Practice Report, Aug. 10

Dale Lolley reports on the Steelers' Tuesday practice in the scorching heat with news about Joe Burnett's injury, the two-minute passing woes, the goal-line drill reversal, and much more.

LATROBE – It was a defensive kind of day Tuesday afternoon for the Pittsburgh Steelers at Saint Vincent College, as that unit shut the offense out of the end zone twice during a two-minute drill.

Byron Leftwich had the first shot working against the first-team defense – which was without James Harrison again today as he continues to rest his sore shoulder.

Leftwich took over at his own 48 with 1:26 remaining and one timeout and started poorly, fumbling the first shotgun snap and a running back kicked it.

Coach Mike Tomlin restarted the drill and after missing on a pass to Heath Miller, Leftwich connected with Mike Wallace for 10 yards and a first down. He then completed a 12-yard pass to Hines Ward to the 30. But after throwing the ball away on first down due to pressure, Leftwich threw incomplete to Miller, Antwaan Randle El and Ward to give the defense the win.

Leftwich finished 2-for-7 for 22 yards.

Dennis Dixon ran the second unit and also got off to a slow start, badly missing on his first three throws before Arnaz Battle made a great diving catch on fourth down to keep the offense alive.

Dixon followed that with completions to David Johnson and Emmanuel Sanders to move the ball to the 20 with 25 seconds remaining.

After another incompletion, he connected for 12 yards to Tyler Grisham to the 12-yard line, calling a timeout with 14 seconds left.

Two more incompletions left just one second on the clock, but half the defense jumped offside, on third down, giving the offense one more shot.

Dixon took the snap, stepped up into the pocket as if he was going to try to run from the 7. Three defenders hemmed him in and he tossed a pass toward Grisham in the end zone. Patrick Bailey tipped the ball into the air and it went through Grisham's hands.

Tomlin asked Dixon if he thought he had the touchdown on the run. When Dixon answered yes, Tomlin told him that he had better damn well score then.

Cornerback Joe Burnett, who was in coverage on the final play, injured his ribs trying to make a diving interception.

Anthony Madison elicited some cheers from the crowd when he made a nice interception on a Ben Roethlisberger pass intended for Sanders during 7-on-7 drills.

Madison jumped a short out and returned it for a touchdown. It was notable since Roethlisberger has looked extremely sharp thus far at camp.

Earlier, the Steelers ran a backs-on-backers drill, which, without Harrison, lacked some pop.

Rookie linebacker Thaddeus Gibson, now nicknamed "Jim Jones" by Tomlin - apparently because everyone he's drinking the Kool-Aid – stood out again, working over Johnson with a pair of successful swim moves to the inside.

Johnson called for a third shot and Gibson tried to bull-rush him, this time getting stopped.

Rookie inside linebacker Stevenson Sylvester showed no fear in delivering a blow, having his way several times with fellow rookie Jonathan Dwyer. In fact, Dwyer looked awful as a blocker - which is probably to be expected considering the offense he ran in college - until his final rep, when he stepped up and won a pair, including one against Sylvester. To Dwyer's credit, he stuffed Keyaron Fox on an inside blitz during the two-minute scrimmage.

After using safety Ryan Mundy as a blitzer at Latrobe High School in the drill, the Steelers tried safety Will Allen out there today. Allen showed some speed coming off the edge, but didn't want to take on the blocker, choosing to try to deke his way past. It worked the first time against Dwyer, but the second time he tried a similar move against Dwyer, the rookie held his own. Allen was later stood up by Frank Summers.

The head index today reached 102 degrees at times, but that didn't stop Harrison from running wind sprints early during practice.

Harrison sat out, but is expected back tomorrow. Also sitting out today were tight end Matt Spaeth, offensive tackle Tony Hills (ankle) and defensive lineman Steve McClendon (knee).

Of note for those who follow such things, Tomlin officially overruled the offense's win in Sunday's goal-line drill. Film indisputedly showed Sylvester stopping Dwayne Wright short of the end zone.

About the officiating of Garrett Giemont, Tomlin said: "He is suspect at this juncture. He got swayed by Ben Roethlisberger. There's evidence. On video, he whispered in his ear and then he signaled touchdown. I made note of that."

(Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.)


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