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Insider Only Wednesday Afternoon Practice Report: Sanders, Brown shine in passing game

By Dale Grdnic
Photo: David Hague — Inside Pittsburgh Sports
LATROBE, Pa. — All four quarterbacks continued to get work in for the Pittsburgh Steelers during a training camp practice Wednesday afternoon at Saint Vincent College, but Ben Roethlisberger clearly was the most accurate.
Byron Leftwich, who is expected to start at least the opening four games with Roethlisberger under a 4-6-game suspension by the league, has been erratic at best. Third-year pro Dennis Dixon and veteran Charlie Batch haven’t been much better. But that doesn’t seem to bother offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.
“We put a lot of good work in during the first couple weeks here, but we still have a lot of work to do before the season begins,” Arians said. “All the QBs have had days when they were sharp, and others when they weren’t. It all evens out in the end, but we’ll definitely have a guy ready for Atlanta.”
The Steelers open the regular season at home with the Falcons, and in an attempt to be able to run the ball against their four-three defense have been grinding it out much more often during this camp. Starting halfback Rashard Mendenhall is happy about that.
“Sure, I want as many carries as I can get,” Mendenhall said. “I think we have a good running game, a strong line and good backs, so I think we should run the ball. But it’s not up to me. I’ll do whatever they want me to do, run the ball or catch it out of the backfield. I don’t want to come off until I have to.”
It appeared that the Steelers have run the ball somewhat successfully so far in camp, but that won’t be confirmed until they get into a live game against another opponent like the Detroit Lions Saturday night. Still, left tackle Max Starks is happy with the progress to this point.
“Sure, we’re doing all right,” Starks said. “We’re building a lot of chemistry with our line, and when you consider that we have a new right tackle and some new backups that’s pretty good. So, we’re not there just yet, but we’re getting closer to where we want to be in a few weeks.”
Leftwich opened with the first team in one interesting drill where the offense had its back to the goal line coming out from the 2.
Leftwich hit Mike Wallace with a short pass on first down for five yards. On second down, Mendenhall lost one, as Ike Taylor came up for the jam. But Leftwich moved the sticks with a pass to Heath Miller in the slot for about 10 yards.
Dennis Dixon and Mewelde Moore came on with the second group at quarterback and running back, respectively,….

and Moore stumbled for a yard on first down. He gained a few off a delay on second down to force a pass on third-and-six. Dixon took a short drop on third down and caromed a pass off Ziggy Hood’s arm.
Charlie Batch came on with the third group and opened up immediately with a short toss to tight end David Johnson. Jonathan Dwyer gained four yards on second down, but he was stopped short on third. There really wasn’t anywhere to run.
Dixon came back in with the first team, primarily, and handed off to Mendenhall twice for four yards. On third-and-six, Dixon got the pass away, and tight end Eugene Bright pulled it in for a first down on a terrific lunging catch.
Batch handed off twice to Justin Vincent to open the next series and get close to a first down, but Sunny Harris came up to stop him on third-and-two.
For the first time since camp began, the Steelers did not do the linemen one-on-ones with offensive versus defense.
“It’s just at that point in training camp where we’re getting a significant number of reps, and we’ll slow it down some to give our coaches a chance to make some corrections,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “What has happened is that we’ve had a bunch of practices with very little meeting time.
“So, some of the corrections needed to be made on the field instead of in the classroom. … Still, it was a good dog day for us today, and we got two of them in. So, overall, I thought it was a solid day, and we got quite a bit done.”
Notes: Maurkice Pouncey got a lot of reps at center in a backup role. … Midway through the workout, Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau was by himself observing a drill. The fans in attendance noticed and cheered for him until LeBeau doffed his cap….
Rookie WRs Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown continued to shine in the passing game and special teams, as both had long TD catches and solid kickoff returns. But the catch of the day has to go to diminutive Stefan Logan, who stretched out to snag a Batch pass, rolled over and held onto the ball. …
The best pass of the day was a Roethlisberger bomb off a pump-fake that he dropped in Sanders hands for about a 60-yard score. CB David Pittman was beaten badly on the play. …
NT Chris Hoke (knee), WR Arnaz Bettle (knee), CB Joe Burnett (back spasms) and TE Matt Spaeth (groin) joined the walking wounded for the day, but aren’t expected to be out too long.

About The Author

Dale Grdnic

TIOPS Steelers Beat Writer

Dale Grdnic is a contributor to Inside Pittsburgh Sports, covering the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pitt Football. Dale has covered the Pittsburgh Sports scene for over 15 years with various publications

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