LATROBE, Pa. – Call it, backs-on-backers, the revenge.
Backs-on-backers is a pass rush/pass protection drill in which a linebacker typically gets a 5-7 yard running start into a back who's supposed to meet the challenge to protect the quarterback without cutting the rusher at the knees. It's a drill heavily weighted in favor of the linebackers.
Today at Saint Vincent College, the first competition period also matched running backs vs. linebackers, but this time the linebackers were at the disadvantage. That's because their chore in this drill was to cover the running back, who had the whole field with which to work to catch a pass from a quarterback who was not being rushed.
During Friday Night Lights, the first pairing of backs-on-backers was Lawrence Timmons vs. Le'Veon Bell, and Timmons won in decisive fashion. Today when those same two players were matched, Timmons couldn't cover Bell enough to prevent the completion or the run-after-catch that followed.
The final competition period of the afternoon session featured work on the two-minute drill, and Coach Mike Tomlin offered a little bit of a peek behind the curtain as to the way he chooses to orchestrate the competition.
"I'm a drill facilitator and the two-minute drill there, those snaps we got there at the end of that period are significant not only for offense, but for defense," said Tomlin. "So from time to time I'll doctor the result of plays in an effort to keep the drill going so that we can get the necessary work. It's more than about winning and losing. Sometimes it's about getting those guys on both sides of the ball into situations in which they can prove and understand the situation and display that understanding."
Take a look at photos of the Pittsburgh Steeler's ninth day of Training Camp.
One of the phrases Tomlin has used often to characterize the work taking place on campus has been "ebb and flow," and that seemed to be a good description of the 11-on-11 live tackling period today.
Bell was the lone back on the first two snaps, and he gained about 8 yards on his first attempt and then was stopped for no gain on the second. LeGarrette Blount followed him as the next ball carrier, and he showed some nice balance/power to escape a tackle by outside linebacker Arthur Moats but then the defensive pursuit swarmed him as he got himself back to the line of scrimmage.
Tauren Poole broke off a 15-yard run behind the right side of an offensive line that had rookie Wesley Johnson at center, Chris Hubbard at guard, and Mike Adams at tackle. On a subsequent series of plays, Miguel Maysonet broke off a 10-yard run behind blocks by Guy Whimper and Bryant Browning, but later in the drill he fumbled after popping through the line and cornerback Antwon Blake recovered.
The biggest and the smallest players on this 90-man roster also met up in this drill, when Dri Archer broke away from one tackler only to get swallowed by 352-pound nose tackle Daniel McCullers.
TOMLIN'S INJURY UPDATE
"From a health standpoint, I thought today was significant. Today we had some guys back. Some guys are working themselves back. Mike Mitchell, Rob Blanchflower, Jordan Zumwalt are guys who have missed a substantial amount of time since we've been here. They are working their way back to health. Some of the other ones who missed practice today for a variety of minor issues – Ryan Shazier, Maurkice Pouncey, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Steve McLendon are still out. Jarvis Jones with the groin (injury), and Ike Taylor sitting out was my decision. We'll continue to roll through and try to keep them as fresh as we possibly can to continue to prepare with an eye toward the end of the week stepping in the stadium, which will be a big part of growth and development for us."