Live From Steelers Camp - Latrobe, PA

This is the first installment of our Live From Training Camp series that is sure to be a hit with our readers. Dale Lolly has been a scout for years, and really knows the Pittsburgh Steelers. He's covered the team professionally, full-time for 10+ seasons with full access. Dale goes to all of their practices and games, both home and away, and also works out of their offices during the season.


Leftwitch at Camp

We’re nearly a week into training camp for the Pittsburgh Steelers and while the team is still paying lip service to there being a quarterback battle between Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon to see who starts in place of Ben Roethlisberger to open the season, that hasn’t been the case.

Leftwich has split snaps almost evenly with Roethlisberger with the first-team offense, while Dixon has been relegated to taking the majority of the second-team snaps. Charlie Batch is only picking up a scrap here and there in 11-on-11 drills as the team is working hard to make sure Dixon is as ready as possible in the No. 2 role behind Leftwich.

One interesting development has been some of the specialized packages the team is working on with Dixon. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who has balked at running the Wildcat in the past, seems to be developing some packages in which to use the very mobile Dixon.

Tuesday, the Steelers worked on their red zone offense and both Leftwich and Roethlisberger were very sharp, with both QBs accounting for a pair of touchdown passes in their five red zone plays.

Leftwich did, however, throw the offense’s first interception of camp in an 11-on-11 drill, getting picked off by rookie cornerback Crezdon Butler after safety Tuff Harris tipped the ball at the line of scrimmage after coming on a blitz.

Other than that, however, both Leftwich and Roethlisberger - Roethlisberger in particular – have been very sharp.

Second-year receiver Mike Wallace has looked good thus far in camp and the team is working hard to incorporate him in the short passing game. For example, Wednesday, the Steelers threw a number of wide receiver screens to the speedster. Wallace’s route running looks much improved from last season and  with his speed, opposing defensive backs are going to have to give him a cushion.

On another interesting note, Arians also said Tuesday that he feels the Steelers can have three 1,000-yard receivers, Hines Ward, Wallace and tight end Heath Miller.

Miller had a breakout year in 2009 as a fantasy player and will be used to offset the trade of Santonio Holmes. The Steelers are using him in all of their third down packages, splitting him wide.

The third receiver job will go to veteran Antwaan Randle El and he has also looked good, though Arnaz Battle is pushing for playing time.

Battle had a nice catch from Roethlisberger Wednesday, breaking off his route and going deep when Roethlisberger broke the pocket. That’s usually something that receivers who haven’t played with Roethlisberger a lot have to adjust to, but Battle made a nice sight adjustment.

Rookie Jonathan Dwyer has been hurt since the opening day of practice and may be losing his shot to steal the backup job to Rashard Mendenhall.

Mendenhall is going to be the primary back and Arians said Tuesday he feels Mendenhall can gain 1,500 yards this season. Mendenhall is also still the third-down back and has been active catching the ball out of the backfield.

Second-year pro Isaac Redman, who spent last season on the practice squad, could be the guy who winds up pushing Mewelde Moore as Mendenhall’s backup - if Dwyer doesn’t get back soon.

Redman is a powerful runner who starred in the team’s short-yardage packages in camp last year. But he was also out of shape at that time and spent the 2009 season getting stronger.

Redman (6-0, 230) is the team’s best pass blocking and most powerful back until it’s proven otherwise. He told me Wednesday he’s definitely working toward stealing the short-yardage back role.

The Steelers will do their first goal-line drill on Friday at their night practice at a local high school stadium. It will be interesting to see if Redman can steal the show in that again.

Filed Under: Preseason, 2010

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