Following the Pittsburgh Steelers’ fifth training camp practice Wednesday, head coach Mike Tomlin took questions from the media. Getting back on the field after the team’s first off day, questions were once again asked about the status of specific players.
Coach Tomlin went into detail on several players, but gave a specific response on each of the following five players. This list isn’t to suggest these players were the only ones who stood out, but more so was who Tomlin answered questions about.
Ryan Switzer left practice early with a quad injury. Derwin Gray also left with fatigue. Anthony Chickillo missed practice with an undisclosed injury, but Mike Tomlin said it’s not serious.— Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) July 31, 2019
In the 2019 offseason, Anthony Chickillo signed a 2-year deal for $8 million after reportedly getting a similar offer from the New England Patriots. With T.J. Watt starting the preseason on the PUP list, Chickillo was inserted into the first-team lineup at outside linebacker. But Chickillo was not in pads on Wednesday, opening the door for Olasunkanmi Adeniyi to slide in with the first team.
Coach Tomlin was asked if Anthony Chickillo did not participate in practice due to injury or rest.
“He was being evaluated, but I don’t expect it to be anything significant.”
Another productive day for rookie WR Diontae Johnson (TD over middle at goal line) and ILB Devin Bush, who got starter's reps alongside Mark Barron. He had two PBUs and a run stop.— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) July 31, 2019
Steelers’ fans are always eager to get reports of the the top draft picks during training camp. The second player taken by the Steelers in 2019, Diontae Johnson has already been praised for his conditioning and footwork. With Dontae Moncrief sidelined Wednesday with a finger injury, Johnson received extra work with the Steelers’ first-team offense.
Coach Tomlin was asked about what he saw in regards to Diontae Johnson playing with the first unit.
“Not anything outstanding or anything negative. We’re going to be thoughtful about how we’re going to roll guys into groups. I wouldn’t read too much into the groups at this juncture. We’re looking for certain match ups and things. The closer we get to in-stadium play we’ll start worrying about depth charts and such. Right now we just want to challenge people. We want to see them in a variety of groups versus a variety of competition from an experience standpoint.”
Steelers have been awarded WR Brandon Reilly on a waiver claim. He was recently let go by Lions.— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) July 31, 2019
Seven days into training camp, the Steelers have made their first roster move. Wide receiver Brandon Reilly was released by the Detroit Lions on Tuesday before being claimed off waivers by the Steelers on Wednesday. The Steelers already had 10 wide receivers on the roster, so bringing in another as their first move was somewhat puzzling.
Coach Tomlin was asked what he knows about the newest addition to the roster.
“Not a lot. I hear that he’s able and ready and those two things are what we need right about now.”
Sutton Smith working as a FB during this team period. He has switched jerseys. He was wearing a yellow defensive jersey to open practice and played OLB during 7 shots.— Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) July 31, 2019
One of the possible “camp darlings” Steelers’ fans were discussing before the team had even arrived in Latrobe, Sutton Smith is doing anything possible to stand out in a positive way. During OTA’s, Smith worked on both sides of the ball at both linebacker and fullback. On Wednesday, Smith moved into the opposite huddle for the first time since the Steelers began fully-padded practices.
Coach Tomlin was asked about looking at Sutton Smith at both the fullback and outside linebacker positions.
“Just trying to cast a big net, not only in him but in others. The more that you can do it helps your cause and ours. He’s a guy with some running back in his background, particularly at the high school level- really accomplished. He’s got the frame. He was a dominant MAC defender, much like Rosie Nix was. There was a lot of things that lead us to that area. But we’re just sticking our toe in the water. His main job, obviously, is outside linebacker so that’s where his focus is.”
Ben to Vance McDonald for a quick strike TD. Mark Barron in coverage.— Chase Williams WPXI (@chasepwilliams) July 31, 2019
Vance McDonald seems to excel at flying under the radar. Between catching conversions in “seven shots” and getting open down the seam, McDonald should be generating more buzz in camp than what is being reported. With the exception of his Week 3 stiff arm in Tampa on Monday Night Football last season, McDonald often takes the field and effectively does his job while not always gaining a lot of attention. But make no mistake, Vance McDonald is showing he’s on his way to the top-tier of tight ends in the NFL.
Coach Tomlin was asked about Vance McDonald’s progression since he was acquired by trade in 2017.
“I guess the big thing was he got on a moving train the year that we acquired him. We acquired him right at the very beginning of the season so he lacked the offseason and summer and things of that nature. He’s a professional, but it’s really good to have him throughout the calendar year to be a part of the team development. His role is growing because of that. He’s just a solid professional and quality player.
Mike Tomlin’s full media session can be seen here: