No one can forget the infamous “Camp Cupcake”. The playful nickname given to the training camp of 2009 by a national sports columnist who stopped in to camp for a few hours one day. The name stuck, because well…who doesn’t like cupcakes? This article isn’t about that training camp though, it’s about this one, and you can rest assured that the camp of 2013 won’t be garnering any such nicknames. This year Coach Tomlin is setting a tone. A tone that implies, “The battle for the AFC North starts in July!”.
Wednesday’s practice featured a live, full contact 11 on 11 drill. “That’s the first time we ever did that.”, said Larry Foote when asked about it after practice. The drill featured several run plays, some of which showed off Le’Veon Bell’s talents. On one play, Bell took a handoff to the left, but cut back to the right and turned it into a 30 yard gain. At the end of the play, Bell bulled over Curtis Brown according to Mark Kaboly.
On top of adding contact into practice, Tomlin is reportedly no longer allowing players to take golf carts to and from the locker rooms- another sign of a change in atmosphere this year. Coach Tomlin is also making changes in an effort to prevent injury. This year, he’s mandating that offensive linemen wear knee braces throughout camp. Speaking of linemen, I continue to hear that Mike Adams is doing well. Jim Wexell reports that he drove Woodley to the ground twice on Monday, and pancaked Ziggy Hood during Wednesday’s practice.
During team drills, Ben was said to be ‘real crisp’, connecting on several of his passes. Gradkowski made a nice connection to Plaxico Burress on a 55 yard TD pass. Shamarko Thomas bit hard on a play action fake, which contributed to the success of the play.
On Steelers live, Bob Labriola was singing the praises of OLB Alan Baxter, the rookie from Northern Ill. Baxter has been making an impression the past few days, and if he continues to do so (and shows prowess during special teams play), he could very well be in surprise contention for a roster spot. Definitely someone to keep an eye on.
An OLB named Alan Baxter is flying all over the place. #Steelers
— Michael Tanier (@MikeTanier) July 31, 2013
Coach Butler had the following to say about him on Tuesday:
“Alan’s a smart kid, and he’s been working hard. He obviously has some things to learn, but he’s made a few plays so far.”
On the injury front, DE Nick Williams sat out the end of practice with an unspecified knee injury. DeMarcus Van Dyke, Cortez Allen, and Terry Hawthorne did not participate.