Steelers Notebook: Heyward-Bey Ballin'

Jim Wexell's practice report from Saturday includes information on the trade for cornerback Brandon Boykin.

At the first practice of training camp, wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey went up to make an outstanding catch, only to hear this from one of the leather-lunged Pittsburgh Steelers fans:

"You know how to make a team, don't you Heyward-Bey?!"

It was a snide remark directed at a veteran player who uses his experience to make a team and then does little during the season.

They used to call that guy Lee Mays.

But Heyward-Bey has continued to make outstanding catches, and yesterday, while stepping in to replace Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant, Heyward-Bey had his best day yet.

During the no-huddle scrimmage, Heyward-Bey made a spinning leap to catch a back-shoulder pass from Ben Roethlisberger over Antwon Blake. In the final scrimmage of the day, Heyward-Bey made two outstanding catches. The seven-year vet has always had the speed, but his hands have often betrayed him.

But not on Saturday.

"He's making combat catches, and doing so consistently," said Mike Tomlin. "He's a hard worker. He's a football player first and a wide receiver second. He contributes in all areas, special teams. He's having a good camp."

It was Tomlin's final comment following Saturday's practice, but as he walked away Tomlin turned to the reporter and said, "Hey-Bey's ballin' ain't he?"

CORTEZ THE CONFIDENT

Six-foot-one cornerback Cortez Allen returned to practice and picked up from where he left off with another outstanding workout.

Allen, of course, was benched last year and cited a loss of confidence. A successful return by the team's only six-foot cornerback is critical to this defense, and his start in camp is encouraging.

"He's had no issues with confidence this year," Tomlin said. "He's been making plays out here, as I'm sure you guys have seen. He had a swollen knee so we gave him a couple days off but he's back out here working.

"You can't tote last year's baggage, individually or collectively," Tomlin added. "We're zero and zero, and he is personally."

PRACTICE HIGHLIGHTS

* Eli Rogers, an undrafted rookie seeing time as the first-team slot receiver because of the injuries, took an end around and jitterbugged his way for a two-point conversion. Rogers is said to be tough and "a different kind of quick that we haven't had in the slot," according to one coach.

* Ross Scheuerman, another undrafted rookie, was one of the top receivers in a drill for running backs running patterns against inside linebackers. Le'Veon Bell, of course, sets the standard for NFL receiving backs, but Scheuerman certainly shows polish.

* Outside linebackers and tight ends had another one-on-one drill in the run game, and again one of the top matchups was undrafted rookie tight end Cameron Clear against sixth-round rookie Anthony Chickillo. "Good job you two," Tomlin said after their reps. "That's iron on iron. A lot of good stuff on both sides."

* After the RBs turned around to run patters against ILBs in the red zone, Bell leaped high over Lawrence Timmons to pull down a scoring pass.

* During the first scrimmage, Clear was bobbling a pass over the middle as he was turning up the field, and was drilled by Shamarko Thomas. But Clear managed to reel the ball in for a catch before falling forward.

* Cam Thomas, first-team nose tackle in place of Steve McLendon, threw center Reese Dismukes back into running back Cameron Stingily for a loss.

* Dri Archer caught a short pass and turned on the jets to run past Blake and safeties Alden Darby and Isaiah Lewis for a long touchdown.

* Cal U product C.J. Goodwin made yet another highlight reel catch of a back-shoulder (dive and) fade.

* Six-foot rookie safety Ian Wild, out of nearby Baldwin High and Mercyhurst University, returned an interception for a touchdown, and on the last snap came up hard to pop Stingily. Wild is one of broadcast analyst Tunch Ilkin's favorite sleeper prospects.

MEDICAL REPORT

Several veterans were out: Will Allen, James Harrison, Ramon Foster, Cameron Heyward, McLendon, Mike Mitchell, Ross Ventrone, Matt Spaeth, Bryant (elbow), DeAngelo Williams and Wheaton.

Several other players left the field with injuries: Ryan Shazier (lower back), Jarvis Jones (bicep), Thomas (shoulder), Josh Harris (shoulder) and Scheuerman ("left Achilles of some kind").

"I don't want to characterize these injuries as significant," Tomlin said. "I don't know that they are; I don't know that they aren't. We'll get these guys evaluated. One thing's for sure, you can't get better unless you're playing."

Tomlin was asked how he decides which veterans to give a day off.

"I'm schizophrenic," he said. "I'm not even going to pretend like there's any rhyme or reason to it. If they're working well and we've got enough healthy guys at the position, from time to time I'll throw them a bone -- not a bone with a lot of meat on it, just a bone."

Tomlin was also asked if he has a day off planned for the media.

"No," he said. "We're going to clock in every day."

TRADE FOR CB

The Steelers traded a conditional fifth-round draft choice to the Philadelphia Eagles for cornerback Brandon Boykin (5-9 1/2, 185).

Boykin was a fourth-round draft choice out of the University of Georgia. He's played in 48 games for the Eagles, started six, intercepted seven passes and broke up 32.


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