Camp Blog: All the news from Week 1

Sunday, August 9

Snell loves his job: With his second training camp underway, and his rookie year behind him, Benny Snell is focused on one thing.

Taking his game to the next level in 2020.

And how will he get there?

"I need to work on everything," said Snell. "I need to focus on being a better route-runner, a better pass protector, knowing pass pro and blitzes better. How the pass plays and run plays are run so I know the sweet spots, just being ahead of the game.

"There is always a way you can get better or an edge on your opponent when you are preparing for guys during the week. Film, getting the reps you can in practice, taking care of my body has been a big thing for me. A lot of those things tie in to how you play the game. It's huge and it's my job.

"And I love my job."

You could see that love he has for football just in the way he played last season, with a solid rookie campaign. The fourth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft finished the season with 108 carries for 426 yards and two touchdowns, including a 98-yard performance at Cincinnati in Week 12.

"I think I did decent as a rookie, contributing with the chances I had in front of me," said Snell. "I feel like there is a lot of growth for me, a lot of things I can get better at via offense and special teams."

Snell went through the rookie learning curve on and off the field last year. There was the disappointment of not getting much work in the running game early in the season, to his injury that forced him to miss three games, to breaking out and becoming a big part of the offense. There were so many lessons to learn, and he took them all in.

"The biggest lesson I learned is you have to forget about the negative plays or the negative things that try to affect your play when you are on the field," said Snell. "I learned really fast in the NFL you have to be a kind of forget guy. It's always about moving on to the next play and staying focused on winning the game and the long haul of the season."

That, however, is easier said than done.

"It definitely is hard because you are really anxious to see success when you are at practice going through it with the guys," said Snell. "It's a long road and it's a rollercoaster. It's all about staying level."

With the way things played out at running back in 2019 with injuries, staying level was paramount because nobody knew when their number would be called. Snell missed three games due to an injury, Jaylen Samuels missed two games and James Conner missed six games and portions of others.

"I never experienced anything like that," said Snell. "It was different. But I love the way when a guy would go down, or a few guys went down, other guys were able to step up and fill the roles. Then we had guys who were able to come back, and we were using the whole room. That was an amazing thing I got to be a part of and witness. I am happy with how we handled the ups and downs."

Take a look at photos from the Steelers 2020 media day

Thursday, Aug. 6

Can I have your autograph?: One of the things that Steelers players have always loved about training camp is having the fans right there.

From the moment they head to the field until the minute they walk back into the locker room afterwards, the support is constant. They cheer for the big plays, wave Terrible Towels and bring signs to show their love.

The fans also get to interact with the players, mainly after practice when many of them stop on a daily basis to sign autographs. This year, though, things are a little different.

With the team moving training camp to Heinz Field because of NFL regulations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are no fans at training camp. But that doesn't mean the interaction has to stop.

The Steelers launched a virtual autograph signing this week, with Joe Haden the first player to sign virtual autographs for fans. Through the @steelers Twitter account, fans could send their favorite picture of Haden, and he tweeted it back to them with the virtual signature. It's something the team plans on continuing to do throughout training camp as a thank you to their loyal fans.

Wednesday, August 5

'It's Blitzburgh here': Last week defensive coordinator Keith Butler made it clear that Vince Williams would be seeing more snaps in 2020 than he did in 2019, with his natural ability as a communicator just one of the reasons why his presence is needed.

Williams' snaps dropped last season after the team drafted Devin Bush in the first round and added Mark Barron. But Barron is gone, and now it's Williams and Bush who will be the go-to guys at inside linebacker this year.

"I tell Devin all the time that middle linebackers are vocal communicators in the middle of the field," said Williams. "The more you make calls, the more comfortable you get with it, the more people get confidence in you making those calls. He is just taking it in stride, watching me, seeing how I do things and learning.

"Devin is making tremendous strides. Just in the small detail like things. For example, he has a nice little system that he is working with. He comes in the building at a consistent time every day. Those are things that you don't really see from a young guy that doesn't really have a formula for success. But I am starting to see that he is starting to develop that, and I think he is going to get better with it."

While Williams is singing Bush's praises, he doesn't like to talk much about his own stellar play. A former sixth-round draft pick in 2013, Williams has become a dependable force on the defense, playing with a chip on his shoulder that gives him the perfect edge. He sets his own expectations high. He also doesn't spend time focusing on what others say, including if there is a misconception that coverage is not one of his strengths.

"To be honest with you, I don't really look at it," said Williams. "I don't look at the misconceptions because it doesn't come up in a situation where my coach doesn't ask me to do things. It is never a situation where I am not game planned to be put in a situation where I have to cover because of something that would be a perceived limitation of mine. But I don't go into the game plan room and Coach Butler is like, 'We are going to blitz you because you can't cover.' I have never had anybody say that to me.

"I think it is just an outside thing that people talk about outside of our organization, but everybody inside the building, they know what I can do."

