It took all of two 11-on-11 team reps into the first practice of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 training camp for a fan to heckle Mitch Trubisky and campaign for a QB change.
“Put Pickett in there!” a man yelled from the stands at Chuck Noll Field.
By the end of Wednesday’s session at Saint Vincent, though, perhaps that fan changed his tune?
A poor Kenny Pickett pass was intercepted by undrafted rookie Carlins Platel on the final snap of a short practice to open camp. Pickett stepped up in the pocket during an 11-on-11 drill and tried to throw across the field to the far sideline to Tyler Vaughns. But Platel – who made the team off a tryout at rookie minicamp – read it for an easy INT that set off a wild celebration that perhaps will be the defense’s new trademark “turnover celebration” this season.
A member of the defense threw a call up in the air and the unit mimicked a clay pigeon shoot by cocking their hands like rifles aiming at it, all while whooping it up verbally.
- Pickett wasn’t all bad over what were about 15-20 reps during sessions of 11-on-11 or seven-on-seven play. He scrambled for what would have been a run of more than 5 yards down the sideline once, and his best throw perhaps was a 25-yard gain to Anthony Miller on a post route in seven-on-sevens.
- Mason Rudolph had by all indications an ordinary practice with no major noticeable gaffes nor big-time throws. Rudolph’s only “touchdown” was a swing pass to rookie Calvin Austin III on an apparent wheel route down the far sideline. He caught it in stride and beat defenders to the end zone after a run of about 50 yards.
- Fourth-string quarterback Chris Oladokun did not get any reps in team drills. He instead would stand behind the play and act out taking a snap and making throws as if he was the quarterback taking part in the drill. After practice ended, Oladokun went to the second field and threw several dozen passes to Austin and fellow rookie receiver Tyler Snead.
- A fourth-round pick, Austin impressed in his first career professional camp practice, but second-round receiver George Pickens stood out even more. The 6-foot-3 former Georgia star had a long catch off a pass from Trubisky down the far sideline. Pickens also almost had the catch of the day — a leaping, fully-extended horizontal dive of a grab of a pass from Trubisky. But Pickens could not hold onto the ball as he hit the ground. Most importantly, Pickens exclusively took reps with the first-team offense. Diontae Johnson’s absence in drills contributed to that, of course, but that a rookie was slotted immediately so high on the depth chart speaks to what coaches think of Pickens’ ability.
- It was eyebrow-raising to see Robert Spillane taking equal first-team reps throughout practice with purported starting inside linebackers Devin Bush and Myles Jack. But coach Mike Tomlin after practice seemed to extinguish any controversy when he said that was done intentionally so that the coaches could get better looks at younger inside players rolling with the second team. A similar situation existed at cornerback, where Arthur Maulet rotated in (at the nickel) with the purported starting trip of Cameron Sutton, Levi Wallace and Ahkello Witherspoon.
- Other depth chart notes that confirmed what was observed and confirmed at organized team activities and minicamp this spring: free-agent signee Mason Cole was the No. 1 center, while 2021 starting center Kendrick Green repped as the No. 2 left guard. Chris Wormley was the No. 2 defensive lineman behind All Pro Cameron Heyward – though the caveat is Tyson Alualu is on the physically unable to perform list and Larry Ogunjobi is being worked in slowly following January foot surgery. Montravius Adams seemed to be serving as the lone nose tackle in the rare instances the Steelers deployed their base defense.
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Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .