LeClaire / USA TODAY Sports Images

Notes To Wrap Up Steelers' Spring

Takeaway from Steelers DC Keith Butler, the scary strength of Martavis Bryant, shop talk on cornerbacks and gossip regarding camp sleepers.

From the notebook of a sportswriter who refuses to paint spring practices with the broad brush of meaninglessness:

* Is meaninglessness a real word?

* Anything worth our time is meaningful. Like the Keith Butler interview.

* The always informative Steelers defensive coordinator was made available this past week, and the key point I took away is that, yes, he'll use more man coverage this training camp, but I believe Butler will do it to "enhance our match-up zone." That's a combination of man and zone coverage on a particular play. The key is communication.

* Cameron Sutton's primary strength is said to be his communication skills, so the third-rounder should help in that regard. But would he replace the highly intelligent Ross Cockrell? Or the best communicator they have in Will Gay?

* Nothing's ever simple, is it? 

* Of course, Sutton was buried as the third-team corner this spring, so the questions have yet to even been attempted to have been answered.

* I hope I have my have- and has-beens in the right place.

* Butler was NOT asked about giving New England WRs free releases, and whether that will change this season with more re-routing, or contact, from the corners. Artie Burns always likes to get in Antonio Brown's grill and work on his press-man skills. I also watched Cockrell attempt to re-route Martavis Bryant a couple of times, but Bryant -- at least in one instance this past week -- flattened Cockrell. Just ran him over. 

* Bryant said he's gained weight and especially strength during his year-long suspension. The strength I saw on that play was scary. 

* As Bryant walked back to the huddle, Cockrell fist-bumped him, so no hard feelings.

* Not all was perfect with Bryant on that day. During the hurry-up, Ben Roethlisberger threw to Bryant near the sideline. Bryant caught the pass inbounds but didn't make an attempt to get out. Maybe he thought he was out. Maybe he thought the touch-tackle stopped the clock. Either way, Roethlisberger, after successfully finishing the drive, spoke with Bryant about playing against the clock.

* Those are attributes -- strength and situational awareness -- that will translate to training camp. So, yes, there are things to learn at spring practice.

* Then again, spring ball can truly mean nothing. Whatever became of Kevin Fogg?

* A third-year street free agent named Greg Ducre received the Fogg treatment this spring. Ducre's seniority called for him to be used as the second-team corner opposite Coty Sensabaugh. Ducre seemed to play well, but didn't have near the interception total that Fogg did two years ago -- before Fogg was cut in training camp.

* After the Steelers watched Senquez Golson play slot for a couple of weeks, they used him outside. It allowed Carnell Lake to get a long look at one of Golson's Ole Miss teammates, Mike Hilton, in the slot. Hilton even replaced Gay on the first team, too, and made plays. Several of them.

* Hilton's a small corner who appeared to wear a uniform that was too big, and thereby exaggerating his lack of size. To put it another way, he looked like a runt out there. But that didn't stop him from making plays.

* I'll have a longer, more detailed profile coming on Hilton, in which Golson raved about him and one of the offensive leaders called him the Sleeper to Watch this training camp.

* I don't want to get into the whos, hows and whys right now. That will all come in the feature. But another reporter laughed at me for even thinking about Hilton making the team.

* At least he didn't bring up Kevin Fogg.

* I asked Craig Wolfley for his camp sleeper. He said he's narrowed it down to Francis Kallon and Ethan Cooper

* Kallon is the defensive tackle from Georgia Tech who was given the largest signing bonus ($12K) by the team in post-draft rookie free agency. I had erroneously reported that Cooper -- the guard from IUP -- and Louisville ILB Keith Kelsey were the highest-paid undrafted rookies. But they are tied for second at $10K apiece.

* Another issue: coverage 'backer. Vince Williams had a much better spring in this department than did Tyler Matakevich, who was burned several times and this past week pounded on the ground in frustration. 

* The new dime 'backer -- for what the Steelers refer to as their 3-safety "quarters" defense -- was used at times. Daimion Stafford was signed very late in free agency and in limited reps did not impress.

* Williams tells us he's up for the task. I'm beginning to believe him.

* Roethlisberger, in a one-on-one interview, mentioned newcomer Justin Hunter twice, when asked a question about Bryant. Hunter obviously has impressed the QB. But remember, the scouting report from my man in Nashville says that Hunter doesn't like to be hit. Something to monitor in August.

* Yes, I mushed Sammie Coates. One day after writing that I had never watched him catch such a high percentage of passes, Coates dropped three. That I saw. One was a bullet in the hands, which, after dropped, yielded a yelp of pain. Or so I thought from across the field. Coates turned around and walked to the sideline and seemingly kept that left arm bent, as if in pain. But he turned around and never checked his hand.

* Perhaps I'm hearing and seeing things.

* Monitor this at camp, too.

* Until then, our reporters will keep readers updated. Three of us have digital recorders filled with interviews that I know will provide you with more than the typical mundane locker room talk. I think you'll be pleased.

* And prepared.


Idaho Varsity Top Stories