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7 observations from the Steelers third and final week of padded practices

7 observations from the third week of padded practices of a Steelers training camp that’s totally closed to the public—including me.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp handout photo

It’s the third week in a row that I’ve reeled you in with a headline that begins with a number. Of course, this three-week series wasn’t purposely devised to get your attention with numerical lists of things Steelers-related. I’ve been 100 percent motivated to bring you my weekly observations of the team as it goes about training camp practice at Heinz Field, complete with pads and tackling—at least I assume there’s been tackling. Yes, I realize the observations have decreased with each passing week, but we are in a pandemic, and in times like these, I cannot justify maintaining the same level of observational output that I did in the first week. With that in mind, I’d like to bring you seven of my observations of the Steelers third week of padded training camp practices at Heinz Field (even though I wasn’t there).

  1. As of this writing (Friday, September 4, 2020), outside linebacker Tuzar Skipper, last year’s BTSC Isaac Redman Award winner, has reportedly been cut by the Steelers. I thought that award bought players at least a little bit of goodwill, but I guess that’s just with the fans. As for the coaches? This clinches it: They don’t read BTSC as much as we do.
  2. The juicy news coming out of the third week of padded training camp practices was a bit dry, if you ask me. I’m guessing that was by design. The more opposing coaches know, the more likely they are to use it against the Steelers—or at least that’s what paranoid coaches (all of them) think.
  3. During his post-practice press-conference on Friday, head coach Mike Tomlin answered a question about who we should expect to see at the top of the depth chart at right tackle, heading into the team’s Week 1 match-up against the GiantsZach Banner or Chukwuma Okorafor. Tomlin indicated you might see the word “or,” as in either one could start, as in it’s still up in the air, as in it’s still too close to call. I’m not sure if that’s good news or bad news, not just for Tomlin, but for Banner and Okorafor.
  4. Steelers fans: “I feel as if they have enough talent to reach Seventh Heaven, baby!” Also Steelers fans: “If they don’t sign (insert whatever big-name player has just become available here), they’re not doing enough to win.”
  5. My third week of observations has to include some thoughts on part two of the Ben Roethlisberger docu-series Bigger Than Ben, which chronicles Roethlisberger’s journey pre and post-elbow surgery in 2019. I thought it was interesting. Obviously, he came through the surgery okay (spoiler alert). Of all the topics covered in the 19-minute video, the one thing that really resonated with me was Roethlisberger’s main motivation for winning another Lombardi trophy: So his three young children—none of whom were alive the last time Pittsburgh even reached a Super Bowl—could see it in person and celebrate on stage with him. I never even considered that as a motivating factor, but then again, I’m not a father. Not long after Roethlisberger’s surgery, he and his wife attended a concert by the band MercyMe. I never heard of them, but I have heard of receiver Ryan Switzer, and he also attended the show as part of the big guy’s entourage. Switzer even danced on stage with the group and hung out with his big buddy and the boys backstage after the concert. Oh yeah, Switzer is getting some targets this year. I can just see the offensive team meetings now: Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner (talking about a play designed by secret offensive coordinator Matt Canada): “What we want on this play is a high and deep pass into the end zone with the hopes of creating a favorable jump-ball situation.” Roethlisberger (hand raised): “I like where your head is at, Coach Randy, but I feel like the play would work better with Ryan as the primary target, instead of Chase.”
  6. One of the drills the Steelers reportedly practiced last week was getting off and on the field during possession changes. For example, after a third-down stop, the defense practiced getting off the field, while the punt-return team ran onto the field. Disgraceful. If I didn’t know how to get off and on the field at my job, I’d be fired. This is why Tomlin ain’t no Belichick—he doesn’t pay attention to the small things.
  7. Congratulations, you made it. Not just you, fringe Steelers player who was just told you made the roster a la Vince Papale in Invincible, but you, fan who has been itching for the start of the next regular season since the end of the last regular season. Your dreams actually came true! Both of you give yourselves a hand!

Those are all the observations I have for the Steelers third, and final, week of padded training camp practices at Heinz Field. Will I have more observations about next year’s padded training camp practices? Maybe. Maybe not.