Monday’s Practice Report
By Dale Grdnic
LATROBE, Pa. — In an attempt to level the playing field, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin announced which defensive player would be pass-rushing in the “Backs-on-Backers” drill Monday during training camp at Saint Vincent College, but outside linebacker Jarvis Jones still got the best of running back Le’Veon Bell in the featured matchup between the team’s top two draft picks.
Jones blasted over Bell on one occasion and went around him on another, but the running back held his own in the third matchup. Tomlin said it was a natural matchup between first-round pick Jones and second-rounder Bell and “appropriate” to call their numbers at the same time.
“Coach already told me that he wanted to see what I could do when we got the pads on, and I was ready for it.” Jones said. “I brought it. I gave some and took some, too. (But) we were trying to toughen up our running backs and give them the best looks that we can, and Le’Veon’s a hard worker.
“He did a great job. They can’t cut us, so if we bull-rush them they have to sit there and take it. But, at the same time, linebackers on other teams are going to do the same thing. So, sometimes, you have to take it. And our guys stood out there and adjusted well.”
Bell said he wasn’t expecting to see Woodley and Timmons too often, although he split two opportunities against Woodley, but he knew Jones eventually would get his number called when Bell was in the backfield.
“Coach just wanted me to compete,” Bell said. “I’m a rookie, so he wanted to see my technique against some of the better players. And I was able to get after it. It was intense. It was something new, but it’s something that I’ve got to get used to, obviously, because it’s a lot different from college.
“Overall, I think I had a pretty good day. I know I still have a lot of technique work to do, but I’m working at it, and I think I’m growing as a player. I feel like I was pretty comfortable, especially in full pads. … I was able to compete, and I feel like I held my own today.”
Tomlin said not to read anything into it that Bell was the first-team running back in the final team drill Monday. Bell explained.
“I’ve been going with the ones a lot,” Bell said. “We all rotate in different situations on different days, but I wasn’t surprised that I got with them so often, especially at the end in the final period. I just want to keep getting more reps and getting better.”
What’s the best move by Jones?
“You know, I’m going to do down the middle and try to light ’em up,” Jones said. “But, at the same time, you’ve always got to have a counter to keep my legs out of it.”
The linebackers attempted to fire the opening salvo when Marshall McFadden drilled Baron Batch, but the running back straightened him up and then mixed it up a little bit. That hurt Batch a bit the rest of the way, because ensuing pass-rushers gave him a little do-si-do, and he took the fake more often than not.
Miniscule running back Curtis McNeal was among the surprises, and after one strong effort against linebacker Adrian Robinson, Tomlin quipped: “He’s a mean little SOB.” Tomlin also commented after probably the poorest performance on the day by tight end Peter Tuitupou. “You’re not stopping anybody from where they want to go,” Tomlin said.
Chris Carter also displayed some good moves for the backers, while fullback Will Johnson was solid for the backs. And despite dropping what Tomlin termed an appropriate loss of some 25-30 pounds, running back Jonathan Dwyer’s blocking did not improve, as Stevenson Sylvester easily slipped him.
Tomlin said that the status remained the same for cornerbacks Cortez Allen (knee) and DeMarcus Van Dyke (hamstring), but the two have a chance to return after Tuesday’s off day.