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Running test yields no failures for Steelers
By Scott Brown
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Soggy weather Friday did not wash out the conditioning test that marks the start of Steelers training camp.
And by the last leg of the series of runs held on one of the football fields at St. Vincent College, Casey Hampton, who is listed at 325 pounds, had started walking.
Unlike last year when Mike Tomlin banished the veteran nose tackle to the physically unable to perform (PUP) list following the run test, the third-year coach praised Hampton for how he fared in it yesterday.
"He did a nice job as did a lot of the other guys," Tomlin said.
Before the end of offseason drills last month, Tomlin said he told the players that their top priority should be getting into top shape before they reported to training camp.
As such, he was pleased by what he saw from the players during the run test.
"Everybody was above the line,"
A handful of starters, including tight end Heath Miller and strong safety Troy Polamalu, will be eased into practice as they recover from various injuries.
Miller, who recently signed a six-year contract, underwent surgery to repair a sports hernia last month. Tomlin said the Steelers were fortunate to detect and correct the problem when they did. He added that there is no concern about Miller being ready for the start of the regular season.
Polamalu and cornerback Deshea Townsend are nursing slightly pulled hamstrings. Center Justin Hartwig is recovering from a broken toe, and right guard Darnell Stapleton is experiencing swelling in one of his knees.
None of the injuries, Tomlin said, is worrisome.
The Steelers have placed running back/wide receiver Stefan Logan on the PUP list because of a foot sprain. Tomlin said Logan is not able to be cut because of the injury.
Showing different looks
The most surprising sight of reporting day came yesterday afternoon when James Harrison pulled up outside of Rooney Hall in what looked like an oversized matchbox car.
Harrison, it turns out, is driving a white Smart car these days.
"I just want to try to help the environment,"
Just as surprising as seeing the thickly muscled linebacker in an ultra compact car is what he said about the 100-yard interception return he had in the Super Bowl last February.
Harrison said he was supposed to blitz on the play. The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year instead dropped into coverage and picked off the slant pass that Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner threw.
"I guess coach (Dick) LeBeau didn't mind too much," Harrison said of not following his assignment. "Technique, opportunity and all of that other stuff meet as well as a little luck."
Essex eyes starting job
Stapleton will have to fend off two challengers if he wants to keep his starting job at right guard.
Trai Essex said he is in the best shape of his career and that he will be given an opportunity, along with rookie third-round draft pick Kraig Urbik, to unseat Stapleton.
Essex, a fifth-year veteran who re-signed with the Steelers in the spring, said he trimmed down during the offseason and focused on improving his upper body strength.
"I'm as strong as I've been in my career,"
Stapleton started 15 games at right guard following a season-ending injury to Kendall Simmons in 2008. He said he is still a center "at heart," but that doesn't mean he'll concede anything to Urbik and Essex.
"I always welcome competition," Stapleton said. "That's the name of the game."
Punter Daniel Sepulveda, who missed all of last season after tearing the ACL in his plant leg, said he won't be limited in training camp. Kicker Piotr Czech will do some of the punting to give Sepulveda a break since he is the only punter in camp. ... Rookie A.Q. Shipley and second-year man Doug Legursky will get most of the extra snaps at center while Hartwig is sidelined,
Tomlin said. ... The Steelers hold their first two practices of the preseason today. The afternoon practice, which starts at 2:55, is open to the public and free.