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    Assistant Coach Real Deal Steel's Avatar
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    CBSSPORTS: Steeler Observations at camp

    Steelers training camp observations: Can the D replace James Harrison?
    By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com
    August 1, 2013 7:15 am PT



    Timmons (94) and Foote (50) look on as Woodley (56) and Jones (95) work with the OLBs. (Ryan Wilson, CBSSports.com)
    LATROBE, PA -- Inside linebacker Larry Foote is in his 12th NFL season. But in 2002, he was a wide-eyed fourth-round pick trying to make the roster. When he arrived in Pittsburgh, Jason Gildon and Joey Porter were entrenched at the outside linebacker positions. By 2004, Clark Haggans had replaced Gildon, and Mike Tomlin's arrival in 2007 coincided with Porter's departure -- and James Harrison's emergence as one of the league's most ferocious players.

    Now there's another changing of the guard; Harrison was released this offseason and Jason Worilds, Harrison's backup since 2010 -- or possibly the Steelers' first-round pick from this April, Jarvis Jones -- will have the opportunity to fill that void.

    Harrison's first full season as a starter yielded 8.5 sacks and 7 forced fumbles, none of which came as a surprise to Foote.

    "That was his third or fourth year and I knew by the time he became a starter that he was capable," Foote told CBSSports.com. "Whenever he was on the field as a part-time player he always dominated, and I knew he was a force. And he just exploded [in 2007]. That's what Worilds should be looking at. That position is a unique position because if you get sacks, you play. It's that simple."

    And what about Jones, who has struggled to get off blocks when we watched him during Wednesday's practice.


    TE Jamie McCoy gets the best of Jarvis Jones as coach Mike Tomlin looks on. (Ryan Wilson, CBSSports.com)
    "It's wide open," Foote continued. "In preseason and early in the season, if you're sacking the quarterback, you gotta play. Coach can't keep you off the field if you're sacking. So if Worilds wants to keep Jarvis behind him, you got to sack the quarterback."

    Worilds, a former second-rounder out of Virginia Tech, has flashed that ability in limited opportunities, registering five sacks in three starts last season. Jones, meanwhile, arrived in Pittsburgh as one of the best players in college a year ago. In his senior season at Georgia, Jones racked up 14.5 sacks, 24.5 tackles for loss, and seven forced fumbles. Learning the nuances of outside linebacker in Dick LeBeau's scheme is notoriously difficult -- even for Jones, who lined up at the position in college.

    But as Foote pointed out, when you break it down, replacing Harrison comes down to one thing: Sacks.

    More observations
    * Cornerback William Gay returned to the Steelers this offseason after spending 2012 in Pittsburgh West (also known as the Arizona Cardinals). Pittsburgh drafted him in the fifth round back in 2007, and Gay was a capable slot corner for much of his first five years in the league. Now that he's back, Gay will again be part of a three-man rotation that includes veteran Ike Taylor and new starter Cortez Allen. Allen enters his third season and he'll take over for Keenan Lewis, who signed with the Saints this spring.

    Like Worilds or Jones, from the perspective of early August, the question is a simple one: Can Allen handle the responsibility of being a starter? For Gay there's no question.

    "I have high expectations for him," Gay told CBSSports.com. "He has high expectations for himself, and he's ready for the challenge. He's a Citadel grad so you can't get much past him. No pressure is too big for him. …

    "I've been training with [Allen] all offseason," Gay continued, "and I've seen him develop his skill, his craft, and he's looking very much like a cornerback that's supposed to be a starter in this league."

    * Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark aren't in danger of losing their jobs anytime soon, but the Steelers lost their two backup safeties -- Will Allen and Ryan Mundy -- to free agency. It's why they traded up in the fourth round of April's draft to take Syracuse's Shamarko Thomas, a 5-9, 213-pound fire hydrant who has drawn comparisons to Bob Sanders. But like most rookies, the transition from college to the NFL is a process and Thomas admits that he's in the early stages of making those adjustments.


