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...
Heading into the 2021 season it seemed as if it was a foregone conclusion who the starting and backup quarterback would be for the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger is the solidified starter, and Mason Rudolph was the backup.
The question here isn’t the starter, Roethlisberger’s resume speaks for itself, but is there actually a battle for the backup role?
When the Steelers signed Dwayne Haskins as a free agent this past offseason after his release from the Washington Football Team, many thought he would be battling Joshua Dobbs for the QB3 role on the depth chart. However, after a few weeks of training camp, it looks as if the coaching staff are keeping their options open for all positions after Roethlisberger.
This from Brooke Pryor of ESPN:
Dwayne Haskins and Mason Rudolph have been splitting reps with the 2s today during walkthrough, but Haskins has taken more.— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 31, 2021
Tomlin reiterated yesterday that every position has open competition -- even No. 2 QB.
During mandatory minicamp, and the early stages of training camp, it was Haskins and Dobbs jockeying for reps. After Haskins has impressed to date, the coaching staff has been wanting to give him more of a look with the starters.
This is not just a new development, but also something to keep a close eye on as the Hall of Fame game vs. the Dallas Cowboys approaches next Thursday. Clearly, the best player will be appropriately placed on the depth chart, but the preseason will be extremely telling in many ways as it pertains to the Steelers’ quarterback situation.
Now time for all the other news and notes from Saturday’s practice...
The Steelers had their Fan Fest Saturday, and it marked the largest crowd the Steelers have had this training camp at Heinz Field.
With Fan Fest going on outside Heinz Field, the Hall of Honor happening inside and practice in about an hour, today almost has a gameday feel to it.— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 31, 2021
Big crowd, concession stands are open and there’s just a buzz. Football is (kinda) back.
There is a huge turnout at Heinz Field today for practice. By far the largest of the week— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) July 31, 2021
Time to check in on who practiced, and who didn’t, during Saturday’s padded practice. This was the second straight padded practice before the Steelers’ scheduled day off Sunday.
Elsewhere on the OL, Chuks Okorafor and Kevin Dotson are in full uniform, so perhaps today is the day they join the Steelers' starters for some team work.— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 31, 2021
As always, the Steelers did their typical ‘7 Shots’ drill to start practice. In case you don’t know, this is when the ball is placed at the two yard line, and there are seven plays run from that line of scrimmage. Here is how things played out Saturday.
Final 7 Shots tally:— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 31, 2021
Steelers 0 for 5 with Rudolph and Haskins, 2 for 2 with Josh Dobbs at QB. Dobbs hit Kalen Ballage for two TDs, one in left flat and one over the middle. Haskins had a shovel pass to Kevin Rader stuffed, then got sacked/picked off (James Pierre with the INT).
This felt important to me, and maybe just me, but James Pierre’s solid play has given him some looks on the outside with the starting defense. The ‘7 Shots’ drill opened up with Cam Sutton in the slot and Pierre on the outside. Just something to keep an eye on.
Steelers open with Cam Sutton in the slot, and James Pierre as an outside CB— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) July 31, 2021
Open Field Drills
The Steelers did a lot of open field drills Saturday. Whether it was RB vs. LB or WR vs. CB, there were some notable plays from the session.
Steelers are doing RB-LB open-field drills now, always fun to watch. Derek Watt hit a juke move that looked like R1 on Madden, made Calvin Bundage miss badly. Robert Spillane then tossed Najee Harris to the ground on the next rep.— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 31, 2021
The Pat Freiermuth-Alex Highsmith battles in this drill have been really fun to watch. Hard to tell exactly who's winning without refs throwing flags, but it seems the rookie is keeping it close.— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 31, 2021
Chase Claypool finished off the one-on-one WR/CB blocking by pancaking Justin Layne.— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 31, 2021
As they do with the pads on, the Steelers had some live 11-on-11 team periods. The offense struggled at times, but was able to cash in on some big plays by the end of practice.
Ben Roethlisberger much sharper out of the shotgun in an 11-on-11 passing drill. Went 3 for 4 with completions to JuJu 2x and Pat Freiermuth, only incompletion thrown a bit behind and dropped by Najee Harris. Cam Heyward nearly got a piece of that last one.— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 31, 2021
Dwayne Haskins just threw a frozen rope over the middle that clanged off Zach Gentry’s enormous hands, popped 8 million feet in the air, then got picked off by UDFA cornerback Shakur Brown.— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 31, 2021
Najee Harris had a spectacular five-yard run in the 11-on-11 run drill. Heyward had immediate penetration. He escaped a tackle attempt three yards in the backfield, made another guy miss and wound up getting five yards around left end.— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 31, 2021
Big Ben Update
With Najee Harris, Dwayne Haskins and T.J. Watt all being consistent storylines there hasn’t been as much talk surrounding Ben Roethlisberger. It was good to read about the veteran quarterback connecting on a big play to JuJu Smith-Schuster on a free play after drawing the defense offsides.
