The Good, Bad, and Ugly From Steelers' Practice Under the Lights

The Steelers spent Friday night conducting a 'mock game' at Heinz Field, and left impressions in their play.
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PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers' 60-minute 'mock game' ended up being more like 45 - in the rain.

Still, there was plenty to watch as the team competed against each other at Heinz Field. And when it was all said and done, 45 minutes was all we needed to see who impressed and who didn't.

The Good

Crowd Noise

Sitting in the press box, the crowd noise on Friday night sounded realistic. When my head was down, it was like a regular game.

I still don't know how I feel about fake crowd noise. There's a part of me that believes football is just too weird without anything in the background. How does Minkah Fitzpatrick intercept a pass and run down the sideline waiving to a receiver without Steelers Nation screaming till they're blue?

So, I understand there needs to be something. Football isn't the same without noise from the stands, especially in the NFL.

What I did like is plays like Mike Hilton's interception. As he bolted down the sideline with his teammates, the crowd noise turned to music - and honestly, I was dancing a little bit.

It's not going to be like that during games, but for now, it's a good substitute for not having fans. Steelers Nation loves their training camp. If they can't be here, there might as well be something hyping these players up.

Benny Snell Jr.

Snell has impressed all offseason, but he took over as the team's primary running back on Friday night. James Conner saw limited reps during the night, leaving Mason Rudolph and Snell to run the offense.

According to the pool report, Snell found his way past Ola Adeniyi on the outside and lowered his shoulder to plow over Justin Layne. Later in the night, Ben Roethlisberger found him for another big play.

It was another impressive night from the second-year back. As camp moves forward, it appears Snell is becoming more and more a part of the offensive gameplan.

That can change once the season starts, and Conner gets rolling. It could also lead to Snell chasing Conner for some regular season reps.

Cornerbacks

Mike Hilton returned a 100-yard pick-six from Roethlisberger. Joe Haden lowered his shoulder on JuJu Smith-Schuster and knocked the ball free on a bumble screen. And Steven Nelson got the best of Chase Claypool in the back of the endzone.

The starting cornerbacks didn't spend a ton of time on the field during the night, but they all impressed.

The secondary appeared in sync, which will only get better when T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree can actually tackle the quarterback. They found their way to the backfield a few times but pulled up before making contact.

When that becomes sacks and quarterback pressures, the secondary will have a lot of inaccurate balls thrown their way.

Mason Rudolph

Let's not say Mason Rudolph was the star of the show, but he looks consistent. He was as close to any of "the good" to being left out, but it was an impressive enough night to land a spot on the list.

Rudolph found Dion Cane on a slant route on 7-on-7's, connected on a 30-yard catch and run with JuJu Smith-Schuster, and then found Smith-Schuster again in the endzone while throwing against Steven Nelson.

It's hard to say that Rudolph completing passes less than 25-yards is impressive on a limited field. Last season, he looked to have no idea what he was doing with the deep ball, so if he's going to shine, it'll be with longer passes.

For the night, though, it looked strong.

What's the latest from Steelers Camp? Send your questions to Noah for Monday Mailbags! Take a second and sign up for a free subscription to AllSteelers+ and submit your questions HERE.

What's the latest from Steelers Camp? Send your questions to Noah for Monday Mailbags! Take a second and sign up for a free subscription to AllSteelers+ and submit your questions HERE.

The Bad

Jordan Berry

Jordan Berry took one rep as the punter and muffed it. It was a sideways punt that barely cleared the midfield line.

Yes, practice was in the rain, so it's difficult to judge. Still, when you have a punter behind you, you shouldn't be missing punts during a 'mock game.'

Corliss Waitman took a punt as well. It wasn't anything to be excited about, but it was definitely better than Berry's. So, take that as you will.

David DeCastro

David DeCastro left practice, again, with an injury. The All-Pro guard has struggled to stay on the field during practice, and watching him leave was a sign that he's headed in the wrong direction.

You expected players to deal with injuries during a shortened offseason. No OTAs or minicamp will hurt younger players more than veterans. It's a risk for everyone when it comes to conditioning, though.

DeCastro is being evaluated, and it's the last time we'll likely hear about it until the Steelers practice again on Monday. But it's hard to imagine he's going to be back quickly.

He needs to become more consistent as the season inches closer. Luckily, there's depth at the position with Kevin Dotson and Stefen Wisniewski. But the downgrade from DeCastro is significant.

Expectations for next week should be limited capacity - if any practice at all. That needs to grow with two weeks before kickoff.

The Ugly

Paxton Lynch

Three quarterbacks took the field during the Steelers' Friday night 'scrimmage.' None of them were Paxton Lynch.

Lynch hasn't looked good during training camp. According to the pool reports, he's struggled on more than one occasion during practice. Being left out of Friday's 'mock game' is a pretty clear sign he's not making the roster.

In 45 minutes, with rain, it's hard to find anything under "the ugly." Roethlisberger played limited snaps and threw an interception, and still wasn't the most concerning quarterback.

Lynch did stay after practice to throw the ball a few times before heading into the locker room. It appeared he was working on the deep ball, but really it's probably more of a fight for his lost shot at saving his NFL career.

It's been a long road for the former first-round pick. It looks like Pittsburgh is just another stop along the way. 

Noah Strackbein is a Publisher with AllSteelers. Follow Noah on Twitter @NoahStrack, and AllSteelers @si_steelers.