NFL from the Sidelines

Let's take a day off

Not.

The Steelers will be off tomorrow, but we'll keep on trucking through this training camp.

I saw some good things on the field today. Sammie Coates suffered a couple of drops - along with Darrius Heyward-Bey - when the QBs were throwing warm-up passes.

But Coates made up for the drops with a big catch in the back of the end zone during seven-on-sevens. He went up to catch a ball from Tyler Murphy and Alden Darby gave him a big shove. But Coates contorted his body to get both feet down before landing out of bounds.

That was an NFL play.

Coates has to show more consistency but he's getting extra looks.

He's getting that work because Eli Rogers - who had been getting work as the No. 3 receiver with Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant out - went down with a sprained foot.

C.J. Goodwin moved up to No. 3 and Rogers going down is a big opportunity for him.

The Steelers have moved Goodwin, a 6-2ish receiver with great leaping ability, into the slot recently to see if he can handle those duties. He's also gotten some work as a kick returner.

Rogers, who is almost strictly a slot guy, is still likely No. 6 in the grouping behind Antonio Brown, Wheaton, Bryant, Heyward-Bey and Coates, but if he's out an extended period, Goodwin could make his move, especially if he proves to be more versatile.

@ Senquez Golson is not scheduled for any surgery yet on his shoulder. But things are trending that way.

The Steelers will decide sometime next week whether the rookie corner needs surgery.

Yes, the trade for Brandon Boykin shows the team is preparing for life without Golson. But it hasn't been decided just yet.

@ I'm not quite sure where people are coming up with the idea that Boykin is a journeyman cornerback.

First, he spent his first three seasons all with the same team, never playing less than 50 percent of the snaps. Second, he finished second in the NFL in interceptions in 2013 with six. Finally, Profootballfocus - the site that some like to use as the be-all end-all of measuring football players - had him rated as the 21st best cornerback in the NFL last season.

Now, everyone knows how I feel about PFF's judgment on certain positions. But CB play is one thing that you can judge watching it on TV better than some other positions. And Boykin allowed a QB rating of 77.2 on pass attempts his way last season.

That hardly makes him a journeyman.

Boykin, by the way, seems to be picking things up pretty quickly.

@ The defense showed up in a strong way in the seven shots drill, keeping the offense out of the end zone on six of seven plays.

Now, Ben Roethlisberger didn't practice, so that has to be factored in.

But, for example, on the first play, Landry Jones threw a nice pass to Le'Veon Bell on a little wheel route that Bell had in his hands until Will Allen came in and knocked it out.

@ The defense also held up well today on the live running drills.

On the one passing play, Heath Miller did catch a long pass down the seam - beating the cover-2 coverage when the safety had to walk to the line of scrimmage when the running back motioned out - but Cortez Allen hit him hard at the end of a 50-yard play and appeared to knock the ball loose at the end of the catch-and-run.




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Sunday thoughts

The Steelers wasted no time in getting new cornerback Brandon Boykin onto the field Sunday and it was interesting to see the dynamic at work.

While many might think Boykin is here as Cortez Allen insurance, it was Allen who was among those yelling instructions and helping Boykin through his first practice.

"Remember, I told you how you have to continue with that," said Allen after Boykin dropped off receiver Shakim Phillips as he ran a crossing pattern at the goal in seven-on-seven work.

Coaching intern Dexter Jackson was also coaching up Boykin on every play, telling him his responsibilities.

As a veteran, Boykin should pick things up pretty quickly. But he's way behind everyone else at this point.

Getting help from the new teammates will only accelerate the process.

@ Boykin didn't hold back on Chip Kelly today, first saying he doesn't feel Kelly is a racist but that he can't relate to his players very well.

Then, he basically called Kelly a liar, saying, "I felt like that honesty wasn't there all the time."

It could just be sour grapes on his way out the door, but Boykin should be much happier in a more relaxed atmosphere in Pittsburgh.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who said the team really liked Boykin coming out of college, isn't the control freak that Kelly at least gives the appearance of being. And the Steelers have a very loose locker room - disciplined, but loose.

@ The addition of Boykin tells me the Steelers aren't real confident that rookie Senquez Golson will be back anytime soon from the shoulder injury that landed him on the PUP list.

The Steelers wanted Golson to push nickel corner Antwon Blake and at least provide some depth there.

Fellow rookie Doran Grant has had his moments - he picked off another pass today and returned it for a touchdown - but the Steelers wanted an additional veteran at the position.

@ Landry Jones wasn't as good today as he had been in the previous couple of practices, though he still made some nice throws. He threw three picks today, including the aforementioned one to Grant.

@ Maurkice Pouncey is expected to be activated from the PUP list Monday.

The news was not so good on receiver Martavis Bryant. He'll be out a few days after having an infection removed from his left elbow - which he landed badly on Friday night.

With both Bryant and Markus Wheaton (hamstring) out, Eli Rogers continued to get work with the top unit.

Rogers had his moments again, but he and Dri Archer were the only guys back on punt return and Rogers dropped one that Sammie Coates, who was working as a gunner, scooped and scored on.

C.J. Goodwin also has gotten more work with the top units with Bryant and Wheaton sitting.

But right now, it appears that Darrius Heyward Bey has a lock on the fifth spot and Rogers has a slight edge over Goodwin if they keep six.

@ It was interesting to note in the goal line drill to end practice today that Roosevelt Nix lined up as a lead blocker in front of Le'Veon Bell - who scored - while Will Johnson was used in motion.

Both guys appeared to get their blocks. Nix has showed nice, soft hands and route-running ability, and also has been one of the stars of backs on backers.

I don't know that he can beat out Johnson, but he's consistently showed up.

@ Cameron Stingily got stuffed on two runs in goal line, but ran through Vince Williams on a third, and final attempt.

@ Cam Thomas again replaced Steve McLendon in the base defense at nose tackle as McLendon and Cam Heyward again got a day off.


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