PITTSBURGH — Mason Rudolph struggled under the Friday night lights, and on Saturday afternoon, he was no longer the unquestioned backup to Ben Roethlisberger. As the Steelers went through team reps, it was clear that Haskins and Rudolph were no longer differentiated, but in fact, were splitting reps. Haskins had a bit of an off-day, including an interception and a few overthrows, but Rudolph did nothing to capitalize off some of the struggles Haskins showed.
Still, when it came time for the two-minute drill, Roethlisberger went first. Usually, it would then go to Rudolph after that. Instead, Haskins stepped up and took the second team down the field for a touchdown drive. It concluded with a dart across the middle to Ray-Ray McCloud for a twenty-yard gain. The next play, Haskins scanned the field and found a wide-open Anthony McFarland on a wheel route. McFarland hit the gas and took it to the endzone.
It was the first day in which Haskins took a rep with players outside of the third-team offense. Rudolph still had his fair share of reps, however, Haskins is clearly growing in favor of the Steelers. Rudolph’s rough camp has him falling out of favor.
Seven shots is a daily set of players from the two-yard line, featuring the Steelers No. 1 offense vs. No. 1 defense for three plays, No. 2 offense vs. No. 2 defense for two plays and the No. 3 offense vs. No. 3 defense for two plays.
🏈: Chase Claypool and James Pierre squared off on the outside, but this time it was not on a fade route to Claypool. Matt Canada calls on 11 personnel out of empty. The Steelers instead ran Claypool on a quick slant. Claypool attacked Pierre’s back shoulder and dismantled the attempt at press coverage. However, the ball went through Claypool’s hands for an incompletion.
🏈: The Steelers spread out the defense in a 2×2 formation. Mason Rudolph scans the field and tries to look for James Washington, but he is taken away from the play by Miles Killebrew. Rudolph then throws the ball to JuJu Smith-Schuster in the back of the endzone, but Joe Haden has air-tight coverage and forces the incompletion.
🏈: Yet again, the Steelers work from a shotgun look. They send Diontae Johnson in motion and he comes across the middle of the field on a drag route at the goal line. Minkah Fitzpatrick is in coverage and attempts to jump it. However, it falls right through Johnson’s hands for a bad drop.
🏈: Haskins is on for his first rep and they run a shovel option with Benny Snell as the back and Kevin Rader as the shovel inside. Rader gets the shovel, but Buddy Johnson comes down to stick him at the line. Isaiahh Loudermilk and Tre Norwood join in on the tackle to bring Rader down short of the goal line.
🏈: The Steelers get free pressure up the middle from Johnson on a twist with Carlos Davis. Haskins is pressured and throws an errant pass off his back foot intended for Rader. Pierre jumps it and takes it all the way back for a touchdown. His second straight day with such a play.
🏈: Josh Dobbs enters the fray with Kalen Ballage to his left. He wants to hit Rico Bussey in the back of the end zone, but he is covered up by Stephen Denmark. Dobbs works back to his far left and finds an open Ballage leaking out of the backfield for a touchdown.
🏈: Dobbs now motions Ballage out of the backfield to the slot in an empty formation. Out of a 3×2 set, Ballage gets a natural pick on the play via the route concepts. Ballage peaks open at the goal line, and Dobbs fires it to him for a touchdown.
TIGHT ENDS VS LINEBACKERS HIGHLIGHTS
The Steelers put the tight ends against the linebackers today in what was a canceled portion of the Friday night lights practice due to tight end injuries. It was clear from the start that Tomlin was keeping a close eye on the drill. He was personally standing by and watching it all unfold.
Pat Freiermuth and Alex Highsmith were the big matchups of the day. Highsmith beat Freiermuth with a great chop-rip move. He started to bend his body around the arc, but Freiermuth got away with a clear hold in order to stop the momentum. On another rep, Highsmith ran through Freiermuth. However, Freiermuth did get the last laugh. As Highsmith tried to set the edge, Freiermuth turned him and easily won the rep.
Jamir Jones had a couple of nice reps as well. Rader was a victim to Jones’ long arm that really stunned Rader back and nearly off his feet. As for Jones’ next victim, Zach Gentry, he was the victim of Jones’ bull rush. Jones has a lot of pop in his hands and really stunned Gentry backward.
Speaking of Gentry, aside from that one rep, he had a pretty nice showing in this drill. On one play, he washed Jamar Watson off to the sideline completely. When Quincy Roche came to try and bull-rush through Gentry, he held up well and anchored down. Gentry’s hand placement and core strength seem much improved heading into Year 2.
Roche was also a standout in that drill. Facing Rader and Baugh a few times, Roche showcased his array of pass rush moves. His rip and dip are smooth. Roche pulled out a nasty cross chop-rip combination that got Rader leaning forward and Roche simply zoomed on by.
NAJEE DOES IT HIMSELF
The Steelers ragtag group of offensive linemen struggled on Saturday. However, with so many injuries to that line, that should come as little surprise. Harris, though, made a statement. He stiff-armed Cam Heyward in the backfield on one play. On another, he broke a tackle attempt from Highsmith, then cut inside to shimmy out of Cam Sutton’s tackle attempt.
This was a day where Harris was creating something out of nothing consistently. The Steelers simply lacked the high-end ability to create as a running back room last year with James Conner’s injuries and the inconsistent play behind him. So, to see Harris going out and playing as he has is a boost to the Steelers.
The most consistent receiver who has stuck out in a good way at camp this year is easily Johnson. Not only has he been especially impressive in the one-on-one receiver drills, but Johnson has dusted everyone any chance he has received in the team period.
Making a leaping catch from Roethlisberger against Pierre today might just be the highlight of his entire day. However, he also caught Roethlisberger’s out-of-structure scramble for a touchdown. All-day, even when he was not targeted, Johnson was somehow open. His one drop was his only blemish. The drops are infuriating, but he makes it so clear why he is a great talent.
The Steelers finally gave a rip to the dime defense in today’s seven-on-seven period. The starting Steelers defense dime kicked Sutton inside in favor of Pierre on the boundary. Haden was to the field side with Brooks working in the slot. Just like any year, they were going through their deep third rotations. Overall, the dime defense looked good, but Sutton still working in his usual dimebacker role.