LATROBE, Pa. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Buffalo Bills training camp:
This was without a doubt the Bills' most physical practice of training camp. The Pittsburgh Steelers "welcomed" the Bills to their training camp home at St. Vincent College by laying some hard hits early in an 11-on-11 live tackling drill. That quickly led to scuffling between the two teams, although players generally showed restraint; we didn't see any punches thrown. After practice, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin commended the teams for their "professionalism" during the practice.
With that said, there was plenty of chirping from the Steelers' secondary -- led by safety Mike Mitchell -- throughout the practice. At times, the frustration among Bills receivers boiled over and they exchanged words with the Pittsburgh defensive backs. After the session, Robert Woods talked about avoiding the distractions of the "other stuff" during the practice, likely in reference to some of the trash-talking on the field.
During 11-on-11 drills, when each team's offense is simultaneously running plays against the other team's defense at opposite ends of the field, our focus was on the offense, where EJ Manuel and Sammy Watkins remain the top stories of camp. Watkins dropped his first pass from Manuel -- it appeared that he pulled up against an oncoming Steelers safety -- but then got into a groove with Manuel. Watkins caught his next three passes from Manuel, although none were beyond 10 or 12 yards. Manuel overthrew Watkins on his final two targets of the afternoon.
Manuel has a knack for downplaying some of his negative plays when speaking to reporters after practices, so we have to question him when he said after practice Wednesday that the Bills were "very good on third down." By our tracking, the Bills converted 4 of 14 plays on third down in practice. Two were short sideline patterns to Watkins, while the two others were crossing patterns to Chris Hogan and Lee Smith. Otherwise, it wasn't good, nevermind "very good." He was sacked or scrambled three times, overthrew Woods twice, threw behind T.J. Graham on a crossing pattern, threw too far in front of Hogan on a crossing pattern, and also under-threw Woods -- all incompletions.
Kicker Dustin Hopkins (groin) was added to the injury list before practice. Tight end Tony Moeaki (hamstring), wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (hamstring), guard Chris Williams (lower back), linebacker Ty Powell (medical), and safety Jonathan Meeks (neck) were the others not practicing.
The Bills and Steelers will meet again for another joint practice at 5 p.m. Thursday.