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One camp, but two sets of defining moments

Postby thesteelhammer » Mon Aug 18, 2008 7:03 pm

Nice little wrap-up of training camp high (and low) lights by B.C. Times
http://www.timesonline.com/articles/2008/08/17/sports/steelers/doc48a8f6a81aaa5946943316.txt

Defining moments of training camp

By Mike Bires
Times Sports Staff
Published: Monday, August 18, 2008 12:21 AM EDT
LATROBE — On the last day of camp, the Steelers were still wheeling and dealing. They signed a blast from the past, an aging 35-year-old defensive end with a gimpy knee.

Adding Orpheus Roye to the roster won’t do anything to the Steelers’ chances of winning a Super Bowl. But give credit to the powers-at-be. They gave us more news on the final day of a camp full of storylines.

The Steelers have been coming to St. Vincent College for 42 summers, but it’s hard to imagine a camp having as many news flashes as this one.

Here’s a look back at 10 of the most compelling:

Big Snack fails run test

It didn’t take long for drama to unfold. Nose tackle Casey Hampton reported out of shape, flunked the run test and wasn’t allowed to practice for two weeks.

“I’m a grown man. I don’t need another grown man motivating me,” he said of the punishment levied by coach Mike Tomlin.

Polamalu placed on PUP

Two hours after Hampton was placed on the PUP list on July 27, so was all-star Troy Polamalu. The long-haired safety tweaked a hamstring a week before camp started and has yet to practice with the team. The good news is that Polamalu will practice Tuesday.

Colon confirms Faneca/Zierlein tension

Also on the first day of camp, right tackle Willie Colon said some of the Steelers’ offensive linemen had issues last year with new O-line coach Larry Zierlein. Colon suggested that it was since departed Alan Faneca, the greatest guard in franchise history, who was most resistant to Zierlein’s ways.

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” Colon said. “(But) Alan’s gone ... Coach Z is the boss now.”

Punter’s season ends with knee injury

On just the second day of camp, Daniel Sepulveda re-tore a knee ligament that needed reconstructive surgery. The Steelers thought so highly of him that they traded up to get him last year in the fourth round of the draft.

Now, with the regular season just three weeks away, the Steelers aren’t sure who’ll punt or them. It could be Paul Ernster or Mitch Berger, who are both on the roster, or it may be someone else who gets cut from another team’s roster.

Batch breaks collarbone

On a busted play in the first preseason game, backup quarterback Charlie Batch may have seen his career with the Steelers end. Forced to carry the ball when running back Mewelde Moore went the wrong way, Batch suffered a season-ending injury as he was tackled.

He could be placed on the season-ending injured reserve list. Or he could be cut if the Steelers are happy with the man replacing Batch.

Steelers sign Leftwich

When Batch went down, the Steelers had to sign someone. But they couldn’t be happier when they worked out Byron Leftwich and determined he’d be the man to back up Ben Roethliserger.

The former Jacksonville Jaguar is only 28 but has 46 career starts on his resume. The Steelers believed they had one of the NF’s best backup QBs in Batch. They still believe that with Leftwich.

Anthony Smith nails Hines Ward

In practice, players should never deliver hard hits to teammates in non-contact drills, especially veterans. But that’s what Smith did to Ward on Aug. 6. In a 7-on-7 passing drill, Smith planted a hit on an unsuspecting Ward as the Steelers’ all-time leading receiver caught a pass over the middle.

Tomlin rips columnist for “thuggery” reference

Five days after Smith’s hit on Ward, Tomlin criticized Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Gene Collier for describing the incident as “training camp thuggery.” Tomlin said he and the Steelers were offended that Smith was linked with the word “thug.”

Tomlin’s tirade became radio talk show fodder for two days.

Timmons shines on defense

Time will tell how soon Lawrence Timmons becomes a starter. But if last year’s No. 1 draft pick keeps performing like he did at camp, it will be sooner than later. An inside linebacker, Timmons is a quick, explosive athlete who’s obviously rebounded from a lackluster rookie season when he was slowed by a nagging groin injury.

He’s been the camp sensation, at least defensively.

7 and 10: Dynamic duo

On the day he reported to camp, wide receiver Santonio Holmes said he wanted to be the passing attack’s “go-to guy.” He came close to assuming that role last year by leading the team in receiving yards and TD catches. So far in this preseason, he’s picking up where he left off.

Roethlisberger, a No. 1 draft pick in 2004, senses that Holmes, a No. 1 pick in ’06, is a special athlete. They’re developing a bond that could lead to great things.



Another take on camp by Trib Review - decidedly less up-beat.
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_583501.html?source=rss&feed=9

Subplots develop at Camp Tomlin


By John Harris
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Monday, August 18, 2008

Observations from coach Mike Tomlin's second training camp with the Steelers that ended Sunday afternoon at St. Vincent College:
Camp Tomlin still plenty tough: So much for Tomlin taking it easier on his players this year at St. Vincent. Truth be told, Tomlin may have worked his players harder than he did in 2007. "We've been in pads every single day this year," running back Willie Parker said. "Last year, we weren't in pads every single day." Said linebacker Larry Foote: "We had a lot of two-a-days. That was rough."

Batch out, Leftwich in: The Steelers were content with Charlie Batch backing up Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. Enter Byron Leftwich, who was signed to replace Batch, out with a broken collarbone. Leftwich can now make the Steelers reconsider retaining Batch, who is five years older. Leftwich has the potential to keep Roethlisberger on his toes -- not as a potential threat as a starter, but as someone who can produce when given the opportunity.

