PITTSBURGH – He was thrust into the middle of the offensive line while Chuks Okorafor was banged up at the beginning of training camp. However, Dan Moore Jr.’s experience when facing Alex Highsmith and Melvin Ingram began as a rough one. Moore was consistently beat in team drills. He had some solid reps in the one-on-one portion of drills at training camp, but that seemingly never translated over to the actual live portion of practice.
On Sunday, it seemed that Moore finally put a lot of things together in that portion of practice. He clearly has some sort of nasty mentality in individual drills even when going up against linemen holding hand shields. In the team period of practice, Moore blew up the left side of the defensive line, thus clearing a massive hole for Anthony McFarland to scamper 35 yards downfield through.
However, it was Moore’s work in the two-minute drill that was most impressive. Facing Highsmith and Ingram in that portion of practice, Moore still had one rep where Ingram ran right through him. Luckily, aside from that, Moore was impressive against Highsmith and Ingram. It was not just that Moore was holding up, he was not giving up ground to Highsmith or Ingram on a good number of reps. It is good to see this progression out of Moore.
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.
🏈: The Steelers came into the seven shots period in the pistol. Ben Roethlisberger had Najee Harris behind him, with Pat Freiermuth as the H-Back. On the snap, it was a play-action pass, Roethlisberger scanned the field and found an open Diontae Johnson peaking open on the drag route for the touchdown.
🏈: Harris gets motioned out into the boundary and they run two condensed stack sets on both sides of the formation. Both stack sets get natural pick plays with quick slants inside of the tackles. After a natural pick from Freiermuth, JuJu Smith-Schuster caught the ball on the slant for a touchdown.
🏈: The Steelers worked into shotgun and tried to target the bunch set on the left side of the field. Joe Haeg failed to pick Ingram as a free blitzer and he would have gotten a sack on Roethlisberger. However, the play went on and Roethlisberger hit Smith-Schuster who made a toe-tapping grab for a touchdown near the pylon.
🏈: The Steelers worked into empty with Anthony McFarland motioned out of the backfield. Mason Rudolph came into the game and immediately found an open Anthony Johnson on a little hitch route for the touchdown. Kevin Dotson came in on this play but was with the twos.
🏈: Jaylen Samuels came in and ran a quick short drag out of the backfield. Rudolph tried to hit him near the goal line, but Buddy Johnson stood tall and stuck with Samuels for a pass breakup. A solid play in coverage by the rookie linebacker.
🏈: John Leglue throws the ball by the wayside of Dwayne Haskins. Haskins then had to pick it up and tried to fire it to Rico Bussey in the corner of the endzone. However, Quincy Roche got his hands up and batted the football down for the incompletion.
🏈: With Matthew Sexton isolated to the far right side, Haskins looked for the Eastern Michigan product in the back of the endzone on a fade route. However, Mark Gilbert had tight coverage and gave no room for Sexton to gain any separation. Even still, Haskins sailed the ball a little bit too much and it fell incomplete.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM TEs AND RBs VS LBs
McFarland put on a bit of a show in this arena. The most impressive rep of his was easily when he smoked Calvin Bundage deep. McFarland discarded Bundage’s hands at the line of scrimmage and hit the gas from there. The throw was a little bit out in front, but McFarland worked back towards the football to make a diving catch. On a texas route against Johnson, McFarland smoked Johnson out of his shoes for an easy catch.
Speaking of Johnson, he was rather poised in the drill itself as well. Kevin Rader tried to fake Johnson out on an out-and-up double move, but Johnson was sticking right in the hip pocket of Rader. When Derek Watt took a try against Johnson, he got his hands in at the catch point and forced a pass breakup.
Zach Gentry made a few impressive catches. Due to his sheer size, the quarterbacks just loft the jump balls up for him to go get. He made a pretty catch over Ulysees Gilbert III near the field side of Heinz Field. Perhaps the most bizarre moment of the day was when he beat Cam Heyward in coverage. Heyward clearly just wanted to try it out, and he was actually in relatively decent coverage. Gentry simply elevated over him.
On the linebacker side, though, Robert Spillane had his best of training camp. He blanketed Freiermuth on a seam route and forced an incompletion. On another rep, Gentry tried to elevate over Spillane, but Spillane knocked the ball out at the catch point. It was a promising showing for Spillane in coverage.
Eric Ebron got Terrell Edmunds to come over for a rep. Roethlisberger threaded the needle to Ebron who made a great leaping grab over Edmunds. It really was not bad coverage, but more so an impressive connection between Roethlisberger and Ebron on the play.
MINKAH FITZPATRICK GROWING AS A LEADER
As everyone was coming onto the field, Minkah Fitzpatrick was the first defensive player on the field. As he has done every day, Fitzpatrick worked on the JUGs machine to improve his hands. Previously, he had been the only defensive back out there working on the machine. However, on Sunday, Tre Norwood and Arthur Maulet came out with Fitzpatrick to work on the machine.
Fitzpatrick seemed to be waiting for the pair to come out and was naturally elated when he saw those guys come out. It seems that Fitzpatrick is starting to rub off on some of the newer defensive backs coming into the Steelers locker room.