The Steelers’ great St. Vincent College Experiment came to an end on Monday afternoon.
Either that or it was put on hold.
Shoulder pads were not worn and a live-tackling period was not conducted, as one had been every day the Steelers practiced once they began wearing shoulder pads at training camp on July 29.
Perhaps the pads will pop and the running backs will drop once again after Saturday night’s preseason opener against the New York Football Giants and in advance of
Preseason Games No. 2 on Aug. 19 at Washington.
But whether they do or not, the Steelers have done what they needed to do in the early days in Latrobe.
“We feel like we need to because of our youth,” linebackers coach Keith Butler had said prior to the cessation of hostilities. “We have to find out about our running backs. We have to find out about who’s going to play at linebacker, who’s going to play in the secondary. We need to find out about our backup safeties.
“There are a lot of questions we gotta find out about and we can’t wait until preseason (games) to do it. We gotta formulate an idea before then of what we have.”
The daily “live” periods were something St. Vincent hadn’t seen, with the exception of goal-line drills, since the Chuck Noll era.
When Butler played linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks (1978-87), 9-on-7 “live” drills were commonplace.
The Steelers’ “Team Run” 11-on-11 periods took that concept a little further.
“It gets the secondary into the run fits that we need to see before we get into (preseason) games,” Butler said. “To me it’s better than 9-on-7.
“I’m in favor of this for a young football team. I’m in favor of this because we gotta answer some questions. It’s not like we can afford not to do it. We gotta find out what we got.”
Everyone, it seems, was on board with Mike Tomlin’s preferred method of finding out what the Steelers need to know.
“It gives a realistic aspect of what’s going on,” guard Ramon Foster said. “That adds a different dynamic to practice.
“We gotta protect those running backs. We want them to be able to run outside and us doing this outside-zone (blocking scheme) lets us see if we really are blocking
it well enough against the No. 1 defense in the league last year.”
There was an injury risk associated with tackling in practice, but no one uttered so much as
a discouraging word.
“Eight-and-8 will do that,” Foster maintained. “We know the competition of that drill is important.”