How the Pittsburgh Steelers are trying to teach their rookie minicamp TEs to block
PITTSBURGH — For some of the same reasons that Scott Orndoff came to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mike Tomlin was on top of him and other tight ends Saturday at rookie minicamp.
Orndoff said the head coach watched and coached closely during the tight ends’ sled blocking drill at the start of practice. And he told them, Orndoff said, the Steelers don’t want to use tackles to block defensive ends.
They want their tight ends to do the job.
Pittsburgh’s tight end position in general is unsettled which is why Orndoff wanted to sign with the team as an undrafted rookie free agent. But the Steelers have especially struggled to find a tight end who can consistently block.
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In the best stretches of their play late last season the team consistently deployed offensive lineman Chris Hubbard for extra push out wide and up front. It wasn’t a job that Pittsburgh could trust to a true tight end.
Here’s how the Steelers are trying to coach up Orndoff and the two tight end trialists Phazahn Odom and Paul Butler at rookie minicamp to avoid that personnel constraint:
This was the main point of emphasis on Day 1 of the three-day rookie minicamp, Orndoff said. Without it, defensive ends can easily stand up the typically smaller tight ends.
Pittsburgh Steelers TEs workout for Mike Tomlin at rookie minicamp
But on Day 2, a further layer was added, Orndoff said, with Tomlin focusing on his tight ends making sure they hit the blocking dummy with their two hands and helmet at the same time. If they’re doing this correctly, Orndoff said, their points of contact should form a triangle.
If the sled flips up, the tight end has done wrong, Orndoff said. It’s a clear indication that the player didn’t maintain a strong base through the block and moved his back out of position.
“He said in this league if you want to be able to block defensive ends that’s pretty much what you got to do,” Orndoff said of Tomlin. “You got to just come out almost like a sprint and hit with strong contact and stay low to drive your man back because if you don’t you’ll get beat most of the time.”
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