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Steelers Training Camp Takeaways: Green Goes Off Again, Warren Blasts Backers



Steelers Kendrick Green

UNITY TWP., Pa. — The Pittsburgh Steelers went in full pads for the second straight day, as head coach Mike Tomlin returned from the Hall of Fame ceremony in Canton, Ohio that caused him to miss Friday night’s practice and immediately put his charges back to work.

Practice in pads always causes additional storylines, and this one had a bumper crop, so let’s dive in.

First and most importantly, Minkah Fitzpatrick is back. The starting safety returned and was a limited participant, working only in individual periods and during a late-practice 7 on 7 run.

Fitzpatrick spent a week away from the team while dealing with a family issue. He said he was appreciative of the opportunity to be with his family for a few days, thanking Mike Tomlin. Fitzpatrick and Tomlin both said they expect him to be a full participant later this week.

Seven Shots

The first-team offense had a sloppy start to seven shots, but still got two wins.

The first rep had Kenny Pickett looking for George Pickens in the back right corner of the end zone, but the ball was overthrown. Patrick Peterson had solid coverage. Pickett had a number of overthrown balls on Saturday, something that has been unusual for him this camp. He didn’t throw a single pass in a team period on Friday night that wasn’t caught.

The second rep was a familiar bugaboo for the Steelers defense. Matt Canada and company cooked up a route concept that got Diontae Johnson matched up against inside linebacker Elandon Roberts in a flat zone. That went predictably. Johnson was about five yards open when he scored.

The third rep saw Pickett hold the ball for quite some time before throwing incomplete to his left, looking for Allen Robinson II. But a flag on the play may have revealed why he held the ball. Cole Holcomb was penalized for defensive passive interference away from the play.

On the final first-team rep, Pickett used an empty set and looked to his left for Pat Freiermuth in the back of the end zone, but overthrew him as well. James Pierre was in coverage.

The second team offense fared better. Mitch Trubisky found Calvin Austin on the right for a touchdown in front of Duke Dawson.

The following rep, the Steelers ran Gunner Olszewksi in jet action to the left of the formation, Trubisky faked a handoff to Anthony McFarland, then bootlegged into the right and McFarland slid out into the flat in front of him for one easy pitch and catch touchdown in front of Nick Kwiatkoski.

On the final rep, Trubisky looked for Miles Boykin, but new safety Trenton Thompson made a play on the ball and broke it up.

The offense wins the day, 4-3 and wins in back-to-back practices for the first time this camp.

Backs on Backers

Darnell Washington was the star of the show in the first backs on backers drill, stunning the training camp crowd by walling off T.J. Watt.

Watt got some revenge, winning the first rep against Washington. After that, the rookie took on some competitors more of his own experience level. He stonewalled rookie free agent David Perales twice, and went two for three against fourth-rounder Nick Herbig, though it should be noted that Herbig’s win was among the cleanest of the entire period.
The running backs had a strong day, too, with Najee Harris holding his own in a three-rep set against Kwon Alexander, and Jaylen Warren delivering the biggest fireworks of the drill. He went two reps against Elandon Roberts, who Warren said is the hardest-hitting of the team’s inside linebackers.

After a solid win in the first rep, Tomlin lined them back up again and Warren dominated, finishing the rep with Roberts on his backside.

Warren was chastised afterward by Tomlin for what Tomlin said was taunting for standing over the felled linebacker. Warren won’t be able to make that mistake in a game, but his pass blocking prowess is at the top of the game right now, and he showed it with a big win over the top dog on the Steelers defense.

Steelers Kendrick Green

Pittsburgh Steelers center/fullback Kendrick Green celebrates catching a pass at training camp, Aug. 5, 2023. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Big Fella Back for More

The first team period of the day after seven shots featured a surprise. After saying on Friday night that his stint as a fullback might be for one night only, Kendrick Green was back on the field as a fullback, and not only that, working with the first team.

Green worked through the first and second team as a fullback before returning to center for some third team reps. He didn’t deliver a block as thundering as his colossal hit on Toby Ndukwe in Latrobe on Friday, but he did one even better for the capacity crowd at St. Vincent College.

Green leaked out to the right, took a play-action pass from Mason Rudolph, ran through linebacker Tanner Muse, putting his off hand down on the ground to keep his feet and rumbled for a 10-yard gain.
He looked like a late-career Jerome Bettis out there. The idea that Green could be a regular contributor at fullback has gone from something funny Vince Williams said on Twitter once, to something fun they did for practice one time, to a legitimate part of the offense at warp speed. At this point, put him in ink as the backup center and sometimes fullback.

Mark Robinson Meets His Twin

Steelers alum Vince Williams was at practice on Saturday, and he stopped by to chat with Mark Robinson, who he called his “twin.”

Robinson went 1-1 against Anthony McFarland in backs on backers, but had a very un-Vince Williams-like rep in a team period. Covering Connor Heyward down the seam, the ball was underthrown, but Robinson fought through Heyward to make the interception against the back of the tight end.

Robinson has done well against the run, getting playing time late last season against run-heavy teams like the Baltimore Ravens. Him making plays in pass coverage is a very good sign for his continued development.

Up and Down for 83

Heyward would have obviously liked to have that one not go for an interception, and after a fumble earlier his week, it’s easy to get down about his recent play.

But Heyward was also strong in backs on backers, handily winning his reps, and then got to carry the ball as an H-back later in practice. He looked good winding through would-be tacklers for about a seven-yard gain.

Heyward’s skillset is not complete, but things he’s good at — catching the ball and running with the ball — make him pretty useful right now and give potential for more.

Pickens Seeks Knowledge, Delivers Highlight

In one team period, Allen Robinson II beat Joey Porter Jr. on a textbook move to fight to a back shoulder ball from Pickett. Robinson definitely had his hands on Porter, but the officials working practice did not deem it flag-worthy.

A few days ago, Pickens was flagged for OPI on a similar pass. So he went over to the officials to find out why he was flagged and Robinson wasn’t, with the officials taking time to explain that his full arm extension away from his body was what drew the flag, while Robinson kept his arms tucked tight to his side while shoving off from Porter.
It’s cool to see Pickens seeking out information in that way and trying to hone his craft and not just get upset about calls going against him.

Later in practice, he just casually put Levi Wallace on a poster for a touchdown, skying into the air for the ball and landing right inside the end line. He really is an alien.

Steelers DL Cam Heyward

Steelers defensive captain Cam Heyward shouts at training camp practice, Aug. 5, 2023. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Old Head Still Got It

While a seven on seven drill was happening on field one, the offensive and defensive lines were working on double team drills, with two lineman blocking one defender for a pass rush.
Cam Heyward was pitted against the mixed-up pairing of second-team tackle Broderick Jones and third-team guard Bill Dunkel. He decimated them physically in the first rep, with one lineman ending up flying over the back of the other. In the second, he knifed into the gap in between the two.

Hayward has been quiet this camp. He doesn’t take that many reps and probably does not even need to be here. But it’s good to show every once in a while that the youngsters still have a ways to go to be on his level.

Full House

The Steelers offer 15,000 free tickets for each practice at St. Vincent College. All were claimed on Saturday, and while there were probably some no-shows, it still made for an incredible atmosphere.

Even 30 minutes after practice, the fence line was still full of autograph seekers, and some of them were rewarded with a Pickett script.


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