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Camp Blog: Week 2 recap

Saturday, July 31

Back together again: As a part of the NFL's 'Back Together Saturday,' the Steelers are hosting their Fan Fest, presented by Giant Eagle, today on Art Rooney Avenue ahead of the team's practice at Heinz Field.

Fans will be able to enjoy fun and games before heading into practice, as well as enjoy entertainment from the Steeline Drumline and D.J. Steve Maffei Jr.

Hall of Honor: The Steelers Hall of Honor Class of 2021 will be revealed today at Heinz Field at 12:30 p.m., and Steelers Nation can watch the announcement on the Steelers digital channels.

The announcement will be streamed live on, the Steelers Official Mobile App, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts. It will also be shown live on the stadium scoreboards for those in attendance.

Stan Savran, a member of the Hall of Honor selection committee, will host the Hall of Honor show and be joined by Steelers President Art Rooney II.

The Steelers introduced the Hall of Honor in 2017, an idea that came from Art Rooney II, along with late Chairman Dan Rooney, to recognize former players, coaches, and front office personnel who played an integral role in the success of the franchise, from the beginning in 1933 until now.

To be considered for the Hall of Honor, a player must be retired at least three years and played a minimum of three seasons for the Steelers. Former coaches and contributors had to make significant contributions to the team and community.

Friday, July 30

A message from Coach Tomlin: Before the Steelers took the field for their 'Friday Night Lights' practice at Heinz Field, Coach Mike Tomlin addressed the fans and spoke from the heart, like he always does.

He thanked them for their support over the past year, for the support they gave while they were all enduring the challenges of the pandemic, and he also reaffirmed the team's committee to battling social injustice in the Pittsburgh community and beyond.

"Good evening. What's up Steelers Nation? It's my honor to introduce this collection of men to you in 2021," said Tomlin as he addressed the fans. "We just wanted to acknowledge and be thankful of the support that we get from you this evening. In the last 12 months we've all been challenged in ridiculous ways. We were blessed enough to still have an opportunity to pursue our passion and do our jobs.

"We understand a lot of people were less fortunate than us. We thank you. We see you for your courage and spirit in the face of the pandemic and the challenges that it caused.

"Also, 12 months ago we acknowledged that our nation was ravaged by social unrest. We stood right here 12 months ago and made a commitment to be positive contributors to the development of a more perfect union. We formalized our efforts with social justice committees and got out into our community.

"Twelve months later we affirm that commitment. We still intend to be positive contributors to our community, here and in the communities in which we come from.

"We thank you for your support, not only on nights like tonight, but as we work hard to utilize our blessings and the platform that we have to be positive contributors.

"We thank you tonight. We hope you enjoy our work. Thank you."

Feeling confident: As most Steelers players were sitting down to enjoy lunch during a break at training camp on Thursday, inside linebackers coach Jerry Olsavsky was talking about there being more on linebacker Robert Spillane's plate this year.

But he certainly wasn't talking about food.

Spillane, who was called upon heavily in 2020 when Devin Bush went down with a season-ending ACL injury, will once again be relied on in 2021 after the retirement of Vince Williams right before the start of training camp.

Spillane, though, doesn't mind whatever is asked of him. He is listed as the starter at right inside linebacker as the preseason is set to open in less than a week against the Dallas Cowboys in Canton, Ohio, and relishes whatever is on his plate.

"I've always had confidence in myself," said Spillane. "People never thought I'd be here right now. Just the fact I'm here as a number one linebacker next to Devin Bush in this unbelievable defense, it feels special to me. But I don't take it lightly, and I don't take it for granted.

"Even some people in my family might say, 'What are you doing? You're not going to be out there. We don't necessarily believe in you.' But it's having that faith in myself the whole way through, even when the odds weren't in my favor. It's trusting in myself and my abilities. Good things kept happening."

Today's Schedule: The Steelers will switch things up today and practice from 5-7 at Heinz Field. The practice is open to fans, but everyone must have a 'free' ticket to enter. Secure your ticket here: Friday Night Lights.

He said it: Inside linebacker coach Jerry Olsavsky on Marcus Allen's progress after he made the switch from safety to linebacker last year.

