Offense Catching Up

The defense went through its stretching exercises, while the offense performed up-downs after practice Tuesday to signify that the former got the better of the latter during the nearly three-hour workout.

However, one would never know that by listening to Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt during his media briefing afterward.

"I thought we gave up too many (big) plays on defense,'' Wannstedt said with obvious frustration in his voice. "The offense is adding a few things, and a lot of it was with our second group. But, I think that every time we go on the field defensively we expect to show up and not be streaky.

"And, right now, we've been streaky. In my opinion, we've been up and down. And there's no excuses for that. If you know what you're doing and you give great effort, you should play great every time you go on the practice field. So, we've got to be more consistent.''

The defense looked consistently dominant in the early stages during the 11-on-11 (team) drills. Greg Romeus, who returned to full practice with no problems after taking Monday off, opened the period by sacking Stull. He beat Jason Pinkston and quickly got to Stull.

There was pressure up the middle on second down, but Stull stepped up to avoid it. Cornerback Jovani Chappel and safety Eric Thatcher had decent coverage on wideout Derek Kinder, but Stull put the ball to the outside where the two defenders couldn't get to it. However, Kinder couldn't stay inbounds.

On third down, tailback LeSean McCoy finally got a touch and took a handoff around left end for a big gain. It must not have been for a first down, however, because the second team came on after that.

Pat Bostick was the quarterback and immediately was sacked by a host of Panthers. Pressure came from the outside originally, but when Bostick stepped up the middle collapsed. He was touched just before he dumped the ball off to LaRod Stephens-Howling.

On third down, LaRod swept left but couldn't turn up field because cornerback Antwuan Reed had tight pursuit.

Stull returned for another round and fired incomplete on first down. Stull was sacked by Jabaal Sheard on second down, so the defense is looking pretty good at this point. Then, offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh pulled out all stops.

McCoy took the handoff on third-and-long and started up the middle. The usual call, some might believe. But this time, McCoy quickly turned around and pitched the ball back to Stull. He fired downfield to a wide-open Oderick Turner for a 65-yard touchdown. The flea-flicker worked perfectly because Chappel and Thatcher both came up on the running play.

The other big play by the offense was turned in by junior tight end Dorin Dickerson, and it was all on him. Sure, quarterback Kevan Smith fired a long pass across his body, probably the only Pitt signal-caller who could make that throw and have a chance to complete it due to the difficulty and distance. It wasn't the sharpest pass, but it was close enough to Dickerson where he could go up and grab it in front of safety Andrew Taglianetti.

"I thought that the quarterbacks, for the most part, made good decisions,'' Wannstedt said. "They're throwing the ball pretty good, and the effort was good. I guess the offense is catching up to the defense a little bit.''

Shane Murray left practice early with a leg injury that didn't appear to be serious, but Austin Ransom replaced him at weak-side linebacker.

There was only one player who did not practice at all Tuesday, wideout T.J. Porter, who injured his toes early in camp and still has problems with them. But Wannstedt believed he was getting closer to playing.

"With Derek Kinder coming back, Oderick Turner and Cedric McGee, those are our three veteran guys who we know will play on opening day,'' Wannstedt said. "Then, you have Jonathan Baldwin, Aundre Wright, Aaron Smith and Michael Shanahan, the younger guys are starting to compete (for spots).

"So, all of a sudden, T.J. falls to that fourth guy and is competing with those (younger) guys. So, the train doesn't stop. You've got to get on as fast as you can. And he's going everything he can. He's hurt, but he's getting closer.''

Pitt has two practices Wednesday, including the final intrasquad scrimmage (from 3-5 p.m.), the final chance for players to earn a spot on the depth chart.

"I think they know who they are, and we've got some real competitive battles at a lot of spots,'' Wannstedt said when asked what players need to step up their game. "They might not be for starting jobs, but they're for backup roles, special teams players (and) contributors.''

Pitt's annual FanFest will run from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Heinz Field with autographs the first hour, a half-hour intermission, and a practice the final hour. Admission is free, and parking is available for $5 in Gold Lot 1.

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