Steelers notebook: Brown calls Sanders’ comments about Roethlisberger ‘terrible’
Antonio Brown was unhappy with former teammate Emmanuel Sanders’ comment that Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is a better leader than Ben Roethlisberger. “That was terrible. You don’t throw the quarterback under the bus, the guy who makes you what you are,” Brown said. Sanders, now with the Broncos, followed up on Twitter: “I never said Ben wasn’t a leader. I just said Peyton is a better one.”
• Left guard Ramon Foster returned to practice Wednesday after being out of camp since his 49-year-old mother’s death last week. “It was unexpected and untimely, and nobody wants to experience that so young,” said Foster, 28. “But the players, the coaches say, ‘We missed you. It’s not the same when you’re not here.’ It definitely makes you feel good to hear that.”
• The surprise offensive lineman in camp is 300-pound Chris “Chicken Nuggets” Elkins, an undrafted rookie free agent from Youngstown State. “He puts his hands inside, and he beats a lot of guys in pass rush,” center Maurkice Pouncey said. “He’s really quick with great leverage, and I think that’s the key thing.”
• Defensive assistant Joey Porter’s high-decibel cheerleading and cajoling of the linebackers is making him nearly as noticeable in camp as when he was a Pro Bowl player. Rookie Ryan Shazier said it’s hard not to be motivated by him. “He brings a whole lot of energy. He’s an intense person,” Shazier said. “A coach who’s all up in your face like that, I really feel like that helps you perform better.”
• Rookie tight end Rob Blanchflower (high-ankle sprain) was added to the injury report and could be out a week, coach Mike Tomlin said. Le’Veon Bell (hamstring) has been out since Sunday. Also sitting out were wide receiver C.J. Goodwin (shoulder) and rookie linebacker Jordan Zumwalt (groin).
• Brown doesn’t know whether he’ll return punts, a role rookie Dri Archer could fill. “It’s too early to tell,” Brown said. If Archer doesn’t work out, Brown said, “I’m always willing to help.”
• You would think Pitt coach Paul Chryst would see enough of the Steelers practicing, considering the Panthers share their South Side facility with the Steelers. But apparently not. Chryst was at St. Vincent on Wednesday taking in the Steelers’ afternoon practice and talking with Tomlin. Chryst isn’t a stranger when it comes to watching the Steelers practice. He routinely is seen watching sessions during the offseason and before his team practices during the season. Pitt starts training camp Monday on the South Side.
• Hundreds of fans pass by it every day at Steelers camp, but it’s likely few realize what it represents. There’s no sign pointing out its significance, no hint of what it suggests. But for years — no one can remember exactly how long — Steelers scout Bill Nunn watched nearly every training camp practice from a white tent overlooking Chuck Noll Field at St. Vincent. It was Nunn’s tent alone, and everyone knew it. Nunn died in May at age 89, but the tent he occupied will remain in place throughout camp. None of the current Steelers scouts is occupying it. It’s the Steelers’ way of saying goodbye to Nunn without saying anything at all.
• When you have speedy linebackers like Lawrence Timmons, Jarvis Jones and Ryan Shazier, you find ways to get them to rush the quarterback. That’s what the Steelers have been doing through the first four practices at St. Vincent. The Steelers continued to show they are going to use their speedy pass-rushing linebackers in a number of different ways. With the base 3-4 defensive personnel on the field, Shazier lined up outside the left tackle and rushed the passer. With the nickel defense on the field, Shazier, Timmons and Jones were all inside the defensive ends in a 3-3 type of look. Timmons blitzed through a wide-open hole resulting in Ben Roethlisberger throwing the ball away.
• If you are looking for some power run game out of the Steelers, LeGarrette Blount provided a glimpse into what he can provide. During the live tackling period of 11 on 11, Blount ran over one player before shoving Shazier to the ground with a stiff arm as the 250-pounder rambled 20 yards down the field.
• Dri Archer got to run some single back and I-formation plays against the first-team defense, and it didn’t turn out well. The diminutive Archer was swallowed up by Cam Thomas at the line of scrimmage. The next play against the second team, Archer cut back and ran for a big gain. Later, Archer got hit hard by cornerback Antwon Blake.
• Roethlisberger took a bow and waved to the crowd after being the only quarterback to throw a ball into a 55-gallon garbage can 20 yards down the sideline during individual drills. Fellow quarterbacks Bruce Gradkowski, Landry Jones and Brendon Kay along with offensive coordinator Todd Haley failed to put the football inside the garbage can on multiple attempts.
• Will Johnson is calling himself an H-back, but the former fullback is looking like a natural tight end. Johnson, who already has soft hands, showed he can in-line block as well. Johnson was dominant during the drill that featured tight ends live blocking outside linebackers. Johnson won each time he participated.
• During one-on-one passing period, Antonio Brown made the most spectacular run-after-the catch of training camp. Roethlisberger connected with Brown underneath, who faked to the left and then to the right before spinning away from cornerback Cortez Allen and racing down the left sideline for a long gain.
• Former Jeannette running back Jordan Hall must have felt like he had a target taped to him. Hall took a number of hard shots during practice including one by a blitzing Timmons and another by William Gay coming off the edge. During non-contact team period, Hall was banged around twice including once by Robert Golden.
• Arthur Moats had an up-and-down practice. The free agent outside linebacker struggled during end-of-the-line live tight end drills with Matt Spaeth, but dominated the offensive line pass blocking drill, beating Marcus Gilbert and Emmanuel McCray.
• Mammoth rookie nose tackle Daniel McCullers had his best practice to date. McCullers (6-7, 352) ran over Mike Adams during stunt drills. During the final team period, McCullers blew into the backfield to drop the running back for a loss.
• Defensive assistant coach Joey Porter was working with Chris Carter, Howard Jones and Jarvis Jones with pass rushing techniques well after practice ended.