The Steelers were back on the field after having their mandatory day off. One thing for certain, even with the day off, today’s practice was perhaps their most eventful yet.
Here is a summary of what took place.
Notable Absences and Returns
One of the biggest stories at camp were the players that were absent. Both Cameron Heyward and Antonio Brown were not present at camp, as both of the we busy welcoming their new children into the world. Late Tuesday, Brown welcomed his fifth child; while Heyward welcomed his second child.
Steelers rookie James Conner was present at camp but did not participate in any of the drills, yet his presence was a good sign that he was on the right track. Vince Williams made his first appearance in pads, which was a welcomed sight for the Steelers fans in attendance. Speaking of first appearances, JuJu Schuster-Smith made his first appearance in pads after suffering an ankle injury on Sunday. As seen in this clip, courtesy of Pittsburgh AP Sports Writer Will Graves, JuJu appears to be 100-percent.
While some players were given the day off as a day of rest, there were several who were hampered by injury. Here is a quick run-down of the injury report:
Senquez Golson (hamstring), Cameron Sutton (lower body/leg), Landry Jones (abdomen), Mike Mitchell (ankle/foot).
Golson’s injury, while possibly sidelining him for the short-term, is not thought to be the type of injury which would end his preseason. Good news for fans who finally want to see what he can do when healthy and given a chance to prove himself on the actual gridiron.
7-Shots Goaline Drill
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was the offense going 0 - 4 with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback with the first team offense. The defense stood tall and prevented the Roethlisberger-led offense from scoring. This speaks volumes about the defense that has been trending in the right direction.
Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Le’Veon Bell were obviously absent, but the Steelers should have enough depth to actually put at least one touchdown on the board. This should not be a cause for concern for fans, as all reports from camp stated how Roethlisberger mis-fired on a couple throws, and Darrius Heyward-Bey was unable to keep his feet in bounds on another play.
Either way, it proves the defense is forcing the offense to fit passes into extremely tight windows, and that is a good thing. Iron sharpens iron.
T.J. Watt is becoming a phenom
To say the least, T.J. Watt was Wednesday’s top performer. For starters, in the LB vs TE drill, he swatted the ball away for Jesse James (who is struggling as of late), and beat David Johnson soundly. His only noted weakness was in coverage, as he has a tendency of holding; however he is very capable of covering both tight ends and receivers. In the defense vs offense drill, he was everywhere making tackles in the backfield and downfield as the one seen in the clip below. This young man is becoming a real find and there is no evidence of him slowing down anytime soon.
Mike Hilton’s performances could mean trouble for Senquez Golson
The fact that Mike Hilton is playing at the level he is playing should come at no surprise to anyone. At the time when he was signed, many spoke about the fact that despite his 5-foot 9-inch stature, he plays much bigger than his size suggests; in addition, he has very high level ball skills. Wednesday he accounted for an interception off Joshua Dobbs, and he forced Bart Houston out of the pocket on a corner blitz; what made this more impressive was how he turned away running back Trey Williams in process.
Hilton is essentially what Senquez Golson should be, if he were healthy. If Hilton continues producing strong performances, and Golson remains sidelined, this could mean trouble for Golson.
The LBs were on fire
This day was all about the linebackers. Tyler Matakevich displayed some coverage skills by breaking up a pass intended for Xavier Grimble, but his specialty is playing the run. L.J. Fort had a strong showing with several hits, including a tackle for loss on running back Terrell Watson, in which he ran over offensive guard B.J. Finney in the process. Vince Williams made the biggest impact, literally speaking he did. His hit on David Johnson was by far the biggest hit of the day. In addition, he made a big hit on Brandon Brown-Dukes and made tackles on Fitzgerald Toussaint and Knile Davis to show his range. The Linebackers were pretty much on point the entire day.
Tale of two Dobbs
Of all the players at camp, Joshua Dobbs is perhaps the biggest enigma. At points in Wednesday’s practice he would have great sequences, then he would follow it with a costly error. In one sequence, he made two straight completions downfield to JuJu Schuster-Smith and Trey Williams; a few plays later, he throws a pick-six to Arthur Moats. He threw another interception to Mike Hilton, then redeemed himself with a back foot throw to tight end Xavier Grimble downfield. The one good thing that can be said about Dobbs is the fact that he does not wither under pressure, and he bounces back after mistakes.
- Receiver Juju Schuster-Smith had a strong showing on his first day. Made several impressive catches and demonstrated incredible body control. From all accounts, he was the best blocking receiver in the WR/DB full contact drill.
- As was the case last year, Anthony Chickillo is having a strong camp. In the offense vs defense scrimmage, he had two sacks. The main question with Chickillo is whether or not his training camp success will translate in the regular season.
- Outside linebacker Keion Adams is a name to keep in mind. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, he’s good enough to push for a roster spot.
- Marcus Gilbert is in my opinion, the best offensive lineman on the team. He has yet to be beaten in any of the one-on-one drills. Seems that he’s primed for his battle against Cleveland Browns’ first overall pick, defensive end Myles Garrett.
- Although he has not been spectacular, cornerback Coty Sensabaugh is quietly having a good camp.
- Cobi Hamilton is still dropping passes which does not bode well for him making the roster.