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Friday, June 15, 2007

Back with the black (and) gold

After taking a month off - just from blogging - I'm back.

Just because I wasn't blogging doesn't mean I wasn't working. In that vein, here are my thoughts on what I saw at the Steelers' OTAs, which wrapped up this week:

© New head coach Mike Tomlin has shuffled a number of players in and out of the first-team offense and defense, something designed to do a couple of different things.

First, it helps serve notice that nobody is going to be given a job, even when we all know there are certain guys who will be. Casey Hampton will be a starter. Ben Roethlisberger will be a starter. Troy Polamalu will be a starter. You get the idea.

Secondly, Tomlin now has a better idea of the talent level of many of his backups, many of which he probably didn't have any film of since last year's training camp. Got to see if those guys have gotten any better.

© Willie Colon is one guy whom Tomlin singled out as somebody who's pushing for a starting job. Colon spent a lot of time running with the first team this spring, lining up at right tackle, right guard and even center.

The Steelers want Colon ready for the long-term with both right guard Kendall Simmons and right tackle Max Starks scheduled to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the upcoming season. Plus, if Colon actually beats one of those guys out now, it's a plus – one less offseason worry next year.

© This team worked on special teams like I've never before seen in 14 seasons of covering the Steelers. Large portions of practice were spent every day working on teams. I don't know if it will pay off in the long run, but it will be interesting to see.

© Tomlin has promised a tougher training camp than this team is used to, but that won't be hard to accomplish.

Despite the lip service Bill Cowher paid to tough, hard practices, his camps in recent years had become pretty easy.

Tomlin's camp schedule will feature two practices per day, just about every day. It will be interesting to see if the natives get restless.

© The undrafted rookie who has caught my eye the most in this camp is wide receiver Eric Fowler from Grand Valley State.

Fowler isn't particularly fast, but he has displayed fantastic hands and he seems to have a knack for using his 6-foot-3-inch frame to screen off defenders and make catches.

© This team won't miss Joey Porter nearly as much as many in the national media are predicting.

© The Alan Faneca situation has been the talk of the offseason, but I don't believe Faneca will be a problem once camp opens. He's too much of a professional to his contract to get in the way of his play and become a distractions.

© The biggest disappointment of the offseason workouts was first-round pick Lawrence Timmons.

Timmons injured his groin on the opening day of mini-camp and though he was in attendance at all of the team's offseason workouts, he did not participate.

I can't help but think that it will severely slow his learning curve. And I wasn't sold on Timmons as the pick to begin with. It's not a good start.