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Notes from Saturday's practice

Postby vrabinec » Sun Aug 03, 2008 12:38 am

Same disclaimer as with the first set of notes. It’s just one practice, don’t get huffy if I bash your guy.

They have a walkthrough of some kick returns, a couple of running and passing plays, warm up throwing, and then get into stretching.

Ryan McBean is the most agile big man out there. He moves through the stretches like a slightly oversized linebacker, flexible in the hips, good balance and agility.

Don’t know who #5 is, he’s not on my roster. I assume he’s the new punter. It’s odd, he looks stiff in one leg and limber in the other. The right leg is thinner than the left and the left leg is stiff.

Essex and Stapleton are stretching side-by-side, and it’s very apparent that Essex is far more flexible.

Dezmond Serrod is in street clothes. Not practicing.

Mike Humpal is in street clothes. I worry any time I see fringe guys like these two missing a practice. They don’t have a lot of time to impress the coaches.

Once again, Ben doesn’t stretch out with the other guys. While everyone else is rolling around on the ground, he is standing up and yapping with Arians. Doesn’t bother me too much. It’s the privilege of being the million dollar man. Ward and Ike don’t get down in the dirt with everyone either, though, they participate more than Ben does.

The running backs are split off in a group of their own in the end zone, away from the rest of the team. They’ve become a tight-knit group. For some reason, I like that.

The new return man Drummond is Gumby. He’s ridiculously limber, to point of being double-joined.

They split the offense and the defense. I get to see one play of the offense as I’m slipping off to follow the defense. Batch tries to hand off to Mewlede Moore, and they’re not on the same page. Either Moore ran too far outside, or Batch didn’t step far enough and hold the ball out far enough. It looks bad.

The d-linemen are firing out of the chute into the sleds. Paxson hits the sled, then Kirschke hits it harder. Kirschke has better form and a bit more power than Paxson.

McBean and Martavious Prince hit the sled harder than either Paxson or Kirschke. Good to see.

Then Aaron Smith hits the thing, and I realize how far the others have to go. There’s a loud pop and the steel on the sled really rattles, rather than there being a slap and some noise. Nice to see Smith back, but it’s not a good sign for the other ends.
McBean looks to be hitting the thing second best out of the ends to Smith. He’s hitting it a little harder than Keisel. I like Keisel, but it looks like he may have some competition down the road soon.

Over on the offensive field, Reid and Bloom make a nice couple of smooth catches from the coach on some out patterns. I didn’t see Bloom make that catch without bobbling it in the first practice. This time he seems to be doing better. May have had a case of first day jitters.

And they both make smooth catches on curl patterns. Again these are the coaches throwing them the ball, and nobody in front of them.

Micah Rucker catches a curl and the ball slaps hard against his hands. No soft bringing it back to his chest like the other receivers.

Back on the defensive line, coach Mitchell has them firing off the line as a set of three down linemen into a three-man sled. The first line, Smith, Hoke and Kiesel hit the sled and it turns noticeably in favor of Smith. He obviously hits it much harder than kiesel.

Jordan Reffert looks small, but he turns the sled just as much as Smith does. He hits it hard. Good form.

Nick Eason looks good on the sled, he has excellent leg drive.

Back on the offensive field, Mike Potts overthrows Gerran Walker on a ten yard out.

Dixon sticks a ten yard out right in Nate Washington’s chest.

Ben hits Drummond in the numbers with a ten yard out.

Down the field, the defensive backs are working on their interception skills. Ike and McFadden are making the catches, but neither one looks like a receiver doing ti.

Tyroen Carter drops an interception.

William Gay catches one, and looks fairly smooth doing so.

Roy Lewis makes a nice catch on an interception over his head.

Travis Williams makes his interception, and it looks like he has the softest hands out of the Db’s who are there.

Grant Mason makes a nice catch on a ball that was behind him and on his hip.

Back over on the offensive side, Dallas Baker makes a smooth over-the-shoulder catch on a beautiful bomb from Dixon.
Potts hits Reid on a fly pattern with a perfect pass.

Back on line drills, Reffert is admonished by Coach Mitchell for having his head down when he collides with a blocker, and for not throwing him aside.

The d-linemen switch to a drill in which a double-team is simulated. As though the tackle fires out at our end, and the guard kicks out in a double-team. Kyle Clement does a great job of holding the point of attack. Even Aaron Smith didn’t do it any better.

Reid makes a diving catch on a pass way behind him from Potts.

Dixon hits Baker with another sweet bomb.

