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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A look at the d-line

Since I have no clever lead-in today, we’re just going to jump right into what I saw Tuesday afternoon at the Pittsburgh Steelers training camp.

As I got down to the field, the defensive line was working one-on-one against the tight ends run blocking. I wanted to keep an eye on young Ryan McBean to see if the morning session with John Mitchell had made any difference. Plus, I just love it when Mitch starts yelling at those guys.

Interestingly, the only defensive linemen working against the tight ends were McBean, Shaun Nua, Nick Eason and Scott Paxson. Those will probably be the four guys fighting for the sixth defensive line spot, so it really got my interest.

McBean showed some flashes and you can see why Mitchell loves his athleticism enough to spend extra time working with him. He still makes some rookie mistakes though.

Eason looked the best in the drill, which is to be expected, I guess. He’s a veteran and the biggest of the group. He easily shoved the tight ends into the backfield.

Paxson was OK, but I would expect a nose tackle to dominate the line of scrimmage more against a tight end. Working against Heath Miller, he basically just stood him up at the line of scrimmage.

Nua really struggled. He was fought to a stalemate by rookie Matt Spaeth, causing Mitchell to excalim, “You can’t get off of him. They want a stalemate. A stalemate is still a touchdown.”

Later, Nua worked against John Dekker and slipped on his first attempt, with Dekker driving him to the ground. Dekker then rode Nua completely out of the play on the second attempt, with Nua giving Dekker an extra shot at the end.

Mitchell made Nua go for yet a third time and he finally beat his man, Cody Boyd, who had replaced Dekker.

Brian St. Pierre ran the team through a couple of two-minute drills, throwing a beautiful touchdown pass to a leaping Nate Washington on third down from the 24 with 13 seconds remaining on the first attempt. St. Pierre looked sharp on the first drill.

The second attempt wasn’t quite as sharp and he completed only a -12-yard pass to Walter Young and a seven-yard pass to Eric Fowler. Troy Polamalu got a look at cornerback – with Deshea Townsend at safety – on this one and broke up a fourth-down pass to Fowler to end the drill. But Tomlin also called a defensive hold on the play on Polamalu.

Anthony Smith was injured at some point during the two-minute drill. He had an ice pack on his side and Tomlin said he has an abdominal injury. We’ll find out more about it Wednesday, but Tomlin said it didn’t appear serious.

Lawrence Timmons did a little more work today – though the team still isn’t using him in any one-on-one pass rush drills. He does look fluid dropping into coverage and he could help the team in that respect. The questions about his pass rush skills remain, however.

Bryant McFadden lined up with the first team at cornerback, replacing Townsend, for the final 11-on-11 drill. Tomlin said Townsend will start there on Saturday, however.

Ben Roethlisberger got rolled up on a pass play toward the end of practice, as Carey Davis picked up a blitzing Ryan Clark and knocked him to the ground. James Harrison then tripped over them and Roethlisberger stepped onto the pile as he threw a pass. The ball was intercepted by Jovon Johnson and Roethlisberger got up holding his right pinky. He completed practice, however.

Chukky Okobi, Marvel Smith, Darnell Stapleton, Derrick Jones and Chris Hoke were held out of practice, while Jerame Tuman returned after sitting out the morning session.


Anonymous said...

Great job as always Dale. You blow them all away.

Dale Lolley said...

Thanks Steve. I appreciate it.