FRIDAY’S PRACTICE RUNDOWN
By Dale Grdnic
LATROBE, Pa. — The Pittsburgh Steelers continued to promote competition with three one-on-one drills during Friday night’s training camp practice at Saint Vincent College.
The first was the celebrated Backs-on-Backers matchup for the second time. They also had the offensive and defensive linemen battle again, but the receivers and defensive backs got matched up for the first time Friday.
“The coaches just want to see what we can do in these types of situations,” cornerback Ike Taylor said. “Whether it’s with the linemen, the linebackers and backs or the DBs and receivers, competition is a good thing for any team. Plus, we like to see who gets bragging rights for a day or two.”
DBs versus WRs
The situation, basically, was a fourth-and-goal at the 1. And a defensive back had single coverage on a wide receiver. Here are the results:
Antonio Brown and Ike Taylor were matched together twice. On the first attempt, Taylor had solid coverage, and Ben Roethlisberger overthrew the pass at the side of the end zone to stay away from an interception. Brown got the better of Taylor on the second try, but had to tip the ball to himself for a diving catch out of the back of the end zone. He was ruled inbounds.
Emmanuel Sanders paired with Will Gay and beat him badly to the inside. Gay grabbed him, but Sanders still got the pass from Roethlisberger for the score. Sanders also beat Gay a second time with a spin move outside toward the pylon.
Jerricho Cotchery lined up against Troy Polamalu, who had pretty good coverage, but never turned around while running to the back of the end zone. Roethlisberger threw the pass out of the end zone. Polamalu had tight coverage the second attempt against Cotchery, who drew a flag for the too-tight play.
Rookie Markus Wheaton put a move on safety Ryan Clark and beat him to the inside for an easy touchdown from Roethlisberger. Wheaton’s second attempt was against Curtis Brown, and he easily had a second score off a fade.
Reggie Dunn beat Curtis Brown with an inside move for a score, as Landry Jones was on the money. Rookie Justin Brown made a nice play to beat Robert Golden in the back of the end zone on a pass from Jones. The two went at it again, and Justin Brown scored the second time as well off a Roethlisberger pass.
He stayed in the drill to pass to Plaxico Burress, who beat Damon Cromartie-Smith with an inside move. Quarterback John Parker Wilson got a shot as well and threw a touchdown pass to Derek Moye, but he could not get both feet inbounds in the back of the end zone, as Victorian could only watch.
Kashif Moore made a quick move inside to beat Josh Victorian for a touchdown from Jones. He also beat Steelers newcomer and former Pitt player Buddy Jackson for a touchdown with a move toward the pylon. Jones also tossed a scoring pass to David Gilreath. He made a spectacular one-handed grab despite good coverage by Isaiah Green.
Reggie Dunn easily beat Ross Ventrone for a touchdown with an inside move, and J.D. Woods beat Shamarko Thomas. Bruce Gradkowski was the quarterback for both touchdown tosses. Woods beat Thomas a second time, but dropped the touchdown pass.
LBs versus RBs
Larry Foote, the wily veteran, showed up Le’Veon Bell on both attempts against each other. Chris Carter and Jamie McCoy split their two battles.
Alan Baxter, one of the true surprises of this camp so far, dominated Jonathan Dwyer on both chances against him. And Marshall McFadden had another strong day against Baron Batch, who is strong enough to handle head-on collisions. However, when he is faked, he appears to take it every time.
While Jarvis Jones had an average pass-rushing performance in this drill, he deflected a pass for the fourth straight practice and nearly had his second interception. He’s really been active in the team drills as a pass-rusher and in coverage. The running game was buoyed by strong performances by running backs Isaac Redman and Bell, who split time with the first team.
The defense had a rough day overall, especially in the team drills. For example, Polamalu read the play perfectly in the red-zone drill, but dropped an interception at the front of the end zone.
DL versus OL
Ramon Foster had two good attempts against Brian Arnfelt, who has acquitted himself pretty well so far in these drills. Al Woods also has had a strong camp, but John Malecki held him off on two attempts.
Ziggy Hood displayed two solid moves in beating David DeCastro on successive attempts, while Marcus Gilbert was able to use his long arms to ward off Lawrence Timmons. Gilbert played right tackle most of the day, while Mike Adams moved to left tackle to display some position flexibility, Tomlin said.
“We’re looking for the very best combinations of people possible, and that might even include within groups,” Tomlin said. “So, both guys are left tackle capable, and they were left tackles in college.
“And we want to provide an opportunity for those guys to show what they’re capable of showing and find the very best combination. So, we’ll continue to those things. Not only with those guys, but others.”
Tomlin said that offensive guard Nik Embernate suffered a torn ACL and torn MCL in his right knee, so surgery is on the horizon.
“Obviously, he’s got a long road ahead of him,” Tomlin added. “But, first things first, we’ve got to zero in on a surgery date. And we’ll go from there, so when we decide that I’ll let you guys know. But, obviously, he’s down and out.”
Tomlin added that Cortez Allen’s right knee problem cropped up after the first practice, and no surprises were found during the surgery.
“It was very positive, actually, so we look forward to getting him back out here soon,” Tomlin said.
Tomlin did not announce it, but cornerback Curtis Brown had a left hamstring issue and left the field with a large ice bag on the area. Brett Keisel had a veterans day off from practice.