Practice Notebook -- Aug. 6

Defense won the goal line drill, 4-3. Read the details and more in Kenneth Torgen'ts Practice Report from St. Vincent College.

LATROBE – Steelers Nation flocked to Saint Vincent College for Saturday's practice in spite of a rainstorm that left a wave of oppressive humidity.

Maybe it was just the weekend; or maybe it was just James Harrison leaking via twitter that the goal-line drill was on the day's schedule

Perhaps the most highly-anticipated drill at Saint Vincent, the goal-line drill is one of the few times during camp that players are allowed, and even encouraged, to hit their teammates with full force.

Defensive end Brett Keisel explained. ""It's nice to have a full contact drill like this because people will separate themselves, when you wouldn't have any opportunity to do that in other drills."

A player who may have separated himself a bit Saturday was linebacker Mortty Ivy, a Monroeville native who nearly separated running back Baron Batch's head from his body on the next-to-last snap.

Batch was 2-1 in the drill. He racked up two touchdowns on very clean cutbacks. On the fourth attempt, he took the handoff and found a gap that would take him in for the hat trick. Instead of a touchdown, Batch received 239 pounds of roaring Ivy, who blew the seventh-rounder backwards as Ivy's helmet went flying.

That blast fired up Ivy's teammates, as well as the defensive staff, and earned Brett Keisel's vote for Hit of the Day.

"That was a big bang, so I would give it to him. That was the best hit of the drill."

Ivy's last two practices have been stellar, and he's slowly crawling his way out of the pack and possibly a practice spot.

MORE GOAL LINE: Defense won the day, 4-3. The second unit had four of the snaps and came out 2-2.

Some of the usual suspects showed up in the team's four stops. Larry Foote and LaMarr Woodley combined for a stop of Jonathan Dwyer on the drill's first snap. And a fresh face, second-year linebacker Stevenson Sylvester, stopped John Clay to ensure the defense bookended the drill with victories.

One guy who flew under the radar but who was getting a lot of love from his teammates was defensive lineman Steve McLendon, a key contributor on both victories for the first-team defense. As a 3-4 lineman, McLendon's job is hold the point while guys like Woodley do their job, which is exactly what McLendon did in his short time on the field.

DIXON SHOWS IMPROVEMENT: Dennis Dixon was a standout in team drills on Saturday. The fifth-year passer had a nice rhythm to him all afternoon, dropping back and planting before throwing darts to open receivers. There was no hesitation and no running around or looking to scramble. All I saw from Dixon in the two team drills was a quarterback who looked confident and had great timing on all his passes.

Other solid performers Saturday included Tyler Grisham, who looks like he really wants the receiver spot vacated by Antwaan Randle El, and Ike Taylor, who played tight, effective coverage on Mike Wallace in an earlier drill.

Tackle Tony Hills was abused in O-Line/D-Line drills and was visibly frustrated throughout practice. Hills, who was slotted in at left tackle for the drill, was beaten on the first rep by Jason Worilds. That first loss was mild compared to his other two opportunities, where he was manhandled again by Worilds and then by Sunny Harris, who had a solid showing.

FIVE THINGS I LEARNED:

1. While goal line is the most-anticipated drills at camp, one of the most fun to watch was the fumble drill the team ran a half-hour beforehand. Both defensive and offensive players (with the veteran starters on the sidelines), ran full steam at tackling dummies with footballs velcroed to one side. The players hit the dummies and got up to find the football, ASAP. It was fun to watch, and probably would have been fun to do.

2. Isaac Redman didn't receive a carry in the goal line drill this year, but lined up as a fullback during a brief short-yardage drill earlier in the practice.

3. David Johnson continues to impress as a pass-catcher, using some shifty moves to separate from coverage and exhibiting soft hands once he's free.

4. Don't forget: Kickoffs will be moved up five yards this season. I'm only reminding you because I actually forgot about it until I saw Shaun Suisham booting balls into the endzone during special teams drills.

5. Most bizarre play of the day? Probably the one during scrimmage, when Byron Leftwich hit wide receiver Eric Greenwood, who bobbled the pass five yards forward into the waiting hands of tight end John Gilmore. Nice awareness.


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