Today’s training camp session was held without pads, and with the addition of NFL officials, which has been their tradition the last few training camps.
Pretty much the same players who have been nursing injuries in the previous practices were out today; however, there were some unusual injury-related occurrences worth noting.
Ryan Shazier suffered what appeared to be a hamstring injury during coverage drills, as reported by ‘Steelers Insider’ Writer James Wexell. This effectively ended practice for Shazier as he was later seen icing his injured joint.
Offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva suffered a knee injury which resulted in him rolling on the ground in pain, as reported by NFL Draft Analyst and Steelers Writer Jon Ledyard. According to Ledyard, Villanueva was lying on the 20-yard line with trainers and the entire offensive line around him. Ledyard later updated on his Twitter page that Villanueva was back to participating in team drills; thus escaping what could have been a serious injury.
Lastly, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had an injury scare when his foot was accidentally stepped on during one of the drills. According to Ledyard, Roethlisberger limped off the field after getting stepped on by left tackle Marcus Gilbert. Thankfully, Roethliberger did not sustain any injuries and appeared to be fine. Mike Tomlin said the quarterback was fine as he addressed the media following practice.
Justin Hunter Continues to Impress
Perhaps at this point, the discussion should be had about Justin Hunter being the Steelers No. 3 receiver. Hunter has been as consistent as any Steelers player thus far in training camp.
Today he made some highlight-worthy leaping catches in one-on-ones; one of which resulted in three flags being thrown for defensive interference, as reported by ESPN Staff Writer Jeremy Fowler. The catches made were so impressive that Ben was quoted telling Hunter to “take a bow”. From all accounts, Hunter is for real, and is getting praise from Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin.
One can deduce at this point that the Steelers top 3 receivers are Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Justin Hunter; however, from what has been reported, JuJu Schuster-Smith is not too far behind.
The Maturation of Artie Burns Jr Continues
As been the theme of every training camp session thus far, Antonio Brown and Artie Burns matched up often. On this occasion, Brown often got the best of Burns. Most of the time, Brown was beating Burns with double moves; all-in-all, Burns did not get discouraged and stayed competitve with Brown the entire practice.
Artie Burns at this year’s camp in contrast to last year, has been “night and day”, as described by Steelers radio analyst Tunch Ilkin. The fact that he continues to compete at a high level with the best receiver in the NFL can only mean great things for him this season.
Sleeper Cornerbacks on the Rise
Coty Sensabaugh and Mike Hilton are doing everything possible to make the Steelers 53-man roster, and they are to be taken seriously. In the case of Coty Sensabaugh, Steelers analyst Craig Wolfley noted that he is good enough to compete as a top 3 cornerback on the team. According to those in attendance, he put together a solid performance; it seems as if he averages either a pass breakup or interception per practice.
As for Mike Hilton (or ‘Battling Mike’ as coined by Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley), he has the harder road in attaining a roster spot, but has put together a series of solid performances to merit some consideration. The one area of weakness for Hilton is his tendency to grab and hold in coverage drills. Otherwise, Hilton from all accounts competes hard and, as in the case of Sensabaugh, it seems that he gets at least one pass breakup per practice.
- Let’s talk about Cobi Hamilton. It is clear that he is having major struggles in camp. After 3 more drops were reported by Jon Ledyard, it prompted me to question if he was prepared mentally. If Hamilton keeps trending in this direction, do not be surprised if the Steelers let him go.
- Cornerback Brian Allen has been described as being raw and able to run. His biggest problem, as noted by Ilkin and Wolfley, is his ability to play the body. When Allen gets tied up with a receiver, he has difficulty creating the separation needed to make a play. Only time will tell if this improves.
- A player that has been relatively quiet is Demarcus Ayers. Ayers, from all accounts, hasn’t been overly impressive, but he hasn’t made any major mistakes. Hopefully we can get more reports of him making splash plays.
- Did not hear much about Phazahn Odom, the hope is that he continues to work on his area of weakness which is blocking.
- In case people are wondering, Keion Adams has been practicing with a heavy heart since last Saturday morning, when he received devastating news of his cousin Anthony Gill and best friend Da'Quan Robertson, who were shot and killed in his hometown. The fact that he has been able to battle through adversity and continue performing at a high level speaks volumes of his character.
Even though it's difficult, overcoming adversity makes life that much sweeter.— Keion Adams (@civilSAVAGE1) August 2, 2017