Battle of wills: Tomlin won the battle, but Casey Hampton may have won the war. Despite Tomlin's attempt to punish the overweight Hampton by putting him on the physically unable to perform list, Hampton accepted his punishment because he understands that as the Steelers' No. 1 nose tackle, he gives them the best chance to win.

Double-secret-probation switch at cornerback: Ike Taylor continues to play right cornerback and Deshea Townsend remains on the left in the biggest -- and least publicized -- position change this offseason. When asked about the flip-flop, which began with the AFC wild-card playoff game against Jacksonville, Townsend said Sunday: "It's just Coach's decision. It's a little different in route progressions for the guy that's covering. A lot of times when you're on the right side, you're on the single side of the receiver. When you're on the left side, you're on the strong side, a combination of tight end and receiver."
Strange situation: It's not like the fiscally prudent Steelers to overpay a backup tackle, especially given the team's tenuous ownership situation. So why sign Max Starks as a one-year, $6.895 million transition player? Makes you wonder if management believed it could release Starks even after signing him; his contract's guaranteed for the season. Why else pay so much for someone to do so little?

Broken promise: Four days before the start of training camp, Tomlin told reporters he had spoken with safety Troy Polamalu and "we anticipate him being ready to go." So much for the best-laid plans. Polamalu, who was granted permission to train in California during the offseason, is expected to practice for the first time Tuesday. There was nothing wrong with Polamalu being allowed to work out where he felt comfortable, but if the team had been able to monitor his situation more closely, perhaps his surprise hamstring injury wouldn't have surprised Tomlin when camp opened.



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Re: One camp, but two sets of defining moments

Postby Nel » Mon Aug 18, 2008 11:18 pm

"Strange situation: It's not like the fiscally prudent Steelers to overpay a backup tackle, especially given the team's tenuous ownership situation. So why sign Max Starks as a one-year, $6.895 million transition player? Makes you wonder if management believed it could release Starks even after signing him; his contract's guaranteed for the season. Why else pay so much for someone to do so little?"

Maybe Roethlisberger wanted Starks.

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Re: One camp, but two sets of defining moments

Postby robyotter » Tue Aug 19, 2008 12:35 am

They did hang around together thier rookie years.

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Re: One camp, but two sets of defining moments

Postby Still The Champions » Tue Aug 19, 2008 8:22 am

Nel wrote:"Strange situation: It's not like the fiscally prudent Steelers to overpay a backup tackle, especially given the team's tenuous ownership situation. So why sign Max Starks as a one-year, $6.895 million transition player? Makes you wonder if management believed it could release Starks even after signing him; his contract's guaranteed for the season. Why else pay so much for someone to do so little?"

Maybe Roethlisberger wanted Starks.


Let's assume that the Steelers had a reason for signing Starks as a transition player (maybe not a good reason, but a reason). Two possibilities are:

1. An insurance policy. As you probably recall, Marvel Smith's back was a real concern this past spring (and it still may be). A worst case scenario was that Smith's back problem did not heal, and backup Max Starks left. Had this happened, the current situation would be Trai Essex as the starting left tackle with Tony Hills as the backup. Scary, huh? While Roethlisberger may or may not have wanted Starks, spending $6.9 million to protect your $100 million qb investment may have been a prudent, though expensive, investment.

2. Compensation Perhaps the Steelers were looking to get compensation from another team that signed Starks similar to what KC got for Jared Allen and Green Bay got for Corey Williams. Both Allen and Williams were UFA's that were franchised and subsequently traded for draft picks. As a transition player, the Steelers also had the right to match any contract offered to Starks. Unfortunately, nothing materialized, and the Steelers were stuck with Starks.

There may be other reasons, but maybe the most obvious is true -- Starks was signed as a $6.9 million backup because this was the Steelers' best option to stabilize the left tackle position for this season.

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Re: One camp, but two sets of defining moments

Postby Hoppy » Tue Aug 19, 2008 8:29 am

Finally got back on, enjoying this review. Cowboys have not looked good either. They are short receivers and their backfield is undersized. Wade's last year in the offing.

Former Forbes Field season ticket holder, upper right field deck over the 40 yard line. Great view of Bobby Lane!

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Re: One camp, but two sets of defining moments

Postby WoodsonOfSteel » Wed Aug 20, 2008 12:56 am

Time will tell how soon Lawrence Timmons becomes a starter. But if last year’s No. 1 draft pick keeps performing like he did at camp, it will be sooner than later. An inside linebacker, Timmons is a quick, explosive athlete who’s obviously rebounded from a lackluster rookie season when he was slowed by a nagging groin injury.


I am really getting excited about this guy. With him healthy, he looks like a beast in the making. There have been posts on this site about concerns about the guy, not performing, not showing anything special in the pre-season...

Whatever the case may be, he's certainly impressing me one play at a time. Thus far, he has showed me that he is very quick to react to the ball and has great closing speed for his size. He's shown that he can get to the QB with reckless abandon. (Granted, that was a blitz that went unblocked but it was still as sweet sack. ;^) )

Right now, I'm liking what he's contributing to the defense.

Lil by lil his skills will be refined and he'll become another raw pass rusher developed into a fine-tuned machine.

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