Steelers have practice partner in Bills

August 12, 2014
Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and the Steelers will get a chance to go against the Buffalo Bills offense in training camp today. - Associated Press

LATROBE – The Steelers enter their final two days of training camp at Saint Vincent College a little tired of hitting each other for the past three weeks.

What can top that?

How about a few days of hitting another team instead?

Pittsburgh will get that opportunity beginning today when the Buffalo Bills come here for two days of joint practices leading up to their preseason game Saturday at Heinz Field.

The Steelers have not practiced against another team since the mid-1990s, when they held crossover practices with the Washington Redskins.

For the majority of the players, it will be be first time since high school, if at all, that they have had a practice against another team.

“It’s going to be weird. I’ve never done it before. I’m curious to see what it’s going to be like,” said Steelers guard David DeCastro. “I think it will be just as, if not more, intense than a game. Guys want to make a statement and want to embarrass you and want to win. And then you have to go play them at the end of the week. It will be a lot of good fun.”

The Bills will be at Latrobe for a 3 p.m. practice today and a 5:30 p.m. session Thursday. Both practices are open to the public.

Though the Steelers haven’t practiced against another team in 20 years, head coach Mike Tomlin believes this is a good opportunity for his team to get extra work against not only against another offense, but a completely different defense.

The Steelers run a 3-4 defense, which employs three defensive linemen and four linebackers, while Buffalo’s base defense is a 4-3, with four down linemen and three linebackers.

“They’re a good dance partner for us because they do a lot of things differently than we do,” Tomlin said. “It will be great to get in a practice situation to hone our skills against some of those things.”

The action should be interesting. Typically, the Steelers use one practice field at Saint Vincent for the majority of their full team work, such as 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills. But with two teams, the Steelers’ offense will work against the Bills defense on one field while the Buffalo offense will work against the Pittsburgh defense on another.

The defensive players, in particular, are looking forward to the change.

“That’s good. We’re not hitting on each other,” said Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons. “We can hit on another team. I’m definitely looking forward to that. You get tired of hitting on the same players.”

For others, such as Steelers linebacker Arthur Moats, it will be something of a reunion. Moats spent his first four seasons in Buffalo before signing with the Steelers as a free agent this offseason. Buffalo, meanwhile, has a number of former players with ties to the Steelers. General manager Doug Whaley, an Upper St. Clair native, is a former scout for the Steelers. The Bills also have defensive end Corbin Bryant, quarterback Dennis Dixon, center Doug Legursky, punter Brian Moorman, fullback Frank Summers, linebacker Stevenson Sylvester, guard Kraig Urbik on their roster. All spent at least one training camp with the Steelers.

“It’s not going to be weird or anything like that,” said Moats. “I’m not going to feel like I belong over there with them or anything like that. I’ve been here all throughout the offseason. I’m a Steeler.”

Odds and end zones

Punter Adam Podlesh informed the team that because of difficulties his wife experienced during a recent childbirth, he will not report to the team. Podlesh, signed as a free agent in the offseason, was placed on the Reserve/Did Not Report list. Brad Wing is the only punter in camp. … Rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier (knee) took part in individual drills for the second consecutive day but did not take part in the team portion of practice. … Linebacker Jarvis Jones sat out practice Tuesday with a sore groin. … Safety Mike Mitchell, tight end David Palmer and wide receiver Justin Brown each returned to practice after sitting out Monday. … Linebacker Vince Williams left practice early with an undisclosed injury.

Dale Lolley has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1993 after previously working at WJAC-TV and the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, and The Derrick in Oil City. A native of Fryburg, Pa., he is a graduate of North Clarion High School and the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, where he earned a degree in journalism. He has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers since joining the Observer-Reporter in 1993, and also serves as the outdoors editor. He also is a radio host for Pittsburgh’s ESPN 970-AM, and serves as administrative adviser for the Red & Black, Washington & Jefferson College’s student newspaper.

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