Inside the ropes: Steelers get trio of receivers back on practice field
A wide receiver group that was short on bodies for the Pittsburgh Steelers the past few workouts got a boost Tuesday when JuJu Smith-Schuster, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Marcus Tucker returned to practice.
Smith-Schuster had been bothered by soreness in his left knee, Heyward-Bey had been slowed by back issues, and Tucker had a foot injury.
With Antonio Brown also sidelined for the past week, Justin Hunter was the only veteran getting regular practice reps until Tuesday.
Brown returned to Saint Vincent after missing about a week with a reported quadriceps injury. He ran a few passes in individual work but watched the rest of practice from the sideline.
Cornerback Joe Haden, who missed a pair of practices with an undisclosed injury, was back on the field Tuesday as was veteran backup corner Coty Sensabaugh. Among the players not practicing were a trio of outside linebackers: T.J. Watt (hamstring), Bud Dupree (concussion) and Keion Adams (undisclosed). Tight end Vance McDonald (foot) and cornerback Brian Allen (undisclosed) did not practice, either.
Center Maurkice Pouncey left practice briefly with an apparent injury, but he returned to complete the final session of 11-on-11 work. While Pouncey was out, B.J. Finney moved from guard to center, and Matt Feiler filled in at Finney’s spot.
An afternoon rain forced the Steelers onto the turf UPMC Field at Saint Vincent. Unlike other practices, the players remained there the entire session and didn’t run any plays on the grass fields.
With the dearth of healthy bodies at outside linebacker, Anthony Chickillo and Farrington Huguenin started with the first-team defense at the outset of the “Seven Shots” 2-point simulation. Rookie undrafted free agent Ola Adeniyi subbed in for Huguenin at times.
• The offense scored a 4-3 victory in “Seven Shots,” with Smith-Schuster the featured target on all four attempts from Ben Roethlisberger. On the first pass, a fade to the right corner, Joe Haden tipped the ball, and Morgan Burnett intercepted.
Smith-Schuster rebounded and scored on the next three plays, all on passes across the middle. He scored in front of Haden on the first two scores and Cameron Sutton on the third.
• Mason Rudolph ran the second team in “Seven Shots” and managed one score in three attempts. The first play was a reverse to Justin Thomas that linebacker Matthew Thomas snuffed out. The play was whistled dead after Thomas grabbed Thomas by the jersey in the backfield.
Tevin Jones made a nice catch on Rudolph’s first pass attempt, stopping and coming back for a throw that froze Sutton. On Rudolph’s third try, he threw a fade to the left corner that Jaylen Samuels bobbled as he fell out of bounds with L.J. Fort in coverage.
• The defense continued to try out the dollar package with seven defensive backs. On the field were Mike Hilton, Terrell Edmunds and Cam Sutton along with starters Sean Davis, Burnett, Haden and Artie Burns. Others on the field were defensive linemen Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, and linebackers Chickillo and Huguenin.
• Hunter had a difficult day. He dropped a perfectly thrown deep pass from Roethlisberger down the right side. Later, he slipped on a route, and Burns easily intercepted the pass from Landry Jones.
• Tevin Jones, the first-year receiver from Memphis, caught a pass over the middle from Landry Jones with three defenders in the vicinity.
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.