UNITY TWP., Pa. — The Steelers continued training camp, and as it winds down into the team’s final week in Latrobe, there are only two more practices left on the schedule. But that does not mean these practices are not continually valuable given their structure and how much they reveal about the growth of individual players, such as Broderick Jones. So, what did we learn on Tuesday?
First Rep: Diontae Johnson runs a yo-yo motion and they find out it is man coverage. Kenny Pickett checks the play, and it turns out to be inside zone. Najee Harris is to his left. James Daniels clears out that side and Harris hurdles into the endzone with ease. 1-0 offense.
Second Rep: Anthony McFarland starts out wide but shack motions back into the backfield. He is beside Pickett. Pickett steps back to pass and has Pat Freiermuth breaking open on a slant route against Kwon Alexander. But the ball is a little too far out in front and it falls incomplete. Tied 1-1.
Third Rep: Pickett now has Harris come in from the side of the shack motion to his right. Allen Robinson is out wide as the X-receiver to the left. He is matched up against Levi Wallace and Pickett decides to try a fade route to Robinson. But it is good coverage and falls incomplete. Defense 2-1.
Fourth Rep: The Steelers have a 2×2 set and Connor Heyward motions across the formation. George Pickens runs a slant route and Joey Porter Jr. is on him. The pass comes out on time, but Porter Jr. uses his length to get in there and breaks it up. The secondary is hyped. Defense 3-1.
Fifth Rep: Mitch Trubisky comes onto the field with Warren to his left. Heyward is most inside receiver to a 3×1 formation to the field side. Kenny Robinson matches up against Heyward, but he shakes him and makes him look silly on an out and up. Touchdown. Defense 3-2.
Sixth Rep: The Steelers now align with a 3×1 formation to the boundary. Rodney Williams is the most inside receiver and runs a return motion. Trubisky steps back to pass and fires it to Williams on a three-step drop for the touchdown. Tied 3-3.
Seventh Rep: Mike Tomlin wants the first-team offense and defense back on the field for the deciding rep. The Steelers align out of a stack to the field side with Johnson off the line and Robinson on the line. Johnson runs a pivot route and Pickett finds him on time. Offense wins 4-3.
Alright, I love the linemen drills, so let’s talk about some of them. There were two drills of these. The traditional one-on-ones and then a drill where they blocked outside zone and the linemen had to work against it. So, let me break down both of these drills in a way that can paint a picture of what happened.
– Broderick Jones and his stock continue to climb. Against Nick Herbig three times, I would say Jones won at least two of the three, and you could argue he won the third. Certainly, he won the first one, where Jones ran Herbig all the way around the arc. His foot speed matches Herbig’s explosiveness. That in and of itself is a sight to watch. The next time, Herbig did a job dipping and ripping. The quarterback did not get touched, so you can argue that is a win for Jones. But the third rep was the best rep. Herbig attempted his spin move to the inside thinking that Jones would overset, but he grab Herbig perfectly by the inside of his pads with great punch timing. His pass protection is starting to look better. He’s not completely there yet, but his growth is starting to show up.
– I love Breiden Fehoko and his niche. Good luck trying to seal this guy off or scoop block him. He destroyed all three reps he went into during the outside zone period. The last of the three was emphatic. Fehoko threw the center to the ground and ripped through to stop the play in its tracks. The first rep, he drove the center back into the quarterback. He is fantastic at eating blocks and destroying double teams. His niche is right there, and it’s clear.
– Kendrick Green had a good showing in these drills. The outside zone runs feel obvious, as Green is at his best when he is in space and climbing to the second level. Today, he got asked to face Jonathan Marshall and Manny Jones, and Green did a nice job anchoring against both of them and their bull rushes. Obviously, it does not wholly make up for what we saw on Friday, but it is nice to see Green bouncing back.
– Spencer Anderson got reps at center today, and that included the team period with Nate Herbig sitting down with a shoulder ailment. There were some growing pains. At times, Anderson would snap the ball before the cadence or miscommunicate with the rest of the offensive line and not snap it. But overall, it was not a bad day. It takes quick hand usage to fit in at center, and I thought Anderson had that. His snaps were clean and accurate. Going against a number of linemen, Anderson never truly got pushed back into the pocket. At tackle, David Perales got one on him with a dip-and-rip, but that was really the only blemish. It was a good day, but one with growing pains, as expected.
