Steelers secondary moving to a Cover 2 defense?
Perhaps the biggest news coming out of training camp today was that Mike Tomlin was walking his cornerbacks through techniques essential for a Cover-2 defense, which would represent a fairly significant shift for the Black and Gold. In a Cover 0 is essential man-to-man, Cover 1 relies on a free safety playing in a zone from which he can help both CBs, and a Cover 2 drops both safeties back into a zone to cover their respective sides of the field. The Steelers have been running a Cover 3 which requires the corners and free safety to all play deeper, while the strong safety can serve as an extra linebacker playing closer to the line of scrimmage.
The success of a Cover 2 is predicated on the ability of the guys up front to execute an effective pass rush, while the linebackers drop back into zones. One major advantage of the Cover 2 is that there is the potential for effective coverage underneath while the safeties play deeper. This scheme could play to the strengths of Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier, and rookie Bud Dupree, while accounting for the loss of the magical, dynamic playing style of Troy Polamalu.
Tomlin was a defensive guy before he came to the Steelers and abdicated control of the defense to defensive guru and legend Dick LeBeau. Now that LeBeau is gone, Tomlin seems to be taking advantage of the transition period to introduce the defense he ran at Minnesota and Tampa Bay. What is another team ran the Cover-2? The legendary Steelers defensive units of the 1970's.
The Steelers do not plan on implementing Cover 2 immediately. Coach Tomlin stated, via Steelers.com, "We're going to build this but we're not going to build it all today."
Mike Tomlin speaks to the media, comments on the defense
Mike Tomlin appeared pleased with his team's performance today at practice, though in classic Mike Tomlin fashion, he did not speak in hyperbole. When asked if he was pleased with the defense, he said, "Day two, they are working. I'm not trying to convince myself that they are good. They are working."
Tomlin was not disappointed with Cortez Allen today, saying, "(Allen) made some plays obviously.... thus far I' am liking the way he has stepped up to it." A competent, play-making Cortez Allen could be a strong asset for the Steelers ailing secondary.
Ben Roethlisberger comments on the offense
Tomlin described Roethlisberger as "ready to go as always." What did the in-shape quarterback have to say about the offense? First, he is not resting on his laurels, commenting, "We just have to work our butts off to be the best that we can be." He also expressed faith in Martavis Bryant who added 20 lbs to his frame this year, saying, "I'm going to count on him in the no-huddle. Last year he'd ask everyone what to do. Now we feel more comfortable with him knowing what to do. Hopefully he'll be able to translate that into playing faster."
Roethlisberger also emphasized several times the importance of keeping the teams healthy and his desire to achieve offensive coordinator Todd Haley's goal of averaging 30 points per game. Big Ben said, "It's what our offensive coordinator set as a goal for us, so that's what we're going to try and do."
Defensive players have big goals for this season
CB William Gay described a source of motivation for the Steelers defense: "Just losing in the playoffs puts a chip on your shoulder. We have unfinished business." Fellow CB Cortez Allen's comment about regrouping after a bad play could also apply on a larger scale to the Steelers defense coming back after the upsetting playoff loss. He said, "There's no perfect. You win some and you lose some. That's something that Coach LeBeau always said. (What matters) is how you react to it, how you bounce back is what defines you."
DE Cameron Heyward has been impressed with Stephon Tuitt's progress, saying, "He's light years ahead of where he was last year. Now, he's just looking to take it out on the field. He didn't work that hard in the offseason for nothing. He put the work in and he's more confident in the plays. He's learning how to not only get himself set, but others as well."
More injuries & players sitting out
Safety Ross Ventrone left practice with a lower leg injury, having sustained direct contact to his lower leg during practice. Tight end Cameron Clear seemed to suffer a heat-related ailment and left the field as well.
There is not much new to report on Mike Adams, Senquez Golson, Brad Gradkowski, Maurkice Pouncey, and Shawn Lemon. Rookie CB Golson revealed to Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, "Just taking everything cautious right now. I don't know exactly what's going to happen, but just playing it day by day." We also know, per the same source, that Mike Adams is walking around, but could not stand on the sidelines for the whole practice. That is not a big shocker since his entire recovery is estimated to take around a month.
Mike Tomlin protected James Harrison from himself again today, while Matt Spaeth was seen on the sidelines, not the field, doing some conditioning work.
Tuesday the players have a day off. Wednesday they will don pads and play some real football. The temperatures at training camp have been oppressive, so players should enjoy a day off to regroup, recover, and mentally prepare for Wednesday.