Mark Kaboly | Tribune-Review
The second day of Steelers minicamp is in the books with only an abbreviated walk-through scheduled for Thursday (Hat Day). The Steelers will then have off six weeks until they report to St. Vincent College in Latrobe on July 26.
Before I get into football stuff, here are some tidbits for you that came out of Minicamp 2:
• Tackle Mike Adams was at the facility on Wednesday for the first time since being stabbed during an attempted carjacking on the South Side two weeks ago. Adams was not made available to the media, but appeared to be in good spirits and good shape. It’s very likely that he will be 100 percent for the start of training camp.
• Once again, former Steelers were on hand helping coaching in Rod Woodson, Jason Gildon, Rod Rutherford and Mike Tomczak. Also, former offensive lineman Oliver Ross was helping as well. Throw in BLESTO scout Chidi Iwuoma and scout Mark Breuner along with former Pro Bowl center Jeff Hartings and former linebacker out of North Braddock Bill Priatko making a visit, and the Steelers’ facility was crawling with past players.
* It sure was interesting seeing Clairton prep coach Tom Nola – owner of 63 consecutive wins, five straight WPIAL titles and four consecutive PIAA titles – talking to defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau during a break in practice.
“We have one less win in a row than you have interceptions,” Nola quipped. And if you know Nola, that was indeed a quip.
* The Steelers pushed up practice by approximately 30 minutes in order to beat the impending rain that was forecasted. However, it never did rain. Oh well, better safe than sorry.
OK, now here is what I got out from two half-hour sessions in the locker room:
• Linebacker coach Keith Butler said during the draft in April that this would be Stevenson Sylvester’s last chance to make an impression on the team.
That impression is going to have to come from the outside.
The fourth-year linebacker out of Utah, who has played exclusively inside linebacker, has been switched to outside linebacker.
Sylvester said he wasn’t told why the move. He said he didn’t ask as well.
“I am just doing whatever they tell me,” Sylvester said. “If they want me to go outside, I’ll go outside. If they want me to go inside, I’ll go inside.”
Sylvester played inside linebacker in college and rotated to the outside for sub-packages, but never really played the position that requires him to rush the passer.
“I am still learning,” Sylvester said. “I have a lot of friends that play outside linebacker – I train with Paul Kruger in Utah in offseason. I am learning a lot of different stuff from a lot of different people and just from watching film. LaMarr Woodley and even James Harrison from the past helped me and even Chris Carter and Jason Worilds – they have amazing first steps and I am trying to learn that.”
Sylvester said he has worked inside and outside since coming to the Steelers. While it is impossible for me to see every snap he took during the spring, I figured I’d ask him if he took any reps inside over the past month?
“No … well, um, not really,” he said.
• How many times do you hear how important it is for an offensive line to have chemistry? Too many, right?
Well, the Steelers offensive linemen are taking this chemistry thing to another level.
“We started to wear the same pair of shoes to look like each other,” guard Ramon Foster said. “They are regular linemen cleats. We are going to wear the same shoe as part of our unity. We have been criticized and scrutinized for years and it is time for us to be a dominant force.”
• Shamarko Thomas is learning a lot from both safeties Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu that’s inspired him. But nothing inspired the rookie out of Syracuse more than the day he got drafted. That’s when he got calls from both Clark and Polamalu.
“They left me voicemails welcoming me,” Thomas said. “After that, I was so pumped up I wanted to go and work out.”
• We all thought that when the Steelers signed William Gay in the offseason that he would naturally fit into the slot when the Steelers went to the nickel.
Well, that’s not the way secondary coach Carnell Lake views it.
Lake plans on the bigger and more physical Cortez Allen sliding over into the slot in the nickel and replace him at corner with Gay.
“For a tall defensive back, Cortez does a very good job in man-to-man and especially bump-and-run and he has quick enough feet to handle the slot receivers,” Lake said. “Some of the time we are getting two tight end sets where they use their athletic tight end in the slot and Cortez’s size matches up well with that. He has a lot of versatility and a lot of range and he can play outside, inside, press-man, off coverage and he is smart enough to handle them all and that’s why I like him.”
It’s not just Lake who continues to praise Allen.
I asked Polamalu, Clark, Ike Taylor and William Gay about him, and to a man, they gushed.
• Speaking of the secondary, in case you haven’t noticed, there isn’t much in the way of depth behind Polamalu and Clark.
In reality, the Steelers are paper thin at the safety position behind the two Pro Bowl safeties. They have DaMon Cromartie-Smith, Robert Golden, Ross Ventrone and Thomas – all four combined have zero career starts.
“I definitely felt a lot more comfortable last year because I knew that the guys knew what they were doing,” said Lake, who lost Ryan Mundy and Will Allen to free agency. “It was a matter of getting the younger guys caught up. That will be the excitement for me, sort of keeping me on my toes at training camp but also to see who is going to come out of this young group of safeties to shine.”
• We haven’t heard much about the new rule the NFL implemented that penalizes a running back for using the crown of his helmet while 3 yards outside the tackle box.
So, I did some snooping and asked some people on what they thought of the rule.
Kirby Wilson: “We are aware of it but we are not going to over-coach it, because it’s going to really be a minor deal in terms of how they play the game. They are going to run and still attack defenders, but it’s just that you are going to protect yourself when being tackled. It’s just that you can’t attack people with the crown of your head. We all understand that. It’s a safety issue that everyone is concerned about. We are not going to over-coach it. They understand what they can’t do with the crown. It won’t change on how they protect themselves and how they attack potential tacklers.”
Jonathan Dwyer: “I really don’t use mine but obviously they are looking out for the safety of the players. We don’t teach that here. We are taught to use your shoulder and if we do that, we will be fine.”
Isaac Redman: “Kirby hasn’t mentioned it at all. We have to wait and see until the NFL comes in and show exactly what they want us to do. Right now, I really don’t even understand it. Even so, I don’t think it is going to affect the way I run. I don’t put my head down.”
LaRod Stephens-Howling: “It is going to be something that is rough because when you get to the end of you run, it is kind of reactionary to get more yards. I guess it will be where they draw the line.”
And there you have it.
See you in Latrobe
√ Mark Kaboly