Visit NFL from the sidelines on the new Observer-Reporter site:

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

OTAs reconvene

The Steelers got back together Tuesday for what will be the bulk of their OTAs with most of the team on the practice field. Left tackle Marvel Smith, wide receivers Nate Washington and Santonio Holmes, and strong safety Troy Polamalu – who will miss all of the sessions while working out in Calfornia – were notable exceptions.

Washington, in particular, may not want to miss too much action. Second-year pro Dallas Baker continued right where he left off in mini-camp and was catching everything in sight.

Baker, a seventh-round pick last season who spent the year on the practice squad, looks like a player who's ready to contribute.

© Think the rookies' heads aren't swimming? Think again. Cornerback Travis Williams, an undrafted player, was checking the playlist tucked in his pants before every play, and even sometimes after the ball was snapped, getting a late jump off the line.

He made perhaps the defensive play of the session, however, breaking up a deep ball intended for Willie Reid. Reid, by the way, is firmly on the bubble with this team, especially since his return skills have proven to be less than what they should be.

© With Smith out, the Steelers looked at a lot of different offensive line combinations, using centers Sean Mahan, Darnell Stapleton and Justin Hartwig at guard, and tackles Willie Colon and Trai Essex at guard as well.

Max Starks saw plenty of action at left tackle.

© No. 1 pick Rashard Mendenhall was still out of action with the hamstring injury suffered in mini-camp, but second-year defensive end Ryan McBean had his cast off and was practicing lightly.

© I saw one player – I believe it was first-year wide receiver Matt Trannon, but it's tough to tell when they're in street clothes and I don't know all the faces yet – in the lunch room with a fresh cast on his hand, something that doesn't bode well for the youngster.

© Punter Daniel Sepulveda looks like his leg is even stronger than last year. He was consistently kicking the ball into the roof at the indoor practice facility, which is 100-feet high. And some of those balls were still rising when they hit.


Ben said...

Dale, from what you've seen, am I being overly optimistic in thinking that the Steelers could make a serious run at it this year? Toughest schedule be damned, I really think all the pieces are coming together. Our offense seems to have as many weapons as any in the NFL. The D-line, when healthy, is arguably the best 3-4. Our linebackers are young, athletic and aggressive -- Woodley and Davis should provide an excellent pass-rush.

The Steelers are almost always competitive, and make a run for the playoffs every year. And every so often, when the stars align, they can make a real push for the super bowl. Could this be one of those years, or am I just drinking too much kool-aid?

kelly said...

Good stuff Dale, thanks. How is Hills doing so far? Is he getting any reps, or is he just trying to digest all the plays?

Dale Lolley said...

I think they have a shot at being good this season. When you have a franchise QB, you always have a shot. The age on the defense concerns me. Six of the 11 starters will be 30 or older when the season starts.

It's difficult to judge line play because there's no blocking going on. So I really can't comment on Hills.