Today’s practice following ‘Friday Night Lights’ was a short, but spirited practice. The emphasis for today’s session was the red zone. The entire practice was dedicated to red zone team periods, and red zone drills. In general, this session featured a laundry list of players that sat out, an injury scare to a key training camp player, the addition of a new player, and a familiar face reminding everyone of his greatness.
It seems with every practice, the list of non-participants gets longer. James Conner (shoulder) did not dress in pads, but he was participating in position drills, running routes and catching, which is a good sign of his condition improving. Cameron Sutton (hamstring), Landry Jones (abdominal), Senquez Golson (hamstring), Bud Dupree (unknown), Ryan Shazier (unknown) and Mike Mitchell (foot/ankle) all remained out.
Adding to this list was Artie Burns, who suffered a leg injury during the ‘Seven shots’ drill yesterday. According to Head Coach Mike Tomlin, Burns’ leg injury had already been evaluated; the severity of the injury is still unknown. In addition, UDFA center/guard Mike Matthews was seen with a wrap on his leg. Matthews has had a good camp thus far, mainly playing on the 2nd and 3rd team offensive line.
The most notable injury scare to report involved rising receiver Justin Hunter. As reported by Steelers writer Jon Ledyard, and others, Hunter abruptly left one of drill favoring his left arm (some reported it was his shoulder). Hunter attempted to go back in but was called back by his coaches. Hunter eventually came back in after being looked after by trainers, but he did drop a deep ball through by Ben Roethlisberger. One can speculate that he was still bothered by his injury.
The other injury scare involved UDFA defensive lineman Farrington Huguenin, who has quietly been solid throughout training camp according to different reports I viewed. He was later seen walking back to the locker room.
Before the beginning of training camp, the Steelers announced the signing of former Philadelphia Eagles’ sixth round pick, cornerback JaCorey Shepherd. To make room for him, UDFA defensive lineman Nelson Adams was released. With mounting list of defensive backs getting injured, this signing was needed. From what I was informed about Shepherd, he is good at press coverage and has high-level ball skills. Time will tell if he’s more than just a camp body.
- All-Pro Wide receiver Antonio Brown was doing things that only Antonio Brown can do. In case people forgot, he reminded everyone in camp why he is the No. 1 receiver on the team.
From all accounts, he was catching everything, and at different angles. As reported by ESPN Senior Writer Jeremy Fowler, cornerback Ross Cockrell requested to cover Brown during the offense vs defense drill. Cockrell had a few good moments against Brown, but overall was outmatched. Brown went on to make a couple of deep open field catches, a slant pattern touchdown and a twisting end zone grab. Brown put an exclamation mark on the day, with a play Fowler deemed as the “highlight of day”. While on the move, Roethlisberger threw a pass across his body to the back of the end zone, where Antonio Brown was being double-teamed. Brown leaped up and made the touchdown with both toes in. According to Fowler, the coverage was good but Brown was much better.
Truly, Antonio Brown speaks for himself.
Photos by @TimotRice
- The more I read reports about the types of catches JuJu Smith-Schuster is making, I often wonder if he’s into yoga or ballet (it worked for Lynn Swann). Throughout training camp, Smith-Schuster has made it a habit of making difficult catches. As reported by Ledyard, Smith-Schuster made another highlight-worth catch in which the ball was thrown behind him, but was able to adjust his body to reel in the ball. He doesn’t make every catch but when he does, he make it count.
- Cornerback Mike Hilton had another solid day which included yet another end zone pass breakup. If we track back to every training camp session in pads the Steelers have had thus far, he has managed at least one pass breakup (in exception to yesterday’s practice). If Hilton can translate these performances into the upcoming preseaon games, then the discussion should begin about how the Steelers can keep him on the roster.
- Speaking of cornerbacks, William Gay was noted to have a pretty good day as well with an interception and pass breakup. No matter what anyone says about Gay, he seems to continue to be a rock in the defensive secondary.