Lakelanders Saturday Practice Review ... first day back from scrimmage
Myself and two friends were at Steelers Training Camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe today for our second visit to this great football venue.
Before I represent for you what we witnessed, let me begin with how it ended!
The crack heard around the world
Ryan Clark, wearing No. 21 (which is Mewelde's uni number) for some unknown reason, laid a crack on the chest pads of one undrafted free agent rookie RB Isaac Redmon right in front of us on the very last play of practice. The explosion of sound that permeated the practice bowl echoed across the other side of the wide valley, bounced off the tall basilica and campus buildings way over yonder, and returned back for a second solid vibe at about the same time the thinning fans in our corner of the practice field moaned out our collective ooooh's.
My colleague and myself had been debating up to this point exactly who this mysterious No. 21 in a yellow practice jersey was? We had no idea, as the yellow rosters we held gave no indication of any duplicate No. 21's that may be present. I learned it was Clark hours later when I had gotten home.
Anyways, Isaac Redman, though he stayed fully upon his feet and well balanced, clearly was jarred backwards .... and with careful inspection, one present could see the vibrations from the impact begin at his head and undulate downward towards his feet in Warner Bros. cartoon fashion!
Redman spent most of the next five minutes, as teammates began to dissipate towards the far side of the practice field for some final coaches words and eventual dismissal for the day, gathering himself together while paying special care towards what looked to be a hand that must have got in the way of the colossal blow.
Now on to the rest of what went down today
Today's practice had its focus upon the passing game predominantly. And since this was day one back from the first scrimmage game on Thursday night, there was very little contact, if any at all during the afternoon (with the exception of the exclamation point punking that was described above).
The day was hot and sunny in Latrobe and the field surface likely reached into the low 90's at a minimum.
My initial impression of the WR's was that there was a lack of concentration across the group. In non-defended route reps, Hines dropped a pass right in his mitts first. Then Santonio dropped a perfectly thrown pass ... then another. Lastly, Limas Sweed short-armed a sideline pass that looked to be perfectly placed, much to the dismay of the onlooking fans.
But then the winds of change blew upon the practice field. And the team shifted to 11-on-11 passing scrimmages with modest contact in the trenches to emulate a pass rush upon the QB's. And from that point forward, in what amounted to the greater portion of the afternoon's work, the Bruce Arians passing offense schooled the Dick LeBeau defense all over the field ... one perfect pass play ... then another ... then another. It started with a Ben to Hines TD connection and the momentum from there carried the day.
It was profound!
And the defense wasn't liking it!
To be certain, the lack of contact today had a certain impact on the situation, but Ben and Charlie were hitting their guys all over the field, play after play after play, receiver after receiver after receiver!
Dennis Dixon was not getting the reps today ... Ben and Charlie (more Charlie than Ben) were the QB's getting the body of work. Every single WR seemed to be involved, but it was more significantly the starters ... Ward, Holmes, Sweed, Wallace and McDonald who were standing out. The crowd cheered, hoomed and hawed over and over with platitudes towards the QB's and WR's as they quite literally schooled the Steelers defenders.
The passes were crisp. The QB's stood the pocket. The WR's were velcro ... whether wide open or in a crowd of defenders. Time and time again. Rope after rope after rope!
This was a huge confidence practice for the Bruce Arians passing offense. HUGE!
Players who stood out to me? .... Hines, Sweed, McDonald, Heath, Spaeth, Logan, Wallace and Santonio.
In other work, towards the end of practice the kick coverage gunners had a drill where 3 sleds were lined up 15 yards down from the kick dot and equally across the width of the field. Three gunners were sprinting hard into an explosive initial impact and then on down to take on the oncoming blockers. The first guy to hit the sled right in front of us was Patrick Bailey. He blew up the sled so hard that it literally flipped up into the air and over the other way! The bang from the hit turned heads and the ooohs and awes were vocal in the hillsides!
Stefan Logan was getting a ton of work in the 11-on-11's toward the end of practice. He was showing off his jets in a profound way too! That kid is lightening flashy!
There was little or no RB drills in the 11-on-11's today. It seemed to be a day of rest for this group. There was no punting ... no FG kicking whatsoever today.
Now back to the Ryan Clark hit on Isaac Redman ....
It struck me as odd that a veteran leader with a lock on a star role on the defense would make such a deliberate statement on the rookie RB who had such a stellar game Thursday night ... at the very end of a practice that was clearly and purposely limited in it's hard contact. Nothing during the afternoon that I saw would have spurred this collision to any obvious instigation.
My best hunch is this was a very deliberate hazing by perhaps the hardest hitting Steelers defensive veteran (Clark) upon a rookie star-in-the-making ... as a way to say to this young lad "welcome to the NFL" ... and ... "we like what we see in you so far" .... and ... "oh by the way, you're gonna get your chance now against real players! ... and here it starts brother!"
The timing of this monstrous wrecking of Redman gives the young RB nothing but time to stew in it! he had no opportunity to retaliate as the practice session was ending.
I just hope his injury isn't his pride, and isn't very serious regarding the hand he was favoring.
Welcome to the NFL Isaac Redman!