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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

As the jaw juts

The Pittsburgh Steelers held their next-to-last full practice of this training camp here at Saint Vincent College and head coach Bill Cowher was less than pleased with how things went.

Cowher called the team together in the middle of the practice field for several minutes Tuesday in the middle of the session after a sluggish effort by the team in the 7-on-7 passing drills and an earlier team portion.

Things picked up considerably after Cowher’s tongue lashing as the intensity level, in particular, rose. With the end of camp in sight, Cowher said he just had a little heart-to-heart with the team about their current state as he sees it.

Wide receiver Hines Ward again tried to practice today but was still unable to complete the practice. His status for Friday’s preseason game in Philadelphia is very doubtful, though he said he’ll try to practice again Wednesday.

Linebacker James Harrison had his foot stepped on during position drills and was carted off for X-rays, which came back negative. Harrison later returned to practice.

Part of the reason for Cowher’s heart-to-heart talk was no doubt the mistakes some of the rookies are still making.

On one play of prep for the Philadelphia game, quarterback Omar Jacobs turned the wrong way on a handoff, going to his right while the offensive line and running back Duce Staley went left. Cowher had the team re-huddle and run the play again.

Later in the 7-on-7 drills, wide receiver Santonio Holmes turned out toward the sidelines when quarterback Charlie Batch threw a hook to the inside. Corner Bryant McFadden easily picked off the pass.

Rookie tight end Jonathan Dekker then dropped an easy pass over the middle with nobody around him, a play that was quickly followed up by rookie running back Cedric Humes dropping a ball in the flats with nobody around him.

After another session of game prep, the team worked on some red zone offense and defense. The standouts from that were Ben Roethlisberger overthrowing a wide open Cedrick Wilson on a flag pattern. Wilson had beaten corner Anthony Madison. Holmes made a nice adjustment for a touchdown from Batch, coming back for the ball. Deshea Townsend picked off Shane Boyd on a pass for Lee Mays. Running back John Kuhn fumbled on a short-yardage run.

In a one-minute drill at the end of practice, the first team offense and defense lined up against each other, with the offense prevailing as Roethlisberger moved the team into field goal range at the 32.

Defensive end Aaron Smith nearly picked off a screen pass to Verron Haynes on the second play of the drive. Roethlisberger and Wilson also failed to connect on a long TD pass after Wilson had gotten behind McFadden with a double move and a Roethlisberger pump fake. Wilson appeared to lose the ball in the sun.

Boyd didn’t last long in his attempt at the hurry-up. Throwing an interception to rookie safety Anthony Smith to end practice on his third pass attempt.

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