miami Dolphins; Jalen Ramsey, Los Angeles Rams
S – Minkah Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh Steelers*; Tyrann Mathieu, Kansas City Chiefs

Special Teams
PK – Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens#
P – Jake Bailey, New England Patriots
KR – Cordarrelle Patterson, Chicago Bears*
PR – Gunner Olszewski, New England Patriots
ST – George Odum, Indianapolis Colts

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