Steelers inside the ropes: Connor Heyward continues to show good hands, racking up strikes

Connor Heyward was a running back for most of his footballing life, and he averaged just 15 catches a year in his first four college seasons at Michigan State. Drafted as a tight end after converting to the position in 2021, it was perhaps fair to wonder if Heyward’s bona fide receptions were NFL-caliber.

After 3 1/2 weeks of showing reliable, sticky hands and racking up high strike totals in training camp, Heyward seemed to answer those questions resoundingly.

He had a few more receptions during Thursday’s end-of-camp training in St. Vincent. A sixth-round pick, Heyward quickly became a comfortably reliable target for all three Chuck Noll Field quarterbacks.

Thursday’s production began in the 11-on-11 first period after seven shots when Heyward caught a pass and snuck into the end zone after a Mitch Trubisky go out. Perhaps his best reception was on a flag route about 20 yards downfield when he beat safety Damontae Kazee.

Most notable, perhaps, is that Heyward has had so few falls in Steelers practice so far.

• If Heyward wasn’t the most targeted wide receiver in the camp’s 16 open practices, Gunner Olszewski probably was. Olszewski racks up heaps of receptions daily, and Thursday was no different. The thrilling play Olszewski played on Thursday was when he managed to receive a reception despite being knocked to the ground by linden stephens while he was on the goal line. In a real game, Stephens would have been flagged for pass interference.

• Cody White remained on the active roster all last season but had a quiet camp offensively. White came out with a proverbial bang, however. white at some point Ahkello Witherspoon for a long pass during a team drill, but his most impressive catch came in a seven-on-seven red zone situation. Off a throw on an out-of-bounds road Mason Rudolf, White fell to the ground as he approached the sideline near the goal line. The ball was kicked slightly behind White, requiring a one-handed backhand grip as it fell to the ground.

• In an effort to simulate a regular “Friday” practice (two days before a game day) during the regular season, the Steelers had speakers on the sidelines to reproduce the noise. A large crowd in the stands also did their part, repeatedly encouraged by the senior conditioning coordinator Garrett Piedmont. At some point early in a team drill, “Renegade” started playing – but it was cut out just before the guitar riff from the unofficial Steelers theme song kicked in. The crowd moaned audibly.

• The crowd was perhaps the loudest in the last public simulation of seven 2-pointers that traditionally opens the team’s full training period. He kept a constant baseline of noise while watching the offense win 4-3 in a contest that had lobster and a “T-bone streak” (as announced in advance by the coach mike tomlin) for an online dinner. When the receiver Tyler Snead beat security Tre Norwood to catch Rudolph’s pass and clinch the win, it sparked an attacking celebration that emulated the hallmark of this side’s defense. Led by Trubisky and Rudolph, Trubisky threw a ball high in the air while others made “gunshot” noises and pointed imaginary guns skyward as if shooting clay pigeons.

• The offense scored on two of Trubisky’s four snaps: one Jaylen Warren draw play in the middle and Pat Freiermuth tackle a disputed ball from Cameron Sutton. by Kenny Pickett score was a quick pass into the slot for Miles Boykin, which eliminated Stephens and Norwood. Pickett completed his other pass, but Christian Blake caught him around the 3 and couldn’t force his way into the end zone. George Pickens couldn’t get down with one of Trubisky’s passes, partly because Levi Wallace had good coverage. On the first shot of seven shots, TJWatt knocked down a Trubisky pass intended to Najee Harris.

• After doing 16 practices without any, Chris Oladokun for the second consecutive practice received reps in full team exercises. The No. 4 QB and rookie seventh-round pick were part of a “scout team.” It wasn’t a banner for Oladokun: his first two passes were a countercurrent for white and an off-target pass for Jace Sternbergerfollowed later by a ball driven deep into the area of ​​three defenders more than 5 yards beyond White’s reach.

• When the players gathered around Tomlin after the end of practice, as is customary for any session, they shook hands and hugged each other several times in apparent response to a request from the coaches to congratulate on a successful 2022 training camp.

Chris Adamski is an editor at Tribune-Review. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Comments are closed.