Inside the ropes: Steelers adjust to rainy conditions at Saint Vincent
For a few hours Monday, it looked like the Steelers might get rained out.
A steady downpour in the early afternoon threatened the availability of the grass fields at Saint Vincent. But the rain stopped, and the Steelers opened practice by getting their first snaps on the new artificial turf surface that was constructed adjacent to Chuck Noll Field.
The Steelers returned to the grass surface, once it drained sufficiently, for the start of team drills, and the nearly two-and-a-half hour workout continued.
“Guys had to be light on their feet and adjust, but it was no big deal in the scheme of things,” coach Mike Tomlin said.
• The defense won the “Seven Shots” simulated 2-point competition for the fourth day in a row, this one by a 4-3 margin. Ben Roethlisberger started with incompletions to Xavier Grimble and Justin Hunter but recovered with two scores: a pass in the middle of the end zone to Grimble and a fade to Antonio Brown in front of corner Artie Burns.
• Josh Dobbs got the final three reps in “Seven Shots” and was 1 for 3. His first pass was tipped at the line, and cornerback Cameron Sutton batted down a pass intended for Tevin Jones. Wide receiver Damoun Patterson, signed out of rookie minicamp, produced the only second-team score with a leaping grab in the corner of the end zone over cornerback Brian Allen.
• In WR-vs-CB individual drills, Brown got inside of Burns in the end zone and made a leaping catch before landing on his rear end. Later, Burns got revenge by lunging in front of Brown and tipping away a a pass across the middle. Rookie James Washington had a one-handed catch over Malik Reaves. Mike Hilton and Sutton had pass breakups in the drill.
• In the first 11-on-11 period, Hunter sprung a nice block for James Conner, who got into the open field and swept past safety Nat Berhe for a long touchdown. On the next play, the Steelers ran a flea-flicker, with Conner taking a handoff before pitching it back to Roethlisberger, who threw a long pass over Berhe’s head and into Brown’s waiting arms.
• When Hunter didn’t make an adjustment in a route, Roethlisberger expressed his frustration over receivers not recognizing his signals. “Why are we not looking, receivers,” Roethlisberger shouted to the group standing nearby. “Let’s go. I’m (expletive) tired of it.”
• On another miscommunication, Roethlisberger threw a deep pass for Brown, who was nowhere in the area. The pass settled into rookie Terrell Edmunds’ arms for an easy interception.
• Believe it or not, but Roethlisberger ran a quarterback sneak ... sort of. The Steelers were working on a drill with the offense backed up to its end zone. From the 1, Roethlisberger took the snap and leaned the ball forward for a yard while meeting little resistance from the defense.
• Quadree Henderson and Justin Thomas were used to field punts. Brown also sneaked into the rotation for a return.
• When Burns left after the first team session because of injury, Sutton moved up to the first team and manned the right side. But on the final team session, veteran Coty Sensabaugh replaced Sutton, who then worked with the second team on the left side.
• Anthony Chickillo worked with the first team at left outside linebacker with T.J. Watt missing because of a hamstring injury.
• Pitt basketball coach Jeff Capel watched practice from the sideline.
-- Joe Rutter