As has become tradition since I started dating my girlfriend almost three years ago, we made the trip to Latrobe on Wednesday to take in a day of Steelers training camp. My brother came along with us this time, and since it was his first trip to Latrobe, he really had a great time.
Wednseday was a pretty rainy day, and the players practiced in only shoulder pads and shorts. It wasn't maybe the greatest day for observations, but below, I will give my untrained opinions on some of the players that I watched during the 2 1/2 hour practice.
Since it was just pads and shorts, naturally, there was very little contact, so my observations are on the offensive side of the ball. It's not very easy to play defense when you're not allowed to make contact, and no defensive player really did much of note.
-There was a receiver who really stood out to me because he seemed to catch everything thrown his way. Since he wore number 14, I thought it was Limas Sweed. He didn't look very tall, however, and I just had a hunch it wasn't Sweed. I couldn't find a roster-guide when I got to camp, so I had to wait until I got home to find out the receiver's identity. I was hoping it was Sweed because I really want to see him succeed, but as it turned out, the guy's name is Armand Robinson, a rookie free agent from Miami of Ohio. At 6'1, he's your typical "smurfish" Steelers receiver, but I think he's worth keeping an eye on in the upcoming preseason games.
-Speaking of Sweed (now number 80), he didn't look too bad in some of the drills I saw him participate in. Limas didn't stand out, but then again, I didn't realize I was watching him, so it's hard to say.
-Antonio Brown is lightning-fast. There weren't very many "oohs and aahs" during Wednesday's practice, but Brown provided a couple while returning kickoffs during special teams drills. It's safe to say he's the front-runner to be the primary returner this year on both kickoffs and punts.
-Mike Wallace didn't look his sharpest as he dropped a couple of passes throughout the day, but it's early, he's human. On the positive side, Roethisberger hit him in-stride on a deep pass. That was certainly a great sight to see. I think Wallace is going to pick-up right where he left-off last season.
-Speaking of drops, Heath Miller didn't drop a single ball the entire day. He was a machine. He ran crisp routes and seemed to have great timing with Roethlisberger. But what else is new?
-I'm not one of those members of Steeler Nation who thinks Isaac Redman is the next Jim Brown, but I must say, he did look really sharp coming out of the backfield on passing downs and, in person, looked faster than I ever imagined.
--Speaking of fast, Rashard Mendenhall is indeed that. He made several defenders look silly both on running drills and on passes out of the backfield.
-Everyone's rookie sensation, one Baron Batch, also looked very good, and it wouldn't surprise me if he's this year's version of Isaac Redman in-terms of universal fan-support.
These were just some of my observations. Again, I'm no expert, and what I might see as great through my untrained eye, the coaches might see as mediocre.
Plus, it's always hard to get a feel for anything during a practice with minimal contact, and the offense is always going to look superior in that setting.
Someone pointed out how massive Jonathon Scott looks this season, and I second that. I don't know what he did this offseason, but he looks great. Hopefully, Scott's new-and-improved physique will translate into even better play at the left-tackle position.
For the third year in a row, Troy Polamalu did not participate in a practice that I attended. I know he's been nursing that Achilles injury, but he has been practicing off-and-on from what I undersand, and I was hoping to finally see him in-action. Life's all about timing, I guess.
All-in-all, a fun day at Latrobe.
I'll leave you with one last observation: There was an older gentleman taking in practice with his grandson. The offensive players were going through drills on the left side of the field, and the defensive players were doing drills on the right. The guy pointed this out to his grandson and added: "The sissies are on the left, and the tough guys are on the right."
Gotta love that old Steeler fan mentality.