Bloom and Dixon look better this practice than they did the first one. Still not as good as the starters, but they don’t look like disasters any more.

In the Db drills, Roy Lewis loses his footing on side-to-side cuts. First guy to hit the grass in drills other than diving receivers.

Paxson does a nice job of holding his ground on the double-team. He even splits the two blockers.

McBean gets badly turned by the double team.

Coach Mitchell tells him to go again. He gets badly turned again.

Coach Mitchell gives him some instruction, then tells him to try again.Once again, he gets turned. He’s not getting low enough, they’re getting into his chest. And he doesn’t seem to have a lot of upper body strength.

Coach Mitchell has him go again, and this time they drive him ten yards down the field. So much for Kiesel having competition.

On the receiver versus corner drills, Baker beats Anthony Maddison on a ten yard out.

A receiver who’s wearing #13 beats his man, but drops the ball. He’s not on my roster.

Over on the defensive side, the inside linebackers are hitting the sled. Keyaron Fox is weak hitting the sled. He may be a demon in punt and kick coverage, but he’s not gonna be strong at the point of attack as a LB.

Farrior gets a much higher lift on the sled, knocking it back three feet farther.

Foote hits it and is about mid way between how hard Fox and Farrior hit the thing.

Timmons drives it every bit as well as Farrior. Shows a lot of power.
Anthony Trucks hits the sled and doesn’t get much of a lift. Needs some work on his form. The lift is designed to get blockers straightened up and off balance, so they are not pile-driving the linebacker. If Trucks hit a guard the way he hit that sled, he’d get rolled.

Coach Butler gives him some instruction and tells him to try again. He does it again, a little better, but not much.

Fox hits the sled again, but hits it weak.

The ILB’s move to the three man sled. In this drill they are supposed to get in their stance, take a step forward, give the first figure on the sled a shot, then step back and move down the line. Farrior is clearly the best of our LB’s at his. He hits it just right and rattles the steel while the others mostly slap the pads. Foote is the next best, and Timmons comes in at a disappointing and distant third. I now see why he’s not in there on the running downs. This drill is designed to simulate taking on a blocker. While Farrior and Foote hit the sled with the most force they can generate without sacrificing balance, (it’s like a two fisted punch to the blocker’s pecs, but if you wiff, you can’t get off balance). Timmons doesn’t get his arms extended when he hits the sled. He is clearly quicker than the others, but his arms are bent at a 90 degree angle when he makes contact, rather than being almost completely extended. Coach Butler has him try three times in a row and appears to be showing some frustration with Timmons because he’s not getting it. If Timmons hits and oncoming blocker like that, then he’ll be catching the block. For now, I have to say that I agree that Foote seems the right choice for running downs.

I notice Woodley is in street clothes, taking the day off. Good for him. Let’s save him. I don’t see Holmes either, he must’ve gotten the day off too. No sense in these two practicing, they honestly don’t need a lot of practice.

In the distance, the OLB’s are going through their tackling drills, hitting the tackling sled. Bruce Davis is really, really powerful, hits the sled like a truck.

Donovan Woods looks awkward hitting the tackling sled, bends his back a bit, and doesn’t get much lift from his legs.

First scrimmage of the day:

Play #1: Ward beats Deshea by five yards, but Batch throws it behind him on a deep out to the left. (Ben is sitting out the scrimmages today)

Play #2: Willie Colon makes a nice block on a Donovan Woods speed rush to give Batch time and he hits Moore on a swing pass to the right side for a tidy 7-10 yard gain.

Play #3: Kendall Simmons and Mahan pick up a stunt on the line nicely to buy Batch time, he hits Ward on a curl in front of Carter for a 10 yard gain.

Play #4: Gerran Walker is open on a deep out but Batch checks down and misses Carey Davis out of the backfield wide, behind him.

Play #5: Darnell Stapleton makes a nice blitz pickup and Dixon throws to Baker who is double covered closely by Grant Mason and Roy Lewis, but Baker makes a great catch to pull it away from them for a ten yard gain at the left sideline.

Play #6: Kyle Clement spanks Matt Lentz and stuffs a play before it can get started. Just overpowered him with great leverage under his pads and threw him off to the side.

Play #7: #13 beats Travis Williams on a 5 yard out and Potts hits him on the numbers.

Play #8: Potts missed Moore who was blanketed by Deshea. Potts should have never tried to make the throw.

Play #9: Parguet stuffs Paxson and Potts has all day to throw. He throws a 5 yard out to Baker who makes a diving catch (the catch of the day so far) to haul it in.

