By Dale Grdnic
LATROBE, Pa. — It was family day at the Pittsburgh Steelers training camp Sunday, and that meant it was time for the goal-line drill.
In a best-of-7 set with scoring shots from the 2-yard line, the offense beat the defense 4-3 with a controversial call making the difference.
Fullback Dwayne Wright, who was claimed off waivers from the Eagles just a few days into camp, was lined up in a halfback spot. The play was supposed to go up the middle, but that was clogged.
So, Wright ran toward the right pylon. He and Stevenson Sylvester collided at the goal line, and Wright went sideways.
None of the coaches were near the play, but Steelers conditioning coordinator Garrett Giemont ran over to make the touchdown call, even though he really didn’t have a good angle on the play.
“He made the call, and that’s it,” Wright said. “It was designed to go inside, but I had to rely on my natural ability. Once it collapsed inside, I busted it outside and ran to the end zone. I don’t know what will happen once they look at the tape, but I think I got in the end zone. And everybody else on offense saw the ball go across the line.
“It’s normal for the defense to think they stopped us, but that’s not what happened this time. You can teach technique and a lot of things, but being a good back on the goal line is all about instincts and power to get in. And that comes from within. It’s been a while since I played tailback, but it’s all natural, as you all saw out there today.”
Sylvester, a rookie, has had a rather nondescript camp so far. This could have been a defining moment for him, but it appears to have not worked out in his favor. Still, he got down the line quickly and put a big hit on. It remains to be seen whether it was too late or not.
“I think I got him,” Sylvester said. “It all happened so quick, but I got out there pretty quickly, too, and I put a good stick on him. We’ll see what they call when they look at the tape tonight.”
Two other linebackers, Larry Foote and James Farrior, basically said it was a disputed call. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin disagreed with that term.
“It was not disputed, because we’re going with the call on the field by Garrett Giemont,” Tomlin said. “So, it was a touchdown. We’ll take a look at the tape to see if there are any changes, but we’ll go with the call on the field as we stand here.”
On first down from the 2, with Isaac Redman deep and backup center Doug Legursky as the up back, Redman got the ball and was stopped initially by Casey Hampton. However, Redman easily shook loose and scored.
Redman starred in last year’s goal-line drills at Saint Vincent College and throughout the preseason, but it wasn’t enough to secure him a roster spot. Instead, he made the practice squad.
“His physical characteristics are still the same,” Tomlin said. “He’s got a great center of gravity and great leg drive, but I think he’s potentially better this year because of the patience and his vision that he has displayed.
“Not only in that drill, but in other times during this camp he’s had a knack for putting the ball where it’s supposed to be. And that highlighted his effort today. He’s making progress, and that’s how I’m looking at it during this juncture.”
Tomlin added that Rashard Mendenhall also is a candidate for short-yardage, but he wasn’t involved today. Redman, with No. 3 tight end David Johnson in motion out of the backfield, got a second shot and was stopped by Chris Hoke.
The third goal-line play featured Johnson in motion again with rookie Jonathan Dwyer getting the ball from the deep spot.
Dwyer had been nursing a hamstring injury during the first week, but practiced Friday night and Sunday. Dwyer immediately cut outside to the left and cruised into the end zone.
Dwyer got the ball again on the next play with Legursky as the up man, and he was stopped. End Brett Keisel came off his block and put the clamps on Dwyer.
“Jonathan Dwyer, I like the way he hits the holes, but he has to roll his shoulders forward and reduce his hit surface for his protection and also for the protection of the football,” Tomlin said.
Tomlin added that the Steelers’ jumbo-type backfield with either Legursky, Johnson or hybrid Sean McHugh would depend on who’s dressed on game day.
“It really all depends on who we have suited on that particular day,” Tomlin said. “Legursky has great short-area quickness. That’s what makes him a functional center. And it really kind of negates his lack of stature. So, he has great short-area quickness, and he’s a good leverage guy.”
On the fifth attempt with Dennis Dixon at quarterback, Wright and Sylvester met at the right pilon, and a touchdown was signaled.
“I’m going to watch that on film right now,” Foote said. “He looked like his other hand got across, and then the ball got across. But I don’t know. That’s a tough call. So, they can cheer all they want right now, but we’ll see what happens after we see the tape.”
“I wanted to throw a (challenge) flag on that, but I can’t do it,” Farrior said. “Coach Mike T. has to do it, and they probably paid him off anyway. So, it doesn’t matter. And I guess he had to give it to them after Giemont signaled it. But it was a good play either way.”
Justin Vincent got the sixth attempt and plowed up the middle for the score. The seventh one was moot, since the offense already won 4-2, but the defense stopped Dwyer to make instant replay critical this season.