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Sunday, July 30, 2006

First-practice thoughts

Here are some random thoughts from the Steelers' first practice Sunday at St. Vincent College.

How amped up was the crowd that was estimated at 14,000 for its first view of the defending Super Bowl champions? Even little things like players going to the bathroom at a portable toilet drew large cheers.

"It's always big on weekends, but after a certain point, you just try to stop looking." said head coach Bill Cowher of the crowd. "But they were loud and they were cheering every little thing that happened."

Many, no doubt, showed up to watch quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's first practice since his June motorcycle accident. And while Roethlisberger wasn't particularly sharp - at least by his standards - throwing the ball Sunday, he did make it through practice without a major incident.

"We've had all the doctor's reports have said that he's ready to go. He says he's ready to go," said Cowher. "So we're proceeding on. The more we get out here, the more we'll relieve some of the tension. Until he takes the first hit in a game, that's going to be there too. But he seems good and we’re moving on."

Roethlisberger did have one scare when he hit his throwing hand on the back of guard Alan Faneca's helmet during a passing drill. The quarterback shook his hand a bit and huddled with trainer John Norwig for a while before continuing practice.

Safety Tyrone Carter started with the first team base defense at free safety and is holding off free agent Ryan Clark and rookie Anthony Smith at that spot for now. Clark is running second team with veteran Mike Logan.

As expected, James Harrison took Joey Porter's place at outside linebacker while Porter continues to recover from an offseason knee surgery.

Porter and wide receiver Walter Young were the only players who did not practice. Rookie linebacker Mike Kudla injured a hamstring and according to Cowher will be out a few days. Fullback Dan Kreider also suffered a minor injury, aggravating a previous foot injury and could miss Monday’s practice, which will be the team's first two-a-day session.

Rookie quarterback Omar Jacobs looked sharp on the throwing drills, putting numerous deep passes right on the money. The more I see of him, the less I'm bothered by his awkward throwing motion. He has a strong arm and nice touch on his passes.

On one particular play in the one-on-one receivers vs. defensive backs drills, Jacobs threw a perfect deep ball to Nate Washington, who made a leaping catch over Ricardo Colclough for a touchdown.

Later, Jacobs was right on the money on a deep post to Quincy Morgan, who had gotten behind two defensive backs, but Morgan dropped the pass.

As previously mentioned, Roethlisberger was less than sharp, having several passes batted down and a couple of passes intercepted, one by a leaping Clark Haggans, who had dropped into a short zone, the other by cornerback Deshea Townsend, who jumped a short out route by Washington and went into the end zone untouched.

Second-year outside linebacker Andre Frazier and rookie tackle Willie Colon were the stars of the one-on-one blocking drills.

Frazier put a wicked spin move on an opposing lineman to get to the quarterback and seems to be carrying the extra weight he put on - he's at 248 now - well. He also took on a block from a pulling Chris Kemoeatu during team drills, easily slipping the block to get to the ballcarrier.

Colon, meanwhile, stoned Haggans with his punch and is just nasty aggressive. He's not going to win the camp Lady Bing award.


Captain Cocktail said...

I like Keisel alot...but I'm worried about his size and stopping the run. great info Dale...I read it everyday and share with some fellow Steeler fans.

Dale Lolley said...

Keisel is 295 now. I don't know that his size is going to hurt him.