The Pittsburgh Steelers are in the heart of their 2017 training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA. While news comes flying at all different angles with contracts, arrivals and departures, it is easy to miss some great written pieces outside of BTSC.
This is where the ‘Black and Gold Links’ comes in. We compile some great articles for you to read, give you a small taste of the article, and a link so you can further read the great work by those who are there telling the tale in first-hand.
Without further ado, today’s black and gold links:
In the first preseason game against the Giants Friday night the Steelers played a variety of defensive coverage schemes. But one thing the Steelers did not do was play a lot of press man coverage.
Defensive coordinator Keith Butler would like to change that in the coming weeks before the games start for real, but injuries to some of his most important defensive backs have put those plans on hold.
Starting free safety Mike Mitchell has missed most of camp with a hamstring injury. Starting corner Artie Burns missed the past week with a knee injury before returning to practice Sunday. In addition, Senquez Golson and Cameron Sutton, two players who were going to compete with William Gay for slot corner duties, have also missed most of camp with lower body injuries.
The injuries have allowed Butler to discover some other players – most notably undrafted corner Mike Hilton – but in the end they have prevented him from answering the question he wanted to know more than any other this summer. Will man coverage be a viable option for him this season?
“We played some matchup zones,” Butler said. “We played some single high man. We didn’t play what we call two-man under. That’s something we have to see what we can do. We have to see if our safeties are good enough, if our corners are good enough and if our linebackers are good enough to cover the tight ends and backs. We’re trying to determine that in training camp and see if that’s a viable coverage for us. If it is, it will certainly help us a lot. I want to be able to play man-to-man.”
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When Chris Hubbard showed up for his fifth training camp with the Steelers, he figured it would be more of the same of what he experienced in his first few NFL seasons. He’d play a little center, a little guard, a little tackle and even a little tight end. The versatility is what made Hubbard such a valuable member of the 53-man roster. He could quite literally play any position on the line.
But so far this summer Hubbard is only playing one position, a sign that offensive line coach Mike Munchak has a specific role in mind for this season.
Hubbard has been exclusively a tackle during the first three weeks of camp. He started at left tackle Friday night against the Giants when Alejandro Villanueva missed the preseason opener with a concussion.
“It’s a lot more tackle than I expected, which is fine,” Hubbard said. “It’s always good to add another position. It’s always good to get better at something.”
The Steelers are looking for a swing tackle, a reserve who can play on the left or right side, after Ryan Harris retired. Jerald Hawkins, a fourth-round pick last year, figured to be in line for the job, but Hubbard appears to be ahead of him in the competition.
Hubbard started four games at right tackle last season when Marcus Gilbert was injured. Playing left tackle, however, is a different animal.
The left tackle faces the opposing team’s best pass rusher most weeks and protects the quarterback from blindside hits. It’s why left tackles are the highest-paid offensive linemen in the NFL.
What makes Hubbard unique is his size. He is 6-foot-4, 295 pounds, which is suitable size for a center, maybe even a guard. But for a tackle, he is as undersized as they come.
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One only hopes Keith Butler doesn't make a similar call during a regular-season game.
For a snap in an 11-on-11 drill about midway through Monday's practice, Anthony Chickillo — and outside linebacker and former defensive lineman — was responsible for the receiver closest to the tackle.
Often, that would be a tight end. But on this particular snap, Chickillo was across from All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown.
Clearly shaken by the mismatch, Chickillo panicked and turned back toward the secondary, telling, “Yo!” while pointing to Brown.
“Don't worry. I got you!”safety Sean Davis replied, not moving in from his deep spot.
Sure enough, Brown ran his route, got open and made a reception about 20 yards downfield.
Chickillo wore a sheepish grin after the play was whistled dead. “A.B.,” he yelled toward Brown. “Hey … I had you. For a second.”
• Other than that mismatch, Chickillo had a strong practice. He played extensively because the Steelers gave rookie left outside linebacker T.J. Watt most of the day off after he logged a heavy snap workload in recent days.
The Steelers signed linebacker Austin Gearing, the team announced Monday. They released receiver Canaan Severin to make room.
Gearing was a tryout player at Steelers’ rookie minicamp in May but was not signed.
Gearing played in 44 games in four seasons at the University of Miami (Ohio). He made 38 tackles, six for a loss, with four sacks and three forced fumbles last season.
He began his college career as a quarterback, completing 24 of 54 passes for 188 yards as a redshirt freshman in 2013.
The Steelers originally signed as an undrafted college free agent out of Virginia in 2016. He spent his rookie season on injured reserve after injuring his shoulder in training camp.
The Steelers waived Severin in May before re-signing him a few weeks later.