Inside the ropes: Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster gets injury scare
On the day the Steelers welcomed back one of their wide receivers and two practices after they had done so for another, a different wideout went down during Wednesday's practice at St. Vincent.
Rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster lied on the grass for a few minutes with a lower-body injury after he got tangled up during an 11-on-11 run-play drill early. Although a motorized cart was brought out, Smith-Schuster eventually got up on his own power.
Training personnel examined the Steelers' rookie second-round pick on an adjacent field before he left for the locker rooms walking without assistance, albeit with a limp.
Before Smith-Schuster had headed up the hill to the locker rooms, coach Mike Tomlin visited with him and the trainers. When he returned to the main field where the Steelers were practicing, he said to no one in particular as he walked past a group of curious assembled players: “Grown-man football. He'll be all right.”
Tomlin refused to divulge the nature of the injury but said “it does not appear to be as serious as it (originally) appeared.”
Sammie Coates made his practice debut Wednesday, and fellow receiver Martavis Bryant's first practice was Sunday.
• Two veterans who had been held out of practice for more than a week took part in some work. But center Maurkice Pouncey and backup quarterback Landry Jones were held out of team drills. Jones worked on handoffs only. Receiver Demarcus Ayers similarly looked the part when he showed up on Chuck Noll Field but participated only on a very limited basis. Also out was veteran guard Ramon Foster, in addition to players who still haven't come back such as linebacker Ryan Shazier and safety Mike Mitchell.
• With Foster and Pouncey absent from team drills, the division of labor at center and left guard with the first team was B.J. Finney and Chris Hubbard, respectively.
• Coates made his training camp debut hours after the Steelers announced he was being activated from the physically unable to perform list. The receiver was the target of a Joshua Dobbs throw during Coates' first 11-on-11 snap (it was broken up in the end zone by cornerback Greg Ducre). But a few minutes later, Coates leaped over rookie Brian Allen for a catch along the back line of the end zone.
• The first-team offense scored on three of its four Seven Shots reps (Smith-Schuster on a behind-the-back shovel pass, Bryant on a quick out over Ross Cockrell and Antonio Brown for an easy quick score in front of Artie Burns). The second-team offense, though, blew that “lead” until it clinched an offensive victory with an Eli Rogers touchdown at the goal line on the seventh snap.
• During the one-on-one cornerback-receiver drills in the end zone off throws from quarterbacks standing at about the 10-yard line, Tomlin repeatedly emphasized he wanted defensive players to get their hands up when the ball approached. “Flash at the end! Flash at the end!” he said to Allen, Burns and Mike Hilton.
• The practice was arguably one of the harder-hitting sessions during camp. The tone was set on the first snap of team drills when the offense lined up with two tight ends and a fullback. At one point, Tyler Matakevich elicited a roar from the defense when he hit running back Knile Davis in an 11-on-11. Later, Tomlin said to linebacker Vince Williams, “Vince, you bully!” after he drove Fitzgerald Toussaint into the ground.
• Former Pitt fan favorite (and former Steelers quarterback) Pete Gonzalez was a spectator at Steelers practice today. Tomlin took a few moments to run over, shake Gonzalez's hand and chat with him.
• Captain “Wild”Bill Wichrowski of “Deadliest Catch” fame was another sideline guest. A noted Steelers fan, Wichrowski is a frequent visitor to Steelers practice.