A large crowd took in the Pittsburgh Steelers first padded practice on Monday and the team put on a show. They will have Tuesday off before practicing the rest of the week, including the popular Friday night practice under the lights.
It was a strong three days of practice highlighted by some impressive performances from the rookie class and several of the new starters.
As the Steelers rest up with their first off day, let’s take some time to take a look back at some of the sights from the first three days of practice.
Note: All photos in this photo gallery were taken by me.
After failing to record a winning record for the first time as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mike Tomlin is coming into camp on a mission. He has his team focused and ready to go.
He will need a strong performance from young players entering the starting lineup as well as several members of the rookie class. More importantly, he needs to keep his starters healthy and on the field.
With the goal of preventing injuries this year, the Steelers changed up their conditioning routines. After stretching, they are doing a light jog and working on their feet at four different stations scattered around the field.
Jack Bicknell Jr. has been paying attention to detail when working with the offensive line. He has been quizzed by players such as David DeCastro, and he spends plenty of time thoroughly explaining and demonstrating technique.
He has spent a good portion of practice working on the outside-zone technique as he divides the line into two groups: the right half and left half.
Kelvin Beachum will be a master of all trades by the end of training camp. Though he is a backup, he is talented enough to play all five positions on the line.
Right now, Beachum is lined up as the backup left tackle and third-string center. His performance at center has been quite impressive given his lack of experience in this area.
Ben Roethlisberger may have had a salty relationship with Todd Haley last year, but that can be expected when a new coordinator steps in after a popular coordinator leaves.
After making some adjustments in the offseason, Roethlisberger is happy with the offense. The quarterbacks have been working on scrambling drills and they have thrown short and long passes. Roethlisberger has utilized the play-action pass and bootleg as well. He has even thrown the ball away to prevent a sack.
The Steelers signed Bruce Gradkowski to be Roethlisberger’s backup this season. He seems to be comfortable in the offense and is mobile in the pocket.
Gradkowski has put good zip on the ball but at only 6’1” is the shortest quarterback in camp. He hasn’t had any trouble seeing over the line so far.
Fourth-round pick Landry Jones may be the Steelers backup quarterback of the future, or possibly even the starter. At this point, he looks like a rookie.
He lacks the velocity on his passes that the other three quarterbacks have and is hesitant to put the ball in tight windows, meaning he is holding onto the ball too long and being forced to scramble.
Jonathan Dwyer put in a lot of work this offseason to come to camp in shape. He has looked the part so far, and this should positively reflect on his performance.
While Dwyer may be in better shape, the focus at running back has been on Isaac Redman and Le’Veon Bell.
Isaac Redman was another player that came to camp with a new physique. He is slimmer but still appears to be very strong.
During practice in shorts, Redman was very explosive and had the look of starter. That was scaled back a bit once the pads came on, but he is still a well-rounded back who should contribute this season.
As the Steelers’ second-round draft pick, Le’Veon Bell started at the bottom of the running back rotation, but by Monday he was getting a lot of reps.
He was the focal point of the backs-on-backers drill, getting plenty of reps against LaMarr Woodley and Jarvis Jones. He improved throughout the drill. Bell’s strength throughout camp has been his receiving ability out of the backfield.
Will Johnson has been a star of training camp so far. He is in great physical condition and has shown the ability to block.
He has improved as a receiver and has lined up in the backfield and out wide. Johnson has shown soft hands and has had several receptions each practice.
Antonio Brown has a quiet confidence in training camp so far. He is not the teacher that Hines Ward was, but he is wearing the tape with his name across his helmet and works hard on every snap.
Brown has been able to get open and is excellent in open space. He has shown big-play ability off of screen passes.
Emmanuel Sanders takes over as the No. 2 receiver and he has looked the part so far. He has had no problems getting open and has flashed deep speed.
Roethlisberger has thrown towards Sanders often, likely to develop timing with one of his top options. Expect Sanders to have the best season of his career.
David Paulson has been one of the stars of training camp. He has really developed as a receiver and is using his large frame to reach over defenders to make receptions.
A seventh-round draft pick last season, Paulson is fluid when running routes but needs to work on his blocking. Matt Spaeth will be the primary blocking tight end while Paulson focuses his attention on receiving.
Markus Wheaton and Shamarko Thomas were the Steelers' third- and fourth-round draft picks and have performed well in camp. They often are matched up against each other with Wheaton lining up in the slot.
Thomas is being utilized all over the field and has handled these responsibilities well. Wheaton has had several drops but has flashed his quickness and willingness to make the tough catch over the middle.
LaMarr Woodley came to camp in shape, and he is performing very well.
He schooled Bell twice in the backs-on-backers drills and has made several stops on the defensive side of the ball during 11-on-11 drills.
Troy Polamalu looks healthy and is flying around the field. He had a big hit on Bell on Monday and is still a threat near the line of scrimmage. He has blown up several running plays and screen plays in the backfield.
Even his own quarterback has to keep an eye on Polamalu as he can be anywhere at any time.
The Steelers have a new nose tackle and he doesn’t resemble their old one at all. Steve McLendon is strong and fit and will provide a much different presence than Casey Hampton.
McLendon’s style of play should be a bonus for the Steelers as he has the ability to penetrate the line and pressure the quarterback. He has already been disruptive on rushing and passing plays, collapsing the middle of the line.
Pittsburgh’s first-round selection, Jarvis Jones had a shaky start to camp. He looked lost in coverage and wasn’t particularly strong against the run.
The moment he put pads on, things clicked for Jones. He was a force on defense, deflecting a pass attempt by John Parker Wilson and knocking one pass away from Jamie McCoy. He also sacked Landry Jones.
Reggie Dunn has been fielding kicks and punts but has been getting plenty of looks on the offensive side of the ball as well.
The speedy undrafted free agent has not had the chance to return in live action yet but has had a lot of passes go his way in team drills. He had several drops on Sunday but was much better on Monday when he made a couple of nice receptions.