LATROBE, PA. (93-7 The FAN) – Several players returned to Steelers practice today.
Wide receiver Martavis Bryant, linebacker James Harrison, safety Shamarko Thomas and running back Josh Harris were full participants while safety Mike Mitchell and wide receiver Markus Wheaton were dressed but did not take part in 11-on-11 team drills.
Quarterback Bruce Gradkowski threw on the side but remains on the dreaded PUP (physically unable to participate) list.
At 10:30 a.m., Mike Tomlin, special teams coach Danny Smith, long snapper Greg Warren and the punters/holders all piled into a van and headed to Heinz Field where Garrett Hartley won the tryout to replace Shaun Suisham.
Suisham remains on the roster until he has ACL surgery Wednesday.
Wide receiver Devin Gardner was waived/injured. Hartley kicked on the side as the special teams periods were devoted to punt plays.
The first string offense was 3 of 4 in the opening 2-point PAT drill. Ben Roethlisberger hit Le’Veon Bell, Heath Miller and Antonio Brown while the only one to fall incomplete was a Brown end-around pass attempt that failed miserably with Brown throwing into a cluster of two receivers and five defenders.
The first 11-on-11 period was mostly running plays and the first offensive lineman outplayed the first defensive lineman, at one point opening a huge hole for Bell for a long touchdown.
After Landry Jones took over, he tried a play-action pass to Bryant and threw into double coverage, but the ball somehow went through Cortez Allen and Bryant made the catch in the end zone.
Roethlisberger was 5 of 6 on 3rd down conversations; the only stop was Lawrence Timmons breaking up a pass intended for Bell.
Later, tight end Jesse James dropped an easy pass over the middle eliciting a murmur from the fans who remembered that James dropped two passes Sunday in Canton.
In a final Red Zone drill, the defense had the advantage for the most part. Roethlisberger missed a cutting receiver and threw the ball directly to Antwan Blake but it clanked off his hands. Roethlisberger’s final play of the day, though, was a perfect back-shoulder bullet to Antonio Brown just over the goal line.