Highlights from practice No. 6 of training camp, the first day in pads:
- A touchdown in "Seven Shots."
- An attention-getting effort during "Backs-on-'Backers" that earned praise from a head coach who hands it out to rookies as reluctantly as he does infrequently.
- And a 12-yard run that had the fans at Heinz Field roaring their approval.
- When the shoulder pads came on, first-round RB Najee Harris came to play.
- "I think we all saw Najee likes competition," head coach Mike Tomlin assessed. "He doesn't run away from it, he runs to it."
- Tomlin was talking specifically about Harris' attitude/approach in "Backs-on-'Backers."
- "That was something about the drill that was exciting from my perspective," Tomlin said. "His demeanor was telling. It was exciting that he had an appetite for that action."
- Tomlin even disagreed with a question that opened with the premise Harris struggled early in "Backs-on-'Backers" but improved as the drill progressed.
- "Your words, not mine," he emphasized.
SEVEN SHOTS: The offense made an early statement in the Steelers' standard short-yardage/two-point conversion drill.
QB Ben Roethlisberger's fade for WR Chase Claypool was successfully defended by CB Cam Sutton on the first rep, and the final try went awry when WR Tyler Simmons came down with a fade from QB Dwayne Haskins out of bounds.
The offense scored/converted on five consecutive snaps from the 2-yard line in between.
Roethlisberger hit Harris in front of LB Devin Bush on a slant and handed off to RB Benny Snell Jr., who found the end zone on a draw.
QB Mason Rudolph converted with WR Isaiah McKoy on a slant and found uncovered RB Kalen Ballage while under pressure from LB Marcus Allen.
Haskins ran into the end zone untouched on a bootleg.
The first-team offensive line consisted of LT Dan Moore Jr., LG Rashaad Coward, C Kendrick Green, RG Trai Turner and RT Joe Haeg.
Miles Killebrew lined up at safety with Minkah Fitzpatrick on the first-team defense.
BACKS-ON-'BACKERS: Harris embraced his initial opportunity to participate in the 1-on-1 pass protection/pass-rush drill that also includes tight ends. He enjoyed repeated success against Allen and even got the better of LB Robert Spillane.
Tomlin was asked if Harris won all five of his reps.
"I'm not keeping score," he replied. "We have a lot of snaps ahead of us."
TE Eric Ebron went 1-for-2 against OLB Melvin Ingram III a day after Ebron had announced a new commitment to blocking on the part of the tight ends in general and himself in particular.
OLB Alex Highsmith got the better of Ebron on a spin move and went 3-for-4 against second-round TE Pat Freiermuth.
Take a look at the Steelers training and preparing for the 2021 season at Heinz Field
TOUGH SLEDDING: Harris picked up 12 yards on the first snap of "Team Run" before being gang-tackled to the turf. It turned out to be the only significant gain of the drill. Harris' next three carries went for a combined loss of 4 yards. Overall, the offense managed 27 yards on 10 attempts. WR Mathew Sexton had a 10-yard gain on a jet sweep.
A couple of play-action bootlegs resulted in a 13-yard completion from QB Mason Rudolph to RB Anthony McFarland and a 30-yard connection between QB Dwayne Haskins and TE Zach Gentry.
MEDICAL FILE: OT Zach Banner, OG Kevin Dotson, C J.C. Hassenauer (sleeve on his left leg), DE Stephon Tuitt, OLB T.J. Watt and WR Cody White weren't in pads for team drills.
OT Anthony Coyle (stinger) went down and stayed down momentarily during an 11-on-11 drill but was eventually able to walk to the sideline.
Ebron had his day ended early (elbow).
X's & O's: Roethlisberger worked from under center with regularity in 11-on-11 play … Tomlin on Highsmith's effort in the "Team Run" drill: "I thought No. 56, was stout at the point of attack when we ran over in that direction. But he was playing against a younger guy (Moore), first exposure to the drill, because we didn't have 'Chuks' (OT Chukwuma Okorafor) in there. You can paint with a broad brush and tell whatever story you want to tell this time of year. I'm just gonna keep snapping the ball and let those guys tell us who and what they are." … The ball hit the ground on a botched exchange between Green and Roethlisberger in 11-on-11 play.
HE SAID IT: "We drafted a guy in the first round, you can trick yourself into believing everything, 'Boy, he's ready to go.' No, it was just one practice. It was a good practice. We'll see what the subsequent practices have for us in that regard." _ Tomlin