Ben Roethlisberger let one fly to JuJu Smith-Schuster on a free play and Smith-Schuster ran it all the way to the end zone, hopping and firing up the crowd. One of the few offensive bright spots today.— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 31, 2021
Speaking of big plays, on the very next play from scrimmage it was Roethlisberger under center and handing the ball off to Harris. Harris hit the hole and did the rest...all the way to the end zone. There might be some offensive struggles this season, but there will also be some big plays.
On the next play, Roethlisberger started under center and handed off to Najee Harris, who hit a hole and saw green grass in front of him. He took that one to the end zone, too, much to the delight of the crowd.— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 31, 2021
Old School Ben
To cap off practice the Steelers did the 2-minute drill. Friday’s practice saw Mason Rudolph with the starters, but Roethlisberger took the starter on Saturday. He drove them down the field for the score, but the way he capped it off was vintage Roethlisberger.
Party like it’s the mid-2000s: Ben Roethlisberger just looked like the Big Ben of old, scrambling around, extending the play until Diontae Johnson got open in the back of the end zone. Roethlisberger hit him to finish the 2-min drill with a TD. Believe it was fourth down.— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 31, 2021
The bigger, the better
After practice Najee Harris mete with the media, and he explained how he doesn’t mind getting beat in the ‘backs on backers’ drill. He actually asks Mike Tomlin if he can get bigger bodies to block to make him better. To get more realistic repetitions.
#Steelers rookie Najee Harris in sum:— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) July 31, 2021
Every day before practice, he asks Mike Tomlin to match him up against bigger bodies.
He’s told his coaches he wants as many preseason game reps as possible.
He appreciates how much Ben Roethlisberger “wants everybody to be accountable.”
Najee Harris, who said he’s 6 percent body fat, talks with Mike Tomlin before every practice about taking on bigger guys in backs-on-backers.— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 31, 2021
“Me picking out all the guys, me wanting to go against D-ends, it’s teaching me, mentally, better technique.” pic.twitter.com/isjzv0QK7E
Najee bulking up
Najee Harris is built different. In every possible way. Not only is he a football junkie, but he has also added about 8 pounds of muscle this offseason. Do you know many running backs who are listed at 240 pounds and roughly 6% body fat not named Derrick Henry? Me neither...
Najee Harris is listed at 232 pounds. #Steelers LB Marcus Allen says oh no, the rookie RB is all of 240 muscled pounds. Harris? He confirms he’s 240. And says his body fat percentage may actually be on the low side.— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) July 31, 2021
(If only I could say the same…)
Who is along the line doesn’t matter
While the Steelers’ offense has struggled at times throughout training camp, it isn’t as if their starters have all be out there on a regular basis. Chuks Okorafor and Kevin Dotson just returned to live action drills Saturday, and Zach Banner has yet to fully return to practice. This has resulted in a mix-and-match approach along the offensive line blocking for Harris. Najee Harris doesn’t care, it is his job to make people miss and make plays.
Rookie RB Najee Harris isn’t overly concerned about not yet having any reps w/ the OLine the #Steelers hope to start. Says it’s his job “to break the first tackle,” “to create something when there’s nothing there” and “to create better situations.”— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) July 31, 2021
Najee, ladies and gentlemen...
Harris isn’t just built different, he is a different guy both on and off the field. He is fun to listen to.
Joe Haden on the mic
Friday it was Mike Tomlin welcoming fans to Heinz Field, but Saturday it was Joe Haden who had those honors. Check out what he had to say to the large crowd which had gathered to see their beloved black and gold!
BTSC Training Camp Recap Podcast
#LIVE: Hear from @CamHeyward and about all that happened at today’s practice at @heinzfield on Training Camp Wrap Up, presented by @UPMCHealthPlan.— Steelers Live (@SteelersLive) July 31, 2021
More Back Together Saturday coverage on @NFLNetwork https://t.co/wUbkxRAXCU
Back-to-back days in pads for the #Steelers before the off day tomorrow. @CamHeyward joined me live after #SteelersFest practice and called me by my “real” name #SteelersCamp #HereWeGo pic.twitter.com/HG32wNq1sW— Missi Matthews (@missi_matthews) July 31, 2021
Najee Harris wasn’t around for Walter Payton’s runs, but best believe he knows his RB history. pic.twitter.com/4aQLaFiDCk— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 31, 2021
Good sized group gathered at the Hall of Honor for the announcement pic.twitter.com/J3FZtm97Ug— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 31, 2021
First guy on the field today was Jordan Berry, who’s in a tight-ish punting competition with rookie draft pick Pressley Harvin III pic.twitter.com/AZo5rYNFv7— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 31, 2021