Pittsburgh Steelers: Observations from Tuesday's Training Camp Practice
The Pittsburgh Steelers returned to practice on Tuesday and continued to build an identity on offense.
Not only did they continue to run the ball, but Todd Haley introduced the no-huddle offense.
The no-huddle has been a strength of Ben Roethlisberger’s so do not be surprised if it becomes a staple of the offense this season.
This was only one of the new wrinkles that the Steelers introduced on Tuesday. They also began to try several players at different positions and these had some very interesting results.
Here are some observations from Tuesday’s practice.
Drew Butler was once again the only punter working today as Jeremy Kapinos remains out with an injury.
It was more of the same inconsistency from Butler.
Butler would have one punt going 35 yards with the next traveling 65 yards. If he could become more consistent, he could challenge Kapinos, but that hasn't happened yet.
Butler dropped one snap and had to hurry to get the punt off. He did benefit from not having a rush coming at him.
The several punts that I timed ranged from 4.0 to 4.3 seconds in the air.
The Steelers looked at a number of different returners as well.
In the first session, Emmanuel Sanders and Chris Rainey handled the return duties. Antonio Brown, Marquis Maze and David Gilreath would later join these two.
With no contact during the returns we will have to wait until the preseason to see who will earn this job.
Working the No-Huddle
Haley had the offense working out of the no-huddle on Tuesday, which should make Roethlisberger happy.
Haley recognizes that Roethlisberger can be very successful in this style of offense and he plans on using it this season. Via Yahoo Sports:
(Roethlisberger) has shown a propensity to do that at a high level, Haley said. 'Ideally, if you have a quarterback like Ben and what he's done, when he's in full control, that's a good situation to be in because he's right in the middle of it and seeing what's going on.
After a day of focus on the no-huddle, a lot of positives can be taken away from both sides of the ball.
Roethlisberger looked very comfortable calling the plays at the line and the defense was not flustered by the quick pace of the offense.
While working out of the no-huddle, Haley did call more passes than he has the past few days, but there were still plenty of runs using all of the backs.
The final three plays out of the no-huddle were all runs—one to the outside and two inside runs.
However, it appeared to have been a broken play. In fact, prior to the snap Willie Colon could have been called for a false start.
Sylvester Moving Around
Meet Stevenson Sylvester, the Pittsburgh Steelers inside and outside linebacker.
Sylvester got a lot of work at left outside linebacker on Tuesday, including reps with the first team defense in place of LaMarr Woodley.
This is potentially a great move for Sylvester and the Steelers.
Sean Spence appears to have the inside track behind Larry Foote and the Steelers could always use depth at inside and outside linebacker.
The ability to play both would be huge for Sylvester.
Sylvester got time on the outside in both seven-on-seven and team drills. He made one stop in the backfield on a running play during team drills.
The transition of Sylvester to outside linebacker is definitely an experiment worth watching as training camp progresses.
Chris Rainey has quite a bit of hype for a fifth-round draft pick. We finally began to see why on Tuesday.
Throughout camp, Rainey has had plenty of opportunities on runs and in the return game, but we were introduced to a new wrinkle during team drills.
The offense was in the shotgun formation and rather than line up in his normal spot in the backfield, Rainey was lined up in the slot.
This turned out to be absolutely brilliant.
Myron Rolle lined up opposite of Rainey and was expected to defend him.
Talk about a mismatch.
Rainey flew off the line and ran a perfect slant, leaving Rolle in the dust. He then caught the ball in stride and ran past several defenders, drawing loud cheers from the crowd.
Speed kills, and Rainey has plenty of it.
Haley will find ways to get the ball in Rainey’s hands and, as camp progresses, he is finding more opportunities by the day.
Despite a threat of storms, the Steelers did not practice on the turf field. The grass fields had finally dried out enough that the team could spend the entire two-hour practice on them.
Keenan Lewis returned to practice and looked fine during the receiver-defensive back blocking drills. He was very physical.
Roethlisberger gave some specific instructions to Sanders on a passing drill. Sanders was standing in a spot and Roethlisberger threw a pass wide of him demonstrating where he needed to go. They ran the play again and it worked to perfection.
Speaking of instructing, Haley takes it very seriously. Not only does he coach, but he gets involved by taking on the role of a defensive back and even going out for passes.
Shaun Suisham missed two field goals in a row to end the kicking session at the start of practice. Both kicks were wide left.
Mike Tomlin once again took interest in tight end blocking drills. He took an active role when they were working on the blocking sled.
Baron Batch dropped a high—but catchable—screen pass from Charlie Batch. He has continued to look impressive running the ball.
Jonathan Dwyer looks much faster than the past two seasons. He is running well.
Tony Clemons made an excellent leaping catch on a bullet pass from Byron Leftwich. Marquis Maze had a terrific diving catch along the sidelines after beating Will Allen’s press coverage.
Curtis Brown was extremely physical during the blocking drills—maybe the most physical defensive back. He shed at least two blocks.
Derrick Williams and Andre Freeman got into a fight during blocking drills. Ryan Clark jumped in as well.
LaMarr Woodley continued to own David Johnson in blocking drills. On one play he tossed Johnson to the ground.
The Steelers ran some misdirection plays and screen passes out of the shotgun. Roethlisberger checked down to the running back on one play.
One of the funny moments of the day came when the defense got to Leftwich and Tomlin blew the whistle. Leftwich continued to playfully run and ignored Tomlin’s repeated whistle blowing.
Sean Spence is said to have a high football IQ. He demonstrated this today, reading and reacting to plays very well. He stuck his nose in to make stops on a couple of run plays and had excellent coverage on a tight end coming across the middle.
Cortez Allen continues to shine in coverage. If he is still considered raw, it is scary how good he could become. He worked out of the nickel with the starters.
Ramon Foster stepped in with the starting unit at right tackle while Marcus Gilbert was being examined by trainers. Foster performed pretty well there.
Dick LeBeau had Cameron Heyward standing up on a couple of pass rush plays. He bull-rushed his way into the backfield, freeing up space for Chris Carter to use his speed to get to the quarterback.
Ziggy Hood and Steve McLendon both got in the backfield to make plays. At one point, Alameda Ta'amu was being double-teamed.