Play #10:Kendall Simmons does a nice job to stop Aaron Smith, and Nate Washington blows by the secondary and is wide open on the post pattern. Batch throws a perfect 40 yard bomb to Washington who is 5 yards behind the secondary and he drops it.

Play #11: Batch hits Baker on a 5 yard slant. Baker had beaten McFadden with a nice head fake out. I notice that the pass protection is leaps and bounds better today than the first practice…..of course, Woodley is in street clothes.

Play #12: Batch hits Sweed on a quick 5 yard out, the ball bounces off Sweed’s hands and McFadden makes a spectacular diving interception to snag it just before it was going to hit the grass.

Kickoff drills. Drummond and Bloom are taking kicks. Both catch the ball very well. Drummond shows better judgment on touchbacks. (They vary the depth of the kicks)

Timmons and Mundy are teamed as a pair of kick return blockers whose job it is to pick up the other teams gunner. On the first play, they have trouble with Ike Taylor who’s acting as the gunner, he beats them back to the point of the block and splits them.

Martavious Prince, Jordan Reffert and Kyle Clement form a wedge in front of our return man, then the coaches try a second line of Clement, Darnell Stapleton, and Doug Legursky. The second line looks smoother in their movements.

Spaeth and Cody Boyd for a pair of gunner blockers, and they do a nice job of stuffing Foote who’s acting as the gunner.

Anthony Madison and Micah Rucker are teamed up. Madison basically blocks the gunner on his own as Rucker is slow getting back and looks lethargic.

Nick Eason and Patrick Bailey are paired. Eason really gets back well for a big man. Destroys the gunner.

Then the coaches try Bailey with McBean. McBean is quicker than Eason getting back, but doesn’t have the same punch at the end of the play.

Heath Miller and Timmons are paired up and they look surprisingly pathetic as Carey Davis beats them far easier than any other pair has been beaten so far.

Bailey and Limas Sweed are teamed together, and they are slow getting back to the point of the block, but they bury Russel who’s acting as the gunner, knocking him to the ground, the first pancake block of the drill.

Next scrimmage:

Play #1: Moore on a nice blitz pick up. Nate Washington beats Ike Taylor on an 8 yard out and Batch hits him in the numbers….and Nate catches the ball! Yay!

Play #2: Mendenhall runs a sweep left and cuts back through a nice hole between Marvel and Essex. He really does a nice job of setting up that end to think he’s going outside to make it easier for the tackle to get that kick out block.

Play #3: Ike has Washington covered like a blanket, but Batch throws it to him anyway. Washington outjumps Ike, but doesn’t come down with it as Ike rips his hand away at the last second.

Play #4: Parker gets a handoff to the right, but McFadden blows into the hole and stuff the play. 2 yard gain.

Play #5: Dekker makes a nice catch on a ball a bit outside and high on a 10 yard out in front of William Gay. Nice pass from Dixon on the play as he was rolling out to his left and had heavy pressure from the inside.

Play #6: Dixon hits Bloom on a 10 yard crossing pattern out of the slot. Bloom makes the catch, but Grant Mason pokes the ball out of his hands from behind before they get to the sideline. Fumble.

Play #7: Gary Russel runs behind the right guard, but Martavious Prince and Reffert are there to stuff the play for a yard or two gain.

Play #8: Potts can’t find anyone open, checks down to Russel who is very tightly covered by Travis Williams. The ball bounces off their ankles.

Play #9: Nice inside shuttle pass from Potts to Reid who was coming across in motion. Haven’t seen much of Reid in the scrimmages.
Play #10: Moore is swinging out of the backfield and appears to be the primary target, but he’s decked by Hoke. Potts then throws to Washington who beats Deshea on a 5 yard out.

Play #11: Mendenhall blows through a hole on the right side. Since the backs are not allowed to be tackled, not sure how much yardage that would have gotten. Anywhere from 2-5 yards.

Play #12: Marvel stuffs Silverback to buy Batch time, but Batch misses Baker who was wide open on the right sideline. Timmons was in the backfield on an inside blitz but probably a hair late.

They practice a pooch punt from the field goal formation. Not sure if this is just during practice, but the outside guys on the field goal blocking team are Ike and Deshea.

Drummon, Moore and Bloom return the punts, and to be honest, I can’t tell who the best option will be. We’ll have to see in games. Drummon has some moves, Moore is smooth and takes the best angles, and Bloom is just really quick.

The team moves to 7 on 7 and line drills. I stay with the 7 on 7 this time.

