By Dale Grdnic
Photo: David Hague – Inside Pittsburgh Sports
LATROBE, Pa. — Once again, situation down and distance work was the primary focus for the Pittsburgh Steelers during their Tuesday afternoon training camp practice at Saint Vincent College.
And Steelers coach Mike Tomlin couldn’t have been more pleased about it.
“That was a legitimate training-camp practice,” Tomlin said. “I loved the ebb and flow. There was success and failure on both sides of the ball, but I think we have our feet on the ground and growing as a football team. We need to match that effort (Wednesday). … But I liked the effort and enthusiasm.”
The main team sessions started with a red-zone drill, first-and-10 from the 19.
Ben Roethlisberger hit wideout Hines Ward with a short pass, and then it was changed to third down and six from the 16.
Mewelde Moore went in motion and came out of the backfield to catch a pass down the sideline that he ran in for a score.
Linebacker Lawrence Timmons was late in coverage on the play.
Running back Isaac Redman also got a lot for, catching the ball for short gains out of the backfield and running it effectively as well.
Justin Vincent got his share of work, too, while starter Rashard Mendenhall (toe) was held out.
On third down from the 8, Redman caught a swing pass in the flat after a delay, but Larry Foote knocked him out short of the goal line.
The Steelers also failed to get in on the next play, third-and-goal from the 8, as Roethlisberger’s toss to Ward ended up at the 2.
Byron Leftwich took over the Steelers offense for a third-and-10 play from the 19 and immediately hit rookie Emmanuel Sanders for a touchdown on a leaping catch in the middle of the end zone.
Sanders basically split coverage by William Gay and Foote, while Will Allen was a little late with safety help.
“Hopefully, you’re going to see even more catching like that and touchdowns from me during the preseason and regular season,” Sanders said. He also believed he wouldn’t just make the team, but win the rookie of the year award.
On the next play, third down and 10 at the 11, Leftwich was picked off after a deflection. It was the first interception thrown in a team drill. The previous two were during 7-on-7 work, and one of those was deflected as well. Safety Tuff Harris tipped it, and cornerback Crezdon Butler pulled in the carom.
Leftwich hooked up with Sanders again for a first down inside the 6, and then he hit Tyler Grisham for the touchdown.
On first-and-goal from the 5, Leftwich lobbed a scoring pass to tight end Matt Spaeth, who had position on Farrior. Cornerback Ike Taylor was covering tight end David Johnson past the pylon, and there was no help on Spaeth.
Dennis Dixon got a chance to show what he can do, and he opened with a……
wide receiver screen to Sanders from the 19. The speedy wideout was rolled out of bounds a yard or two from the goal line. Then, it was third-and-seven from the 17, and Dixon hit Antonio Brown to near first-down yardage.
Dixon found Brown for short yardage on first-and-long, and then he threw a bit behind Brown on second down. On first-and-goal at the 5, Dixon ran the second-team offense, but faced the first-team secondary. Dixon hit Brown again at the goal line, but there was no ruling on whether or not he scored.
The offense was somewhat less effective during the next down and distance drill, which began at the offense’s own 20-30.
The best offensive plays were a pass to Sanders from Roethlisberger for a first down on third-and-10 and a swing pass to Vincent that broke open for about 20 and another first down.
The top defensive hit came Brett Keisel, who played off his block and hammered Redman to the ground for a one-yard gain at most.
The offense used some double-tight end formations and even three tight with the third guy lining up in the backfield and staying into block or going in motion.
Moore had a couple nice runs. Arnaz Battle took an option pitch from Dixon around right end for a first down, and newly-acquired fullback Dwayne Wright powered his way through the line on several carries as well.
“I was drafted as a tailback, but I’ll play wherever they want me to play,” Wright said. “I can do it all. … I just got caught up in a numbers game in Philly. They are loaded at tailback and have a Pro Bowler at fullback, so I had no chance. But I’m happy to be here with the Steelers, and I’ll give it my best.”
Glad To Have Him Back
Popular wideout Antwaan Randle El, who returned to the Steelers after spending four seasons with the Washington Redskins, thrilled the fans in attendance and energized his teammates with his pre-practice antics, cheers and chants.
Randle El was drafted by the Steelers in 2002 and threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Hines Ward in Super Bowl XL before leaving as a free agent.
Let’s Get It Right This Time
During the position drills, offensive line coach Sean Kugler appeared to have a particularly difficult time making a point, and Tomlin was nearby. The Steelers head coach quickly ran into the middle of the line and declared that if they didn’t pick things up, they all would be running wind sprints.
Needless to say, the O-line was more attentive and had a little bounce in their step after that.
The Walking Wounded
Nose tackle Casey Hampton (hamstring), Mendenhall and offensive guards Ramon Foster (concussion) and Maurkice Pouncey (hamstring) all worked out during individual position drills, but neither was in the team drills.
Tomlin said that defensive end Nick Eason got dehydrated and is day-to-day, while it’s the status quo for rookie outside linebacker Jason Worilds (hamstring), outside linebacker Andre Frazier (knees), rookie offensive tackle Chris Scott (right foot) and rookie running back Jason Dwyer (hamstring).