By Jeremy Hritz
Training camp is in full swing, the pads are on, the chin straps are buckled, and the hits are being delivered. With practices now open to the public at Heinz Field, media and fans have tremendous access into the team and its new form as they prepare for the 2021 season. As we get ready for the second day of practice at Heinz, here is a run-down of news and notes about your Pittsburgh Steelers.
- Najee Harris did not disappoint in his first-public practice in front of Steelers fans. He showed his ability to be productive through his vision and navigation of blocks, in addition to his power after contact and more-than-adequate pass protection. There was also much communication between Harris and Ben Roethlisberger, indicating the existence of an early relationship that will pay dividends during the season. In a photo widely available on social media, Big Ben is captured celebrating with Harris, and it is great to see such enthusiasm for a rookie from an 18-year veteran.
- While a lot of attention was put on Roethlisberger’s weight this offseason, two players yesterday discussed their current playing weight for the season. Anthony McFarland indicated he put on five pounds this offseason, while Antoine Brooks lost 20 pounds. It will be interesting to see how those body composition changes impact their play.
- Diontae Johnson was criticized by several social media sources for drops in yesterday’s practice; however, many reports emerged to refute such criticism, saying he only dropped one pass in which he was overthrown. This incompletion is available on social media for your viewing (dis)pleasure.
- Mike Nicastro whom you can follow on Twitter @MikeUpSports1, reports that the Steelers are close to being 100% vaccinated, which if true, will help the team avoid unnecessary disruptions this season.
- Alex Kozora who does a phenomenal job of covering training camp shared that Alex Highsmith won the day with his practice performance. This is encouraging, as the Steelers will need a big season from him opposite TJ Watt for the defense to maintain its elite status in 2021. Wonder if the signing of Melvin Ingram provided some additional motivation for Highsmith?
- Dwayne Haskins had a solid first day in pads, scoring on a bootleg during the seven shots period, but also firing a nice pass downfield to Zach Gentry for a 20+ yard gain (Gentry also had a nice day). Many reported the practice was the best Haskins has looked so far, and it will be exciting to see him get extended action next week in the Hall of Fame Game against the Cowboys.
- Speaking of tight ends, Eric Ebron left practice with an elbow injury yesterday, while Pat Freiermuth did some nice things, making several nice catches, though he was not as solid in his blocking, as this will be an area the rookie will have to work on.
- And I’ll close with this quote from Mike Tomlin, “Let’s be clear, all positions are open. Somebody makes enough plays out there, we’ll believe them, particularly as we get into the preseason games and we get an opportunity to play those four preseason games.” Tomlin always encourages competition, as it produces the best possible squad, and while many of the positions are locked for the season, this type of approach encourages and motivates guys, as they know opportunity is abound. Excited to see how things continue to play out through camp and which players emerge.
That is all for today! Here’s to day #2 of padded practice!