LATROBE _ Ben Roethlisberger's group was denied on four consecutive reps this afternoon in "Seven Shots," but the Steelers' quarterback was quick to credit the defense afterward.
"It's fun to see," Roethlisberger said of what he perceives to be an improved defense this summer at Saint Vincent College. "I think they have a really good combination of some young guys that are stepping up and some veteran guys.
"They're really coming together."
Roethlisberger threw incompletions to tight end Jesse James, running back Jaylen Samuels (safety Morgan Burnett came up with a pass defensed), wide receiver Antonio Brown and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (the pass had a lot of mustard on it and went through Smith-Schuster's hands) in the drill.
"Rush and coverage works together," Roethlisberger said. "Even if you have time to throw it, it doesn't mean you're going to win (a particular rep).
"I like all parts of it."
Roethlisberger's day also included "7-on-7" work with James Washington at one of the wide receiver positions, an indication in Roethlisberger's estimation that the Steelers' second-round pick is improving.
"You see him getting better every day," Roethlisberger said. "Early in (training) camp he couldn't even get on the field with me. Now, we're asking for him to be on the field so he can get some reps so we can see what he can do."
MEDICAL FILE: Safety Sean Davis (groin), safety Marcus Allen (undisclosed), outside linebacker Bud Dupree (concussion), center Parker Collins (undisclosed), guard B.J. Finney (quad), guard Ramon Foster (knee), tight end Vance McDonald (foot) and outside linebacker T.J. Watt (hamstring) were among those who didn't do any 11-on-11 work. Finney was back on the field and in uniform for the first time since sustaining his injury last Thursday night in the preseason opener at Philadelphia.
Running backs Stevan Ridley and James Conner left practice early (head coach Mike Tomlin said that was done to take a look at other players at the position).
Center Maurkice Pouncey and offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert were among those who returned to practice.
FORT-IFIED: Inside linebacker L.J. Fort ended "Seven Shots" with a one-handed interception on a fade from quarterback Josh Dobbs to Samuels. Fort celebrated by spiking the ball and was then mobbed by his defensive teammates. He added another one-handed interception in a 1-on-1 coverage drill against running backs and tight ends.
PLAY OF THE DAY: Cornerback Artie Burns made a spectacular, one-handed interception along the sideline on a deep ball from quarterback Mason Rudolph to wide receiver Damoun Patterson.
"Oh, my God," safety Nat Berhe gushed after witnessing Burns' acrobatics from close range.
Burns almost had another interception on a subsequent deep ball from Roethlisberger to Smith-Schuster, but Smith-Schuster was able to punch the ball from Burns' grasp.
EXTRA POINTS: The defense allowed only a run by Dobbs in a non-tackling version of "Seven Shots" on the way to its 6-1 victory in the Steelers' practice-opening, two-point conversion/short-yardage drill … Rudolph's afternoon included some no-huddle work and a fumbled center/quarterback exchange … Wide receivers Quadree Henderson and Justin Thomas and defensive back Cam Sutton caught punts during a special teams period.