STEELERS CAMP BUZZ
The theme of the Steelers off-season was about getting faster on both sides of the ball, but the top priority for the Steelers is re-emerging as a physical, intimidating team on both sides of the ball.
A heavy downpour of rain at times didn’t slow the Steelers from having an extremely spirited physical practice on the first day of pads. Some observers felt it was one of the most physical practices they’ve seen in years.
“I liked the overall energy, enthusiasm,” head coach Mike Tomlin said afterwards.
Through the first three days of camp something has felt different than the past couple years as there seems to be a sense of urgency among all with the Steelers missing the playoffs two straight years.
In addition to the urgency, there is truly a sense of optimism in the air.
An infusion of young talent that is hungry really stood out today, notably Ryan Shazier who starred in the anticipated Backs on Backers/Tight Ends drill.
“He did some nice things. He was elusive, playing to his assets, speed and agility,” Mike Tomlin said of the Steelers first round pick.
Shazier showed a unique blend of speed, agility, and excellent technique as you can tell he is very well coached up already.
The highlight backs on backers matchup was Shazier up against LeGarrette Blount. Shazier blew by Blount on the first two occasions, using an impressive arsenal with a bull-rush and swim move on one of them. “Speed is your asset,” vocal LB’s coach Joey Porter yelled.
On the third opportunity Blount popped Shazier quickly but Shazier still got around Blount.
“He got my attention on the first couple,” Blount said after practice. “He’s really quick, he’s really fast. He makes plays. Big hitter.”
What really stood with Shazier was the intensity and how bad he wanted to win these battles. On one of the few times he was stopped, head coach Mike Tomlin yelled “He doesn’t feel your power 50” and you could see Shazier was mad at himself for getting stopped by tight end Eric Waters and the next time up he came back with a powerful bull rush.
It’s just one day, but all of the tools are there for Shazier to make an impact from Game 1
The Steelers on both sides of the ball are filled with potential young playmakers from Shazier to Le’Veon Bell, Markus Wheaton, maybe even a wildcard like Justin Brown.
The young talent ready to contribute is there and a big reason the Steelers have the makings of a team trending up in the AFC.
JUSTIN BROWN’S FORMER COACH NOT SURPRISED BY HIS DEVELOPMENT
WR Justin Brown made some noise in OTA’s and has continued to during the early stages of training camp. He has excellent size at 6-foot-3, an explosive first couple steps off the line of scrimmage and catches nearly everything that comes his way.
Brown has graded out as maybe the best performing wide receiver through three days. He’s grabbed the Steelers attention with some inside the organization believing he might actually be able to contribute this season.
If the Steelers carry five wide receivers, things are setting up where the last wide receiver spot could be Brown’s to lose over the next couple weeks and he has an opportunity to push for playing time by being the Steelers No. 4 receiver.
It’s been clear in practices that Brown is starting to gain the trust of Ben Roethlisberger and he is much farther developed than 4th round pick Martavis Bryant who again today showed inconsistency with his hands, dropping a ball right in his chest during 7 on 7’s.
Brown’s former coach at Penn State Tom Bradley, current associate head coach at West Virgina, was in the house today and I had chance to catch up with Bradley about Brown.
Bradley is not surprised by Brown’s development and started to see signs late last season when he was around checking out practices.
“I got to watch him last year some, saw him practice a lot near end of the season and I’d seen him starting to feel comfortable and the more comfortable he feels, better he’ll play. He’s one of those guys,” Bradley said.
Bradley feels Brown could emerge as a missing piece for the Steelers at wide out.
“I think he can give Steelers that big play threat, big tall receiver they’re looking for,” Bradley said. “Justin’s a great competitor, outstanding athlete, person. He fits what the Pittsburgh Steelers coaches are looking for. He’s a quality guy, high character guy. He has a chance to make this team and help them.”
MORE STEELERS BUZZ
— Joey Porter looks to have the makings of being a great coach. What caught my eye is how quick he spots deficiencies in a linebackers technique. There was one instance where Chris Carter didn’t even reach the point of attack with the backer and Porter could already spot immediately what Carter did wrong from his first couple steps. As expected, Porter was extremely vocal and fired up with the lively day of hitting.
— Jason Worilds couldn’t stay healthy during OTA’s but has showed up to camp in excellent shape and he hasn’t looked more powerful and quicker. During 11-on-11’s, Worilds made a tremendous interception on an attempted pass by Ben Roethlisberger on a wheel play to Dri Archer about 17-20 yards downfield. Worilds ran step for step with Archer. “That’s the first time Jason Worilds has caught a ball in any fashion,” Tomlin said (laughing)……
— It was a big day for Sean Spence who made it through his first hitting practice since the preseason in 2012. Spence had some good showings in the backs on backers, showing adequate upper body strength and he gets good power from his lower legs. “We’ve had a great deal of comfort of where he is,” Tomlin said. “I know he was glad to be back out there.” Among LB’s, Arthur Moats and Vince Williams also performed well in the backs on backers.
— Antwon Blake who has a very strong chance of making the team because of his ability on special teams, was excellent in pass coverage today.
— Jarvis Jones lack of upper body strength showed in the backs on backers but later in pass rushing situations vs linemen, Jones performed very well, beating starting left tackle Kelvin Beachum twice in a row. Jones technique looks much improved, he uses his hands much better at the point of attack.
— Shaquille Richardson had the second interception of the day during 11 on 11’s, picking off Brad Gradkowski.
— Matt Spaeth had a very strong practice, performing very well in blocking situations and making a few nice grabs in traffic.
— Another training camp and Mike Adams is showing no signs of improving as a pass blocker. as the 5-foot-8 Shamarko Thomas bull rushed Adams during play and drove him to the ground and then got under Adams again a second time. Adams, though, did some good things as a run blocker, which is one of his strength’s.