By Dale Grdnic
Photo: David Hague — Inside Pittsburgh Sports
LATROBE, Pa. — While the players, media and fans in attendance awaited the usually exciting goal-line drill to cap Family Day, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin pulled a fast one and installed four third-and-short plays from midfield.
The “live” drill featured four straight third-and-one plays that the offense successfully converted each time.
“You never want the offense to get the upper hand like they did during this practice,” Steelers inside linebacker James Farrior said. “They had a good period with third-and-ones. Then they won the goal-line on a questionable call.
“So, we’ll have to look at the tape on that, but we never want to let those guys get in no matter what. We feel like they can do that on other teams, but not us. So, we need to look at the tape and make adjustments where we need them.”
Isaac Redman, who appeared to be destined for the Steelers’ short-yardage role last year, proved he still deserves a roster spot and shot at it this year with two power runs for first downs.
On the third attempt, with Redman as the up back, quarterback Dennis Dixon rolled right. Mewelde Moore broke to the right as well and caught a swing pass for the first down. On fourth down, rookie Jonathan Dwyer surged through the line for a first down, but immediately was smacked down.
Newly acquired safety Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith, who replaced Tuff Harris (injured reserve), came up quickly to nail Dwyer. It was Dwyer’s second time on the field (Friday as well) since the opening practice.
“I really didn’t see the play, but I heard it,” Steelers inside linebacker Larry Foote said.
“I was fighting with the linemen, but you could hear everybody go ‘ooooh.’ That and the hit were all I heard, but I didn’t see it live.
“I’m pretty sure we’ll see it on film. I guess (Cromartie-Smith) is saying ‘don’t you cut me before you see me in pads.’ So, that’s good for him. He made an impression in his first day.”
Foote added that the coaches told the defense to be ready, because they wanted to try to run the ball in various situations, but the third-and-one session was a surprise. The didn’t know that was happening Sunday.
Tomlin was pleased with the practice as a whole and the running game in particular.
“I liked what I saw on both sides, a little success and a little failure,” Tomlin said. “And there were a lot of teaching opportunities, more than anything else. So, I’m pleased with the work from that standpoint.
“I thought (the backs) represented themselves well. I thought they exercised great vision, and I thought they found some holes to finish some runs off. The young guys have to learn to get their pad level down a bit.”
Byron Leftwich got the majority first-team work in team drills, although Ben Roethlisberger got a few as well. Dennis Dixon got a series and so did Charlie Batch, his first work since the opening practice. Batch threw his first camp pass and now has five total snaps.
The best throws were Leftwich’s first one, down the right sideline to Emmanuel Sanders, and Roethlisberger’s final one to Sanders. The best catch was turned in by another rookie draft pick, Antonio Brown.
On Roethlisberger’s big play, the pocket broke down, so the right-hander rolled left and lobbed a perfect pass over the linebackers that Sanders snagged over his shoulder before going out of bounds for about a 25-yard gain.
In a brief one-on-one linemen drill, second-year player Ziggy Hood continues to be impressive. Whether he’s rushing from the end spots or inside, Hood has provided pressure with a blend of quickness and strength.
In the injury department, Frank Summers (concussion) continues to be out after absorbing a big hit from Foote last week. Jonathan Scott (knee), Chris Scott (foot) and Andre Frazier (knees) are status quo. Mike Wallace should return Monday after the birth of his first child. James Harrison was held out, and Jason Worilds worked on a limited basis, but is getting closer.
Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has not yet returned to camp after getting inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“I want him to soak it up as much as he can,” Tomlin said. “So, by no means are we going to put him on a clock. He can wave and do as much as he would like to. We’ll be here when he gets back.”