LATROBE, Pa. — It’s not often a professional player can regain the feeling of his high school days. Well, that was the case for the Steelers, who got to practice under the night lights of Latrobe Memorial Stadium on Friday.
Fans packed into the stadium, which sits just about five minutes from St. Vincent College, the team’s normal training camp home.
The Latrobe community provided a homecoming atmosphere for the players, waving at them while they rode in school buses to the field. Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward spoke about the unique experience of practicing on a high school field.
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
One of the few drills of the night saw the running backs put in work before a scrimmage. James Conner looked on as other backs swatted down a medicine ball to warm up.
The highlight of the night became a main event style one-on-one between rookies Devin Bush and Benny Snell. With head coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger screaming in enjoyment, Bush and Snell fought tooth and nail to impress their peers.
Snell managed to get by Bush in their first matchup, which frustrated the linebacker Pittsburgh traded up to draft with the 10th overall pick. But after a brief pep talk from his teammates, Bush came back more focused and got the better of the running back in every other battle. This included Bush incorporating a new spin move that most watching had not seen him employ before.
Despite eventually losing the series, Snell’s toughness and hustle impressed many of the coaches watching.
Mason Rudolph and Josh Dobbs took charge of the Steelers offense with Roethlisberger sitting this practice out. The poor weather conditions and the fact Roethlisberger suffered an injury at this same practice last year likely led to the decision to let the veteran rest.
Both Rudolph and Dobbs threw multiple touchdown passes in the team scrimmage. It was Rudolph leading the first team offense and Dobbs running the second. As he’s been doing all camp, Dionte Johnson continued to perform with a couple catches in the back of the end zone.
Even though the Steelers defensive units got beat up on most of the night, corner Justin Layne was able to get in from of a few balls, including saving a score with a big deflection.
Watch: Steelers LB Ola Adeniyi Surprises Mother with SUV for Birthday
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Olasunkanmi Adeniyi had a big surprise for his mother for her birthday last week.
Adeniyi, who was born in Nigeria and grew up in Texas, posted a video on Friday of him surprising his mother with a Range Rover for her birthday.
Adeniyi, 23, just finished his third season with the Steelers in 2020 after joining the team as an undrafted free agent out of Toledo in 2018.
He got his most extensive playing time this season, appearing in 14% of the team’s defensive snaps after playing just 1% and 6% in his first two seasons. The injury to Bud Dupree opened up more playing time for Adeniyi and rookie Alex Highsmith at outside linebacker. Adeniyi has been a consistent performer on special teams the last two seasons.
Adeniyi is a restricted free agent this offseason and should be expected to earn a raise on his $575,000 salary from this past season.
Jerome Bettis Helps Start Memorial Fund for Family of Tim Lester
Steelers running back Jerome Bettis is trying to help out the family of his former teammate.
Tim Lester, who was Bettis’ teammate and lead blocker with the Steelers and Los Angeles Rams, died this week at the age of 52 due to complications from COVID-19.
After Lester’s death, Bettis started the Tim Lester Family Memorial Fund, and a GoFundMe page that has accumulated over $35,000 worth of donations in just two days.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy and want to support Tim’s wife Natalie and children Tim Jr., Tristan and Tony in any way we can,” Bettis wrote. “I , Jerome Bettis, with the help of my family, friends and former teammates of mine and Tim’s have set up this memorial fund to help the Lester family with funeral costs. We thank you for your thoughts, prayers, well wishes and generous donations in lieu of flowers.”
James Farrior, Joey Porter, Kordell Stewart and Will Wolford are among the former teammates that have contributed.
Report: Ben Roethlisberger Wants JuJu Smith-Schuster to Return to Steelers for 2021
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is expected to return to the team, according to a report by NFL Network, and he apparently also wants wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster to return to the team with him.
NFL Network’s Mike Garafalo reported that Roethlisberger has communicated to the team that he wants Smith-Schuster back for the 2021 season.
Roethlisberger has one season left on his contract, which carries a $41 million cap hit, including $19 million of salary. Smith-Schuster is set to become a free agent for the first time in his career after making $1.04 million in 2020.
Roethlisberger’s contract is a big part of a money crunch that has the Steelers as much as $40 million over the 2021 salary cap entering the offseason.
Smith-Schuster is expected to make as much as $15 million per year on a market-value contract.
It’s not clear how the Steelers would be able to fit both Roethlisberger and Smith-Schuster under the 2021 salary cap. Roethlisberger would almost certainly have to take a significant pay cut.