There’s something different about Brian Arnfelt this training camp. He seems older and wiser, and it has more to do with than just the beard he’s now sporting.
Last year, Arnfelt was a bit of a curiosity. A Northwestern grad with a master’s degree, the undrafted free agent was a long shot to make the 53-man roster. He didn’t. But Arnfelt worked his way up from the practice squad and appeared in two games last season.
With a lack of depth along the retooled defensive line, Arnfelt could see valuable playing time this season. Veteran defensive end Cam Heyward, who has worked extensively with Arnfelt, believes he’ll be up to the challenge.
“He’s put in a lot of work this off-season with me,” Heyward said. “He’s just a student of the game. He wants to learn a lot. Never satisfied in what’s he doing. He wants to try for more.”
Given his background to reach the NFL, Arnfelt is taking nothing for granted to secure a roster spot.
“Everyday I wake up and I look as it as I’m starting at square one,” he said. “Just have to put the work in. If you play well enough, good things will come.”
-- Shaun Suisham didn’t watch all of the preseason-opening Hall of Fame Game but he saw enough of the 33-yard extra points to think: “Meh.” Sunday night’s preseason game between the Bills and Giants, both of whom the Steelers will play later this month, featured the NFL’s experimentation with extra points from the 15-yard line with 35-feet tall posts rather than 30. While neither team’s kicker missed, Suisham doesn’t see the point in it. “I kind of like how it is right now,” said Suisham. “It’s already a pretty popular game, seems to work.” He added that, if the rule were implemented in the regular season, you could see more teams go for two-point conversions and that the taller posts gave the illusion of the opening being narrower.
-- Despite a few nervous moments Sunday afternoon, Ryan Shazier confirmed he indeed suffered “a little boo-boo,” as Mike Tomlin said. Shazier’s practice was cut short when he suffered an apparent knee injury while tackling RB Le’Veon Bell. Although he was walking gingerly and had his right knee wrapped on Monday, Shazier didn’t rule himself out of Saturday night’s preseason opener against the Giants in New York. “As of right now, I’m fine,” the first-round pick said.
-- After missing the first 10 days of training camp, Mike Mitchell was declared physically able to perform. The prized free agent signing was cleared and returned to practice Monday. Mitchell, who again declined to discuss how or when he injured his groin, said it was painful to watch from the sidelines. Now he wants to feel physical pain. “My approach to the game is that I want to come out there and earn (my keep) with my brothers every day,” said Mitchell, who signed a five-year, $25 million deal in March. “To see them, they’re all banged up and sore, I want to feel that way, too. You kind of feel like you’re letting everyone down when you can’t participate.”
-- No offense to Bruce Gradkowski, Landry Jones or Brendon Kay, but Martavis Bryant’s goal is to work with the first-team offense and QB Ben Roethlisberger. While Bryant has put together some strong performances in practice, it’s usually with and against lesser competition. “Ben’s a good dude,” the fourth-rounder said. “He doesn’t talk to rookies too much. That’s fine. I understand why. It’s a privilege for us to be able to play with him. We’ve got to go out and work hard and showcase what we can do and play so we can go with the ones and be with him.” Bryant said he views Roethlisberger as much coach as quarterback. And he’s pretty good at being a quarterback. “He gets the ball out fast and has a nice release on him,” Bryant said.
UNDER THE ROPES
-- The two-minute drill was the event du jour on Monday. Roethlisberger led the first-team offense to a 12-play, 58-yard drive that was capped by a 9-yard toss over the middle to Antonio Brown as time expired.
-- Whether he’s breaking a 40-yard run or bouncing off linebackers, or even when he’s flattened while trying to reverse course, RB Dri Archer is entertaining to watch.
-- Purely from a speed standpoint, Mitchell is an upgrade over Ryan Clark.
-- WR Derek Moye (Rochester) turned in arguably his best practice of camp. Moye hauled in a pair of TDs, including a leaping grab on a fade route in the corner of the end zone and a sliding, but bobbled, grab. On the last play of the two-minute drill on the second team, a pass intended for Moye was batted down.
-- LB Ryan Shazier, LB Jarvis Jones, WR Darrius Heyward Bey and C Maurkice Pouncey were out with minor injuries. CB Ike Taylor was given a rare day off. Along with Mitchell, LB Jordan Zumwalt and TE Rob Blanchflower returned.
-- K Shaun Suisham connected on FGAs of 52, 54 and 57 yards but missed on a 49-yard attempt in hurry-up mode.
-- P Brad Wing drew oohs and ahhs with several high, booming punts. So far, Wing’s path to the job has been uncontested as Adam Podlesh is still out for personal reasons.
-- Moye also worked as a gunner on special teams, and fellow local Chris Elkins (Beaver Falls) again worked as third-team center.
-- Other standouts on Monday included LB Terrence Garvin and CB Antwon Blake, who received some first-team reps with Taylor sitting out.
-- It wasn’t quite the donnybrook as over the weekend, but OL Will Simmons tangled briefly with DE Cam Thomas. If this were hockey, Simmons would be an agitator.
-- The Steelers have a scheduled day off today.
“I think he appreciated it but, at the same time, it was bittersweet.” -- Tomlin, on giving a maintenance day for 12-year veteran Taylor. It’s believed to be Taylor’s first day-off that wasn’t injury-related in Tomlin’s tenure.
BY THE NUMBERS
13-13: Steelers’ record against Giants in preseason play, including an 18-13 loss to Eli Manning and Co. in last year’s first game. The Giants host the Steelers on Saturday night.