Here are some Pitt football notes from Trib sports reporter John Grupp, who filled in for Kevin Gorman on Tuesday.
• Tuesday was a busy day at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex on the South Side. On one field, Ben Roethlisberger had returned to practice, throwing darts to Santonio Holmes. On the adjacent football field, Bill Stull was tossing fade routes to Cedric McGee. The two teams share the facility, but it is rare that they are both practicing on the outdoor fields at the same time. Tuesday afternoon for about an hour was the first time this year, as the Steelers have broken training camp in Latrobe.
It’s kind of neat to look one way and see Ike Taylor intercept a Charlie Batch pass and look the other way and watch Jonathan Baldwin and Aaron Berry locked up on each other. My neck hurts.
• Because the Panthers were able to work 30 plays on third-down drills and end-zone drills, they will not hold a scrimmage on Wednesday, as was originally planned. Coach Dave Wannstedt said they will hold two practices – their final practices of training camp – and have a limited number of live drills
“Being able to take advantage of today, I’m going to adjust tomorrow a little bit,” he said. “It’s not going to be like (Saturday’s scrimmage). We will have some live work tomorrow, but it won’t be a full-fledged scrimmage in the afternoon like we originally planned. We will limit the number of plays that we go live.”
Here are some notes from Tuesday’s practice:
• Defensive end Jabaal Sheard (knee) missed his seventh consecutive day of practice. Linebacker Steve Dell (knee) also sat out. He is expected to return Wednesday. Nate Byham (concussion) and Ed Tinker also didn’t practice. Defensive end Greg Romeus got the day off, sitting out Tuesday’s afternoon workout. “He’s fine,” Wannstedt said.
• Tight end Dorin Dickerson and tackle Gus Mustakas were back at practice on Tuesday after missing workouts on Monday.
• The offense had a number of quality plays on Tuesday, but they were also facing a defense that was without ends Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard and, for much of the day, tackle Mick Williams.
• Wannstedt said some of the open jobs – left guard, free safety – aren’t big issues in the locker room, but only among the fans.
“From a fan’s perspective and a media perspective, who is with the first group is meaningful. I’m not minimizing that,” he said. “But Joe Thomas is a starter for us, has been for years. But Chris Jacobsen is playing well. Ced Mcgee and Oderick Turner are both starters for us. Elijah Fields and (Andrew) Taglianetti. Yes, somebody has to line up when we go out after the opening kickoff. But it’s more of a conversation away from here than in house.”
Here are some of the top plays from Tuesday afternoon’s practice
• Redshirt freshman tight end Mike Cruz, getting a lot of snaps with Byham out, had an excellent day. He caught a touchdown pass from Tino Sunseri during 11 on 11 drills and made a nifty catch from Stull with a defender all over him.
• Jarred Holley, playing almost exclusively safety, closed quickly and dove to knock away a deep sideline pass from Sunseri to Cam Saddler.
• Pat Bostick got hardly any reps, but did connect with freshman wide receiver Devin Street for a 50-yard gain. The two also hooked up for about a 12-yard gain moments earlier on third-and-10 drills.
• During third-down drills, tailback Dion Lewis took advantage of a heady blitz pick-up and raced into the open for what would have been a 90-yard touchdown run. Later in the day, however, Lewis fumbled during goal-line drills.
• Another nice run came from redshirt freshman Chris Burns, who cut outside and darted down the left sideline for a 30-yard gain.
• The defensive line was missing some of its top players, but that didn’t matter during goal-line drills. A pair of true freshmen, Tyrone Ezell and Bernardo Nunez, combined to stuff tailback Ray Graham inches short of the goal line.
• Pitt has its final two-a-day on Wednesday, followed by FanFest at 6 p.m. Thursday at Heinz Field, where the Panthers will be available for autographs.