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...
There are fan favorites, then there are the players who will have the support of the fan base no matter what. These two categories are quite different, in my opinion, and right tackle Zach Banner would fall into the latter.
Maybe it was the “eligible receiver” player who captured fans’ hearts, the player who was willing to have some hard conversations after the horrible shooting of the Tree of Life synagogue or the player who won the right tackle job only to have his season take away after tearing his ACL in Week 1.
No matter what Banner does, the fan base just seems to be rooting extra hard for the former USC Trojan. Banner’s return to the team has been slow and steady, by design. Banner spoke at mandatory minicamp about the organization putting a “leash” on him and forcing him to take it slow upon his return.
That return started on Monday when Banner dressed for practice and participated in the short yardage drills during the padded practice. It was a small step, but a good step forward not just for Banner but the offensive line. It shouldn’t be a shock the line performed better with one of their anchors back in the trenches.
Coach Tomlin said he felt like the offensive line answered the bell on the goal line drill. Said they did largely what they needed to do, and Zach Banner was a part of that.— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 2, 2021
It is likely the Steelers don’t even dress Banner, but the fact the offensive line took a step forward with Banner in the lineup gives hope for the players up front. Expect Banner to get ramped up even more after the first preseason game vs. the Dallas Cowboys this Thursday.
Now onto the other news and notes from training camp practice Monday...
As stated above, Banner’s return was a welcome sight. He stepped in and finally was able to put his hand in the pile, as Mike Tomlin would say.
Zach Banner gets his first live reps of camp and Steelers starting offense goes 1-2 vs. defense in goal-line drill. Ben Roethlisberger hit JuJu on a quick in-and-out for a TD, then threw through the end zone and missed Najee Harris out wide. Banner good pass pro vs. Melvin Ingram— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) August 2, 2021
No new injuries of note from Monday’s practice, but several players remained out for various reasons.
Coach Tomlin said only minor bumps and bruises to report. Said it was good to get Zach Banner back out there practicing today.— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 2, 2021
Coach Tomlin said Benny Snell, who didn't practice on Monday, is being looked at. Didn't have any information, but said he would provide an update when he has it to determine the severity or lack there of.— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 2, 2021
Mike Tomlin said that because of Terrell Edmunds having offseason surgery, he has been held out of tackling drills. Miles Killebrew got a lot of work today with first team.— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) August 2, 2021
The famed drill which puts the football at the two-yard line and has the offense run seven straight plays saw the offense win the contest. See how things played out:
When the Steelers backups went at it, Justin Layne had a nice PBU for a stop, then Mason Rudolph found Anthony McFarland for a TD over the middle. Dwayne Haskins went 2 for 2 with a perfectly timed throw-and-catch to Pat Freiermuth, then easily ran one in to end the period.— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) August 2, 2021
With every padded practice comes those 1-on-1 drills. Whether it is backs-on-backers or the open space drills. Today’s drill was geared to helping the ball carrier. The running back/fullback would be given the ball in space, and the linebacker/safety would have to make the play.
Anthony McFarland has the juice today. Dusting everyone in this drill. Buddy Johnson just had a textbook wrap-up of Trey Edmunds. One guy Najee Harris couldn’t quite get away from? Robert Spillane. But then again, he has a thing for stonewalling Alabama backs.— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) August 2, 2021
Speaking of 1-on-1 drills, it was a edge setting drill which saw rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth get beaten badly Saturday. Monday the former Penn State Nittany Lion did better against Alex Highsmith.
Freiermuth shows up in one-on-ones today. Just did a nice job sealing Highsmith twice. Made up for a couple of rough reps early. Gentry still the best of the TEs.— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 2, 2021
Cam won’t be stopped again
In case you missed the report from Saturday, but there was a play where Cam Heyward pierced the interior of the offensive line, only to whiff on Najee Harris. It was a noteworthy play, but the Steelers’ defensive captain wasn’t about to be fooled again, and on Monday he proved that by bringing Harris down to the turf.
Thought the Steelers OL did a better job run-blocking today. Cam Heyward wasn’t about to miss Najee Harris in the hole again like he did Saturday. Today he got to him and brought him down with authority. And kindly, of course. Nice burst by Kalen Ballage and Jaylen Samuels too.— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) August 2, 2021
JuJu on the outside?
