Just My Opinion ...

Jim Wexell's notes, quotes and anecdotes from Week 2 of Steelers spring drills.

From the notebook of a sportswriter who's still young enough to learn from rookies:

* Sammie Coates is one joyful soul. After he finished a long one-on-one interview with Steelers.com, in which there was little doubt the word "drops" was bandied about, the rookie wide receiver gave me a few minutes and didn't flinch when I touched on the inevitable subject of drops.

* It's not that Coates is dropping a lot -- or really any more than the normal number -- of passes this spring. It's that he carries that 19 percent drop total around his neck like an albatross since NFL.com used it in Coates' profile prior to the draft.

* I've watched more than a few Auburn games over the last two seasons and, while I never focused solely on Coates, I don't remember him as having bad hands. I remember him having a quarterback in Nick Marshall who should and will be attempting to play cornerback in the league this August, and I remember thinking Coates and Duke Williams were an outstanding pair of big receivers who really could use a quarterback.

* I thought of Marshall this past week as I watched an open Coates dive to catch a pass from Steelers quarterback Devin Gardner. I asked Coates if Gardner and Tajh Boyd -- and for that matter Landry Jones -- brought back memories of Marshall, but he wasn't having any of it. Coates shakes off negativity like it's, well, a drop. He just gets back in the huddle and tells the quarterback he's open.

* That's pretty much how he answered me. And he didn't care whether the 19 percent drop stat was real or a mistake.

* There are a couple of wildly varying stats on Coates' drops last season, but he really doesn't care either way. He just has that type of joyful personality. Shake it off, man, there's another opportunity in the air.

* Speaking of the backup Steelers quarterbacks, I used to joke last season that Jones took reps with the scout team to provide the DBs with interception practice. Yeah, it's cruel, but at least Jones throws a catchable ball, even if it is to the DBs.

* I mean, at least someone can catch the thing. Not so much with Boyd and Gardner, and even another undrafted WR who played QB in college, Tyler Murphy, who gets a rep every now and then at OTAs.

* Yes, it's quite a crew the Pittsburgh Steelers have stockpiled behind Ben Roethlisberger. And after Roethlisberger left Thursday's practice to golf the situation deteriorated rapidly.

* My worry is that the Steelers brought in QBs who are more fit to run the ball because of the new extra-point rule, which will create more two-point conversion attempts.

* I doubt there's going to be enough room to keep a third quarterback among the 53 this season. Jones was fortunate to have made the last two Steelers teams that weren't nearly as deep as this one. This is probably the deepest 90-man group the Steelers have put together since the roster was expanded in 2012.

* As for using an option QB to run 2-point plays, or finish drives, it would be a mistake to take Roethlisberger off the field. Just put Ben under center to at least threaten defenses with the run game. He's the best play-action QB in the league. Call plays off of that premise and the red-zone production will pick up.

* Rarely do the Cleveland Browns cause envy in Pittsburgh with one of their moves, but it's too bad the Steelers didn't trade a seventh-round pick for former Pitt and 49ers punter Andy Lee. In fact, I would even bring in the guy the Browns cut for Lee, because I thought for sure the Steelers would upgrade that position this offseason.

* I wrote last week about Jordan Berry, the robo-punter who crushes the thing but who lacks polish in all other football-related matters. That's supposed to make his chances of making the roster fairly long. But I really wouldn't mind a punter who can't be trusted to pass the ball or run out of a fake. That would tamp down any kind of coaching debacles on that front, which is fine with me.

* Shouldn't one of your 12 rostered QBs be able to hold for kicks anyway?

* Jones was made inactive in all 17 games last season, so what was the point of keeping a third QB anyway? He could've done all that he did from the practice squad.

* Moving on, David DeCastro's comment that he's stopped doing squats with weight on his back created quite a conversation on the message boards this week. Some were shocked, a few were appalled, but some understand DeCastro's position perfectly. Since I have a 15-year-old who's beginning to lift seriously, I've been hearing from cutting-edge trainers who don't like what all of that compression does to the spine. So I wasn't surprised that DeCastro cited his college conditioning staff for its thinking in this area.

* It doesn't get more cutting-edge than Stanford, and look at how physical that team has been the last few years.

* I've met Josh Mauro and Henry Anderson. Neither of those ex-Stanford players are built like prototypical defensive linemen, but both have impressed me with their physical style of play.

* I'm going to ask Miles Dieffenbach if he squats with weight on his back. I only mention this undrafted rookie because of all of the offensive linemen the Steelers signed after the draft, Dieffenbach seems to be the one the coaching staff likes best.

* I'm just going by the usage and placement of players throughout the first couple weeks of spring practice. Coaches will tell you none of that matters, but it has to matter, right? I mean, why waste the time of the other linemen if you don't like the undrafted rookie you're throwing in with them?

* I keep reading the name Cameron Stingily as the sleeper to watch among running backs. And while I like a big 235-pound back as much as anyone who's ever watched Jerome Bettis, I can't see Stingily beating out the other undrafted rookie, Ross Scheuerman, for any spot that might become available in the backfield.

* I think of Jacob Hester when I watch Scheuerman, and that makes me think of Ed Podolak, who was the Jacob Hester comparison when Hester came out of LSU a few years back. Hester, of course, had to move to fullback, like Podolak, so I'm looking for Scheuerman to get some reps there, too, if possible.

* "You'll see Scheuerman play fullback the same day you see Jordan Zumwalt playing outside linebacker," one of my more astute colleagues said.

* Five minutes earlier, we had been joking that every other reporter calls Zumwalt an ILB/OLB, when he's clearly just an ILB. Zumwalt's in the middle of a numbers crunch at that position, too.

* I'm sure the other third-team ILB, Terence Garvin, could line up outside with his hand down in an extreme emergency as well, but that doesn't make him an OLB either.

* Garvin walked past us without his helmet to reveal a blonde patch of hair on top of his head. I told him he looked like Tyrann Mathieu, the Honey Badger. Garvin gave me a friendly smile and said he just wanted a change.

* And thank you for not killing me, Terence.

* Ed Marinaro might be another good comparison for Scheuerman. And I'm showing my age now.

* Ross Ventrone covered Antonio Brown on one deep incompletion and the love oozed from every corner of the practice field. Shouts of "I see you Rusty!" filled the air. The likeable, hard-working safety can do more than cover kicks apparently.

* When I watch Cameron Heyward practice, I'm reminded of guys like Aaron Smith and James Farrior, who practiced with the playfulness that comes with hard work. Heyward enjoys hustling, and when your best player enjoys hustling, it can become an epidemic.

* As I watch Stephon Tuitt imitate his mentor, I believe an epidemic is coming.

* As fun as it's become to watch these guys practice, I had to miss most of the week's final scrimmage after Ben had left. I just couldn't skip lunch again to watch Landry and the boys drive their coaches crazy.

* When I came back from lunch, I heard Mike Mitchell had intercepted three passes, but I couldn't confirm it. The only pick I saw was the diving interception by Senquez Golson. The kid really does have a knack for the ball.

* I also came back in time to see Tuitt chase Gardner 30 yards down the field in an attempt to stop another wild QB scramble. "I see you Tuitt!" shouted Heyward.

* And I thought, "I see you and what you're doing with your boys, Cam."

* If they keep it up, this array of highly drafted defensive players will come together as a tight unit. And soon.


Steel City Insider Top Stories