Saturday afternoon, the Pittsburgh Steelers held their first practice in pads before a loyal crowd of fans and supporters at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA. With trips to Latrobe an annual tradition for many Steelers faithfuls, the day proved to be exciting as veterans and young players took part in drills that gave clues to the type of team the Steelers will have for the 2012 NFL season.
Earlier this week, Mike Tomlin made it clear that everyone, including rookies, would have to prove themselves in camp. David DeCastro and Mike Adams have been closely followed so far in camp, but have been working with the second team. This solidifies Tomlin’s statements. Rookie running back Chris Rainey at 5-foot-8 and 178 pound showed that he has incredible speed and the ability to cut, but Tomlin pulled him from the ‘backers-on-backers’ drill. When asked about the move, Tomlin said, “I’m not going to pull my boat with a Ferrari. I took him out of the drill…I don’t want him cutting LaMarr Woodley and others.”
When the ‘backers-on-backers’ drill got underway, it got a little hotter in Latrobe, and fans noticed. The Steelers’ linebackers seemed to have an edge early, but the running backs started getting into the groove. Baron Batch was able to take part in a very physical practice for the first time since he injured his knee in the Steelers’ 2011 training camp and missed the entire season. Although there were times when Batch looked less than 100 percent, especially when Stevenson Sylvester was able to overrun him in a blocking situation, Coach Tomlin praised Batch by saying, “For a guy that’s coming off a knee injury, I thought he moved with authority and trusted his knee…He’s a sharp young guy and he’s coming back nicely.”
The fullbacks duo of Johnson and Johnson (David and Will – no relation) looked good during the drill in pass protection, and it appears that Todd Haley may have finally brought the ‘true fullback’ position back to Pittsburgh.
Intensity didn’t seem to be an issue on Saturday. After a tirade of praise on Friday, Ryan Clark used Saturday to blast receiver Emmanuel Sanders following a one-on-one drill between a defensive back and a receiver. Fans watched as coaches and players prevented a nose-to-nose confrontation. Clark later posted a message on Twitter that said, “Great intensity at practice today! It’s why we play football. Hope it lasts all camp!!”
Later in the team drills (11-on-11), Willie Colon and Lawrence Timmons tangled as the players got piled up in the middle of the field. A scrum broke out after Maurkice Pouncey literally tossed Chris Carter off the pile and Colon emerged from the bottom of the heap helmet-less. When Coach Tomlin was asked later why Colon was so upset, Tomlin simply replied, “Life. I don’t know. He’s a good player.”
Tomlin’s overall take on the day’s practice was that although some players truly represented on the field, there were wins and losses. “I think everybody experienced a little success and a little failure,” he said. “There was a lot to teach from and a lot to learn from.” When asked about individual match ups, Tomlin said, “We had some competition periods…we’re just starting the process of putting the players in competitive situations…we won’t read too much into it. We’ll take a look at the tape and just continue to move forward.”
Sean Spence injured his shoulder and will see limited practice time
- Steelers.com LIVE: Training Camp (video)
- Mike Tomlin Press Conference 7/28 (video/audio)
- Antonio Brown Press Conference 7/28 (video/audio)
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