Tucked in the valley, in Western Pennsylvania, lies the hidden practice fields, filled with players, coaches, and fans of the Steelers. I haven’t been in Latrobe for three years, but the moment I drove past St. Vincent college, it felt like I had never left. Upon my first day of arriving, not only did I get autographs, I also got a chance to watch practice and takes some notes.
I haven’t been able to watch the team since Todd Haley was brought aboard, but right away, I noticed Haley was the boss when it came to offensive drills, and he was very hands on with everything he did. I was much more impressed with him than I was when I watched Arians. I was lucky enough to have met the entire coaching staff today, and a few things that stood out:
1. Coach Wilson still wears gloves similar to his skin color to cover up the burns after surviving the fire at the end of the 2011 season.
2. Coach Lebeau is old, but he seems much younger than a guy that is almost 80. He has always been a very respectable guy, and it showed since he shook my hand.
3. You can’t help but like Coach Danny Smith. I only spoke with him for about 30 seconds, but it didn’t take long to get a feel for how passionate he is in just about everything he does. Very friendly guy who isn’t afraid to say what he is thinking.
4. Even the coaches have a PUP list. Coach Mann had a severe limp, so he was not quite as hands on as a younger guy like Haley is. Best wishes to Coach Mann with his knee.
While the coaching staff was interesting, practice was much more intriguing. While watching walk throughs, I couldn’t help but notice just how tall Le’Veon Bell is. You wouldn’t think he’s a running back. He looks much more like a smaller tight end. During walk throughs, Haley and Coach Mann got on the case of WR David Gilreath for not correctly running a route. I couldn’t help but notice throughout the day what sticklers Haley and Mann were with the little things.
One of the most impressive areas for me was the offensive line. The starting five look quite sharp. You can tell they have a close group. As you have most likely heard, the rest of the offensive line has a big question mark. I did like what I saw in individual drills from Malecki, as I saw good technique. While none of the starters looked bad, if I had to peg the guy who didn’t look as good as the others, it would be Marcus Gilbert. I don’t think that moving Adams to left tackle is just “testing things out.” After an impressive showing from Mike Adams on Sunday, I feel like he very well could be here to stay on the blind side. He looked much better than last year, both in pass and run blocking. He is one guy I am looking forward to watching more of this week.
Usually you think of offensive lineman being slower, and having some more girth. David DeCastro basically defies both of these generalizations. I was very impressed by DeCastro’s ability to move, and move very fast. Pouncey looks like the usual Pouncey, and Foster has looked solid as well. Jack Bicknell Jr. is doing a very nice job of whipping these boys into shape.
Another group I was very impressed with was the wide receivers. Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders look fantastic. They are both extremley quick and I didn’t see any dropped balls between the two during the time I was watching. I was actually impressed with most of the receivers and how well they were able to catch almost everything. The funny thing was, one time Jones was in at QB and on a timing pattern, he was quite a ways off of WR Justin Brown, which as most of you know, they were college teammates.
Unfortunately I had to leave early today, so I missed a good chunk of 11 on 11 and other match up driven drills. I will say though that this hitting the Steelers are doing gets the whole crowd excitied. Practice is just so much more intense and fun to watch with all the hitting. Baron Batch got piled on one play, and at first it looked like he may have hurt himself, but he just had to shake it off after he got hit quite hard. On top of that, on another play, the hole in the middle close up so he bounce outside for a 11 yard gain.
Training camp is fast paced and seemed very productive. I do have to say I think the agility drills the Steelers are doing every day are only going to make things better for the Steelers. Coach Tomlin watched closely and you could hear him at all times. Cam Heyward came through a little slow, so Tomlin yelled “Hey Cam don’t kill the drill!”
Several players such as Jarvis Jones and Le’Veon Bell sat out most of practice so I was not able to watch them, but as soon as they get back on the field, I will be watching very close. I will be posting each night after training camp, so make sure to check Nice Pick Cowher every night this week. Make sure to Follow me on Twitter since I will be live tweeting during practice this week, and feel free to ask me questions about what I am seeing at camp.