"Marcus is coming along," said Olsavsky. "The best thing about Marcus is he is a willing hitter. He doesn't have a problem with the contact part of the game. And so, he's coming along fine. Unfortunately, when you play defensive back and you're in a lot of space, the contact is a little different, it's farther away, you got more time to size guys up and people aren't as big. So that's what we're getting Marcus used to. But Marcus has very good body type. Once he figures out how to use that body correctly, he's going to be an excellent player."

Thursday, July 29

Getting his shot: Rookie receiver Rico Bussey got a chance to show what he can do on Thursday and made the most of his opportunity.

Bussey, who played at the University of Hawaii in 2020, caught a touchdown pass from Dwayne Haskins to end practice, earning cheers from fans and teammates.

Bussey was signed as a rookie free agent following the 2021 NFL Draft. He started all eight games in 2020 for Hawaii, after transferring from North Texas, finishing third on the team in receptions with 31 and had 274 yards receiving.

"I just try to follow the old guys and see what they do and try to pick up on everything they do and learn from them," said Bussey about his approach so far. "They come to practice every day focused and focus on their detail."

Take a look at the Steelers training and preparing for the 2021 season at Heinz Field

Looking good: An interview with inside linebackers Coach Jerry Olsavsky never disappoints, because not only does he bring fun to it, but he also brings a strong evaluation of those at his position.

And one of the inside linebackers everyone wants to know about is former No. 1 pick Devin Bush, who is coming off of an ACL injury and back on the field in training camp.

"Devin is healthy," said Olsavsky. "Devin worked really hard in his rehab. Now, this is the mental part of the rehab, where you got to be on the field and do things again. And that's a lot harder than the physical stuff. Devin's used to working his tail off to be a great player. So, that part of the rehab, the mental is now what's got to come in and that's hard. He's in good shape. He was out there for a couple of full go plays, and they looked nice."

When Bush went out last season, one of those who stepped in at inside linebacker was Robert Spillane. Last year, in his third season in the NFL, he cemented himself as a playmaker, as someone who could step in when called upon and not just be the 'next man up,' but be a solid piece of the defense.

Spillane played in 12 games, starting seven, before an injury landed him on the Reserve/Injured List for the last four weeks of the regular season, and then activated for the AFC Wild Card game.

He finished the season with 43 tackles, 37 of them solo stops, two sacks, four pass defenses, and an interception and fumble recovery. He had his best game in a Week 9 win over the Baltimore Ravens. Spillane had his first career interception, picking off Lamar Jackson and returning it 33 yards for a touchdown.

This year there will be even more asked of him after the retirement of Vince Williams.

"Of course, it puts a little bit more on Robert's plate," said Olsavsky. "But that's what you want. You want a full plate when you play in the NFL. He's not happy about (Vince's retirement) because we love Vince. Great teammate, true professional. However, the other guys want to play all the time too. Puts more on his plate, but not any pressure. He had a good year last year. He got hurt and came back. Rob is doing a great job."

On a high note: One of the players who stood out on Day 1 in pads was second-year linebacker Alex Highsmith, who was strong in backs-on-backers as well as when running with full team, going against rookie Dan Moore Jr.

"I thought 56 (Highsmith) particularly was stout at the point of attack when we ran over in that direction," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "But, again, he was playing against a younger guy in his first exposure to the drill because we didn't have Chuks (Okorafor) in there.

"You can paint with a broad brush and tell whatever story you want to tell this time of year. I'm just going to keep snapping the ball and let those guys reveal to us who and what they are."

For real: Let's just leave it at this. Nobody in black and gold is pleased with Minkah Fitzpatrick's ranking below.

An eye on the weather: The Steelers have a 1:30 p.m. Training Camp practice session schedule for today (Thursday) at Heinz Field.

There is inclement weather expected in the Pittsburgh area on Thursday. If you are planning to come to Heinz Field for the Steelers 1:30 p.m. Training Camp practice session, we want you to be aware of the following channels that will provide weather and practice updates should they become available.
   Steelers Official Mobile App
   Steelers Twitter
   Steelers Facebook
   Steelers Nation Radio

The Steelers thank you for your continued support.

