Highlights from practice No. 18 of training camp:
- They traded situational football for game-planning.
- For the first time, they Steelers abandoned "Seven Shots," their traditional two-point conversion/short-yardage drill at the outset of practice.
- And for the first time, the first-team defense worked against a backup offense working off of cards detailing plays run by an upcoming opponent, in this case Detroit, which will visit Heinz Field on Saturday night.
- The backup defense did the same for the first-team offense, in 11-on-11 and in 7-on-7.
- Another step taken in the process, from Steelers vs. Steelers to Steelers vs. Lions.
- And a big one in the estimation of head coach Mike Tomlin.
- "It is because we need realism," Tomlin said. "And realism provides preparation."
- The starters need to prepare for what they're about to receive, as they would in a regular-season week.
- And those running the opponent's plays need to provide as realistic a look as possible.
- "There's a responsibility of being a 'card' offensive player or a 'card' defensive player to try to provide a quality look that better prepares those you're serving," Tomlin said.
- The idea was to simulate a regular-season Wednesday in advance of a game on Sunday.
- "That's always good for us," defensive coordinator Keith Butler said. "It's always better than practicing against our guys. We still like to beat our guys, make no mistake about it. But we want to see what they're doing, and some of the stuff that they're doing that we gotta stop is a little bit different than what our offense does.
- "It's always good for us to prepare like we're gonna prepare during the (regular) season. So we get a trial run at it and see how we do."
CENTER STAGE: C Kendrick Green returned after missing a couple of days and anchored a first-team offensive line that also included LT Chukwuma Okorafor, LG Kevin Dotson, RG Trai Turner and RT Zach Banner. That group hadn't worked together previously. Okorafor, Dotson, Turner and Banner are listed as starters on the depth chart. Green is listed second-team on the depth chart but has been working with the No. 1s throughout camp.
Tomlin was asked if the starting center job belongs to Green.
"You can surmise that but there will be no bold announcements," Tomlin said.
Take a look at the Steelers training and preparing for the 2021 season at Heinz Field
OFFENSIVE EXPLOITS: QB Ben Roethlisberger executed a play-action bootleg pass to TE Eric Ebron in 11-on-11 work. RB Najee Harris also caught a play-action pass from Roethlisberger in the flat, also on a play that originated with Roethlisberger under center. And WR Chase Claypool contributed a nice catch along the sideline on still another play-action/boot … The big play of he day was a bomb from Roethlisberger to WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, who beat FS Tre Norwood and CB Justin Layne deep … WR Cody White took some first-team reps … RB Anthony McFarland was given the ball on a draw out of the shotgun.
DEFENSIVE DUE DILIGENCE: OLB Melvin Ingram penetrated and would have had a great shot at a tackle for a loss on RB Tony Brooks-James had they been tackling (the Steelers were in shoulder pads but didn't finish plays to the ground) … DE Tyson Alualu also broke through and had a clean shot at RB Pete Guerriero in 11-on-11 work … Ingram was the only non-starter working regularly with the first unit on defense (in OLB T.J. Watt's spot) in 11-on-11 periods … CB Arthur Maulet continued to be the first-team nickel in CB Antoine Brooks Jr.'s absence.
MEDICAL FILE: Among those who either didn't participate or only took part in position drills or individual work due to a variety of reasons were Brooks, LB Marcus Allen, LS Kam Canaday, Watt and DE Stephon Tuitt.
X's & O's: Claypool went down late in practice and stayed down momentarily. He was attended to by multiple medical personnel and eventually helped to the locker room by Roethlisberger and Ebron. Tomlin said Claypool was "being evaluated" … Brooks ran sprints across the width of the field during position drills … CB James Pierre broke up a deep ball from QB Dwayne Haskins to WR Anthony Johnson in 7-on-7 … McFarland and WRs Ray-Ray McCloud, Mathew Sexton and Isaiah McKoy worked on catching punts during special teams drills. White worked as a gunner covering punts … Butler on the first-team nickel-cornerback job: "I don't know if you could say anybody's lockin' that thing down. I'm not ready to say that. We'll see as we go along."
HE SAID IT: "Boy, I hope so. I really hope so. I think he will be. We don't want him to go out there and get hurt and we lose him for another four weeks or something like that. We want to make sure he's in shape and ready to play when we play our first ballgame." _ Butler on whether Tuitt would be ready for the regular-season opener on Sept. 12 at Buffalo.