– Armon Watts and Montravius Adams are intriguing names. They’re both competing for that seventh defensive line spot and it makes things a lot tougher to project. Nose tackle, in general, is a loaded position on this team. But Watts can play some sub-package rusher as well, so that changes the complexity and landscape of where things are. I will say, both looked good in their reps today. Adams, in particular, had a rep where he stunned Kevin Dotson backward. Watts has a great cross-chop-rip combination that wins in these periods a lot.
– T.J. Watt and Chuks Okorafor went at it for three reps. Okorafor won this best of three, winning two of them. The first was Okorafor stunning a bull rush and anchoring down. Next, Watt stunned Okorafor with a ghost move. But lastly, Watt tried a spin move on Okorafor, and Okorafor but him into the ground. I thought that was particularly impressive. Good for Okorafor, who really gets up for those battles.
– Isaac Seumalo had an impressive rep to anchor down against Cam Heyward’s bull rush. They only went at it once, but man, it stuck out as a big-time rep for Seumalo. He continues to be solid.
Inside Run Notes
Today, we saw a lot of runs in team periods. It was certainly more so than most days, and that made me curious to really comb through these periods. We got an entire 10 minutes of inside run with some screens spruced into that period. But moreover, we got even more of that in general team periods.
– Jaylen Warren is an absolute magician. There was one play where he was swarmed by three different guys in the B-gap, but somehow came out of it and got ten or so yards out of nothing. That is impressive, to say the least. There may have been one play the entire period where it was a negative play where Warren was in there. He is such a fun, productive running back with significant traits.
– Watts actually got some first-team run. With Keeanu Benton and Larry Ogunjobi out, they gave some reps to the veteran Watts, who has certainly been around and seen things before. Overall, he looked solid. I am still trying to figure out how this defensive line room shakes out. Right now, I see a lot of people discounting Watts making this football team. I’m not sure why that is generally. He could easily make it.
– This is just a fun note, but the team ran a screen pass to Darnell Washington. It actually went for about 20 yards, too. How do you genuinely stop a man of that size who is rumbling down the sideline? It’s tough, and Matt Canada has it in the playbook. Great blocking out in front by Dylan Cook on this play.
– Quincy Roche was absolutely everywhere. The Steelers offensive line had no way to stop him from taking over this drill. I thought that was something that really struck me right away. Roche knifed through for a tackle for loss against Le’Raven Clark. The next play was a play-action pass, and Roche used his bend around the edge to get a would-be sack. It was Roche’s best day at training camp so far.
– The Steelers will have an above-average guard duo. I think James Daniels could be in line for a big season. Seumalo is just the steady guy who clears lanes. Both of them did some serious road work today in these periods. The depth here is pretty great as well. The Steelers are fine with what they have.
– Mark Robinson destroyed Jones on a crack toss. Anthony McFarland ended up getting about 7 yards because he got to the edge, but Robinson played one-hundred miles per hour and cracked Jones into the grow. It was a loud collision, but one that welcomed Jones to the physicality of the Steelers linebackers. Speaking of that, Elandon Roberts just makes plays. He does not get that much run in team periods, but when he does, the man knifes through consistently.
A short one in here for today, but it was not a great day for the offense in general. Kenny Pickett did look like the best quarterback. But he was not sharp in seven shots. Overall, he did look good outside of that, though, but the same can not be said for Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph. Trubisky threw two interceptions, including a really bad one to Elijah Riley. Meanwhile, Rudolph seemed off the mark more often than not.
The offense, as a result, looked rather pedestrian and only okay at best. It was the worst day for the offense in about a week and a half or so. Maybe it was the team run heavy stuff that did not allow them to get into a rhythm. The secondary was feeling themselves all of practice, though. It ended up with three straight pass breakups from Minkah Fitzpatrick, Patrick Peterson, and Levi Wallace. Fitzpatrick’s, specifically, was on George Pickens. The defense got fired up for that one.