Wednesday, July 28

Welcome back: The Steelers put the pads on for Wednesday's practice at Heinz Field, and also had the fans in the house.

And Coach Mike Tomlin loved it.

Tomlin wasn't the only one happy to welcome the fans back.

 "I thought they brought a lot of energy to us," said rookie Kendrick Green. "The music going. Good atmosphere."

Take a look at the Steelers training and preparing for the 2021 season at Heinz Field

Getting to know you: Secondary coach Grady Brown might be new to the NFL, but he isn't new to those he is working with on the team's coaching staff.

Brown was this offseason from the college ranks, where he has served in multiple roles. Brown was named the cornerbacks coach at the University of Houston on Feb. 8, 202, but moved on for his first experience as an assistant in the pro ranks.

Before heading to Houston, Brown was the defensive coordinator at McNeese State in 2020 and co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach at Old Dominion in 2019.

In 2018, he was the cornerbacks coach and recruiting coordinator at Louisville, and in one season there the Cardinals ranked No. 40 overall in the country in pass defense. He also spent one season as the safeties coach at Alabama State (2017). Brown was the defensive coordinator at Birmingham Southern in 2016.

Brown spent four seasons coaching the defensive backs at South Carolina (2012-15). During his time there, they ranked No. 12 in in pass defense and No. 13 in interceptions (18) in FBS in 2013.

He also spent time at Southern Miss (2011), helping them set an NCAA record for interceptions returned for a touchdown. He also served as a defensive quality control coach at Louisiana State (2009) and safeties coach at Texas Southern (2008).

Brown coached at Alabama State earlier in his career as well, from 2002-07, and got his coaching career stated at Alabama A&M in 2001 where he coached the outside linebackers. He also had two NFL minority coaching internships, one with the Seattle Seahawks and the other with the Kansas City Chiefs.

It was that background that got him on the Steelers radar, in particular building a relationship with Coach Mike Tomlin and senior defensive assistant/secondary Teryl Austin, who he did an internship with.

"Who doesn't know Coach Tomlin, right. I mean everybody knows Coach Tomlin and especially if you're in a secondary coach or defensive coach and you have aspirations of doing certain things with your career," said Brown on Wednesday. "So just in passing, I would imagine that I know him better than he knew me before I came here, but we definitely passed each other just by my tours of coaching college ball and being at the Senior Bowl and everything like that. But I will say that, in turn, with Teryl Austin back in 2004, he was the secondary coach with the Seahawks, and I was a young secondary coach at Alabama State interning early on in my career and so that that experience gave me an opportunity to start my relationship with Teryl Austin.

"As my career progressed through different levels and everything he had always stayed in contact. There were some opportunities for us to work together before in the NFL. I tell young coaches I just wasn't smart enough to take that opportunity. It kind of came back around and when the opportunity came this time, 'TA' went into Coach T to talk to him about me. They brought me in on an interview and kind of the rest is history from that point."

Rough and tumble: Arthur Maulet, who was signed to a one-year contract in May, is quickly adapting to the Steelers defense in the early days of training camp.

Maulet has been working in the slot, a position that was held by Mike Hilton before he left via free agency.

"I played a good deal of slot in New York and sometimes in New Orleans, so fairly comfortable with it," said Maulet. "Mike T(omlin) wants me to just focus on the nickel spot right now and learn it like the back of my hand so that's what I'm focused on."

Maulet spent the last two seasons with the New York Jets, originally signing a reserve/futures contract with them in 2019. He played in 23 games over the two seasons with the Jets, starting 11 of them. In 2020 he had 23 tackles with a sack and an interception in 11 games, starting five of them.

He entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Memphis, signing with the New Orleans Saints following the 2017 NFL Draft. He spent time with the Saints and Indianapolis Colts during the 2018 season, before heading to the Jets.

For his career he has played in 34 games, starting 12, and has recorded 83 tackles, two sacks, seven pass defenses, two interceptions and a fumble recovery.

"He's got a reputation for being a rough and tumble teamer and a versatile defender," said Tomlin. "And I just think guys that show that level of versatility in two phases, you better have an interest in. He's displaying that out here.

