Steelers find engaging practice partner in Bills

August 13, 2014
Bills guard Cyril Richardson and Steelers defensive tackle Al Lapuaho battle during a blocking drill in a combined training camp session in Latrobe Wednesday. - Associated Press

LATROBE – The front offices and coaching staffs of the Steelers and Bills were pretty chummy both before and after the teams held the first of two joint practices Wednesday at Saint Vincent College.

The players?

That was a different matter.

There were no knock-down, drag-out fights between the Steelers and Bills like what occurred Tuesday in joint practices between the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys, but there were a couple of minor shoving matches as the teams went head-to-head for more than two hours.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and his counterpart for the Bills, Doug Marrone, spoke to their respective players prior to Wednesday’s practice to ensure their workouts wouldn’t be marred by any after-the-whistle antics.

“None of us have a tolerance for it,” said Marrone, who was in camp with the Steelers in the mid-1980s as an offensive lineman before being released.

“We came out here to get some great work done. Both Coach (Tomlin) and I have talked about it and talked about it with our players quite a bit.

“It’s not part of the game. It really isn’t.”

At least it wasn’t Wednesday.

“Unfortunate incidents happen (like) between Dallas and Oakland,” said Tomlin. “We’re here to prove teams are capable of doing it in a productive and professional manner.”

Mission accomplished.

When practice ended, the teams parted ways, the Bills making their way back to their hotel in downtown Pittsburgh and the Steelers to their dorm rooms.

“Buffalo was a great dance partner,” Tomlin said. “We appreciate Coach (Doug) Marrone and that group and got a lot of things done. (It was) similar work to what we’ve been doing, in terms of structure of the practice and drills setup, but a different sense of urgency, some different schematics and some different guys. It was really a productive day for us.”

That didn’t mean there weren’t some issues.

Buffalo running back C.J. Spiller took umbrage at being hit hard in a live-tackling drill but quickly left the field, and several times players were separated quickly before things escalated.

“It raises the level of intensity and urgency up a notch,” said Tomlin. “Any time you can do that with a football team it helps. So I really don’t compare it to in-stadium work. I compare it to a non-practice against another football team.”

The Steelers and Bills will have a similar session today at 5:30 p.m., and then the Steelers will break camp at Saint Vincent College. They will return to practice next week at their facility on Pittsburgh’s South Side following Saturday’s preseason game against Buffalo at Heinz Field.

The news wasn’t all good from Wednesday’s practice. Long-snapper Greg Warren suffered a knee injury that could sideline him for an extended period. Tomlin said he’ll know more about the severity of the injury today.

The only other long-snapper on the roster is first-year player Bryce Davis.

Odds and end zones

The Steelers signed running back Stephen Houston, who had been released by New England. Houston (6-0, 230) played collegiately at Indiana. ... Linebackers Jordan Zumwalt (groin), Jarvis Jones (groin) and Vince Williams (concussion), guard Ramon Foster (knee) and tight end Matt Spaeth (foot) were held out of practice. ... Fullback Will Johnson (hamstring) and safety Will Allen (hamstring) both left practice early.

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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