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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Minicamp thoughts and notes

The Steelers signed Kevan Barlow to a free agent deal this week to possibly help ease the burden on running back Willie Parker.

The team then gave Barlow No. 22 and put him in Duce Staley's old locker – no kidding.

Barlow promptly went out and sprained his ankle on the second day of practice with his new team. If he adds about 20 pounds between now and training camp, the coincidences will be too great to ignore.

© Speaking of injured players, Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley, the team's top two draft picks this year, were both injured on Friday and unable to practice the rest of the weekend.

New head coach Mike Tomlin said it wouldn't be a problem if the guys were quick learners and able to take "mental reps."

I haven't been around either long enough, though, to know if either player is capable of doing that. It could be a pretty big setback.

© Watching new punter Dan Sepulaveda punt is nothing short of awesome. When the big rookie fourth-round draft pick kicks the ball, it takes off like it was shot out of a rocket.

Saturday morning, he was practicing his "Aussie roll," where he actually holds the ball vertical to the ground instead of horizontal and then kicks the toe of the ball. It flops end over end like a kickoff, knuckling in the air.

Some of the Steelers' punt return men were struggling to catch those balls, making last-second adjustments to haul them in.

Sepulaveda will be a weapon this season – though not one fans are going to want to see 10 times per game.

© At one point during Saturday's practice after tight end Heath Miller made a beautiful catch over the middle, one of the defensive players on the sidelines yelled, "Maybe we should line our tight ends up at wide receiver."

The defensive player was taking a playful jab at the receivers, but judging by the number of times I saw two and three tight ends on the field, the Steelers' coaches are thinking the same thing.

© Everybody who has been quick to write Timmons down as James Harrison's backup at right outside linebacker has forgotten about Arnold Harrison, a second-year player.

The Steelers haven't and Arnold Harrison could make a big step forward this season.

© I spoke to John Kuhn Sunday about where he fits into the whole running back situation with this team and he doesn't seem worried about the signing of Barlow and the possible re-signing of Verron Haynes – which is still a possibility.

Kuhn feels his blocking has improved enough that he could make the roster as a combo fullback/halfback and also as a special teams contributor.

© The biggest differences between a Bill Cowher minicamp and a Tomlin one was the presence of whistles.

In 15 seasons, Cowher never had coaches on the field with whistles. Tomlin does.

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