Flashing and finishing on the pass rush

LATROBE, Pa. _ When the shoulder pads came on at Saint Vincent College, first-year outside linebacker Ola Adeniyi picked up right where he’d left off.

He’s been so dominant in Training Camp 2019 that an interview session following this afternoon’s practice opened with a question about whether Adeniyi considers himself un-block-able based on the way he’s been playing.

It was a legitimate query given what Adeniyi has put on tape through the first three days.

“I wouldn’t say all that,” he countered. “I’m just coming out here every day, trying to get better.”

Adeniyi was the star of “Backs-on-’Backers,” the 1-on-1 pass protection/pass rush drill that the Steelers traditionally hope will set a physical tone whenever the pads are donned for the first time.

He went 7-1 according to one reporter’s notebook, with three consecutive decisions over rookie running back Travon McMillian, two victories over second-year running back Jaylen Samuels and a 2-1 showing against rookie running back Benny Snell Jr.

“I might have been 8-0, but 7-1 isn’t too bad,” Adeniyi maintained.

The disputed rep, if there was one, was the final Adeniyi-Snell confrontation.

Adeniyi hesitated for a moment during his rush and Snell struck a blow, which slowed Adeniyi temporarily.

“That’s all I need,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hollered with obvious approval from his vantage point observing the proceedings.

Adeniyi didn’t think that was enough to tip the result in Snell’s favor.

“Not at all,” he insisted.

It was one of the few instances, seemingly, when Adeniyi has been impeded since camp commenced.

Even head coach Mike Tomlin, who rarely offers praise at this stage, particularly as it relates to younger players, has been impressed.

“Man, Ola’s flashing and showing some burst and finishing some rushes,” Tomlin assessed.

Even if Adeniyi gets blocked every now and then.

MEDICAL FILE: Safety Sean Davis (finger) was hurt during practice. Wide receiver Johnny Holton (hamstring) was among those who didn’t practice (Roethlisberger, center Maurkice Pouncey and inside linebacker Mark Barron were among the veterans given a day or significant reps off). Outside linebacker T.J. Watt remains on the Active/PUP List (hamstring) but did some individual work on the field (jogging, backpedaling, etc.).

TACKLE FOOTBALL: “Backs-on-’Backers” was followed by a live-tackling, 11-on-11 period. Third-round cornerback Justin Layne put the exclamation point on the drill with a tackle for a loss on McMillian on a sweep. Cornerback Cam Sutton also had an impressive drop of Snell in the open field.

HUSTLE PLAY: Sutton had an interception in 7-on-7 work, but wide receiver Ryan Switzer chased the return down from behind, punched the ball from Sutton’s grasp and fell on the fumble.

Switzer, a native of Charleston, W.Va., might have been inspired by a group of women on the sideline who cheered wildly after Switzer receptions and serenaded him with a brief chorus of “Country Roads” on a couple of occasions.

EXTRA POINTS: Inside linebacker Vince Williams and running back James Conner were held out of “Backs-on-’Backers.” First-round inside linebacker Devin Bush went 1-1 against Samuels and 2-0 against fifth-round tight end Zach Gentry, a college teammate at Michigan … The offense won “Seven Shots,” the practice-opening, short-yardage/two-point conversion drill, 4-3. Quarterback Josh Dobbs threw scoring/conversion passes to wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and tight end Xavier Grimble, the latter off a scramble. Quarterback Mason Rudolph found third-round receiver Diontae Johnson in the end zone on the last two snaps of the drill. Cornerback Artie Burns had a tip-pick … Outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo had a “sack” of Dobbs in 11-on-11 play (Chickillo crashed hard from the outside and the play was whistled dead as Dobbs attempted to escape the pocket) … Burns played significant snaps with the first-team defense in place of cornerback Joe Haden. Tomlin’s take on Burns: “He’s playing solidly, but we’re just getting here.”

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