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Friday, August 04, 2006

Day 6

The sun wasn’t too hot. The crowd was large and boisterous. And the hitting was heavy as the Steelers held their best practice of the first week here at St. Vincent College.

Linebacker James Harrison stole the show early during a backs on backers blocking drill, running straight through Willie Parker.

“Down goes Frazier,” yelled sidelined linebacker Joey Porter as the rest of his teammates hooted and hollered over the hit.

As good as Harrison’s hit was, it wasn’t enough to salvage a win in the drill for the defense, which lost the one-on-one drill that pits a rushing linebacker against a pass-protecting running back. The offense won the event, 7-6, when fullback Dan Kreider took on Harrison head on in a collision that sounded like a couple of bighorn sheep crashing together head to head.

That certainly got the juices flowing and the team held a spirited 9-on-7 inside running drill soon thereafter. As head coach Bill Cowher said, “This is who we are, right here,” as the team lined up for the drill.

Malcom Postell, the former Pitt linebacker who was cut in the spring and brought back just this week, flashed a little in both drills and keeps showing up every day with a play here and there. Two other linebackers who have flashed in the team drills have been linebacker Arnold Harrison and Richard Siegler.

Harrison and Postell just keep on blowing up running plays in the backfield and Siegler looks strong in coverage.

Maybe that’s because the guys they are playing against aren’t very good, but they’ve caught my eye.

In the one-on-one linemen vs. backers and defensive linemen drill, Clark Haggans and Willie Colon were matched up again a couple of times, something that bore watching after their near fight earlier this week. On the first series, Colon got his hand too high into Haggans’ facemask and ripped his helmet off. But Colon picked the helmet up and handed to a smiling Haggans, so the two apparently have kissed and made up.

Defensive end Rodney Bailey went through veteran offensive lineman Barrett Brooks like a turnstile and Brooks asked for another shot. Just to prove it wasn’t a fluke, Bailey beat him again. I like Brooks on a personal level, but he’s not making this team. Then again, he's been in the league since 1995, so maybe he's cagey enough to find a way to hold on another year.

Bryant McFadden, who was seeing some time with the first team defense thanks to Deshea Townsend’s sore hamstring, decked first-round pick Santonio Holmes after a catch in the 11-on-11 drills. To his credit, Holmes held onto the pass from Charlie Batch and bounced right up.

After Thursday night’s miserable performance in the two-minute drill, the first-team offense moved the ball a little against the first-team defense. The problem was that it just took too long because none of the plays were made downfield.

The offense took over at the 25 with 1:41 on the clock.

Roethlisberger hit Verron Haynes for a 9-yard pass and then threw incomplete on second down. Roethlisberger then completed a 3-yard pass to Hines Ward.

A couple of more passes and a pair of Roethlisberger scrambles put the ball at the 38 before Roethlisberger could down the ball at the 38 with 5.6 seconds remaining.

Would the team have kicked the field goal from there - a 56-yarder?

“I wouldn’t have had much of a choice,” said Cowher.

The second-team offense fared much better as Batch connected with rookie Willie Reid on a 55-yard TD pass on the second play after safety Mike Lorello fell down trying to cover for cornerback Anthony Madison, who appeared to blow the coverage.

James Farrior sat out the afternoon session after missing the morning as well with a sore lower back. He was replaced by Clint Kreiwaldt. Townsend practiced sparingly and only saw time in the nickel and dime.

Mike Kudla and Eugene Baker continue to miss time with hamstring injuries.

In an interesting aside, when placekicker Jeff Reed lined up for field goals, second-string punter Mike Barr was his holder. Regular holder Chris Gardocki, the first-string punter, held for rookie Mark Brubaker.

In the morning session, the offense looked crisp, especially in the red zone drills. Roethlisberger threw four passes, three of them for touchdowns.

Porter, who seems to be close to returning, ran the hillside here at St. Vincent and is getting himself into shape after having offseason knee surgery.

Saturday's practice, which begins at 12:30 p.m., is open to the public. The team will have its second goal-line drill, which is always a treat.

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