Friday, August 01, 2014

Friday's news, notes

Talk about your eventful practices.

A fight broke out between the team’s running backs and linebackers during a backs-on-backers drill at the annual off-campus practice here at training camp.

Le’Veon Bell, back after sitting out all week with a sore hamstring, returned to practice Friday night and got into a scuffle with linebacker Vince Williams during the drill in which a running back attempts to protect a quarterback from a blitzing linebacker.

In this case, the “quarterback” was assistant linebackers coach Joey Porter, and the linebackers were leaping high into the air to bump chests with Porter anytime they beat a running back to the quarterback.

Tempers flared when Williams, who was handled by Bell the first time, lined up against him again. Williams drove Bell to the ground and stayed on top of him, shoving his facemask into Bell’s.

Fellow running back LeGarrette Blount, who was sitting out practice and was dressed in shorts and a hoodie, ran in and dove onto Williams, knocking him off Bell. A mini-mele’ ensued, with several other players joining in.

At one point, Porter pulled Blount out of the pile and the coach and running back went nose-to-nose before they were separated.

“It’s the ebb and flow of team development,” said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. “The tight ends kicked the linebackers’ butt the other day. The linebackers came back today with a vengeance. It’s what team development is about. I would imagine that the backs and tight ends will come back out here (today) with a get-back attitude.”

While Tomlin did appreciate the intensity, he didn’t necessarily condone the ensuing fight.

“It’s an emotional game and they do lose that element of it sometimes, but those things are growth opportunities and opportunities for us to teach,” Tomlin said. “At times you’re going to feel like you’re wronged, but at the same time, you’ve got to keep your wits about you because we step into stadiums with one goal in mind, to win. Obviously 15-yard penalties and things of that nature don’t help with that cause. When do you get an opportunity to talk about that, except in training-camp-like settings when tempers run a little hot?”

It’s not the first time, of course, that Blount’s temper has gotten the best of him, however. He was suspended for his final season at Oregon for punching a Boise State player and also got into fights during his rookie season in 2010 with Tennessee, which eventually released him.

Tomlin did pull Blount aside after the incident. Then, after the drill was over, he gathered the linebackers to speak to them.

@ Rookie Martavis Bryant can be a factor getting deep, but until he learns how to break down better going into his breaks, he's not going to add much past that.

He can learn, however. In fact, after a screen was run to his side of the field on one play, Tomlin chastised him for not blocking after the catch.

"Yes sir," Bryant replied as he ran back to the huddle.

@ Tomlin praised linebacker Lawrence Timmons for chasing a play down to the outside, running to the football with reckless abandon.

"That's the way, Law Dog," Tomlin yelled.

Timmons has been doing a lot of that in this camp, leading by example. It's rubbing off as the entire defense is responding.

Timmons also had the knockout blow of the night in the backs-on-backers. He staggered Bell, knocking him off his feet on a straight power bull rush after the fight.

It was everyone welcoming Bell back to the lineup.

@ The Steelers have been in camp a week now and we finally had our first contract extension.

Earlier this week, general manager Kevin Colbert officially mentioned four players the team would like to work out new deals with before they become free agents at the end of the season: Jason Worilds, Marcus Gilbert, Cortez Allen and Shaun Suisham.

Strike Suisham from that list.

He signed an extension through 2018.

Suisham said his agent and the Steelers had been in talks for the past three days, so we can assume the Steelers also likely contacted the other three guys as well.

But of those, Suisham's deal was probably the easiest to complete. After all, he's missed just five kicks in the past two seasons and his career success percentage of 87.2 is the highest in team history.

Has he missed some big kicks? Sure. Two misses each against Oakland in 2013 and Cincinnati in 2012, could be pointed at as reasons the team didn't make the playoffs.

But he also had four game-winners in the past two seasons as well.

@ Of the other three potential free agents the Steelers hope to extend, I would say that Marcus Gilbert might be the next easiest signing.

He's been a starter for the past couple of seasons, so he has a good idea of where he stands in the pecking order and the Steelers have a good idea of what they might want to pay him.

So unless he's expecting crazy money - and who knows, that could be the case - that one shouldn't be a drawn-out process.