    S Shamarko Thomas (29) covers fellow rookie WR Markus Wheaton (11) during team drills. (Ryan Wilson, CBSSports.com)
    "It's crazy," he told CBSSports.com. "It's a lot faster. You have to learn how to communicate more. In college, you play with athleticism. Here you have to play with technique and smarts. …

    "I'm thinking more than I'd like to," he continued. "I'm not playing at my full speed right now -- the game is going, people are flying around, knowing what I'm supposed to be doing -- I just have to learn how to adjust and make the game slower for myself."

    * Quarterback Ben Roethlisbergerlooks to be in midseason form -- except he's thinner and healthy.


    Big Ben found Antonio Brown on a long bomb down the sidelines. (Ryan Wilson, CBSSports.com)
    But his backups -- Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich -- are gone, replaced by Bruce Gradkowski, rookie fourth-rounder Landry Jones, and John Parker Wilson. None of the three looked particularly sharp on Wednesday (it's one practice so take that for what it's worth), but Gradkowski did find Plaxico Burress on a deep bomb down the middle of the field for a touchdown. So how did Burress get so wide open? Shamarko Thomas, the safety on the play, got caught looking in the backfield.

    "It might have been what the defense didn't do as opposed to what [Burress] did," Tomlin said after practice.

    * If Le'Veon Bell runs during the season like he did at practice, the Steelers should have little trouble reestablishing a running game that languished a season ago. New offensive line coach Jack Bicknell, Jr. is also installing a zone-blocking scheme, which relies on having quick linemen. Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Mike Adams all looked light on their feet during drills. I have questions about Ramon Foster or Marcus Gilbert, but that's what OTAs and training camp are for.


    RB Le'Veon Bell treads CB Curtis Brown during 11-on-11, though Brown still makes the tackle. (Ryan Wilson, CBSSports.com)
    * One of the storylines we can expect from the national media early in the season will have to do with the loss of Mike Wallace, who left for the Dolphins in March as soon as free agency opened. Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders are still here and both looked like savvy veterans on Wednesday. Another player who also stood out: Rookie third-round pick Markus Wheaton, another 5-11, 185-pound burner in the Brown and Sanders mold who made several nice plays during 11-on-11 drills.

    "All of them are quick," Gay said of the Steelers pass catchers. "Almost every receiver is quick off the line. It's going to keep you honest as a DB when you're pressing those guys to make sure you're on top of them because they're quick as lightning. That goes from the rookies up to the veteran starters."

    * It's hard to read too much into where a player stands on the depth chart based on watching one practice. But Alan Baxter (6-0, 238), a rookie linebacker out of Northern Illinois, spent much of the 11-on-11 drills in the offensive backfield disrupting plays. Something to keep an eye on.

    * Another player who has apparently been impressive so far: Nose tackle Hebron Fangupo. We didn't see him in practice but we saw his calves and … well, the man looks like an action figure.


    Even Cortez Allen (28) is amazed at the size of Hebron Fangupo's calves. Which, frankly, are amazing. (Ryan Wilson, CBSSports.com)
    * These are Ryan Clark's socks. That is all.


    Maybe socks are Ryan Clark's thing. Like bow ties are Dhani Jones' thing. (Ryan Wilson, CBSSports.com)
    * Here is a panorama of Chuck Noll Field at Saint Vincent's College (click on the photo to enlarge).


    (Ryan Wilson, CBSSports.com)
    * I had the pleasure of watching practice with SteelCityInsider.net's Jim Wexell (@JimWexell) and Sports on Earth's Mike Tanier (@MikeTanier). Two really smart football guys worth following on Twitter. Tanier tweeted this during special teams drills and I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it.


    * So Adrian Peterson said earlier this week that he'd like to break Emmitt Smith's all-time rushing mark by 2017. Doing the math, that means Peterson will need to average more than 1,900 yards over the next five seasons. That seems ... absurd. But AP is also the guy who gained more than 2,000 yards after shredding his knee the year before. He also did this to William Gay back during the 2009 season.

    We don't bring this up to give Gay a hard time. In fact, we asked him about it Wednesday. (Yes, we know, it happened almost four years ago but we really wanted to hear Gay's thoughts on the play.)

