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Practice Report: Aug. 6

LATROBE, Pa. – Everything was set up for the same kind of dramatic finish as the last time the Steelers concluded an afternoon practice with a couple of repetitions of the 2-minute drill. As had happened the last time, the defense had made a big play – this time on a fourth down – to keep the offense out of the end zone on the first repetition, and as happened the last time, the offense needed a play on the final snap of the second repetition to get into the end zone.

But this time Darnell Washington slipped.

The Steelers concluded their final full week of training camp at Saint Vincent College with a padless practice on the sixth straight day they had been on the field during the afternoon or in the evening.

"Another good day for work," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "One of the major coaching points for today was that attire cannot dictate approach or attitude or professionalism. We've had a couple of days in pads, and that automatically brings a certain level of urgency. We've got to maintain that level of urgency even when we're not in pads. It was really kind of indicative of the season. We don't carry pads all the time during the season, and so regardless of attire we've got to come out here and be focused on the work, and so we talked about that today. But also leading up into an off day, being able to display singular focus and being where we are and being productive on the front side of things, and hopefully, again, we'll talk about it on the back side when we come off the off day."

What Tomlin was referencing was that the Steelers are off on Monday, and then get back onto the field for scheduled practices in pads on Tuesday and Wednesday before traveling to Tampa on Thursday to open their preseason on Friday night against the Buccaneers.

"And so, excited about the work," said Tomlin. "We'll analyze it and take advantage of the off day and roll the ball out next week. We've got a big week next week. We'll be carrying this group into a stadium and so we respect that, and we've got a lot of work ahead of us."

In typical fashion, the work began on Sunday with another installment of 7-shots, and for the eighth time in 10 sessions the defense emerged as the winner.

The drill opened with Kenny Pickett completing a pass to Cody White for a touchdown with Levi Wallace in coverage, and then when he scrambled into the end zone on the next play the offense had a 2-0 lead. On the next two plays though, Pickett threw incomplete – he missed George Pickens on a throw over the middle and was high on a pass to Calvin Austin III who was tightly covered.

With the score, 2-2, Mitch Trubisky came on and stuck a throw into a tight window to Darnell Washington for a touchdown, but on the next play Miles Boykin didn't control the ball all the way to the ground, and it was 3-3 going into the final snap. That pass went to Boykin and while it was a little low it was catchable, but he didn't make the play and the defense prevailed, 4-3.

"You know, that's the overriding purpose of 7-shots to be quite honest with you, to be able to apply it to other circumstances and keep a point total down," said Tomlin. "And so, we spend a lot of time in that area of the field trying to familiarize ourselves with calls down there and being in position to execute. Things happened quickly down there, and it was a good day for (the defense) in that regard."

Which brought us to the final competition period of the day's practice. It would be two repetitions with the offense getting the ball at the 35-yard line, with 1:37 on the clock and one timeout. The offense needed a touchdown to win.

Pickett started off with an 8-yard completion to Pat Freiermuth, and after an incomplete pass to Calvin Austin III, it was third-and-3 from the 42-yard line. Pickett converted with a 13-yard pass to Cody White, who got out of bounds at the defense's 45-yard line after a 13-yard gain.

On the next play, Pickett did a great job rolling to his left and turning his body to make a pretty throw to White deep down the field for a 41-yard gain to the 4-yard line. But with four shots in a goal-to-go situation, the offense came up short. Pickett threw incomplete for White, and then he threw high intended for George Pickens. On third down, Pickett scrambled for a 2-yard gain to set up a fourth-and-goal at the 2-yard line.

But the fourth down pass was batted at the line of scrimmage by nose tackle Breiden Fehoko.

Trubisky followed Pickett at quarterback for the second repetition. He started with a 9-yard completion to tight end Rodney Williams, and then a 6-yard completion to Anthony McFarland gave the offense a first down at the 50-yard line. Trubisky then completed a 27-yard pass to Boykin and a 15-yard pass to Connor Heyward, and the offense had a first-and-goal at the 8-yard line.

On first down, Trubisky almost was intercepted by cornerback Luq Barcoo in the end zone, and safety Elijah Riley almost had an interception in the end zone on the next play to set up third-and-goal. Barcoo broke up the third down pass, and the offense called its only timeout with one more shot at a touchdown

Trubisky was decisive and delivered a pass for Washington who was beginning to cut across the middle of the end zone, but when he planted his foot he slipped on the wet grass and wasn't able to get to the ball, which fell incomplete. From the vantage point of the press box at Chuck Noll Field, the play appeared to have a chance to succeed, but Washington's slip on grass that had been made wet by a light intermittent rain during practice ended that chance.

"Tre Norwood had a lower leg injury of some kind that needs to be evaluated tonight. That's the new one that occurred in practice. Some of the guys who have been out, you see levels of activity in terms of working their way back – Damontae Kazee, Keanu Neal. Wide receiver Ja'Marcus Bradley got a minor hamstring that happened yesterday, and I don't know if I outlined that. Other guys are kind of day-to-day, it's that time of year with day-to-day like injuries, and so I don't want to make a big deal out of it." Minkah Fitzpatrick had returned on Saturday, and on Sunday he was making good on Tomlin's belief that he would be back and running at full capacity in a short period of time. Fitzpatrick participated in several of the drills throughout the session.