LATROBE, Pa. – During his camp-opening news conference on Tuesday, Coach Mike Tomlin said he wasn't going to be changing the depth chart at quarterback "on every throw," and he responded to a question about any potential changes to the starting group of offensive linemen with a "we'll see."
The first practice of this 2022 training camp is in the books, and what the fans in attendance got to see was that Tomlin was true to his word. The quarterbacks participated in the order in which they had during minicamp, and the first-team and second-team offensive lines were deployed as they were in June as well.
To refresh the memory, the first-team offensive line (left to right) had Dan Moore Jr., Kevin Dotson, Mason Cole, James Daniels, and Chuks Okorafor; the second group was (left to right) Trent Scott, Kendrick Green, J.C. Hassenauer, John Leglue, and Joe Haeg.
The rest of the starting offense for the first snap of team drills on Wednesday had Mitch Trubisky at quarterback, Najee Harris at running back, Pat Freiermuth at tight end, and the wide receivers were Chase Claypool, George Pickens, and Cody White. Diontae Johnson did not participate in team drills, likely as negotiations on a contract extension for him are ongoing.
Since the offense opened with a three-receiver deployment, the defense countered with five defensive backs. The first group had Cam Heyward and Chris Wormley as linemen; T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith on the edges; Myles Jack and Devin Bush at linebacker; Levi Wallace and Ahkello Witherspoon at cornerback; Cam Sutton in the slot; and Terrell Edmunds and Damontae Kazee at safety.
Take a look at the Steelers training and preparing for the 2022 season at Saint Vincent College
NOTABLE FIRST IMPRESSIONS
• Rookie WR Calvin Austin III made himself noticeable on a couple of occasions, and through the workout he displayed an obvious burst along with the ability to run away from people. In one play during 7-on-7, Austin made a diving catch of a pass from Mason Rudolph that was a bit low-and-outside, and after securing the ball he got to his feet quickly and separated himself from the defensive backs in the area.
• RB Jeremy McNichols was added to the roster on the morning that players were to report to camp, and Tomlin said this about him when asked what attracted the team to the 5-foot-9, 205-pound second-year pro.
"He's a guy who has an NFL resume. We've been in some stadiums with him in the past. We know that he's capable. He and others will be given an opportunity to kind of define their roles and divide the labor up as we get into it, but we're happy that he's with us."
During a play in 11-on-11, safety Karl Joseph came in clean on a blitz and had a free shot to disrupt the play by getting in the quarterback's face. But McNichols read the blitz from his spot in the backfield and stepped up and stopped Joseph's charge to the passer. It's precisely the kind of play that an NFL running back has to be able to make.
• Since this is still the acclimation period of camp, players practiced in helmets and shorts, with the pads to come out for the first time for the session on Monday, Aug. 1. Rookie defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal flashed a couple of times by getting himself into the backfield and chasing the guy with the ball.
• As mentioned previously, Sutton opened in the slot and showed good technique in covering a sideline route when he read the WR's break to the sideline, got underneath him and broke up a pass thrown by Trubisky. Later in the afternoon, fourth-year CB Justin Layne dove to break up a pass intended for Anthony Miller.
ENDING WITH A TAKEAWAY
The Steelers are hoping their defense can help the team navigate the quarterback change, and the best way to close out a game – or a practice for that matter – is with a takeaway. The final snap of Wednesday's session had rookie defensive back Carlins Platel intercept a pass thrown by Kenny Pickett. When the horn then sounded to conclude the practice, Platel was mobbed by his defensive teammates.
PRACTICE NOTES: For one of the rare times since the drill was instituted, the Steelers did not conduct 7-shots … The Steelers will have drills without pads on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, with the start on each of those days scheduled for 1:55 p.m. Following a players day off on Sunday, the schedule resumes with padded practices scheduled for Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, all at 1:55 p.m., which will be followed by Friday Night Lights at 7 p.m. on Aug. 5 at Latrobe Stadium.
TOMLIN'S INJURY UPDATE:
As Tomlin explained on Tuesday, Larry Ogunjobi was a limited participant as he continues to work his way back from a foot injury and the Steelers get to know him and his body. Miles Killebrew sustained a pectoral injury and was to be evaluated. T.D. Moultry, an undrafted rookie linebacker from Auburn, had cramps.