That blitzing aspect, though, is something Williams and others love about the Steelers defense.

"It is Blitzburgh here," said Williams. "We are always trying to get after the quarterback and everybody has to be able to do that, even in the secondary. We seek out guys that get after the quarterback and then Coach Butler puts us in a position to do that and he expects us to capitalize."

Johnson loves how Ben is looking: Diontae Johnson doesn't fully know what life with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback is like. Johnson worked with Roethlisberger sparingly early on last season, but barely got a taste for the quarterback's talents before Roethlisberger's season ended after Week 2 with an elbow injury.

Since the end of the 2019 season, Johnson has been thinking about what it will be like to be on the field with Roethlisberger. It took a while after a virtual offseason due to COVID-19, but the two are back at it and Johnson couldn't be happier.

"I thought about it since the end of the season, just getting back ready and expecting Ben to come back 100 percent," said Johnson. "I am looking forward to getting on the field with Ben this year and being able to help him win games and a championship too. I know how hard he worked this offseason to get back healthy and I know how hard I have been working to prepare myself for this season. To be able to get back on the field with him this year is amazing. I can't wait to get it going."

Johnson has already had the opportunity to catch passes from Roethlisberger during the team's training camp at Heinz Field, and he loves what he is seeing as Roethlisberger has already cut loose and is throwing tight spirals according to Johnson.

"Ben's arm is way better than it was last year," said Johnson. "I am just trying to help him win games.

"Everybody wants to play for Ben. He is our leader. He is our quarterback. Everybody is locked in every play, knowing what we have to do. Just the energy he brings to the offense, you want to play for a guy like Ben. He will help you make plays and you want to make him look good.

"He is different this year. He is more excited. He is anxious to get on the field and play with us. That makes you want to play for him even more. That is one of the things I have seen from him, him engaging with me more this year. Being able to talk to him and have that connection, we are going to keep building that."

Johnson is hoping he can be a go-to guy for Roethlisberger this year, a home run hitter who can take the top off the defense and make plays down field.

"I feel like I can be that guy," said Johnson. "My ability to make plays off the line, out of my breaks, and make plays down the field gives him an option to come to me on third down, whatever down it is. I just want to be consistent for him."

Johnson finished the 2019 season, his rookie year, with 59 receptions, leading the Steelers in catches as well as leading all NFL rookies in that category. His 690 receiving yards were second on the Steelers and his five touchdowns led the team. He also had a huge impact in the punt return game, not just because of his 85-yard punt return for a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals, but his overall performance which included a 12.4-yard average per return and a spot on the second-team AP All-Pro team. He said he learned a lot last year that helped him develop over the offseason and hope it all pays off this year.

"The pace of the game, what it takes to be a pro," said Johnson, who played around 180 pounds last year, but with the work he did in the offseason is now a solid 186 pounds. "Coming in I didn't know much. I was picking my teammates brains. That helped me a lot. Everything has slowed down for me, I know how to take care of my body, what to eat to prepare for the season."

Monday, August 3

Roster Recap: The start of the 2020 Steelers training camp hasn't been what we have all become accustomed to when a 'normal' camp begins, but in all honesty 2020 in general hasn't been what anyone is accustomed to.

The Steelers, like the rest of the country, are adapting. And that includes some shuffling of the roster as camp is underway, including defensive back Arrion Springs being waived on Monday afternoon after he was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list.

This year teams could go into camp with 90 players, but all NFL rosters must be trimmed to 80 players before the first day of padded practices on Aug. 17. The Steelers reached that 80-man roster with a series of moves, including releasing some players they signed this offseason.

Just before camp started the team waived tight end Christian Scotland-Williamson and signed tight end Dax Raymond. Once camp kicked off, the team signed running back Wendell Smallwood and safety Curtis Riley. The team also waived eight players, including quarterback J.T. Barrett, running back Ralph Webb, former Pitt receiver Quadree Henderson, offensive lineman Christian Montano, linebackers Christian Kuntz, who played at Duquesne University, and Dewayne Hendrix, safety Tyree Kinnel and defensive end Josiah Coatney.

Other moves included the team placing running back Jaylen Samuels and receiver James Washington on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Aug. 2, joining Justin Layne who was already on the list. Springs was on the reserve/COVID-19 list, but was activated from the list and waived by the team.

The NFL created the reserve/COVID-19 list for a player who either tests positive for COVID-19 or who has been quarantined after having been in close contact with an infected person(s). If a player falls into either of these categories, their club is required to immediately place the player on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Per agreed upon NFL-NFLPA policy, clubs are not permitted to comment on player's medical status other than referring to roster status. Clubs may not disclose whether player is in quarantine or is positive for COVID 19.

Ben is back: In case you missed it, today was a happy day at Heinz Field because Ben Roethlisberger is back. Roethlisberger took part in planned team activities and was seen throwing. Not a bad day at all.