The afternoon session of the Pittsburgh Steelers' opening day of training camp featured one of everyone's favorite drills, the backs on backers.
As is usually the case in this drill, the defense got the better of it – particularly Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison.
Harrison has traditionally been a monster in backs on backers – which puts two linebackers on one side of the line with a back protecting a coach pretending to be the QB. One of the backers blitzes at the snap of the ball and the running back has to pick him up.
Monday, Harrison made No. 1 pick Rashard Mendenhall look foolish on his first try before being fought to a draw with fullback Billy Latsko – more on him later. He then had his way with rookie tight end Dezmond Sherrod before bulldozing tight end John Dekker, blowing right through him.
Sherrod did hold Harrison off a bit on his second attempt with Harrison, but the message was sent: Don't mess with Silverback.
Latsko, who along with Carey Davis is one of just two true fullbacks on the roster, looked the best of any of the blockers. He stood up Lawrence Timmons in a battle of Florida (Latsko) vs. Florida State (Timmons) guys. He also held off rookie linebacker Patrick Bailey before getting beat by Andre Frazier.
But this is a drill in which the defense has a decided advantage.
Mendenhall, the Steelers' top pick, got better at the drill as it went on. After being beaten badly by Harrison, he was beaten by LaMarr Woodley. But he stoned Larry Foote, Anthony Trucks and Arnold Harrison after that before Timmons got by him in a battle of the team's last two No. 1 picks.
After that, the most interesting drill was the pass rushing in which Harrison and Woodley again dominated.
On the first play, Harrison lowered his shoulder and burst around the end. The second attempt saw Harrison bull rush through the rookie. On the third attempt, Harrison faked going to the inside and blew around Hills on the outside, with the rookie barely getting a hand on him.
Woodley, who is replacing Clark Haggans in the starting lineup this year, worked against both Willie Colon and Max Starks and made both look bad – when he didn't jump offside, which he did twice. He beat Colon on back-to-back plays.
Later, when Woodley lined up opposite Starks, Tomlin proclaimed, "I like this matchup here."
Woodley beat Starks around the end on the first attempt, with Tomlin yelling, "C'mon Wood. You can't stand on prosperity, give me two in a row."
He then used a little spin move on Starks at the line of scrimmage, again beating him.
Defensive end Ryan McBean showed some promise as a special teams player, consistently getting down the field on punt coverage in a manner that made you see why the Steelers liked him in the fifth round last season. The kid can run.
Cornerback Bryant McFadden tweaked a groin and did not finish practice, as did safety Anthony Smith. Rookie wide receiver Kevin Marion apparently suffered a mild knee sprain in the morning session and sat out the afternoon.
The starting lineups in the afternoon were the same as the morning session.
Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.