The Pittsburgh Steelers did some serious hitting Friday and Saturday, and the players are starting to feel it.
Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (biceps), linebacker Ryan Shazier (back) and safety Shamarko Thomas (shoulder) all left practice early, Mike Tomlin told reporters after the session Saturday. Reserve running backs Josh Harris (shoulder) and Ross Scheuerman (Achilles) also did not finish.
Several key players were already sitting out Saturday, including defensive tackle Steve McLendon and DeAngelo Williams, who had ice packs wrapped around their shoulders. Defensive end Cameron Heyward and wide receiver Markus Wheaton got rest days, too. Safety Mike Mitchell missed a second straight practice, along with center Maurkice Pouncey and second-round cornerback Senquez Golson, who are on the physically unable to perform list.
Jones did not look overly impressive in one-one-one drills the past two days, losing matchups to fullback Roosevelt Nix in pass protection and left tackle Kelvin Beachum. Perhaps the shoulder affected him.
Shazier has showcased his range and athleticism the last two days and added some hitting prowess during Friday night's scrimmage, showing he can rush the passer when necessary. But his man coverage in one-on-ones against running backs needs improvement. The anticipation seems off. That drill leaves most linebackers looking silly, though. Even Lawrence Timmons, who's a good cover guy. got burned a few times by Le'Veon Bell, a superb receiver for his position. Timmons stopped Bell once with a savvy, two-hand check within five yards, but Bell got him on a touchdown in the corner of the end zone.
Landry Jones had a third straight solid day, throwing a touchdown to Sammie Coates in red-zone drills, where the offense went 5-for-7 passing from the 5-yard line. Jones senses the desperation that he's got to show. There weren't many glaring mistakes since Thursday. The Steelers will take it. Quarterback Tyler Murphy also is getting extended looks in camp and, though raw, appears to be gaining confidence.
Outside linebacker Bud Dupree got handled to the ground on a running play to the outside, but came back a few plays later with a quality speed rush that would have resulted in a phantom sack.
Ben Roethlisberger's favorite route right now might be the deep corner. He throws it a lot -- it's a ridiculously hard throw, but he squeezes it in between the corner and safety.
Mike Tomlin pointed to Darrius Heyward-Bey as having a quality camp. He has made contested catches, including one of those deep corners.
Dan McCullers, if he figures out how to get to the quarterback, can be a menace. He often gets out of place on rushes but boy, is he strong. Moves people.