Saturday, July 31, 2010

Afternoon practice concludes

Ben Roethlisberger got a warm welcome from the several thousand Steelers fans gathered for Saturday afternoon's practice here at Saint Vincent College.

Roethlisberger admitted to not being sure how he'd be received in his first real exposure to the fans. But everything seemed to go well and he spent an extended period of time signing autographs following the session.

Roethlisberger again split some snaps with Byron Leftwich in the early team portion of the drills. But Leftwich took all the first-team snaps in the final session.

© Running back Jonathan Dwyer left early with a hamstring injury, while nose tackle Casey Hampton sat out with a groin injury suffered this morning.

The team also got a scare when Mike Wallace came up limping after running a long route. But he returned and appears to be OK.

© Rookies Maurkice Pouncey and Jason Worilds got their welcome to the NFL moments in one-on-one blocking/rushing drills.

Worilds was put on his back by tight end David Johnson one one backers on tight ends drill. This after being driven into the ground by Heath Miller earlier.

Worilds also had trouble keeping his feet throughout the drills and must work on that aspect of his game.

Tony Hills also tossed him around a couple of times.

In o-line/d-line drills, Ziggy Hood clubbed Pouncey to the ground in a meeting of No. 1 draft picks, prompting head coach Mike Tomlin to exclaim, "What a difference a year makes."

Tomlin had that pairing go against each other two more times after that, with Hood again besting Pouncey before Pouncey came back and held his ground the third time.

© On a positive note, Thaddeus Gibson, the other rookie draft pick at linebacker, looked very good in pass rushing and taking on the tight end drills.

He looks strong at the point of attack.

© James Harrison sent a message on the opening of the 11-on-11 passing drills, leveling Rashard Mendenhall on the first play.

Mendenhall bounced right back up, though.

Roethlisberger takes first snaps

Contrary to what head coach Mike Tomlin said Friday, it was Ben Roethlisberger under center for the Steelers' first practice of training camp Saturday when the first-team offense took the field.

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said the team will continue to work a rotation, with Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon trading off time with the first unit for the time being.

Right now, that means three snaps per player and then the next guy comes in. Later, that will shift to five snaps.

Those snaps will likely get fewer for Roethlisberger, who is suspended to start the season, as camp goes on. But for now, he's in the mix.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Players report

It was a busy day in Latrobe as the Steelers reported to training camp at Saint Vincent College.

Here are some quick hits about what I learned today:

© As I stated after the Flozell Adams signing, he will move in at right tackle with Trai Essex at right guard and Max Starks staying at left tackle.

The Steelers don't want to tear their entire line up unless they have to.

© Starks took some no-so-veiled shots at Adams being somebody who could contribute to the team "if he was in shape" and of the right mindset.

It sounds to me like Starks doesn't want a veteran coming in and trying to upset the applecart by doing things his own way.

The offensive line is a tight group and they expect Adams to adapt to them, not the other way around.

© Hines Ward said the hamstring injury that kept him out most of the offseason is healed up and he's ready to go.

Ward also said he's much lighter than he has been in recent years.

© Maurkice Pouncey signed his deal with the team, but not in time to do the team's run test. He'll do that at 6 a.m. Saturday. I don't think I'll be up to watch it.

© Casey Hampton looks lighter than he has in several seasons.

The defense is talking like it has a bit of a chip on its shoulder. That could be a good thing as these guys are motivated to make an attempt at showing last season was a fluke.

© Ben Roethlisberger barely spoke to the media today, but he was awfully polite trying to move through the crowds gathered around him.

Roethlisberger did say that he's happy to be back on the football field and hopes to put the offseason behind him.

© There were no casualties in the run test. Then again, many of the veterans, or over 30 guys, as Mike Tomlin called them, did not have to run.

© Troy Polamalu looked good running. We'll see if that holds up.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Steelers reportedly sign Adams

The Steelers have reportedly signed offensive tackle Flozell Adams to a one-year contract.

No word on what position Adams will play, but the guess here is that he's put into the mix at RT - even though he's played LT throughout his career.

Adams has lost a step and has struggled with holding penalties on the left side. But he's still a solid run blocker and would seem better suited to play RT at this point in his career.