Every time JuJu Smith-Schuster was interviewed this offseason, which shockingly wasn’t often, he talked about playing more outside. The first few weeks saw him primarily in the slot, but Monday he got his shot, and he made the most of it. As Tomlin always says...the more you can do to help the team win.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, who keeps lobbying for reps on the outside, finally lined up there on the first rep of a team period. He beat Joe Haden and Roethlisberger hit him for a big gain. Good luck getting him back in the slot now.— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) August 2, 2021
Let the dust-ups continue
Another padded practice, another camp scuffle. This time it wasn’t just Dan Moore Jr., but it was also Kendrick Green who got into the mix. The two rookies were blocking Cam Heyward longer than the veteran defensive lineman liked...and he had something to say about it. Heyward is getting the best out of the rookies, and the rookies aren’t backing down. Iron sharpens iron.
Cam Heyward just got into it with a pair of rookie OLs — Kendrick Green and Dan Moore Jr — who blocked through the whistle. Heyward wasn’t a fan.— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) August 2, 2021
When Snell is away, Ballage makes the plays
Benny Snell was missing from practice getting an injury evaluated, and Kalen Ballage stepped up in a big way. If Snell’s injury is considered long term, Ballage could find himself with a roster spot with the dust settles.
On a day with no sign of Benny Snell at Steelers practice, Kalen Ballage just had another nice play, spinning away from a tackle in the backfield. Mike Tomlin yells, “Good run, KB.” That’s how you know it was a nice play.— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) August 2, 2021
Aggressiveness on display
All offseason Adrian Klemm, and the players who play for him, talked about how the offensive line will be aggressive. The passive style won’t exist in the Canada/Klemm offense. And this wasn’t just a coach blowing smoke, he meant it. So far, the offensive line has been living it. For what they lack in experience they will make up for in tenacity. Not necessarily a bad approach.
After 10 days of practice, I can’t tell you if the offensive line will be *good* quite yet, but I can tell you they will definitely have an edge.— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) August 2, 2021
Freiermuth continues to WOW
Another day, another big play by Pat Freiermuth. This is when everyone says, “But can he block?”
Pat Freiermuth with a slick grab from Ben Roethlisberger in 7-on-7. Ho-hum. Guess I’ll just let you know when he drops one.— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) August 2, 2021
Big Ben deep passes
Are you one of the fans who has serious concerns about Ben Roethlisberger’s arm? Do you think he will continue to struggle with those deep/intermediate passes again in 2021? So far throughout training camp he hasn’t just shown the ability to make the throws, but has shown more accuracy. Both good signs for his play this upcoming season.
Ben Roethlisberger just hit Diontae Johnson deep down the field, pass probably traveled about 35 yards in the air. Crowd really liked that.— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) August 2, 2021
He hit James Washington on the sideline, a step out of bounds, for a deep-ish throw after that.
Rico does it again...
Rico Bussey is making a name for himself, and another one-handed catch Monday helps the Bussey legend grow.
Rico Bussey just made a one-handed grab look easy on a pass from Dwayne Haskins. Guys on the sideline LOVED it. Heard someone yell “AY RICO” after the play.— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) August 2, 2021
BTSC Training Camp Recap Podcast
#LIVE: Hear from @minkfitz_21 and about all that happened at today’s practice at @heinzfield on Training Camp Wrap Up, presented by @UPMCHealthPlan.— Steelers Live (@SteelersLive) August 2, 2021
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The @steelers are back on the field for #SteelersCamp!— Steelers Live (@SteelersLive) August 2, 2021
Get an exclusive live look-in at practice on Training Camp Live, presented by @FedEx!
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Today was the first time Steelers fans and coaches really got a good look at right tackle Zach Banner in pads, who is coming off an ACL injury from last season. I asked Coach Mike Tomlin about his progression and O-line overall…@kdka pic.twitter.com/YTPxUx5ch5— AJ Ross (@AJRoss_TV) August 2, 2021
Derek Watt talks about his expanded role in practice Monday. pic.twitter.com/DBeCza9tl8— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) August 3, 2021
Steelers fullback Derek Watt lifts his 7-month-old son Brayden after training camp Monday at Heinz Field. pic.twitter.com/gcd5wCDOjw— Matt Freed (@mattfreedpghpg) August 2, 2021