Ward beats Silverback on a 5 yard slant, Ben hits him ½ stride behind.

Miller blows by Farrior and is wide open, down the seam in the middle and Ben hits him in stride. Sweed was five yards behind Carter on the deep pattern, but a little too late. Remember how Plaxico was a little slow getting off the line, then was real fast once he got in full stride, Sweed is similar. He is having a bit of trouble getting off the line because his hands aren’t strong enough to push corners out of the way, and he’s too big and gangly to juke them at the line. He needs a year in the weight room. But, once he’s in the open, the only one of our corners who can hang with him in full stride is Ike.

The 7 on 7 reveals Reid’s issue too. He can’t get off the line either. And that’s bad for a slot receiver. So, forget all that gushing I did about him in the first practice report. He still looks great when there’s nobody on him, but put a defender in front of him, and the only move he seems to have to get off the line is to outrun the defender and try to loop around.

Ward beats McFadden on a 10 yard out. Travis Williams had Nate Washington blanketed.

Grant Mason and Travis Williams have Baker double covered, Ben checks down to Moore swinging out of the backfield.

Bruce Davis finds himself covering Ward, and it’s not fair. Ward beats him on a down-out-and up. Gerran Walker was even more open underneath, but Ben opted for the tougher, longer throw. I can’t tell how good Davis is because, at this point, he has no clue where he’s supposed to be. He keeps looking around him, looking at the guys inside for help, but he ends up doing a Riverdance jig where he stands. LeBeau’s defense confuses the crap out of another one.

Sweed beats Maddison on a deep curl and Batch hits him in the numbers.

Batch forces a throw into Cody Boyd who is well covered by Mundy and Williams, but Boyd uses his body well to make a 5 yard catch at the sideline.

Bloom is covered well by Madison, Batch has to throw it away.

Baker fakes Gay out with a nice head fake and beats him on a deep out, Batch hits him in the numbers.

Bloom beats Timmons out of the slot on a deep 15 yard out. Potts throws it very low, but Bloom scoops it off the grass.

Pots has nobody to throw to and checks down nicely to Justin Vincent. Vincent drops the ball.

Baker beats Gay on a 10 yard out, Dixon hits him in the numbers.

Madison and Foote are all over #13, but Dixon tries to force it in. Bad decision. Should have been intercepted.

Rucker beats Gay on a 10 yard curl. Dixon throws it wide left, but Rucker has a very nice reach, snags it.

Latsko beats Williams on a 7 yard out and Ben hits him in stride. Spaeth had also beaten Bruce Davis down the middle deep.

Washington beats Roy Lewis on a 15 yard in, Ben throws it behind him, but Washington makes the catch.

Ben pump fakes Travis Williams out of his jock and Baker blows by him, but Ben throws the ball behind him, and it bounces off his back shoulder and goes thirty feet in the air, Roy Lewis makes a diving attempt at an interception, but just misses.

Last scrimmage:

Play #1: Parker runs left, Marvel and Essex open a nice hole for a 8-10 yard gain. If Essex is the worst we’re gonna see at the left guard spot, I’m not going to complain. And, hopefully Kemo is even better.

Play #2: Carey Davis swings out of the backfield and gets 7 yards in front of Timmons who gives him a shot on the sideline. Sometimes I get the sense that Timmons would rather be off somewhere beating the crap out of someone than playing football. Not sure if that’s good or bad just yet, but I put the over/under on his personal fouls this year at 5.

Play #3: Gay and Mason have a blown coverage and Ward smokes by. Wide open down the left sideline. Batch hits him in stride. Touchdown.

Play #4: Parker sweeps right. Starks gets the kick out on Frazier and Stapleton, who is really playing well, hooks Eason, and Parker skitters through for 8-10.

Play #5: Paxson stunts inside and is alone in the backfield with Mendenhall. Mendenhall jukes out, then cuts back behind him through the hole. That was one of those jukes where the back puts on the fake and the whole field seems to tilt to one side.

Play #6: Arnold Harrison sniffs out a screen to Russel, Lentz did not sell it well. 5 yard loss.

Play #7: Starks and Boyd open a nice hole on the right side and Vincent scoots through. Sweed gets a nice downfield block on the corner (a block where you could hear the pads smack and everything) to help extend the play.

Play #8: Wide receiver screen to Seed on the left. Dixon throws it way high and behind, but Sweed gets a couple feet in the air and pulls it down. Arnold Harrison slices through the wall (poor wall) and has a bead on Sweed who spins out and gets a yard or two more.

