The Lions’ joint practices with the Pittsburgh Steelers are in the books. The team will now stay in Pennsylvania until Friday night when the team will play the Steelers once again, this time in week one of the preseason at Heinz Field.
The difference between the Steelers’ training camp location and the Lions’ one is wildly different. Saint Vincent College in Latrobe Pennsylvania looks exactly what it sounds like. An hour away from Pittsburgh it’s a beautiful rural setting, as a matter of fact, all the spectators literally park their car on the side of the road next to a corn field. The three fields the teams practiced on are surrounded by hills that fans sit on to watch the action, and bleachers are available for seating next to the game-field for the Saint Vincent Bearcats. The hills provide an amazing sight-line that allows for birds-eye viewing of the practice, a vantage point not available at the Lions’ all-flat Allen Park facility.
There’s no stat that can calculate whether going away for camp translates into a better football team, but the Steelers have been at St. Vincent College for fifty years and have six Lombardi Trophies to show for it. The Lions, as we all know, have zero. Maybe the magic is in Latrobe.
Now, lets break down the joint practices so far
Every Lions fan was looking forward to Slay vs. Brown, and within 30 minutes of day one we got our match-up.
Slay didn’t practice on day two of camp, but I’ll take you through all three contests from day 1.
The air-horn sounded, and practice went from special teams to WR/CB 1V1s. Slay quickly trotted out to the forty yard line to face his opponent, Antonio Brown. Fans sitting in the bleachers began to buzz with excitement, one rather juiced up fellow screamed “Do it to ’em AB”. I promptly yelled “Go to work Slay”, the dude needed some encouragement. Brown gave Slay some stutter steps off the line, then exploded down the side-line on a GO route, and caught the ball at the goal-line burning Slay for a TD. Some fan exclaimed “How’s Business?” and one very intense woman responded emphatically; “Business is Boomin'”. AB 1, Slay 0.
Round two began much like round one.
Brown runs a go route again, this time Slay stayed right in his hip-pocket. AB tries to separate with this arm, but when Slay doesn’t move Brown pushes him for a blatant offensive PI and the ball drops to the grass. AB 1, Slay 1.
Watch for yourself:
In the rubber match, Antonio Brown ran his 3rd straight GO route. Slay once again was in his hip-pocket, staying perfectly in phase with Brown but when Slay looked back, he failed to locate the ball thrown towards Brown’s back shoulder and was beaten for another touchdown. AB 2, Slay 1.
Slay commented on Brown running three go routes after practice:
But three of them in a row I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m already fitting to die here.’ Like, ‘Come on, you’re going to run another deep route?’ He said, ‘I’m going deep all day Slay.’ I said, ‘No you cannot. I’m not fitting to go with you more today. Not today.’ He tried to kill me, man.”
I’ve seen a lot of fans on twitter upset about how Slay got burned against Brown during the joint practices, and this is nonsense. First and foremost, any defensive coordinator who doesn’t double team Brown in-game is a bad defensive coordinator and doesn’t deserve to be one. Any corner in the league except for maybe Patrick Peterson should always have safety help when guarding Antonio Brown. Second, he’s the best receiver in the league. Relax people. I know Slay is supposed to be our shut-down corner, but AB is a different cat. Business is boomin’.
Anthony Zettel the 6th round pick from Penn State had a great showing. He was documented as struggling in OTA’s but with the caveat that he’s a player to show out when the pads are on. The pads were on, and Zettel showed out in joint practices. He consistently penetrated the Steelers’ o-line in 11 on 11 work, and was a one man wrecking crew in D-line vs. O-line individuals. I like his chances to make the 53.
Rafael Bush was not in Latrobe on day one due to the birth of his daughter, but got back to work on Wednesday. He seems to have the starting strong safety spot locked down in the competition that really never became a competition.
The Lions likely lost rookie DB Ian Wells with a knee injury. He got worked badly on a 1v1 route and went down fast while making a cut.
John Bostic left joint practices with a knee injury on Wednesday, no word on the severity of that as of yet.
DB Charles Washington from Fresno State had a nice two days, breaking up some balls and showing competitiveness and want-to.
Holy cow, Tahir Whitehead is ripped. Wouldn’t be surprised if the dude has 3% body fat. Easily the most sculpted guy on both teams.
The Lions fared well in the joint practices at Latrobe. The Steelers are the better team but valuable experience was surely gained. Looking forward to the first game of the year on Friday. Football is back my friends, provided the NFL can have the field ready.