Steelers notebook: Rookie receiver learning from Antonio Brown
AROUND THE STEELERS
• Rookie receiver Martavis Bryant lined up across from Sammy Watkins, college football's best receiver, last season at Clemson. Now he's occasionally opposite Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown. “He's a big-time pro and he carries himself like a pro,” Bryant said. “(He) keeps me motivated. He's teaching me the game as I grow.
•Kicker Shaun Suisham must adjust Saturday against the Giants to the 33-yard extra point experiment and taller uprights (35 feet, not 30). “I'm looking forward to seeing the uprights — a little taller, a little different look,” he said. “It's a little change being back to the 33, certainly this time of year I'm not suggesting it's a difficult kick, but it certainly is different than we've all become accustomed to.”
•Defensive lineman Steve McLendon missed a fourth consecutive practice Wednesday; both he and WR Darrius Heyward-Bey are recovering from concussions. LB Ryan Shazier, RT Marcus Gilbert and DE Cam Heyward sat out with minor ailments. Coach Mike Tomlin wasn't happy with a practice filled with penalties and dropped passes, saying, “We've got to come out with the mentality we're going to thrive instead of survive. We had too many survivors, guys looking to get through it.
•The Power's early exit from the Arena League playoffs allowed the Steelers to sign wide receiver James Shaw, a former Jacksonville State player who spent part of last season on the Carolina Panthers' practice squad. Shaw caught 21 passes for the Power, three for TDs, during the season. WR Danny Coale was waived injured.
•Defensive end Brian Arnfelt was a three-time All-Big Ten academic team member at Northwestern, so it's probably not a surprise that Heyward said, “He overthinks some stuff. But he's put in a lot of work this offseason with me. He's a student of the game. He wants to learn a lot. He's never satisfied with what he's doing.”
— Alan Robinson
Thursday: 3 p.m.
Friday: No practice.
Saturday: Steelers at New York Giants, 7:30 p.m.
INSIDE THE ROPES
• For the second time in training camp, the Steelers worked on their no huddle offense. This time, however, the period was focused on screens and dump offs to the running backs. With Ben Roethlisberger directing the first team, his first play was a screen pass to Le'Veon Bell in which he dropped. Bell then bounced outside for some good yards before a dump off to LeGarrette Blount went for a minimal game. Roethlisberger tried another screen on the fourth play of the period but decided to scramble instead for no gain. The final play for the first team resulted in a first-down pass on an out pattern to Antonio Brown with Ike Taylor in coverage.
• For the first time this year, the Steelers didn't live tackle during the first team drill of the day thus allowing Troy Polamalu to participate. Polamalu has yet to take part in any live drills. The second team was instructed by Mike Tomlin to tackle.
• Chris Carter got the call at first team outside linebacker with Jarvis Jones missing practice. Arthur Moats replaced Jones during the last practice. Rookie defensive end Stephon Tuitt, linebacker Sean Spence and right tackle Mike Adams also received first-team reps. Marcus Gilbert injured his foot in individual drills that forced Adams into the top unit.
• Spence was beaten across the formation on a drag route by Heath Miller. Spence answered on the next play by stringing out Blount on an outside run and tackling him for a loss.
• Twice following a team 11 on 11 period, the Steelers ran ‘dynamite,' a play for the field goal block unit that signifies the offense is trying to kick a long field goal at the end of the half/game, and the block unit needs to get on the field immediately.
• Brown had a play that made Taylor look bad. Brown caught a short curl route, faked one way, went the other and broke loose into the open field. Taylor tried to run him down from behind, but Brown made a cut around the 10-yard line that fooled Taylor and put Brown into the end zone.
• During 11 on 11, Roethlisberger overthrew a pass intended for Brown right into Taylor's hands. Immediately after the ball thumped off Taylor's hands, he dropped and did 10 pushups on his knuckles.
• Tomlin liked the speed for mammoth nose tackle Daniel McCullers. Roethlisberger dumped a pass off to Tauren Poole over the middle. One of the first players who got to Poole was the 6-7, 352-pound McCullers prompting Tomlin to say: “Good hustle, 7-4.”
• The Steelers practiced the kickoff return with the personnel that will likely be used during Saturday's preseason game against the Giants. Shamarko Thomas and Antwon Blake were the gunners with Terence Garvin, Vince Williams, Chris Carter, Matt Spaeth, Michael Palmer, Cody Wallace, Will Johnson, Poole and Dri Archer.
• Rookie offensive lineman Wesley Johnson continued to struggle. Johnson, playing left tackle during pass blocking drills with the defense, got beat bad by Garvin twice. Garvin used a spin move then used a stutter step outside/inside to beat Johnson.
• Another practice and another impressive play by rookie Martavis Bryant. Bryant hauled in a long pass down the left sideline from Landry Jones during a no-huddle period. It was the third consecutive practice that Bryant has made a significant play during a scrimmage.
— Mark Kaboly
The Steelers are preparing for Johnny Manziel to be the Browns quarterback Sept. 7 at Heinz Field. It's not because of any inside intelligence, but because defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said they simply must do so. “He was playing against some real talented athletes in that (Southeastern) conference. They were getting up there around 45 to 50 points a game, so the quarterback must be doing something right. I'm not coaching Cleveland. I don't know what they're going to do. I'm just telling you what I'm doing.”
If Manziel starts next month, his only NFL game footage will be a few quarters' worth of preseason work. LeBeau wouldn't say how a game plan would differ if Brian Hoyer starts, but he said Manziel's ability to extend plays is worrisome – remember, the rebuilding Steelers defense gave up 11 plays of 50 yards or more last season.
— Alan Robinson
Haley outduels Roethlisberger
Todd Haley never played football past high school, but the offensive coordinator showed that he has a pretty accurate arm.
Haley took part in the ‘garbage can' accuracy drill during practice where the points are given for throwing the ball in the can or hitting the 55-gallon garbage can placed 20 yards down the sidelines.
Typically, the competition is Haley, Ben Roethlisberger, Bruce Gradkowski, Landry Jones and Brendon Kay. On Wednesday, a special guest hopped in to a throw a ball or two — former quarterback Byron Leftwich.
It was Haley who came away with the victory. Typically, Roethlisberger runs away with the contest.
Leftwich, along with former defensive end Aaron Smith, was taking part in practice. Former Steelers linebacker Clark Haggans, center Justin Hartwig and offensive lineman Jeremy Parquett have also visited camp. — Mark Kaboly
Quote of the day
“I am not trying to prove anything to anyone. I am just trying to go out there and do my best. The only reason why I look in the past is to see where I don't want to be. That's how I am taking it this year. I always play with a chip on my shoulder. There is no grudge or anything. It just makes me motivated to be successful.”
—Nose tackle Steve McLendon