"Obviously, (Wednesday) will be a big day and the subsequent days after we step into stadiums and stuff like that, but that's what his resume tells us and he's exemplifying that."

"I feel like I'm a good blitzer," said Maulet. "I feel like I can do everything they asked me to do. Just looking at Mike Hilton film from last year and seeing how effective he was in the defense. I feel like I fit the same way. I felt the same way so I think I can help this team.

"You've got to be tough as nails. You got to be able to blitz. I'm definitely tough. Not going to shy away from contact at all. You know you got to be able to blitz, be able to tackle, you have to be an intelligent d-back to play that spot, so you know I'm owning up to that."

Tuesday, July 27

Back to school: "It's like the first day of school."

Those were words from Coach Mike Tomlin on the eve of the Steelers putting on pads for the first time in training camp, something he and the players alike are truly looking forward to.

"They are competitors. You do feel the energy out here," said Tomlin. "These guys have been playing football all their lives. This is a very normal thing for them.

"They're excited about it. They've trained for a long time to put themselves in this position. It's like the first day of school. There's that level of excitement.

"It's just elements of real football. They really start to reveal themselves when you get in football like conditions and that's what tomorrow signifies for us."

The Steelers held their first practice at Heinz Field on Tuesday afternoon, getting a feel for their home for training camp for the 2021 season. On Wednesday, they will have plenty of company with fans permitted to attend practice for the first time.

Tomlin can't wait.

"We're excited to be here. We look forward to getting the fans out tomorrow and being able to work in front of those guys," said Tomlin. "But we're doing normal and usual things. We've just got to continue to snap that ball. It gives us an opportunity to grow, to learn, to teach, to gain some insight into some football intellect based on the circumstances that we're putting the guys in.

"We're competing. We're evaluating, but it is early in the juncture. We're still obviously very much in teaching and learning and development. But time is going to get short really quickly. We'll be in Canton, Ohio (for Pro Football Hall of Fame game) soon enough and so we're respectful of that as well."

Notes: Tomlin excused Ben Roethlisberger from practice on Tuesday. He is expected to return tomorrow.


Embracing new challenges: There's a new position coach, a new, high-profile player and a whole new attitude. Welcome to the Steelers' tight ends room in 2021.

On Tuesday at Steelers Training Camp, Eric Ebron gave credit for the new approach to new tight ends coach Alfredo Roberts.

"That's 'Fredo,'" Ebron said. "But I told him it was cool because technically it's my room."
The emphasis on blocking figures to ramp up tomorrow, when the shoulder pads come on for the first time in camp.

"That was something we were all terrible at last year, as you saw, our lull in the running game, period." Ebron said. "I feel like as a complete unit, the offensive line and tight ends, I feel like we all should get better, including myself.

"If you want to get paid and you want to perform and you want to be amongst the best, you've got to block."

Ebron raved today about the group's new mindset, and the components of the room including second-round tight end Pat Freiermuth.

"For a rookie tight end it's extremely hard and he seems to be unfazed," Ebron said. "He's probably one of my favorite people to play with in a tight end room."

Third-year pro Zach Gentry has also gotten Ebron's attention.

"His development, his flexibility, his knowledge of the game is improving," Ebron noted. "He's starting to understand he's 6-foot-12, and not a lot of people are 6-12."

Gentry is actually listed at 6-foot-8 and 265 pounds.

Ebron exaggerated by design to emphasize Gentry's physical skill set.

"He has to understand his body is abnormal compared to other tight ends and other people," Ebron said. "He has to be able to use that to his advantage and he's doing a really good job of understanding that this year.

"I just feel like his attitude and the way he's approaching everything is a lot better, and that's how it starts."

Freiermuth appreciates the difficult of the transition he's making.

"Everything is so much different from college," he said.

But he's also getting up to speed quickly, particularly as it relates to the emphasis on and importance of blocking.

"I was drafted because I can do both things," Freiermuth said. "Obviously, it's kind of hard to show you can block with helmets on. My job is to make catches and my job is to block D-ends and block linebackers and I know that.

"I've had a good couple first days of camp but I know the real work starts tomorrow when the pads go on. I gotta go out there and prove I can block D-ends."

A working relationship with Ebron is already blossoming.