Inside the Ropes: Steelers' Coty Sensabaugh latest to test Antonio Brown
Not unlike during the regular season against opposing teams, Antonio Brown produces no matter which Steelers cornerback is responsible for covering him.
While Brown vs. Artie Burns was a daily highlight the first week of camp, Burns hasn't practiced since leaving the Friday night session early with a lower-body injury. In the 2½ practices that followed, Ross Cockrell typically was assigned to Brown.
To begin practice Wednesday, it was veteran Coty Sensabaugh following Brown around. During the Seven Shots drill that kicks off team sessions daily (simulated 2-point conversions), Sensabaugh was on Brown when Ben Roethlisberger hit him for “touchdowns” on two of the first four snaps.
Each time, Brown was lined up wide to the left and made a move inside. Sensabaugh didn't have bad coverage, but Brown created enough separation and Roethlisberger made good enough throws each time.
• Those were the only two of four snaps the first-team offense won in Seven Shots. For the first time, rookie Bart Houston directed the second-teamers for all three of their offensive snaps. Houston's first attempt was a well-placed ball into the far side of the end zone caught by Eli Rogers. But Houston's next two passes were incomplete.
• James Conner again was in his jersey and football pants and again took part in practice. But, as has been the case since his return to the practice field earlier this week, the rookie running back from Pitt did not take part in team drills.
• After sitting out the first few rotations in a linebackers/running backs open-field tackling (and evasion) drill, Conner was urged by coach Mike Tomlin to join in. Tomlin told the linebackers, “30 was only two-hand touch — he's only in shells (not fully padded).”
• It was a spirited drill in which the running backs showed off quick cuts and dekes, and the linebackers enjoyed their tackles. Tomlin ate it all up and palpably relished presiding over the drill.
• After that drill ended, Tomlin yelled to the team as players made their way to the end zone, where Seven Shots was about to begin: “All right, let's go down and get ready to work!” Before and after Seven Shots, defensive captain Cam Heyward yelled to the entire defense: “Gather up, defense! Let's gather up!” and spoke to the group in the huddle. Those were examples of a heightened intensity in practice, perhaps the result of it being the final practice before the first game action of the season Friday.
• Safety Sean Davis did not practice for undisclosed reasons, likely the lone new addition to a lengthening injury list.
•Sammie Coates again joined Martavis Bryant as receivers who were unable to practice and were working out on an auxiliary field. Coates (physically unable to perform list, knee) and Bryant (awaiting full reinstatement from the NFL after his yearlong drug suspension, which was granted later Wednesday) ran and caught passes from assistant strength and conditioning coach Marcel Pastoor. The session lasted longer than in Coates' first on-field work Tuesday. By the end of practice, Bryant exclusively was working on one-handed catches — including some behind his back.
• Canaan Severin was a standout, the first-year receiver catching a wide variety of passes in separate drills and from different quarterbacks.
• Rogers and Trey Williams were the lone returners of JordanBerry'spunts in special teams work, an indication they will be returning punts against the Giants.