The Steelers, of course, have a void at RT due to the injury to Willie Colon.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Steelers sign Colbert to extension

The Steelers have signed director of football operations Kevin Colbert to a five-year contract extension Wednesday.

It was a move that had been anticipated for some time.

Since joining the Steelers in 2000, Colbert has overseen one of the most successful periods in team history.

The Steelers have also drafted a number of stars, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and strong safety Troy Polamalu, on his watch.

© The team is closing in on a deal with second-round pick Jason Worilds. His signing would leave only first rounder Maurkice Pouncey unsigned as the team readies to report to camp on Friday.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Getting closer

Talks between the Steelers and their final two unsigned draft picks - Maurkice Pouncey and Jason Worilds – are heating up and are expected to be completed before the team holds its first training camp practice on Saturday.

Rookie signings - particularly the first-round draft picks - have gone a little more slowly this year, at least in part, because of the instability in the league's CBA.

Higher draft picks normally sign longer deals than those drafted in later rounds and there's been quite a bit of haggling about those extra years.

© James Walker of ESPN.com wrote today that LaMarr Woodley will report on time for training camp Friday.

It's really not a surprise.

The Steelers don't negotiate with players who aren't in camp, so not showing up would do Woodley no good.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Kaye Cowher dies

According to the Post-Gazette, Kaye Cowher, wife of former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher, has died at their home in North Carolina.

Cowher, 54, lost a battle with skin cancer.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Steelers sign Jones

Competition is never a bad thing and the Steelers added more Wednesday, signing six-year veteran Adrian Jones to a one-year deal.

Jones (6-4, 330) was originally drafted by the New York Jets in the fourth round (132nd overall) in the 2004 NFL Draft out of Kansas. Jones started 44 games for the Jets from 2004-07 before being waived late in the 2007 season. He was then signed by the Kansas City Chiefs and started 10 games in 2008 at guard. Jones then spent time last year in training camp with the Houston Texans before being released.

To make room for Jones on the roster, the Steelers placed veteran offensive tackle Willie Colon on their Reserve/Injured List. Colon suffered an Achilles injury last month and had season-ending surgery.

Jones will likely be used at right guard, giving the team another body there and some leverage in contract negotiations with first-round pick Maurkice Pouncey.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Woodley speaks out

Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley isn't a happy camper right now and he spoke out about the issue today in a story by Yahoo's Michael Silver.

Unhappy that he is still without a contract past the 2010 season, Woodley expressed his frustration to Silver.

"It's kind of jacked up," Woodley said. "Everything I've ever done for the Steelers, on and off the field, has been positive. Sometimes you don't get the same thing back in return."

"I'm not going to lie - I was a little disappointed that they didn't offer anything at all," Woodley continued. "I felt that was a little weird. I guess they decided they're going to sit back and wait for the CBA and all that to play out.

"You look around the league and you see different teams getting stuff done with their players in similar situations, and you think, 'What, the Steelers don't care about me?' Stuff like that goes through your mind."

Woodley is scheduled to earn $550,000 this season, the final year of his orignal rookie deal.

The Steelers, however, are in a tough spot with him thanks to the lack of a CBA for 2011. They cannot offer him a new contract that would include a base salary increase of more than 30 percent next season under the current NFL rules.

There are ways around that – giving large signing and roster bonuses – but the Steelers don't generally do that. And with the uncertainty surrounding the CBA negotiations, signing a player to a long-term deal may not be prudent.

So Woodley will stew about his deal. But in the end, he'll remain with the Steelers, despite his current level of unhappiness.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Goodell to visit Steelers camp

The NFL has announced that commissioner Roger Goodell will visit the training camps of seven teams in the coming weeks, including that of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Goodell is scheduled to be at the Steelers training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe Thurs., Aug 5.

Any guesses on what the main topic of conversation will be if - and I'm assuming he will - Goodell fields questions from the media?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tomlin gets new deal

It seemed like only a matter of time before the Steelers gave head coach Mike Tomlin the contract extension he deserved/desired and it finally came to fruition Tuesday.

Tomlin was given a three-year extension by the team on Tuesday, keeping him under contract through the 2014 season.

As I explained in my column in today's Observer-Reporter, Tomlin faces his biggest test as a head coach with this year's training camp.

There are plenty of unknowns for this team heading into the 2010 season.

But Tomlin's contract status is now not one of them.