The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Wednesday for the second of three mandatory minicamp practices, and while things weren’t as new and fresh as Day 1, there was plenty of news to talk about after the practice, and media sessions, came to a close.
Tuesday the Steelers’ new offense, and offensive coordinator Matt Canada, took center stage. It was the first time the newly hired coordinator spoke in front of the media since he was promoted from quarterbacks coach.
But while everyone was infatuated with asking questions about how Ben Roethlisberger will be utilized in Canada’s offense, Day 2 saw a rather unknown defender take the spotlight. That defender would be none other than James Pierre.
Towards the end of the 2020 season, it was Pierre, not Justin Layne, who saw significant playing time down the stretch. After Mike Hilton left via free agency, and Steven Nelson was a cap casualty, fans are wondering who will fill the voids left by those aforementioned players.
When you listen to the Steelers coaches, mainly special teams coordinator Danny Smith and secondary coach Teryl Austin, Pierre is set up to see significant starting repetitions this season.
Followed up with Steelers secondary coach Teryl Austin on 2nd-year UDFA James Pierre, who's competing to replace Steve Nelson as a starter. Austin: "I think there will be a big jump with him. I’m hoping we have all of a sudden found ourselves a nice, big corner for the future."— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) June 16, 2021
Pierre spoke to the media following practice Wednesday, and he outlined some plays which happened during minicamp. He started by talking about a play on Tuesday he missed, and his receiver caught the ball. Pierre said it made him sick, but motivated him for Wednesday.
And what a Wednesday he had.
Pierre got his hands on the football multiple times, many of those being interceptions, and it caught the attention of everyone in attendance, especially Ben Roethlisberger. Pierre looks to be a huge piece of the Steelers’ puzzle moving forward, but how they utilize him will be something to watch as training camp approaches at the end of July.
Now for some other nuggets of information coming from Day 2 of minicamp:
Avoiding the Drops
One aspect of the receiving corps which certainly has been beaten to death this offseason has been the drops. Whether it was Diontae Johnson or Eric Ebron, everyone has been talking about the drops, and receiver coach Ike Hilliard has also been talking to the receivers about dropping the football. It might not be enough for the fans, but know Hilliard acknowledges the issues and is working to eliminate those mistakes.
Steelers WRs coach Ike Hilliard: "Drops are part of the game. Obviously we had too many balls on the ground. It's been discussed. Our group understands and they know we have to do a better job of not putting the ball on the ground. We work at it every day."— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) June 16, 2021
Speaking of Hilliard, he was asked what type of receiver he wanted in this new offense the Steelers are rolling out under Matt Canada. The best way he could describe it was the more versatility you bring, the better. JuJu Smith-Schuster is a perfect example of someone who can play every receiver position on the field, this attribute makes him an easy weapon to have on the field.
WR Coach Ike Hilliard said they are working on an offense where they can plug and play guys. In relation to JuJu Smith-Schuster wanting to move outside, he said they will work on putting guys where they can be the most productive and make plays.— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) June 16, 2021
A Business Decision
Joe Haden spoke to the media and was asked about his former running mate Steven Nelson being released. Haden said it was a surprise, and difficult, but he knew it was a business decision. He spoke highly of Nelson, but Haden has to be appreciative of the fact it was Nelson, and not himself, who was released due to salary cap constraints.
Joe Haden on the release of Steve Nelson: "I was a little surprised but it's a business thing. I think it had a lot to do with cap numbers. We're older players and had one year left on our deals. ...— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) June 16, 2021
"it was a business decision. Steve is a baller."
When Danny Smith talks, he is good for some funny one-liners. Smith was peppered with questions surrounding his newest punter, Pressley Harvin III, and he spoke about a play he is hoping to install in 2021. Ever heard for a punt-sneak? No? Get ready! Smith was obviously joking, or was he?
Steelers ST coordinator Danny Smith, who never disappoints, says of 250-pound rookie punter Pressley Harvin: "The first thing we're doing with him is, you're gonna see a punt-sneak play with this big dude! Maybe we can get a yard."— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) June 16, 2021
Golf Match Set
Tuesday T.J. Watt complimented Joe Haden’s golf game, and there seems to be a big time match brewing within the Steelers locker room. The match would have Haden and Watt as partners vs. Ben Roethlisberger and his brother. Haden is hopeful to get some strokes, and he should considering Roethlisberger was quite the accomplished golfer prior to his elbow injury in 2019. Hopefully the betting line will be announced soon...
Joe Haden's golf advice to TJ Watt: "I told him you got to swing the club a lot. I’ve been doing a whole lot of golfing out in LA after training."— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) June 16, 2021
Haden and Watt are supposed to play a match vs. Ben Roethlisberger and his brother. Haden hopes he and Watt get a lot of strokes.
Mike Tomlin and James Pierre (If you can’t see the video below, click HERE)
Joe Haden (If you can’t see the video below, click HERE)
Day 2 Live Look-In
There was no live look-in for Wednesday’s practice.
7 with goal line throws to his receivers. pic.twitter.com/iCLsQLxX88— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) June 16, 2021
Another episode of Running Back Drills with Eddie Faulkner with almost a causality. pic.twitter.com/cyoYq8FTVw— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) June 16, 2021
The Steelers’ second minicamp practice has concluded. Ben Roethlisberger was back out at Heinz Field today, while JuJu Smith-Schuster was in sweats. pic.twitter.com/pbczxnzjdf— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) June 16, 2021
Steelers work out on day 2 of minicamp Wednesday at Heinz Field. pic.twitter.com/Dd4NLZx6oA— Matt Freed (@mattfreedpghpg) June 16, 2021