THURSDAY’S PRACTICE NOTES
By Dale Grdnic
LATROBE, Pa. — The training camp grinder continued to spit out Pittsburgh Steelers, as two more players were injured Thursday afternoon.
Starting outside linebacker Jason Worilds, who had been having a solid camp and looked pretty good in various pass-rushing drills, suffered a big toe injury during a one-on-one session between linemen. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said that the injury might cause Worilds some discomfort and keep him out a couple days, but he didn’t expect it to be anything more than that.
Rookie guard Nik Embernate from San Diego State wasn’t as fortunate. During the same drill where the offensive and defensive lines battle in one-on-one situations, Embernate was handled three straight times by rookie defensive end Cordian Hagans from Louisiana-Lafayette. As Hagans was burying Embernate into the grass, the offensive lineman suffered a serious right knee injury.
Embernate laid on the ground for a while before a handful of people helped him up and lifted him onto a cart to be driven off the field. Many teammates came by to wish him well before he was taken off the field, and the fans cheered as he left. Tomlin didn’t offer any immediate update.
Tomlin added that there were no updates on the previously injured players. Cornerbacks Cortez Allen (knee), DeMarcus Van Dyke (hamstring) and Terry Hawthorne (right knee) were all on the sideline with defensive tackle Nick Williams (left knee).
More OL vs. DL
Left tackle Marcus Gilbert was beaten by Worilds on one occasion, but he stopped the pass-rusher during two other attempts. Rookie No. 1 pick Jarvis Jones went three times against Gilbert and was stoned all three times. Jones attempted an inside move, one on the outside and a bull-rush. Neither worked. Gilbert’s long arms and quickness were the difference.
Hagans, Brian Arnfelt and Al Woods all had solid performances for the defense, while Gilbert, Justin Cheadle and John Malecki were the best on offense.
While Jones struggled with Gilbert in a drill, he looked pretty good in the regular team defensive sessions. Jones made several big tackles in the run drills and had a pass breakup for the third straight day. This time, he also picked off the attempt from Ben Roethlisberger.
Nose tackle Steve McLendon, defensive end Brian Arnfelt, linebacker Alan Baxter and safety Damon Cromartie-Smith also got in on the action with solo tackles during the run portion of team drills. Since the plays were known to be runs beforehand, that made it difficult on the blockers, and the defense clearly took advantage.
Things picked up for the offense during the passing session, as Roethlisberger hooked up with wideout Antonio Brown several times, including a touchdown toss where Brown beat Ike Taylor.
Brown also caught a 30-yard pass next to cornerback Josh Victorian, who had decent coverage but couldn’t out-fight Brown for the ball. Brown hauled in a long pass during the final team drill near the end of practice and ran to the fence to give the ball to a fan. So, in all, Brown had a pretty good afternoon.
Quarterback Landry Jones, the club’s second pick in the fourth round, got some time with the first team and made it pay off with long connections to Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery. Jones was out of the pocket on both plays.
Sanders has looked especially fast during this camp. Maybe he’s healthy for the first time in a couple years and has a renewed purpose.
Tailback LaRod Stephens-Howling displayed his versatility with some strong running between the tackles, something he was asked to do quite often at Pitt, and also had several nice catches out of the backfield. If Stephens-Howling can catch the ball in the open field, he’ll be a dangerous weapon for the Steelers.
Beat ’em Bucs
Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley, while firming up a radio appearance for Friday, said: “We’re going to talk about the Pirates, right?” That seems to be on nearly everyone’s mind, even with the Steelers in full swing.
Taylor is pulling for the Pirates to finally have a winning record and reach the playoffs for the first time since 1992.
“It’s a good thing, and I’m happy for it,” Taylor said. “It’s good for the city. … The Pirates, the issue always was when they get to the All-Star break, could they get over the hump? I’m paying attention to it. They are (20-some) games over .500. Hopefully, they can stay in first.
“We talk about it all the time. Hopefully, they can keep this up. I’m gonna go ahead and jump on this bandwagon. I’ve been talking to (Andrew) McCutchen anyway, but I’m really gonna jump on this bandwagon and, hopefully, his boys can take it to the playoffs.”
Taylor believed that any time one Pittsburgh sport was successful, the other wanted to do even better. Even Coach Tomlin got in the act with a tweet:
“How about those Buccos! All the best to Clint Hurdle and the @Pirates,” Tomlin said on Twitter.
ESPN personality Mike Golic was at practice Thursday to watch his son, offensive line candidate Mike Golic Jr., compete in his first NFL training camp.
The first of two night practices is Friday at 5:30 at Saint Vincent College.