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There was plenty of talk over the past three months about the speed of rookie third-round pick Dri Archer. But the question was how the Steelers were going to best use Archer within the scheme of their offense. It didn’t take long for them to figure that out. Early during Saturday’s first practice of training camp, the Steelers lined up with four wide receivers and put Archer in the slot to the left. The defense had to counter by sliding out inside linebacker Vince Williams on Archer — an obvious mismatch. Rookie quarterback Brendon Kay didn’t identify the advantageous matchup and threw the ball to the other side of the formation to tight end Eric Waters, but it was a quick glimpse of how the Steelers plan to use Archer’s versatility and speed to their advantage. Archer was busy on the first day as he broke off a couple of long runs including one where he reversed field and was also taking first-team reps on the punt return team. If you understand NFL lines then one must realize that expecting big things from Archer this season is a sure bet.
Darrius Heyward-Bey is known for dropping passes. However, that didn’t stop Ben Roethlisberger from throwing a deep go pattern to the speedy free agent wide receiver during a team period. Heyward-Bey hauled in the pass for a touchdown. He also made a nice diving catch near the sidelines later during practice.
Cameron Heyward was lined up at right defensive end, taking over the position held by Brett Keisel for nearly a decade. Heyward played left defensive end last year.
The Steelers want to take advantage of Will Johnson’s soft hands for a big man by lining him up at tight end. Johnson took a couple of snaps at his regular position of fullback, but he mostly lined up with the tight ends. The first play of the first team period had the Steelers in a two-tight end set with Johnson catching a pass from Roethlisberger for a positive gain.
Receiver Justin Brown had a solid spring where he turned enough heads that he ran with the first team. Brown showed on the first day of camp that he wasn’t a spring mirage. Brown, a second-year receiver out of Oklahoma, continued to impress with acrobatic and hard-to-make catches. At one point, Roethlisberger praised Brown after adjusting a route to make a catch.
With Mike Mitchell nursing a hamstring and Ramon Foster mourning the death of his mother, the Steelers replaced the two in the starting lineup with Will Allen at safety and Cody Wallace at left guard.
The second-team defense had Arthur Moats, Sean Spence, Vince Williams and Chris Carter at linebacker with William Gay at right corner and Antwon Blake at left corner.
Rookie Jordan Zumwalt, relegated to outside linebacker during the spring, was playing inside linebacker with the third team.