Just My Opinion ...

Jim Wexell with some notes, quotes, anecdotes and opinions from the first week of Steelers spring practice.

From the notebook of a reporter who's counting one week down and three to go until the end of the 2014 season:

* Really, that's how it feels in this 24/7 NFL world. The offseason for a reporter doesn't commence until the middle of June.

* And even then we'll be posting profiles of the newcomers.

* It's apparent the Steelers aren't going to do for this year's rookies what they did for Ryan Shazier last year and just hand him the starting job. That kind of backfired, although in fairness the coaching staff was stuck without a mack linebacker because it couldn't yet count on Sean Spence and kind of went to sleep on Vince Williams.

* Bud Dupree confirmed that he's on the "left side, second group all packages" but I look for him to open the season as first team in the nickel and dime packages opposite James Harrison. And from there, I believe, it'll be a matter of time until the fans and media begin chanting for that pair to start games.

* Dupree credits Jarvis Jones with helping him become acclimated to Pittsburgh Steelers football, and it's easy to envision those two as the pass-rushing bookends of the future. But, what is Dupree learning from Harrison? Does Bud at least lift weights with the weightlifting king? "Nah, nah, he works out by hisself. We don't go over," Dupree said with a laugh, who added about Harrison: "It took a while for him to get like that. It would take a while for anybody else to get that way. He's in his own lane, so I just try to stay in mine."

* Dupree said he weighs 270 this spring, and that's close to what LaMarr Woodley weighed while here. But their body types aren't similar. Woodley looked 270, even heavier. Dupree looks like he can add 10 pounds and retain his fluidity in coverage.

* After Dupree said he's "picking up everything real fast. I know everything we put in so far," I told him about the famed NFL Films clip of Bill Cowher pleading with an obviously young and confused Greg Lloyd to "just rush the passer." Dupree said he's being taught much more. "No, I do a lot of things," he said. "I'm just not rushing the passer."

* Senquez Golson, the second-round pick, is buried even further on the depth chart. The rookie confirmed he was running fourth team on some days behind the four veteran cornerbacks and third-teamers Kevin Fogg and fellow rookie Doran Grant, as Golson works to learn both the outside and slot positions. But Golson knows everyone has to start somewhere. "Right," he said. "You know, working my way up -- trying to anyway. But I'm just doing whatever they ask me right now. Everything's starting to slow down for me a little bit early."

* Golson did get some love from the special-teams staff when he turned in one of the top gunner get-off times in a 10-yard drill for gunners who must first get past two stationary blockers. The example to beat, Golson felt, was the 1.90 of veteran gunner Ross Ventrone. "The best time was 1.75," Golson said. "I ran a 1.76."

* I'll also add this about Golson: He takes coaching well. Carnell Lake ran a drill to teach the nuances of covering fades. On his first attempt Golson did exactly as instructed and intercepted the pass.

* Third-round pick Sammie Coates is a physical freak who will -- I suppose -- impress fans with both his deep and short ball skills. The Steelers fed last year's rookie deep threat Martavis Bryant several screen passes last year, and he broke one for a 21-yard touchdown in the regular-season finale against the Bengals. But so often on short passes Bryant looked like a giraffe attempting to cut up behind his blockers. Coates isn't as tall as Bryant and is powerful and will lower his pads while running. My guess is he'll become a dynamic force in the short passing game.

* Coates' intermediate game will no doubt lag due to his hard hands. Yes, they are Ike Taylor-like, but Coates will coral enough of them, I believe, to overcome the frustration of those foreseeable drops.

* The Steelers did cite Coates' on-field body language on draft day, and I took that to mean after drops Coates won't crawl into a hole, a la Limas Sweed, but will instead come back to the huddle begging for more.

* Speaking of Bryant, he's taking on-field instruction from Ben Roethlisberger just as well as he did last year at this time when Bryant was an eager-to-please rookie.

* And speaking of offensive threats, Markus Wheaton does indeed look faster and more confident with the ball after the catch, as does second-year man Dri Archer. But I need to see Archer practice in pads before I stamp him as a legitimate offensive threat. All I can say right now is so far, so good.

* Out of a strong group of nominees for quote of the week, I'm going with Will Gay after I asked him what Shamarko Thomas does best. "Well," Gay said, "his nickname is 'Headache.'"

* I used to bug the late superscout Bill Nunn with it, but used it on Craig Wolfley this year. At the end of the first spring practice, or even the first period of the first spring practice, I like to ask those who know better, "Who do you like out here?" Nunn would always shake his head and take the time to explain that this is no time to form an opinion. And, man, I loved to hear that guy talk. Wolf? Well, he just laughed at me.

* But at the end of the practice, Wolfley did tell me he liked what he saw from Cortez Allen. As he began to explain why, Allen walked over to give Wolfley a bro hug. I told Allen what Wolfley was just saying and Allen said, "Hey, I'm working." I asked him what he's doing differently. "Fundamentals," he said. "I feel like I got away from the things that attracted them to me coming from The Citadel. The little things, things like that, I've got to make sure I always continue to work on because that's what got me to this point now."

* Those who know Allen even a little are rooting for him a lot.

* It was fairly early in a drill in which I focused from the snap on Bryant, who got open in the end zone but watched a pass sail over his head. I looked up for the next snap and saw Landry Jones under center. I asked a reporter next to me, Mike Prisuta, if it was Jones who had thrown the incompletion to Bryant on the previous play. "Yes," was the answer, to which I said quietly -- or so I believed -- that "I thought Ben threw that pass." Mike Tomlin, standing about 20 yards away on the field, just shook his head, looked at me, turned back, shook his head again and and said, "There's no way you thought that was Ben, Jim."

* The next day, during the same drill, Jones overthrew everyone and the ball hit the top of a 12-foot fence as a truck drove past the field. I said to Prisuta, "Did you see that? He almost nailed that truck." To which Prisuta said, "Was that Ben?"

* Yes, it's become the running comedy line.

* On back-to-back plays during one scrimmage, 5-9 safety Shamarko Thomas batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage and 6-5 defensive end Stephon Tuitt broke up a pass in coverage. Dick LeBeau no doubt would've been proud.

* Of course, there's trickery and then there's Vince Williams. He delivered a forearm shiver to someone who was trying to block him and it reminded all of us that A.) Physical football is still king, and B.) No one will dismiss Vince Williams' physical approach heading into this training camp.

* This is some good philosophy for all of us from Le'Veon Bell: "Everybody has their own opinions about me, but that’s fine. All I can do is control what I can, because I can’t make everybody like me and I can’t make everybody hate me. I just have to continue to move forward and continue to be me. I know I’m a great person and a great football player, so I have to continue to be both on and off the field."

* It's all about bouncing back.

* And we all get to try that again on Tuesday.

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