Pittsburgh Steelers: Observations from Saturday's Steelers Practice
Several lighting strikes and a loud crack of thunder ended the Pittsburgh Steelers first padded practice of training camp a few minutes early, but that was not before there was plenty of noise on the field.
The loud collisions of the backs-on-backers drill highlighted the day, but a verbal and physical altercation got the crowd excited.
It was clear that the Steelers were ready to start hitting some people, and that's exactly what happened. Now, they just need to save some of that intensity for the opponents.
Here are some observations from Saturday’s practice.
Intensity Running High
On Friday, Ryan Clark was yelling words of encouragement to teammates. On Saturday, it was quite the opposite.
Clark was yelling at Emmanuel Sanders following a drill which matched up a defensive back one-on-one with a receiver.
Following a play, Clark began screaming and walking toward a group a receivers. He looked to get into Sanders’ face before coaches and defenders pulled him away.
Clark did not stop as several defenders held him back before the defense finally huddled up to calm the situation.
But that wasn’t the biggest altercation of the day.
Willie Colon got caught up in a scrum during team drills.
Colon was blocking Lawrence Timmons before the offense and defense piled up in the middle of the field. Then, the scrum began.
Maurkice Pouncey picked up Chris Carter and tossed him off the pile while Colon popped up from the bottom without his helmet.
So, why was Colon so upset?
Willie Colon started a tussle during tm drills today as he blocked Timmons up the field. Asked what Colon was upset about Tomlin: "Life."— Ken Laird (@Ken_Laird) July 28, 2012
There was some serious heat between the offense and the defense and these two units were at each other. The intensity level was definitely a huge plus.
Hitting Begins in Backs-on-Backers Drill
The backs-on-backers drill is provided some good action on Saturday.
Early on in the drill, the linebackers were dominating the running backs and tight ends with spin moves. This included Lawrence Timmons easily getting by Isaac Redman and Stevenson Sylvester beating Baron Batch.
In fact, Batch struggled for a good part of the drill.
Batch got noticed for one outstanding block of James Harrison last year. It was largely ignored that he was otherwise average in the drill, and he did not have a good showing on Saturday.
Jonathan Dwyer had a fair showing, but the two best performances may have come from David Johnson and Will Johnson.
Chris Rainey did not participate in this drill.
Ken Laird of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review tweeted Tomlin's explanation after practice:
Tomlin held Rainey out of pass pro drill bc cut blocking is not allowed "I'm not going to pull my boat w a Ferrari" #Steelers— Ken Laird (@Ken_Laird) July 28, 2012
This certainly makes sense, but at some point, you figure that Rainey will have to demonstrate that he can throw a block.
Troy in Midseason Form
There are not many players that can wow you in training camp, but Troy Polamalu is one of those players.
In an otherwise fiery practice, the quiet Polamalu went about his business as only he can.
During team drills, Polamalu blitzed from the outside and nearly tackled quarterback Jerrod Johnson before he handed the ball to the running back.
This got a huge reaction from the crowd.
Polamalu later made an incredible play to stop Dwyer in the backfield for a three-yard loss.
It was vintage Polamalu on Saturday. He definitely does not look like he is slowing down and already appears to be in midseason form.
Young Cornerback Making a Push to Start
Cortez Allen is making a big push to start across from Ike Taylor at cornerback.
Allen made his presence felt in camp last year and has not let up this year. He continues to impress in practice and had yet another solid practice on Saturday.
On the day, Allen was very good in coverage, and no receiver beat him for a big play.
But Allen’s best play of the day wasn’t defending a pass, it was jamming a receiver.
Allen jammed rookie Tony Clemons on one particular rep in the one-on-one drills with the receivers.
He was extremely physical with Clemons and this got a huge reaction from the other defensive backs. They were very vocal with their support.
It was appropriate to see the article “Brown Has Plenty of Reasons to Smile” by Teresa Varley on Steelers.com. Brown is the new Hines Ward, smiling all of the time. But Brown did not flash his usual million-dollar smile on Saturday—it was a 40-million dollar smile.
Rainey was the only player to wear football pants to practice. The rest of the players were wearing shorts.
Rainey and Marquis Maze both practiced fielding kickoffs.
Maze, Derrick Williams and Tyler Beiler all had strong practices. Toney Clemons had a couple of drops again.
David DeCastro continued to alternate with the first team at right guard. He had a strong practice, and it's only a matter of time until he's named the starter.
Mike Adams held his own in one-on-one drills against Cameron Heyward.
The offense practiced one wide receiver screen on the day. Charlie Batch completed it to Jerricho Cotchery.
Despite struggling in the backs-on-backers drill, Batch ran very well. He was physical when running between the tackles and showed good speed when running outside.
Speaking of running the ball, the Steelers ran the ball a ton during team drills. There's a clear emphasis on establishing the run. The defense looked good defending it.