Daniel McCullers working on one-handed catches?
Landry Jones running routes?
William Gay as “DJ Gay?”
Cody Wallace – among others – directing zooming radio-controlled cars zigzagging between position groups and amongst their drills?
The announcement of starting lineups for the daily “Seven Shots” drill?
Must be the final practice before the off week.
Must be a loose football team feeling good about itself.
Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight” was just one example of the backdrop to Wednesday’s Steelers practice on the South Side. DJ Gay (cornerback William Gay) was playing music throughout what was an abbreviated session – a glorified walkthrough with “Seven Shots” (a series of plays run from the 2 in 11-on-11, competitive fashion) serving as the finale. (“Seven Shots” traditionally marks the BEGINNING of the actual practice).
“It was a lot of fun out there kind of messing around,” guard David DeCatsro said. “It’s been a while since we’ve been able to do that – it’s just been going, going, going for a long time. It’s the latest bye week in the league – just kind of let that pressure off and go into the bye week refreshed.”
The Steelers, with all they’ve been through (three starting quarterbacks, four kickers, the loss for the season of two All Pros and another player at an important position, two suspensions and two home losses to division rivals), still can feel pretty good about themselves at 6-4 and leading the AFC Wild Card race as they head into their bye week.
“We like the intros from the DJ’s the most,” said linebacker Arthur Moats, referring to Gay announcing the defensive starters and DeAngelo Williams the guys on offense. “And, of course, ‘DJ Will Gay’ out there.”
Moats said that coach Mike Tomlin didn’t preside over such a lighthearted practice leading into the bye last season, when the Steelers similarly had a week-before-Thanksgiving off week and the team was similarly 7-4. The 2014 Steelers had a regular, padded practice.
They thought they were this year, too. Moats also said that the fun practice was a surprise for the players.
“We came in and the board (at the locker room entrance) said, ‘Pads,’” Moats said. “And we were like ‘Dang, pads!? It’s the last day (before the break) – what are we doing here?’
“It was a good surprise, I will say that. But even though it was a lighthearted practice in the sense of the warm-ups and stuff, I felt like when the ‘Seven Shots’ started, it got competitive.”
Seven Shots almost always does – the drill appealing to the competitive nature of the offense and defense, while building camaraderie (with the added benefit of making the Steelers the NFL’s 2-point conversion darlings).
The use of multiple surprisingly-speedy and nimble radio-controlled cars added to the vibe on what was an unseasonably warm day. Their use spilled out into the parking lot after practice by some players.
“(Wallace) had some good moves, especially going through other people’s legs and stuff,” DeCastro said.
“It was fun; it was a good day today, a good environment.”