A bevy of Pittsburgh Steelers fans filled the stands of Heinz Field this afternoon to watch their team perform on their first day in pads. As expected, this afternoon's session was highly competitive as the players put on a show in front of those into attendance.
Today's storylines: a second-year defender making big plays, a former first-round pick turns heads, and a rookie rises to the occasion after early struggles.
On offense, guard Kevin Dotson did not partake in the team's first pad session, as his injury has kept him out since their first practice. In addition to Dotson, center J.C. Hassenauer and wide receiver Cody White did not participate in today's session. On defense, both edge rusher Tj Watt and defensive line Stephon Tuitt did not partake in any of the drills but were
seen running and jogging on the sidelines during the session. Defensive back Antoine Brooks Jr. participated in today's session with a heavily-taped left ankle according to Steelers writer/analyst Nick Farabaugh.
Training Camp Standouts
Running back Najee Harris - As expected, Harris struggled early during the backers-on-backs' drill, but it did not take him long to get fully acclimated. After losing the first round to linebacker Marcus Allen, he beat Allen convincingly in the next two rounds, driving Allen into the ground on the last one, according to Farabaugh. He would later get the best of linebacker Robert Spillane, earning praise from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He also accounted for a touchdown reception during 'seven-shots', and a 12-yard gain on his first carry during team drills. Overall, a solid showing for the first-round pick.
Cornerback James Pierre - Last year's training-camp revelation entered this year's camp in a position battle with teammate Justin Layne for the vacant nickel spot. According to reports, Pierre had a solid day locking down wide receivers such as James Washington. At this point, he is on his way to winning the nickel position battle against Layne.
Tight End Pat Freiermuth - "That's good, can you block?", is what head coach Mike Tomlin said the previous day about his rookie standout. In today's session, he answered that question in a big way against linebacker Alex Highsmith during one-on-one drills. In addition to having gifted hands, Freiermuth displayed the type of strength that made him a household name with Penn State.
Linebacker Alex Highsmith - To say the least, Highsmith was the most impressive defensive player in today's session. In addition to beating rookie Dan Moore Jr. soundly during one-on-one drills, he recorded run stuffs on consecutive plays, which included an impressive stop on Freiermuth. With high expectations this upcoming season, Highsmith is already demonstrated a serious evolution in his skillset.
Quarterback Dwayne Haskins - It may seem premature to state, but Haskins looked like a future QB1 in just his first session in pads, with pin-point passes to receivers such Tyler Simmons during 'seven-shots', executing beautiful fakes, and making off-balance throws such as the one to tight end Zach Gentry for 25 yards. Though he is battling Josh Dobbs for the third quarterback spot, he could be climbing much higher if he replicates this type of performance.