Play #9: Colon does a great job of chipping on one rusher, then picking up the late blitz. Baker beats Deshea on a deep post and Dixon abosolutely ZIPS it in there. What an arm. Based on that throw, a thirty-five yard rope, I’d say Dixon might have the strongest arm out of all our QB’s. Reminds me a LOT of Joe Gilliam.

Play #10: Handoff to Justin Vincent inside, Farrior beats Legursky like a drum and blows up the play in the backfield.

Play #11: Potts hits Latsko in stride on a swing pass (does this guy throw any other kind of pass?), but Silverback is right there to stuff it at the line.

Play #12: Russel with a nice strong run to the right, can’t see who opened the hole.

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Re: Notes from Saturday's practice

Postby sarka196 » Sun Aug 03, 2008 3:02 am

Thanks for the update. Very well done and informative. Sounds like Mildenhall is all he's been touted to be. Good stuff.

Nate Washington blows by the secondary and is wide open on the post pattern. Batch throws a perfect 40 yard bomb to Washington who is 5 yards behind the secondary and he drops it.

Man, I was really hoping I wouldn't hear that kind of thing again this year. :roll:
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Re: Notes from Saturday's practice

Postby trenches » Sun Aug 03, 2008 7:47 am

I love the details, vrabinec. Thanks for the updates!

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Re: Notes from Saturday's practice

Postby jstallworth82 » Sun Aug 03, 2008 8:08 am

yeah, Nate running good routes, getting open but can't make the catch. Typical, How many years now? How did he make it to this point with butterfingers? Team
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Re: Notes from Saturday's practice

Postby Nel » Sun Aug 03, 2008 9:02 am

If vrabinec is not employed as a football scout, he probably could be.

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Re: Notes from Saturday's practice

Postby No l Gravity l » Sun Aug 03, 2008 9:34 am

"Play #10:Kendall Simmons does a nice job to stop Aaron Smith, and Nate Washington blows by the secondary and is wide open on the post pattern. Batch throws a perfect 40 yard bomb to Washington who is 5 yards behind the secondary and he drops it."

Almost too good to be true :x

Look out Santonio, 9 TDs in 2 years!!! :celebrate:

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Re: Notes from Saturday's practice

Postby Still_Poppin » Sun Aug 03, 2008 4:13 pm

First off I just wanna say great post... this information really helps out guys like me who live nowhere near Pennsylvania and get no chance of seeing the camp. I just have a couple of questions, i would really appreciate if you could address them...

1) I currently work for Eastern Illinois' Sports information department and get asked daily how Rucker is doing at the Steelers camp. (I guess they keep forgetting that I am not spending my afternoons traveling to Latrobe and back). From what you have written is sounds like he has the talent but is lacking some motivation or something... any chance he makes the ps? how does he look to you?

2) Who is your surprise player so far from what you have seen? I would have guessed Washington, but after the drop he had it sounds like it could go to someone else.

3) McBean... Im getting mixed feelings about him... does he have starter quality?

4) Is our defense really that much better than our offense?

5) Finally... last year Gay looked pretty good... is he improving, or whats up with him?

THese questions are for anyone who has been to camp... I am really dying for information and anything can help



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Re: Notes from Saturday's practice

Postby vrabinec » Sun Aug 03, 2008 4:41 pm

Rucker is having a lackadaisical camp. If they keep him on the ps, it'll be because of his size. He doesn't really know how to play the game yet, but that's not the problem. It looks like he's not hustling, and that might just be that an optical illusion because he's a little slow, being that tall. Id like to see them put him on the ps just because guys his size don't come along all that often.

My surprise is Trai Essex. I was ready to kick his fat butt off the team, but he came in stronger and quicker than I've ever seen him.

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Re: Notes from Saturday's practice

Postby Still_Poppin » Sun Aug 03, 2008 5:00 pm

thanks vrabinec.. the info is really appreciated. Keep it comin!

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Re: Notes from Saturday's practice

Postby sarka196 » Sun Aug 03, 2008 9:13 pm

vrabinec wrote:My surprise is Trai Essex. I was ready to kick his fat butt off the team, but he came in stronger and quicker than I've ever seen him.

I've always thought Essex has played pretty decent when he got the chance. Nothing spectacular, but solid. I know he filled in at LT and got burned a few times, but that is supposed to be the most difficult O-line position. I thought he looked okay for the most part. Sounds like he is doing a pretty good job so far. I hope he continues to play well. That would be a pleasant surprise.
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