    "Yeah, I remember that," Gay said. "It was one of those plays where, man, I got caught thinking, 'What should I do?' I'm not a dirty player so I didn't want to go after his knees, and I got caught between 'Should I go for his knees or hit him up top?' Next thing you know, he saw me, ducked his head, and ran me over.

    "I know next time I ain't thinking. I ain't thinking at all. I'm just going to pray I don't hurt him and go low."

    * One final thought: If Shamarko Thomas does become the next Bob Sanders, we're going to call him Sharmarknado, right?
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    This team has players and depth... We will move forward just fine.... Im ready for the preseason games to begin....
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    the proper etiquette is to include the link to the article when you copy/paste someone else work
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    CBSSPORTS: Steeler Observations at camp

    Thursday, August 01, 2013

    Embernate injured, other news from Thursday
    Rookie offensive guard Nik Embernate suffered a serious knee injury during Thursday's one-on-one practice drills, getting rolled up by defensive end Cordian Hagans.

    Embernate, who had a serious chance to make the roster, immediately grabbed for his knee upon going down and was on the ground for several minutes before being taken from the field on a cart.

    A number of veteran players, including Brett Keisel and Maurkice Pouncey, stopped by while drills were continuing - they just moved the drill over while trainers worked on Embernate - to give some words of encouragement to the young man.

    @ The Steelers had another physical practice as head coach Mike Tomlin again put the team through live tackling during the team portion of practice on running plays.

    It's about trying to establish a mentality with the offensive line and running backs. But it's also about getting a better look at some of the young linemen and defensive front players. Let's face it, they only have 10 padded practices and a couple of preseason games before they have to start making serious decisions.

    They want as much tape of these guys as possible.

    @ LaMarr Woodley missed all of the team work with a strained calf - read, veteran's day off - giving the team an extended look at Jason Worilds and rookie Jarvis Jones at outside linebacker. Worilds moved across to Woodley's spot and Jones stepped in on the right side.

    Worilds got caught up in the wash while making a tackle in the backfield on Isaac Redman and was slow to get up with a toe injury. It later bothered him again during one-on-one drills. But he says he'll be OK.

    Jones looked lost at times, perhaps not knowing exactly what to do, but did make a nice J.J. Watt play once again, batting a Ben Roethlisberger pass into the air and intercepting it in the second team portion.

    That's twice he's batted balls into the air this week.

    @ With Cortez Allen still out, the Steelers' kept William Gay as the nickel corner and put Curtis Brown on the outside.

    @ Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger had a nice day hooking up against Josh Victorian, who was in good coverage both times but burned anyway.

    On the first, Roethlisberger made a back shoulder throw to Brown down the sideline, with Brown leaping to pull the ball off of Victorian's head.

    On the second, Roethlisberger dropped a perfect throw into Brown's hands just beyond Victorian.

    Brown looks extra quick this camp. And Roethlisberger looks very sharp.

    @ Marcus Gilbert had his best day in one-on-one drills. Mike Adams was solid but needs to get better with his hands.

    Ramon Foster has yet to be beaten in a one-on-one.

    The surprise of the group as been the play of John Malecki, who seems to have an innate ability to read the defender and react accordingly. He's nothing flashy, just efficient.

    @ Fullback Will Johnson made a nice one-handed catch down the sideline in backs vs. backers passing, screening off Chris Carter while hauling in the long pass from Ben Roethlisberger.

    @ Rookie Le'Veon Bell continues to impress. He completely turned Marshall McFadden around in a circle in the same drill. Later, however, he couldn't shake Lawrence Timmons, the king of this drill for the linebackers.

    Bell did show some nice cutback ability running in the team drills, sidestepping a would-be tackler in the hole and getting upfield for a gain. Later, however, he ran right into the waiting arms of Steve McLendon on a run to the left while looking for a cutback lane.
    Dale Lolley at 7:16 PM

    2 comments:

    Anonymous7:22 PM
    Dale how has DD looked? Also sure seems like Sanders is embracing starter role, thoughts?

