It isn’t Saint Vincent College, but it hasn’t been Latrobe, PA since 2019. The Pittsburgh Steelers are taking in their 2021 Training Camp between Heinz Field and their UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the Southside of Pittsburgh.
What went down during the latest training camp practice? That is where this article comes in. Check out all that was said, as well as photos and videos from the day’s workouts.
Here we go...
As the Steelers donned the pads for the first time this preseason, all eyes were on the rookie class. Well, one in particular. That would be none other than the Steelers’ first round pick, and 24th overall, Najee Harris.
Throughout the non-padded portions of practice, quarterbacks and pass catchers tend to get all the news. After all, how do you gauge a running back’s capabilities when they can’t be hit or tackled?
This was the day fans were waiting for. Not only to attend practice in person, but also to see what Harris can do. Head coach Mike Tomlin did his job, and put Harris in the spotlight in a variety of ways. Not just team drills, but also in the famous ‘backs on backers’ drill.
When Tomlin put the rookie up to the plate, he had him going against safety-turned-linebacker Marcus Allen. Check out how it went down:
Usually the case, the defense has advantage in backs on backers. Najee Harris struggled with the drill early, but picked things up. Was paired with M. Allen at first. Lost his first and did fine the next 3 — with some holds. Stood Spillane up on his last try. #Steelers #dkps— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 28, 2021
Najee Harris manhandled Robert Spillane in the last rep or backs-on-backers and the QB loved it.— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 28, 2021
Roethlisberger ran over and jumped in the air to celebrate with Harris and yelled “PUT EM DOWN”
Following practice Tomlin was asked about Harris’ inaugural NFL practice with pads on, and he was clearly asked about his reps during the ‘backs on backers’ drill. His answer says it all. Harris doesn’t run away from the challenge, he runs towards it. He has an appetite for action.
Marcus Allen got the better of Najee Harris in the first two head-to-heads of backs on backers, but Najee showed more in the third. By the Spillane rep, Najee pretty much dominated.— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 28, 2021
But whatever you do, don’t tell Mike Tomlin it looked like his first-round pick struggled. pic.twitter.com/yiI7qWN2Tu
Tomlin was complimentary of Harris in every way possible, but don’t take these words for granted.
Mike Tomlin on backs-on-backers: ‘I think we all saw that Najee ran to the competition, not away from it. That’s exciting. His demeanor. I appreciated that.’— Dejan Kovacevic (@Dejan_Kovacevic) July 28, 2021
If you’ve been following Mike Tomlin’s career since he was hired in 2007, you would know he does not hand out compliments to rookies often. The amount of times he has been almost at a loss of words when talking about a rookie, in a good way, are few and far between. The last rookie to do that was none other than T.J. Watt, who eventually pushed James Harrison out of the door.
Harris still has a long way to go, but he certainly got off to a great start Wednesday.
Now onto the other news and notes from Wednesday’s practice...
Players in and out
It is worth taking a minute to see who returned from practice, and who remained sidelined during Wednesday’s practice.
First the players returning:
Also the players out:
It wouldn’t be a Steelers practice without an injury report, and a few new names were added to the list. Offensive tackle Anthony Coyle left practice with what was labeled as a stinger, and tight end Eric Ebron left with elbow discomfort. There was no timetable for either’s return this week.
Injury update from today's @steelers practice includes OT Anthony Coyle, who has a stinger, and TE Eric Ebron, who left practice with elbow discomfort. Both players will be evaluated further, but Coach Tomlin hopes they won't miss much time.— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) July 28, 2021
Offensive line positions are open
With hitting taking place at training camp, the offensive line was absolutely on display, and it made several members of the media wonder if those projected starters were just, well, projected. Mike Tomlin confirmed that indeed every job along the offensive line is open for business.
I just asked Mike Tomlin the degree to which the offensive line competition is open, and he didn’t exactly mince words: pic.twitter.com/E1ZGyOlJzo— Dejan Kovacevic (@Dejan_Kovacevic) July 28, 2021
Not the report you want to see...
We all knew this was going to happen, and if I were smarter, I’m not, I would have predicted this to happen during this very workout. Everything had been smooth between Ben Roethlisberger and Kendrick Green thus far, but Wednesday things got a little rocky. Before fans freak out over a few botched exchanges, look at the situation. This was the first padded practice, and the first time Green was having to snap the ball and hit the opposition. Throw in the jitters of working in front of fans, and you have a recipe for mistakes. If it was only these two, I would say it is a good day. Don’t start worrying until it becomes a trend.
Steelers finishing up now with 11-on-11. Ben Roethlisberger fumbled a snap from under center, then had to make a nice grab on the next one out of shotgun. The early days of what could be a fruitful connection with rookie center Kendrick Green.— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 28, 2021
Is Ben...under center?!
The footage here is fun to watch. You see the classic Matt Canada motion, you see Najee Harris breaking off a big run and needing multiple defenders to bring him down, but that isn’t what I saw right off the bat. I saw Ben Roethlisberger under center. The Steelers rarely, if ever, had No. 7 under center in 2020, and him doing this just for training camp is at least a step in the right direction. Maybe there is hope for the running game after all.
Fan footage from across the stadium shows Najee Harris’ big run to start a team period. pic.twitter.com/pLJhpwFeN6— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 28, 2021
New year, new Ant Mac?
There are a lot of expectations surrounding Anthony McFarland. The hope of him making the big jump from Year 1 to Year 2, and with a year of experience under his belt. McFarland has been doing his part this offseason, everything from avoiding social media to gaining five pounds of muscle this offseason.
Steelers rookie RB Anthony McFarland says he’s been staying out of social media, working on himself, blocking out the outside noise. Says he put on about five pounds this offseason. pic.twitter.com/oFBmt1R1jN— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 28, 2021
McFarland seems like a perfect change of pace back, but he is willing to play whatever role is asked of him in 2021. If that means special teams and a third down back, so be it.
Anthony McFarland asked what his role might be in the Steelers offense in Year 2: “That I don’t know, man. I’m just coming in here, putting my head down, and wherever they put me I’ll give it 100%.”— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 28, 2021
BTSC Training Camp Recap Podcast
#SteelersNation is in the house & Training Camp Live, presented by @FedEx, is #LIVE!— Steelers Live (@SteelersLive) July 28, 2021
Get an exclusive live look-in at #SteelersCamp!
For more training camp coverage, watch @NFLNetwork. https://t.co/lMBRvoSKuG
#LIVE: Hear about all that happened at today’s practice at @heinzfield on Training Camp Wrap Up, presented by @UPMCHealthPlan.— Steelers Live (@SteelersLive) July 28, 2021
For more training camp coverage, watch @NFLNetwork. https://t.co/EMuIC6xYvS
Predicting Mike Tomlinisms after training camp practice pic.twitter.com/M83SKk9yoS— Joey (@JoeyMulinaro) July 28, 2021
After a decade with 53 as his best friend, the QB is bonding with a new 53 pic.twitter.com/h4EuVQUeoS— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) July 28, 2021