LATROBE, Pa. _ On a day the Steelers delivered the energy head coach Mike Tomlin had requested in advance, it was the defense that had the last laugh.
This afternoon’s practice at Saint Vincent College concluded with two more two-minute drills, and this time it was quarterback Ben Roethlisberger getting the first turn under center.
“Obviously, because of our rotations, particularly in-stadium, we focused in recent weeks on the young guys,” Tomlin said. “We do want to keep (Roethlisberger) up to speed and growing and readying himself so we did infuse him today.”
It didn’t go according to plan for the offense.
Tasked with driving 64 yards for a touchdown with 1:51 on the clock and one timeout at its disposal, the offense sputtered following a 24-yard completion to tight end Vance McDonald on third-and-15 that advanced the ball to within 45 yards of the goal line.
From there, Roethlisberger spiked the ball to stop the clock, hit wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster on a crossing route for no gain and twice threw incomplete for wide receiver Eli Rogers (nickel cornerback Mike Hilton had a pass defensed on the first such effort).
The offense turned the ball over with 1:02 left on the clock and the timeout still in its pocket.
“They had tight coverage,” Tomlin assessed of the defense. “They were close to the eligibles, for sure.”
Quarterback Josh Dobbs directed the second series, which ended on an interception by nickel cornerback Cam Sutton when Dobbs overthrew wide receiver Ryan Switzer on second-and-10 from the 46-yard line on the offense’s side of the 50.
MEDICAL FILE: Kicker Chris Boswell, cornerback Joe Haden, sixth-round outside linebacker Sutton Smith, first-year tight end Christian Scotland-Williamson, center Maurkice Pouncey, first-round outside linebacker Devin Bush, guard David DeCastro, fifth-round tight end Zach Gentry and inside linebacker Vince Williams were among those who either didn’t practice or didn’t participate in 11-on-11 drills due to either injury or a coach’s decision.
Center B.J. Finney didn’t finish practice due to heat-related issues, Tomlin said.
MORE TWO-MINUTE PARTICULARS: Donte Moncrief, Rogers and Smith-Schuster were the three wide receivers working with Roethlisberger, along with McDonald and running back James Conner at the oputset.
The offense line, without Finney, consisted of, from left to right, tackle Alejandro Villanueva, guard Ramon Foster, first-year center Patrick Morris, guard Matt Feiler and tackle Chukwuma Okorafor.
The defense went with Artie Burns and Steve Nelson at cornerback, Tyler Matakevich and sixth-round pick Ulysees Gilbert III at inside linebacker, and Sean Davis and Terrell Edmunds at safety. Davis was practicing in pads for the first time in training camp.
Roethlisberger ended up 2-for-7 passing for 24 yards, including the spike.
Dobbs was 2-for-4 for 15 yards, including the interception.
Both offensive lines were guilty of false starts, including an infraction by seventh-round pick Derwin Gray with the second unit.
DELIVERING AS REQUESTED: Tomlin said the players were aware today’s practice would be the last in pads at training camp.
“We revealed that to them, and there’s a certain urgency with that,” he said. “Certain things that we do here, the nature in which we work, carrying the pads, the drills that we do, it’s just a ‘capture’ moment. I thought the guys displayed that understanding today with the energy they brought to the drill work.
“I thought we had a really good day in that perspective.”
EXTRA POINTS: The offense won “Seven Shots,” the Steelers’ practice-opening, short-yardage/two-point conversion drill, 5-2. Third-round wide receiver Dionte Johnson had a pair of conversion/scoring receptions from Dobbs. Smith-Schuster was intercepted by inside linebacker Mark Barron on a reverse-pass. Matakevich started at inside linebacker with Barron. Moncrief, Rogers and Smith-Schuster were the first three wide receivers deployed … Special teams work included practicing “Scoop and Score” on blocked pounts and a blocked punt by first-year outside linebacker JT Jones. Tomlin excitedly voiced his approval … Jones subsequently dropped what should have been an interception on a screen pass thrown by quarterback Mason Rudolph … Cornerback Brian Allen had an interception of Rudolph and a pass defensed on consecutive snaps in 11-on-11 work … Coaching intern William Gay was back with the team after missing Tuesday’s practice due to the birth of Gay and his wife’s first child, son William Jr. … The wide receivers practiced making one-handed catches with their right and left hands.
Take a look at photos from the Pittsburgh Steelers 13th day of training camp