When I arrived at training camp on Monday, I was a little disappointed to see the team had no shoulder pads or pants. Since I would be reporting on practice, my first reaction was that it would not be as exciting, and to a certain degree it wasn’t as exciting to watch. Just because it was just practice in shorts doesn’t mean that a lot of interesting stuff didn’t happen. The Steelers went into the day off working hard, practicing just as intense. Below I have compiled what I observed Monday afternoon here at St. Vincent College.
At the start of practice, it was good to see Alameda Ta’amu out on the field because he is fighting with Fangupo and Woods for the backup nose tackle position. Practice started out as usual, but Jarvis Jones was spotted running laps around the field. I didn’t see a brace or a wrap of any sort, but he didn’t participate in any of the practice even with no pads on. Adding to the list of people I did not see practicing were Steve McLendon, Troy Polamalu, Plaxico Burress, and Larod Stephens-Howling who could be seen with his leg wrapped.
Matt Spaeth was back at practice after missing a few days, and in warmups, he looked very solid. He would not practice fully, but in previous days, he didn’t practice at all. He did have some sort of sleeve on his right leg.
Speaking of warmups, I thought watching Drew Butler and Brian Moorman basically dual was quite intriguing. It was so back and forth that I couldn’t really tell you who looked better. Moorman was very rusty early on, where he had one or two that he completely shanked. Butler, on the other hand, was Mr. Consistent. He always had booming punts that had good air time. I was surprised by this because last season Butler struggled to be consistent. Moorman would have his ups and downs where he would have a fantastic punt that looked better than Butler’s, but then he would have a punt that didn’t look half as impressive. Really, this punting battle is a good one, and whoever comes out on top will not be just because the other struggled. Both Butler and Moorman are good punters. But, from what I’m seeing, if I was a betting man, I would put my money on Butler. Watching him practice, he looks so determined and focused. You can’t tell he is only in his second year. Drew Butler is much improved from where he was last season.
Practice later moved on to 11 on 11, and there were several things to take away:
-Just because there were no pads didn’t mean the lineman were going to play patty cake. They got after it like everyone had pads on.
-Mike Adams was once again at left tackle, and he looked very natural and solid at the left tackle position. It will be interesting to watch him more with pads on in the preseason. On one play, David Paulson and Adams had a little miscommunication and gave up a sack after several seconds to Cris Carter.
-Speaking of David Paulson, he continues to shine in the passing game, where on the second play of the session, he was wide open over the middle for a 27 yard gain.
-It is often said how tight ends are the Quarterback’s safety blanket and Landry Jones proved this true. He targeted tight end Jamie McCoy three plays in a row.
-The session ended with William Gay making a nice play defending Kashiff Moore, which lead to Coach Tomlin yelling “Nice job two two.”
Special teams were back on after 11 on 11, and Shaun Suisham and Dan Hrapmann alternated kicking. The crowd watched in anticipation, and Hrapmann showed he had a stronger leg, but he was far too inconsistent. Suisham did not always show a lot of power, but at the end of the session, he kicked a 59 yard field goal. Of course the situation will be different in a game, but special teams coach Danny Smith did his best to make it feel like a game. He would yell backwards from 10, and most of the roster surrounded Suisham as he attempted his 59 yard field goal. In all honesty, after the great season Suisham had last season, this battle was over before it even began.
Not long after, the Steelers went to 11 on 11 once again, and this session got quite heated. Below I have listed what I observed:
-To start out, on the first play Ben took two pump fakes and finally threw it to Antonio Brown who made a beautiful one handed catch on the sideline.
-Brown kept things rolling as he was wide open the next play after fooling Ike Taylor. Ike Taylor was quite frustrated and a little scuffle broke out between a few players before it quickly broke up within seconds.
-Even when things went wrong for Brown, he still ended up with the ball. Somehow Stevenson Sylvester ended up covering Brown, which Sylvester did a fantastic job at. He was in tight coverage on Brown and Ben threw the ball, deflecting off of Sylvester, hitting it into the air, and right as it appeared Ike Taylor was going to pick the ball out of the air, Brown snatched it out in front of him. The crowd went crazy after this. Ike Taylor was not happy at all.
-The starters ended with Isaac Redman catching a touchdown in the back of the endzone for a touchdown.
The 2′s were still impressive on offense and defense. Derrick Moye has very soft hands and has created good chemistry with Bruce Gradkowkski. Markus Wheaton also represented well, catching a touchdown accross the middle behind Damon Cromartie-Smith and Shamarko Thomas.
I was the most impressed by Damon Cromartie-Smith. He was all over the field making plays in this session. At one point. Damon Cromartie-Smith jumped the route on Justin Brown, knocking the ball down, and if he was a second earlier, he would have most likely picked the ball off.
The defensive backs continue to go down, with Curtis Brown being the latest, falling down after a painful looking ankle injury. I feel he won’t be out too long because he walked off the field, and I didn’t even know that he got taken off the field on a cart.
Even without pads on, Monday was still a very successful day. Antonio Brown was the star of the day, and he only helped support that fact that I believe he is going to have a hudge season. You can see how dedicated he is when you see him stay after practice and work on catching the ball one handed, catching multiple balls out of a jug machine. I got more and more excited watching Brown, and I hope he can continue this success.
Today on Tuesday, the Steelers did not have practice, but I will be back at practice on Wednesday, with a report coming out Wednesday night. Follow me on Twitter: @NicktheSteelman, as I will be live tweeting before, during, and after practice, letting you know what I am seeing and hearing. Feel free to ask questions below in the comments or on twitter, and I will do my best to answer your questions.