Urgency on Teams Obvious

The Steelers stressed special teams last night, while Kelvin Beachum, Shaun Suisham, Brian Rolle, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Curtis Brown and many more showed up in print.

LATROBE -- The Steelers have worked past the clock nearly every day this training camp, and Family Night was no different as Mike Tomlin worked his team 20 minutes past the dinner bell.

Extra special-teams sessions may have had something to do with it.

The Steelers' special teams, making their preseason debut under Danny Smith, had two major breakdowns Saturday night.

At the end of the first possession, Damon Cromartie-Smith's non-block at the line led to a blocked punt. In the third quarter, David Gilreath fumbled a punt in Steelers territory.

In light of the game, the urgency from Smith was obvious Wednesday night.

"Not 'in light of the game,'" Tomlin corrected. "It's just an emphasis. Special teams is one thing that you don't practice out here at full speed. The relationship, the amount of grass the guys have to play in, you really don't get a litmus of where you are until you step into a stadium. Obviously we're not where we need to be, so we work with a different mindset based on the knowledge that we acquire from in-stadium work. We'll put guys in better position. Hopefully guys will make better decisions and play smarter this week. I'll look forward to providing them the opportunity to do that."


A bright spot for the special teams last night -- aside from the aforementioned urgency -- was the 60-yard field goal off the leg of Shaun Suisham, who walked from the field with his two little girls in his arms and his wife at his side.

Was he showing off for them with that kick?

"Yeah, he said. "But I should've moved back a bit. It had another five-plus yards."


During the two-minute session, Bruce Gradkowski was the first-team quarterback behind the starting line, intact except for center, where tackle Kelvin Beachum replaced Maurkice Pouncey.

Tomlin explained that it was the group that would be on the field Monday night in Washington at the end of the first half. So obviously Beachum was replacing last game's early insertion, John Malecki, and will make his debut at the position.

"It's more about comfortability now," said Beachum. "I just need to get comfortable playing center. (Maurkice) Pouncey just told me today I need to slow things down a little bit. Whereas I'm smooth when I'm doing things at tackle, I need to be smooth like that at center, not try to play so fast and so hard and try to let things come to me. So right now it's just about getting comfortable with understanding the small, intricate parts of playing center."

At SMU, Beachum started every game for four years at left tackle, and then played some right tackle last season for the Steelers.

Beachum spent plenty of time at center this past spring, and will become that rare tackle-center, just like his mentor, Tunch Ilkin, who played center in college and right tackle with the Steelers.

"Really?" Beachum asked in surprise. "Working on that punch, man. Working with him this off-season has helped a lot."


Second-team guard-center Justin Cheadle left the field Monday with what Tomlin said was a hamstring injury, "a significant one," Tomlin said. "We're talking week-to-week as opposed to day-to-day."

Tomlin was happy about the return of second-team cornerback Curtis Brown, who lit up running back LaRod Stephens-Howling on one short pass into the left flat.

Along with Cheadle, the active players missing Wednesday's practice were cornerbacks Cortez Allen and DeMarcus Van Dyke, and linebacker Stevenson Sylvester.


* To open backers-on-backs, a coverage drill, Le'Veon Bell put a slick move on Larry Foote and hauled in a pass over the middle that lessened temporarily the worries about the injury-depleted tight end position.

* And then the current starting tight end, David Paulson, made a move that caused LaMarr Woodley to fall down. Paulson caught the pass for another long gain.

* Tomlin called out for WVU's Terence Garvin to step up, and the undrafted rookie ILB shot up in aggressive coverage of Baron Batch, who pushed off to make the catch. Garvin has the look of a long-range practice-squad project.

* Lawrence Timmons mistakenly got aggressive with Stephens-Howling, who made a move that had the on-field coaches laughing with respect.

* Will Johnson made the catch of the drill with Brian Rolle in tight coverage well down the field. Rolle, who was one of the more fierce backup linebackers Saturday night, was playing second-team mack ILB next to Marshall McFadden last night.

* After Stephens-Howling put another slick move on Timmons to make another catch, Tomlin wrapped up the drill with "Woo hoo! Good business right there. Good business."

* Jarvis Jones opened team scrimmage as the first-team ROLB, but Jason Worilds ran first team on the subsequent scrimmages. Perhaps it was a penance for Worilds' two 15-yard penalties Saturday, or more likely an excuse to give Jones more first-team reps.

* Scouts say: Guy Whimper ranks ahead of backup tackles D'Anthony Batiste and Joe Long, and Alan Baxter doesn't stay blocked.

* Rookie QB Landry Jones' first two passes last night may have been his best of training camp so far. But he ended the second-team two-minute drill by throwing an interception to Shamarko Thomas.

* Thomas, by the way, was moved up to co-second-team SS along with Cromartie-Smith on the depth chart.

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