August 8, 2009
By Donald Starver
Okay, let me start off by saying that I got lost last night. There, I admitted it.
Every year the Steelers hold a night practice at Latrobe Memorial Stadium. For some reason I, along with about 200 other Steelers fans, thought that Latrobe Memorial Stadium was located at Latrobe High School. Allow me to be the first to tell those of you who have never been to Steelers training camp that Latrobe Memorial Stadium is NOT located at Latrobe High School. But at least I had plenty of company at the high school, so I didn’t feel too stupid.
Once I finally made it to the stadium, the Steelers provided an entertaining evening.
The Steelers did their famous backs-on-backers drill for the fans’ entertainment. This is always a lively drill, and reputations are often made or destroyed during it.
As has been the case for the last 3 years, James Harrison was practically unstoppable during this drill. The rest of the NFL learned last year what Steelers running backs have known all along; Harrison cannot be blocked.
One player who began creating a reputation for himself last night was Frank “the tank” Summers. Summers did what most thought was virtually impossible. He stopped James Harrison’s bull rush. While that was impressive, Summers’ drill didn’t start off quite so well, as he completely missed a block on Andre Frazier in his first attempt at the drill. Frazier went around Summers like wind goes around a tree. But after that, Summers came into his own. Summers completely neutralized Keyaron Fox’s attempt to beat the rookie. He also stopped Tom Korte dead in his tracks, and then pushed him back 3 yards with a hard shove at the end for good measures. As the grand finale to the drill, head coach Mike Tomlin called out Summers and James Harrison to be the final combatants of the drill. As teammates looked on, James Harrison began his charge towards Summers. I assumed that Harrison would want to bully Summers to show that Summers’ earlier win against Harrison’s bull rush was a fluke. But instead, Harrison hit Summers with a last second swim move and blew right past him. Score one for the veteran.
Summers need not feel bad though. Nobody else has figured out how to stop Harrison either.
In other match-ups, Bruce Davis bull rushed Willie Parker into the next county. Donovan Woods went around Rashard Mendenhall as though he weren’t even there. So did Patrick Bailey. Mr. Mendenhall definitely needs to work on his blocking technique. Rookie tight end David Johnson stopped Lawrence Timmons cold. He did the exact same thing to Andre Frazier and then pushed him backwards 5 yards for good measures. I have been extremely impressed by Johnson’s blocking. Rookie running back Isaac Redman held off Andrew Schantz and Keyaron Fox. He also drove Bruce Davis into the ground. Lawrence Timmons blew right by Sherrod Dezmond, but Dezmond saved face later when he outwrestled Bruce Davis.
Harrison, Summers, Johnson, and Redman were clearly the winners in this drill.
Once backs-on-backers was over, the Steelers moved to 11-on-11 drills. On the very first play, Troy Polamalu intercepted a pass from Ben Roethlisberger. Fans were happy to see this, since Polamalu has barely practiced since training camp started due to a hamstring injury.
Most of the excitement in the 11-on-11 drills was provided by WR Dallas Baker. Baker didn’t excite the crowd with what he did. Rather, the excitement came from what was done to him.
On one play, Charlie Batch completed a pass to Baker, only to have Baker get drilled by Tyrone Carter (did I mention that there is no real hitting or tackling in the 11-on-11 drill?). A little later in the evening, rookie LB Andrew Schantz took a page out of Tyrone Carter’s book and clobbered Baker as he made another catch. I don’t know what Baker did to anger the defense, but they were definitely teeing off on him.
In other news, Stefan Logans and Shaun McDonald took turns fielding punts. Rookie Joe Burnett was noticeably absent from the drill. Santonio Holmes has also been participating in punt return drills, but he too did not return any punts tonight.
Both kickers, Jeff Reed and Piotr Czech, were asked to kick progressively longer field goals. Both kickers made their shorter kicks, but each finally missed on a 58 yard attempt. Reed’s 58 yard attempt was on line but fell short. Czech’s attempt had plenty of distance, but flew wide left.
Finally, the offensive and defensive linemen broke off for blocking drills. Neo (Tony Hills) successfully held off James Harrison on a bull rush. He also stopped Arnold Harrison on a similar attempt. Rookie Kraig Urbik held his own against Jordan Reffett, but was successfully bull rushed by rookie DT Steve Mclendon. Rookie Ramon Foster came up limping during the drill. Not a good thing, with the offensive line already heavily depleted. Lastly, first round pick Ziggy Hood pushed Jason Capizzi back so far on a bull rush that I thought they were going to credit him with a 2-point conversion.
The night ended with a fireworks display. When the fireworks were over, the annual Steelers practice under the Friday night lights had come to a close.
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