Rookie Camp Wrap, Day 2

Landry Jones had another bad day at the Steelers' rookie minicamp, but there may be a good reason. First, these notes, quotes, anecdotes from Day 2:

* Carnell Lake spent a significant amount of time working on his defensive backs' backpedals, and I'm told it's because that fundamental skill is becoming a lost art in college football. "They all turn and run anymore," said one scout. "Turn and run, or settle, or cover-2."

* Sure enough, as I watched fifth-round pick Terry Hawthorne closely I could tell that he's uncomfortable in off coverage. He clearly prefers to get up on the line and jam the receiver before he turns and runs.

* That said, Hawthorne is expected to be in the thick of the roster chase at training camp.

* Shamarko Thomas is much more polished and is expected to not just make the team and play special teams, but join the safety rotation once he learns "the language" and begins communicating on the field. That's always a process.

* Caleb Terbush is the team's No. 5 QB as one of the eight tryout players in for the weekend. At 6-5 he's taller than Jones, more mobile, and appears to have the stronger arm. In 2011, Terbush replaced two injured players ahead of him on the Purdue depth chart and started all 13 games. He completed 62 percent of his passes with a TD-Int ratio of 13-6. He was named captain in the spring of 2012, and that's when it all began to fall apart. He was suspended the day before the opening game. He returned and was in and out of the lineup all season. The scouting report is that he throws well against air, or in other words only looks the part. No one expects him to last long here, but he really does look the part.

* The undrafted rookie with the best chance of making the team is WR/RS Reggie Dunn. I wrote yesterday about that 4.25 speed he showed off during gunner drills, and I wrote on draft day about his 5 100-yard kickoff returns. Turns out his father and former Steelers great Louis Lipps have been best friends for … for … well, I have Reggie's number and will get the rest of the story this week.

* Offensive guard Nik Embernate is another undrafted rookie with high expectations. The Steelers also like UAB guard Chris Hubbard, who stands 6-4 but weighs only 286.

* The Steelers put their money into the offensive line after the draft, as expected. They also tried to prioritize defensive linemen, but didn't have as much luck.

* With the 90-man rosters, I'm told it's more difficult than ever to find talented players after the draft.

* Remember that the next time someone tells you those 7th-round comp picks are throwaways.

* For being the "big receiver" of their draft, as dubbed by GM Kevin Colbert, sixth-rounder Justin Brown struck me as a medium-sized skinny kid as he walked past. Of course, he was in shells. Shoulder pads can change the perception quickly. So, too, can the fact he's a full helmet taller than the "speed receiver" of the draft, third-rounder Markus Wheaton.

* Dunn, the return specialist, runs much better deep routes than does Brown, but Brown consistently bailed out Jones – his once and future QB – with slants over the middle.

* Not that the two connected on a third down. That was the theme of the first scrimmage, third downs, but the offense rarely – if ever – converted.

* A fumbled snap, a wildly errant shotgun snap, poor passes and a dropped pass by tight end Will Shaw all contributed to Mike Tomlin grumbling about the third-down offense.

* Moving on to the 7-on-7 passing drill, Wheaton lined up in the slot and was covered by Thomas. Go ahead, make your prediction. I'll wait. ... a little longer ... OK, Wheaton easily circled past Thomas and had a couple of steps deep, but the QB didn't see him.

* The QB, Terbush, didn't see Isaiah Green, either. The street free agent with the 4.2 speed stepped in front of Kashif Moore for the interception.

* In trouble, Jones had no problem finding Brown in the middle of the field. I guess Brown does have some size to him.

* On the next snap, Jones looked right and threw a 3-yard pass directly into the chest of Terence Garvin, the lanky ILB from WVU, who returned it for an easy touchdown.

* Undaunted, Jones wobbled a 25-yarder to Wheaton, who cut across the middle of the field to catch the pass at the sideline. "Good route 11!" was the exclamation from one of the coaches.

* Jones tried to throw short to Dunn, but the little guy couldn't escape Hawthorne's press.

* Jones continued to struggle in the final full scrimmage. On the first snap he rolled right and threw a short pass just across the line that was nearly intercepted by Alan Baxter. A few plays later, Jones was intercepted by safety Jarred Holley after overthrowing tight end Jamie McCoy. McCoy kept running and inadvertently slammed into Holley, who held on to the ball for the Catch of the Day.

* Not that I had many others from which to choose.

* Le'Veon Bell showed some more of that wiggle about which I wrote the previous day. This time he – in the words of another reporter – "broke a defender's ankle" by leaving him alone and broken-hearted in the middle of the field.

* Bell finishes his runs, an old Steeler practice staple, and one time, while Bell was running down the sideline fending off Thomas, I heard the two players giggling. It reminded me of Jerome Bettis and James Farrior, just to pick out a few names of players who just loved to play football, whether it be spring practice or the Super Bowl.

* At this early juncture, Bell is clearly the Steelers' favorite for Rookie of the Year.

* Team, certainly, but maybe even league.

* On my way through the hallway after practice, I spotted Landry Jones coming out of the trainer's room with a wrap on his right arm that went from his shoulder to his elbow. My guess is the poor guy's trying to get through this weekend with a sore arm, and he isn't crying about it to the media.


Steel City Insider Top Stories