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Offensive line answers the challenge

Posted Aug 17, 2017

Work despite depleted ranks pleases Tomlin.

LATROBE, Pa. _ An offensive line that was thin to begin with lost B.J. Finney to dehydration, but  in the end head coach Mike Tomlin appreciated the manner in which difficult circumstances had been navigated.

“This process kind of presents challenges for groups through availability,” Tomlin offered. “Last week, particularly, the outside linebackers got challenged because a number of guys were down. It was interesting to see the offensive line work through today.”

The day began with starting guards Ramon Foster and David DeCastro and starting center Maurkice Pouncey not in uniform.

The revised starting lineup featured, from left to right, Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler, Finney, Chris Hubbard and Marcus Gilbert.

After the heat got the best of Finney, the No. 1 line was comprised, from left to right, by Jerald Hawkins, Feiler, Hubbard, Keavon Milton and Gilbert.

“A difficult day in some ways but really an encouraging day in their response to it,” Tomlin assessed.

Hubbard received the most glowing review.

“The more you can do,” Tomlin emphasized. “There’s a guy that’s played swing-tackle, came in today playing a little guard, had to adapt and play some center; we know he’s tight-end capable.

“Boy, he adds value to his cause and ours when he has that type of position flexibility.”

Feiler and Milton earned half-credit.

“I thought they represented themselves from an assignment standpoint OK,” Tomlin assessed. “I don’t know that they matched the intensity of that first (-team) defense. You can’t warm up to the intensity. I’ll be looking for them to match that intensity a little better next time if given an opportunity.”

MEDICAL FILE: In addition to Foster, DeCastro, Pouncey and Finney, quarterback Ben Rothlisberger, wide receiver Demarcus Ayers, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, cornerback Cam Sutton, cornerback William Gay, safety Mike Mitchell, cornerback Senquez Golson, linebacker Ryan Shazier, oustide linebacker James Harrison, and outside linebacker Keion Adams were among the players who didn’t practice or were limited due to injury or a coach’s decision.

SEVEN SHOTS: The defense won the practice-opening, two-point conversion/short-yardage drill, 5-2. The offensive highlight was wide receiver Martavis Bryant following Roethlisberger’s escort into the end zone on a reverse. The defensive highlight was cornerback Ross Cockrell blasting tight end Jesse James in the end zone and knocking the ball from James’ grasp after James had gotten his hands on a pass from Roethlisberger.

QUICK-HITTERS: Special teams work included two “Mayday” kicks (rushing the field goal team onto the field against a ticking clock). Kicker Chris Boswell got positioned and delivered from 52 and 55 yards as special teams coordinator Danny Smith counted down from 12 … With Gay not participating, cornerback Mike Hilton worked as the first- and second-team nickel cornerback … In what seems to be a daily occurrence at Saint Vincent College, linebacker Tyler Matakevich had another tackle for a loss (on running back James Conner in 11-on-11 “tackle football” … Conner had a conversion/touchdown run in “Seven Shots.”