    Reply

    Dale Lolley7:57 PM
    DeCastro has looked good. Sanders has been fine.

    Tough early in camp because for every guy who looks good, they're making somebody on the same team look bad.

    Reply

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    Assistant Coach Real Deal Steel's Avatar
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    This is being reported on rotoworld.com today 8/3/13:

    Steelers signed OT D'Anthony Batiste, formerly of the Cardinals.

    Batiste, 31, started ten games at left tackle for the Cardinals last season, and was arguably the worst lineman in all of football. He surrendered seven sacks and a whopping 35 hurries in those ten contests. Batiste will compete with Guy Whimper for a backup spot behind starters Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams.
    The Steeler way...is the only way.

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    CBSSPORTS: Steeler Observations at camp

    "Championship"
    "Happy Happy Happy"

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    CBSSPORTS: Steeler Observations at camp

    Allen has surgery, other Friday news, notes
    The statement from Mike Tomlin was short and to the point:

    "Earlier today, Cortez had minor surgery on his right knee. We wanted him to get the surgery done now so he can begin rehabilitating immediately. This surgery was a minor procedure and will have no long-term effects on his return to the field. We look forward to his rehabilitation process and having him back on the field in a couple of weeks."

    That's both bad and good news for the Steelers.

    Allen had been sidelined for the first week of practice with what was being considered a day-to-day soreness in his knee.

    I haven't confirmed this yet, but when speaking with other reporters Thursday at practice, I was guessing it was a meniscus issue.

    Allen is being counted on to move into the starting lineup this season to replace Keenan Lewis, and the Steelers expect big things from him.

    But he also logged enough snaps in 2012 that the team was looking at him as a returning starter, not a new one.

    The fact that they are able to get this issue fixed now instead of a month from now, is actually a good thing. It gives the team more time to work with some of its younger corners, most notably, Curtis Brown.

    @ The Steelers flip-flopped their two tackles on Friday, moving Mike Adams to the left side and Marcus Gilbert to the right.

    I think this is the better lineup for them, and we'll see if that holds up at all down the road, though Tomlin said it was just taking a look at them at those spots.

    @ Le'Veon Bell had a good night, looking much more prepared in the backs on backers tonight. He's now bending and delivering a blow instead of taking the complete brunt of the rush.

    He also had a couple of nice runs in the team portion, including a nice burst and cutback up the middle.

    Again, the only way he doesn't win the job is if he's hurt or fumbles in the preseason.

    Bell did get a little dinged at one point, having team trainers look at his left knee. But they found no structural damage and he returned to action, making his big run after that incident.

    @ Tomlin has had the players hitting in every practice this week with live tackling sessions. Can't help but wonder when that gets dialed back a bit.

    @ Rookie Mike Golic Jr. was moved inside to guard today - his college position - and actually looked much better there than at tackle. Maybe with Nik Embernate's injury, the Steelers feel they have more of a need inside than out.

    Embernate, Tomlin revealed, tore his ACL and MCL on Thursday. No surgery date has been set.

    @ Just when it appeared that Ben Roethlisberger would lead the offense to a score in a hurry-up drill, Troy Polamalu ended the session with a deflection on the final play at the goal line.

    To be honest, though, even I had remarked to PR man Burt Lauten that the matchup on that side, Antonio Brown vs. Curtis Brown, was a juicy one for Roethlisberger.

    But Polamalu jumped the slant perfectly, showing great explosion.

    @ Last year's camp phenom, Adrian Robinson, is this year's whipping boy.

    Tomlin chewed Robinson out during backs on backers, saying, "Adrian, you don't inspire me from an energy standpoint. You had better pick your **** up."

    Robinson, it appears, is being passed by this year's camp phenom, Alan Baxter.

    After all, who doesn't want to hang with my good friend Baxter, and a glass of scotch?
    Dale Lolley at 1:23 PM
    "Happy Happy Happy"

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    SA's #1 Pirates Fan Tetris Champion Black@Gold Forever32's Avatar
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    I keep hearing Alan Baxter's name so he might be one to watch......I never like hearing Ben getting dinged......lol

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