Highlights from practice No. 10 of training camp:
- The first live goal line drill of camp didn't disappoint in terms of how it was conducted.
- The defense prevailed, three reps to two, but it was the battle level that resonated, especially as it related to the offensive line's improved performance throughout the day.
- "I thought they answered the bell," head coach Mike Tomlin assessed. "I thought we won the line of scrimmage when we had to. I didn't see a lot of guys in the backfield, in terms of some of the negativity."
- OT Zach Banner participated in a handful of 11-on-11 snaps for the first time in camp.
- RG Trai Turner and OL B.J. Finney returned to practice after sitting out on Saturday.
- And C J.C. Hassenauer participated in 11-on-11 drills for the first time since the training camp operation shifted to from the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex to Heinz Field on July 27.
- The difference was noticeable in periods such as "Team Run," "Short Yardage" and eventually "Goal Line."
- "Most of the time in those scenarios, you win the line of scrimmage and you get a varsity runner to the line of scrimmage clean, he does the rest," Tomlin said. "Largely, I thought they did what it is they needed to do."
Take a look at the Steelers training and preparing for the 2021 season at Heinz Field
GOAL LINE: Rookie RB Najee Harris found the end zone out of a personnel group that included FB Derek Watt and TEs Zach Gentry and Kevin Rader at the outset of the drill.
Harris got another carry on the second rep but this time LB Robert Spillane penetrated and made another splash play. Spillane's tackle for a loss was achieved with Watt watching from the sideline.
QB Mason Rudolph tried a play-action pass on the third rep but the ball was dropped by WR Chase Claypool.
RB Kalen Ballage scored on the fourth rep and QB Dwayne Haskins' play-action bootleg pass under pressure to RB Jaylen Samuels fell incomplete.
There appeared to be an element of controversy associated with the Ballage TD run, possibly a penalty or at least a perceived infraction.
"I have no idea to be honest with you," Tomlin maintained. "There's a lot of people out there seeking comfort."
The first-team defense at the outset of "Goal Line" included Spillane and LB Devin Bush, OLBs Melvin Ingram III and Alex Highsmith, CBs Joe Haden and Cam Sutton, DT Cam Heyward and FS Minkah Fitzpatrick.
SEVEN SHOTS: The offense won the final three reps and won the two-point conversion/short-yardage drill, 4-3.
Rudolph started the offense's comeback from a three-reps-to-one deficit with a scoring/conversion pass to RB Anthony McFarland, who eluded rookie S Donovan Steiner at that goal line.
Haskins took over and hit TE Pat Freiermuth in the end zone (at Steiner's expense) and then rolled right and found the end zone on a keeper.
Rudolph's initial rep was a pass for first-year WR Anthony Johnson that was defended by CB Justin Layne.
QB Ben Roethlisberger connected with WR JuJu Smith-Schuster in the end zone on the first snap of the drill.
Roethlisberger threw incomplete under pressure on his second rep and then was unable to hook up with Harris on a fade to the back corner of the end zone on a third. Harris motioned out of the backfield pre-snap, leaving an empty backfield, and was well-covered by LB Ulysees Gilbert.
The offense has a 18-17 lead through the last five practices, dating back to the first day in pads last Wednesday.
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 WR Cody White (hamstring), RB Benny Snell (Tomlin said the Steelers were "exploring" Snell's status), LB Marcus Allen, OT Anthony Coyle, OG Kevin Dotson, OT Chukwuma Okorafor, TE Eric Ebron (elbow), OLB T.J. Watt and DE Stephon Tuitt.
X's & O's: Another scuffle broke out, this one between C Kendrick Green and DT Cam Heyward initially. It escalated into Heyward engaging OT Dan Moore Jr., after Moore entered the fray. Heyward and Moore have been periodic combatants in camp … The first-team offensive line, for the most part, consisted of, from left to right, Moore, Rashaad Coward, Green, Turner and Joe Haeg, for team drills. The exception was Banner playing a couple of snaps in "Seven Shots" and the first three of "Pass Under Pressure." … Highsmith went against Freiermuth six more times in a reprise of "Backs-on-'Backers" run game (control the end of the line/set the edge). The "Competition Period" also included a WRs/DBs "Oklahoma Drill" (executing or defeating a 1-on-1 block in a confined area, offensive and defensive line 1-on-1s, and RBs trying to beat DBs to the boundary … RBs Anthony McFarland and Samuels dropped passes in 11-on-11 play.