Just My Opinion ...

Jim Wexell's notes, quotes and anecdotes from Week 3 of the Steelers' spring practices.

From the notebook of a sportswriter who's so immersed in "football in shorts" that he actually shows up to monitor the first drill of every Pittsburgh Steelers spring practice:

* I call it the "get-off" drill, when Joey Porter holds the ball to the ground and barks "hut, hut, hut" to draw the front seven offside. When he snaps the ball, the race to be first off the ball is on.

* "Law Dawg."

* That's Mike Tomlin's call almost 90 percent of the time.

* Arthur Moats has his moments, but usually it's ...

* "Law Dawg."

* For those not hip to Tomlin's nicknames, "Law Dawg" is Lawrence Timmons.

* "Head," I'm finding out, is Cameron Heyward, son of the late, great Ironhead Heyward.

* "Head" has been Tomlin's "get off" winner a couple of times this spring, but he's always fighting like heck for a little more love from his coach. Heyward's drive keeps the drill lively.

* As I wrote earlier, I'm seeing competition at practice in all of the nooks and crannies, as I used to back in the day.

* Landry Jones was ripped, and deservedly so, by reporters for his performance the previous week in Ben Roethlisberger's stead. This past week Roethlisberger again had to leave Thursday's practice early, but this time Jones had a much better practice. In fact, he may have thrown his best pass as a Steeler during 2-point conversion work.

* Just saying. Even though I don't have room for Jones on my 53 this year, it's fair to give him credit when it's due.

* I wrote early and often last year that Roethlisberger had turned his position as team leader up a notch. It's continuing this year, except he's becoming closer to a coach on the field than at any point that I've witnessed. During individual drills last week, both Ben and QB coach Randy Fichtner stopped to say the same thing to Martavis Bryant at the same time. Bryant made the adjustment, Ben hit him with a bullet pass, and both Ben and Fichtner erupted with praise for Bryant at the same time.

* Bryant is going to be a monster this year. If I were still playing fantasy ball, in a touchdown league, I would take Bryant before Antonio Brown.

* I haven't participated in a fantasy league in probably 15 years, but I probably played in one for 15 years before that. I must've been in on the ground floor of that movement.

* Let's see, in my first year of fantasy, I recall trading for QB Randall Cunningham when he was in the middle of his first season as a starter. A simple Google search tells me that was 1986.

* I hadn't even begun covering Steelers assistant coach Jerry Olsavsky and Cameron Heyward's father as college players yet.

* Anyway, this offense -- and this isn't breaking news here -- is going to be explosive. Really, the only room for improvement -- from a statistical standpoint -- is at the second running back and second tight end positions. One newcomer, DeAngelo Williams, has to prove he's not too old, and the other newcomer, Jesse James, has to prove he's not too young.

* Yes, Williams still has his burst, but can he stave off the minor injuries that slow most 32-year-old running backs when the pads come on? He's gotten up pretty slowly after a couple accidental whacks this spring.

* The guess here is that Josh Harris will make the squad as the No. 3 back because of special teams, and that Dri Archer will continue sliding back and forth between the RB and WR meeting rooms.

* Tight ends coach James Daniel got a good, long look at his rookies the other day when Heath Miller joined Matt Spaeth and Rob Blanchflower on the sideline. Spaeth and Blanchflower have missed almost all of spring work with minor injuries. It's allowed more playing time for rookies James and Cameron Clear, as well as January signee Michael Egnew. James is obviously the class, but Clear has his moments, particularly as a bruising run-after-catch guy.

* Clear is the physical 277-pounder out of Texas A&M who was signed after the draft and had analysts wondering if the Steelers were going to move him to tackle. Hasn't appened. In fact, offensive coordinator Todd Haley talked about him on Wednesday: "There are enough teams like us that still value tight ends like Heath and Matt Spaeth, who can block and be an integral part of what you are doing, like our free agent Cameron Clear. He has a big, good-looking body, and he had about six catches last year and wasn’t really on the field. It’s just what you value and what you think gives you the best chance to win. I think as long as we are all here, we will value a big tight end that can catch and block."

* Just so you get your sleepers in line before training camp.

* Here's another one: Kevin Fogg, a 5-10, 185-pound cornerback out of Liberty. Tomlin calls him "Two G." And I wondered if DBs coach Carnell Lake was talking about Fogg when I asked Lake if he had any "throw-em-in-the-fire" candidates this year. "I think so," Lake said. "We'll see. I don't want to really say right now but I've got my eyes on a couple guys I think can help us."

* Sure, he could've been talking about rookies Senquez Golson and Doran Grant, but don't leave Fogg off that list. His one year of training-camp experience with the Miami Dolphins has given him an immediate edge over those rookies. That's the kind of edge Antwon Blake has used to vault himself onto the playing field, and he became last year's surprise in the secondary.

* One more quote from one of the assistants last week that raised my antennae: "Coach Tomlin’s plan is that we have a couple of dual-position guys," said Haley when asked about WR-turned-QB Devin Gardner. Last week I wrote of my concern that Tomlin's looking for one of these "dual-position guys" to handle two-point conversions. It was a minor concern -- and certainly a longshot to happen -- but Haley's quote isn't helping it go away.

* Gardner was signed as a WR after the draft by the New England Patriots, who released him after rookie minicamp. The Steelers signed him and after a week at WR moved him to QB. There's something about this 6-4, 216-pounder which causes coaches to decide quickly that he can't play WR. It's not his size, speed or hands.

* And it can't be his passing skills or decision making. He's your classic skeleton-drill scrambler.

* Just when you think Landry Jones might have turned it around with a decent practice he throws a fourth-and-long pass to a WR in the middle of a morass of bodies at the line of scrimmage.

* And that ended yet another spring week. One more to go.


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