By Dale Grdnic
For the second straight day, the D-linemen and outside linebackers took on the offensive line in a one-on-one matchup, and the O-line held its own. Max Starks, Chris Kemoeatu, Justin Hartwig and Trai Essex stopped James Harrison, Brett Keisel, Chris Hoke and Aaron Smith in succession to start the session.
In an attempt to break that trend, LaMarr Woodley clearly jumped offside, although he quickly pointed to and yapped at the offensive line.
But then he made up for it with a slick dipsy-do move on Flozell Adams where he faked outside and quickly spun inside for a clear path to the quarterback.
On his second shot against Starks, Harrison used his strength and quickness to bull-rush the back-pedaling left tackle. Starks was beaten before he even got his hands up into position.
With a decided size advantage on the trim and slim Nick Eason, Kemoeatu had him locked up and beaten off the snap.
The two quickly went again, but the results were the same.
Defensive tackle Steve McLendon went twice against Hartwig and split the reps with one stop and one sack each.
Scott Paxson, the second-year tackle from Penn State, went against Hartwig and Essex and handled both, but Hartwig got a stop in as well.
Second-year player Ziggy Hood beat Essex on consecutive snaps and Jonathan Scott on another but Adams handled Woodley by forcing him way wide on their second attempt.
Sunny Harris also had a couple nice moves to beat…….
Tony Hills. Hood’s progress has not gone unnoticed by Tomlin.
“He looks like a second-year player out there,” Tomlin said. “He, of course, is markedly better than he was a year ago. That’s to be expected, but the standards have changed for what’s expected from him.
“And it’s like that for everyone in his draft class. To this point, and I preface it with that, he has met those challenges.”
The star of the backs-on-backers drill clearly was rookie fourth-round draft pick Thaddeus Gibson.
The former Ohio State linebacker had a handful of wins against Isaac Redman, Frank “The Tank” Summers, Rashard Mendenhall and tight end David Johnson, but Redman came back strong with a solid stick later in the drill. Veteran Mewelde Moore also had a staunch effort against Gibson.
Still, the performance by the first-year player was enough to get tutor Woodley and Farrior yelling that Gibson couldn’t be stopped, and that pleased him. But it didn’t make him exempt from carrying a veteran’s jersey and pads. In fact, he had to carry both Harrison’s and Farrior’s pads.
“It was great to hear that what I did made an impact on those guys, but I’m just out here trying to learn from them and do the best that I can to help the team,” Gibson said. “So, I’m definitely glad to be here with the Steelers, and I’m looking forward to making a contribution in any way that I can.”
Even special teams, which Gibson did not play at the end of his career at Ohio State, but certainly will be asked to do with the Steelers.
“Absolutely,” Gibson said. “It’s an adjustment for me, but it’s something I’ll gladly do to make it in the NFL.”
Jason Worilds beat fullback Demetrius Taylor, who also couldn’t handle Stevenson Sylvester.
Johnson did a decent job on linebacker Renauld Williams, but he came back to push Sean McHugh back into the quarterback after an early stalemate. McHugh also had a difficult time with speedy Lawrence Timmons, while Larry Foote beat Summers.
Johnson did a nice job on Ziggy Hood, but last year’s first-round pick came back with a win against Moore. Summers stopped Williams, and Moore did a nice job against Sylvester.
Redman thwarted Patrick Bailey, and Justin Vincent stopped Worilds. Mendenhall’s best effort came against a bull rush by Keyaron Fox.
“I thought our running backs responded well to the backs-on-backers drill, which gives an advantage to the linebackers, if you will,” Tomlin said. “But I still like the group. It’s an unselfish group, and they’re very tight-knit.”
Steelers president Art Rooney II and Tomlin both noted that the team needed to run more effectively this season to be successful on offense, and it was clear that the club was working toward that goal.
First-year offensive line coach Sean Kugler conducted extensive run-blocking drills with one unseen before here where individual O-linemen lunge into a tackling dummy basically in a cut-block drill, which is legal in space.
Mendenhall fumbled for the second straight day, even though play hasn’t been too physical, and this displeased Tomlin quite a bit. Keisel scooped up the loose ball and returned it for a touchdown.