Steelers Notebook: Dupree Against The World

Steelers first-round pick Bud Dupree let his frustrations out with a series of practice fights.

LATROBE -- Mike Tomlin didn't want a repeat of last week's dismal, dull Wednesday practice, the day after the day off, so he asked his Pittsburgh Steelers to turn up the heat this time.

"Requested that of them," Tomlin said, "and they delivered."

They delivered with a high-intensity showing from start -- when the defense rushed the field calling the two-point conversion period "goal line" -- to the final seconds of practice when kicker Garrett Hartley ran on the field to drive a 53-yarder through the uprights for a "win" by the second-team offense in the two-minute drill.

Hartley had previously kicked a 46-yarder to pull out a "win" for the first-team offense.

But in the middle of practice, it was the Bud Dupree Fight Show, a.k.a Bud against the world.

The first-round draft pick got into two fights: the first against the offensive line, and the second Marcus Gilbert to start the one-on-one drills.

None of it was pretty, and Dupree was finally ordered from the linemen's pit to go work with the coverage unit at the other end of the field.

It started, most likely, with Dupree on the receiving end of "getting punked," as linemen call any kind of cheap shot. Dupree took a swing at Kelvin Beachum and the rest of the line collapsed on top of Dupree. Jarvis Jones came off the sideline to take out several offensive linemen from behind to aid Dupree, who got up still shouting as Alejandro Villanueva stuck a big finger in his face. James Harrison pushed Dupree back and shouted in the rookie's face to get his emotions under control.

The period ended soon thereafter, as the scrimmage broke off into two groups. Dupree then lined up for his one-on-one and at the snap immediately began fighting with Gilbert. After Dupree was pulled back, he came back to get into the face of the line again as Ramon Foster began shouting "This from a rookie!" OLB coach Joey Porter defended Dupree by shouting that "Just because he's a rookie doesn't mean he's supposed to take that stuff!"

Dupree could not be calmed until Tomlin walked over and made sure Dupree left the area.

"It's football," Tomlin said later.

"We've been here for a very long time. This stuff is going to happen," said Villanueva. "It's a very close group of guys, offense and defense. It just adds another dimension to the game, that we're all really good friends."

And Dupree will be welcomed back?

"Absolutely. He's a great guy," Villanueva said. "He's been asked to do a lot. It's a different pressure for an undrafted guy but I completely understand what he's going through. He's been doing an unbelievable job. He's a very athletic kid and he's going to be very successful."

VILLANUEVA'S DREAMS DASHED

He led Army in receptions and receiving yardage in 2009, but Villanueva hadn't played the position again -- until Wednesday.

On the first snap of "Seven Shots," the two-point conversion drill that opens every practice, Villanueva, the 6-9, 330-pound backup tackle, ran on to the field and said loudly, "Seventy-eight reporting."

He reported as an eligible receiver, lined up at tight end, motioned wide right, and stood one-on-one with safety Will Allen. Ben Roethlisberger took the snap and lofted a high fade to the big man. But Villanueva didn't jump much -- if at all -- and the ball bounced off his hands as Allen defended.

"Well, my hopes are dashed," said Villanueva. "It's been a while since I've run a route. I really wasn't sure what route I was running. It's a good experience to see what I should expect, when to go in motion, how to report. It'll be up to the coaches to see if we stick with that play."

Roethlisberger was asked after practice whether he "expected 78 to get a little more elevation, or did you miss the biggest target in camp?"

"It was a trial. We wanted to see what was going to happen," said Roethlisberger. "That's the first time we had ever practiced it, so for the first time it was pretty close to being good."

PRACTICE HIGHLIGHTS

* Offensive coordinator Todd Haley was the first to scrap, verbally, in "Seven Shots" with wide receiver Shakim Phillips, who didn't execute a play the group had just practiced in walk-throughs.

* Just about every day Tomlin watches the outside linebackers in their one-on-one competition, and Wednesday he watched Jarvis Jones enjoy a second consecutive strong showing against tight ends who were attempting to set the edge in the run game. Jones' strength and leverage appear to be improving daily.

* On the first snap of "Team Run," Jawon Chisholm took a handoff up the middle, cut back to the right side, and then cut back up the middle and found daylight against the first-team defense. Ryan Shazier was blocked and Chisholm split the safeties and went untouched for an 85-yard touchdown. Asked if the defense was ready for the start of the period, Tomlin said, "I'll let them answer that. It speaks for itself. It's on video."

* Harrison looped behind his defensive line to rip Braylon Heard down behind the line as the embarrassed defense ratcheted up its intensity.

* Cameron Heyward burst through the line on the next snap to sack Bruce Gradkowski as DL coach John Mitchell shouted for someone to make plays besides "the same people every day."

* Darrius Heyward-Bey, who had dropped a perfect pass from Gradkowski in the back of the end zone during "Seven Shots," beat Cortez Allen deep and hauled in a perfect bomb from Roethlisberger.

* Ian Wilds had the only "sack" during "Pass Under Pressure," and the safety-turned-linebacker just missed a second, but Jones escaped and threw a low pass that Sammie Coates dove to catch.

* Antonio Brown, who had been complaining all afternoon about not getting the ball, caught a fourth-and-3 slant and ran for 28 yards to set up Hartley's field goal during the 1:13 drill.

* Landry Jones threw the fourth-down pass. He was in for Roethlisberger, after sand had flown into Roethlisberger's eye during a snap.

ROSTER MOVE

The Steelers put linebacker Jordan Zumwalt on the waived/injured list after claiming linebacker L.J. Fort off waivers from the New England Patriots.

Fort is a 6-0 5/8, 230-pounder out of Northern Iowa who signed with the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted free agent in 2012 and started the opening game with an interception of Michael Vick. Fort finished the year with 20 tackles, an interception and a sack. He's also spent time with the Cincinnati Bengals, Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos. He'll wear No. 54 with the Steelers.

Zumwalt, who spent last season on IR, still hasn't shaken the hip/groin issue that has dogged him since college. The Steelers could put him on IR for another year if he clears waivers.


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