The cases for Worilds and Allen are a little more difficult because neither has a full season of starting experience.

Add to that for Worilds the fact he's playing for $9.75 million and he might not have a lot of incentive to sign a long-term deal until after this season.

The same could be said of Allen, who could wait until the end of the season, when he would have more leverage since the Steelers probably won't want both of their starting corners hitting the open market.

@ NFL officials went over the new rules changes and points of emphasis with the team and media today.

Rolling into a block will no longer be tolerated. Cut blocking will still be OK, as long as you are in front of or to the direct side of a player, but you can't roll in any fashion.

Also, the clock will no longer stop on sacks outside of two minutes.

The thing fans will likely talk about the most involves replay, with two officials in New York watching every game and conversing with the referee once he puts his head under the hood.

They won't be making the call directly, but will be there to serve as an extra set of eyes and for rules interpretation.

The league is stressing that it will not accept any abusive language on the field this season. That includes threatening language or racial slurs or sexual taunts.

A point of emphasis will be made to ensure that defenders don't make illegal contact outside of five yards from the line of scrimmage. Officials will also be watching closely for illegal contact and offensive pass interference.

They will also pay attention to offensive players on bubble screens. Blocks are not permitted outside of one yard from the line of scrimmage.

Those were, of course, points of emphasis in previous seasons, but it was explained Friday that the five-yard zone for defenders had increased to seven or eight yards, and offensive players were getting away with blocking outside of one yard from the line of scrimmage.

@ All fighting aside, Vince Williams is having a really good camp. His problem, however, is that the NFL today is about speed and coverage ability.

Williams is solid against the run. But that's not today's NFL.


  1. Anonymous6:16 PM

    No abusive language aka no smack talk is a little disheartening, it's a part of the game and a part of some players technique. Hopefully the NFL is just putting this out there for the image but not actually worried about enforcing it.

  2. I'm a little disheartened by the continuing expansion of the rule book. The league thinks they are solving a problem when in fact they are over legislating the game to the point that the refs can call a penalty on just about any play. It's a game of passion and emotion that occasionally gets out of hand. There are already rules in place to address it. Enough already!

    Sorry, didn't mean to rant. That was a very insightful and detailed report, Dale. And that is why I follow your blog/twitter accounts. Much appreciated.

  3. I agree Steve-O. And thanks for the kind words, btw. The league is making it so that you can throw a flag on every play.

    Tunch brought up a good point when I was on radio with him today. He retired in 1994. League has implemented nearly 200 new rules since then.

  4. Anonymous11:27 AM


    How is Howard Jones looking? Any chance for him or is it practice squad?

    Thanks for the updates!

    Ardmore Steeler

  5. Anonymous11:43 AM

    Howard Jones is going to make the team over Carter.


  6. snarkey12:08 PM

    I like that tempers are flaring. Especially with the LBs. Porter's swagger seems to be rubbing off.

  7. Anonymous2:42 PM

    Blount involved in a fight with a coach?

    No, you don't say? That hasn't never happened before.


    The only surprise what that Pouncey wasn't involved. Maybe he was too busy reading the latest lawsuit filed against him to get involved in the action.

  8. Anonymous4:16 PM

    Please delete the racist trash comment above, I like this blog for great Steelers coverage not pointless hate-mongering.

  9. Anonymous5:47 PM

    well anon at 2:42 PM called it. pouncey threw a of couple punches at a teammate today.

    thug isn't racist, stop crying

  10. Anonymous5:49 PM

    what he said

  11. Anonymous5:51 PM

    Bah, other anon got in my way. Yes, thug has a racist connotation to it.

  12. Anonymous6:37 PM

    lol rotoworld is so behind the ball on this one.

    "Steelers WR Darrius Heyward-Bey suffered a concussion in Thursday's practice.

    Heyward-Bey has a history of concussions, so he could have trouble getting cleared to return. The missed time puts his roster spot in jeopardy. Derek Moye will get an extended look in Heyward-Bey's absence."

    two things to note here. old news about the head injury plus from what I've been reading moye has been running ahead of him all camp. heyward-bey has been running with the last group of wr's. maybe dale can confirm this

  13. Anonymous8:43 AM

    Bay is a sprinter trying to pose as a football player.