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Old 08-02-2009, 07:09 AM   #1
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Default Tomlin impressed by Polamalu, Townsend

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Tomlin impressed by Polamalu, Townsend

By Scott Brown
Sunday, August 2, 2009

For two guys who were supposed to be limited because of minor hamstring pulls, strong safety Troy Polamalu and cornerback Deshea Townsend sure got their share of work in during the first two Steelers' practices of the season.

Both took part in the majority of practices Saturday morning and afternoon at sun-baked St. Vincent College.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he was pleasantly surprised by how much Polamalu and Townsend were able to do but added: "We'll continue to be cautious with those guys."

The same goes for tight end Heath Miller, who is recovering from sports hernia surgery, and center Justin Hartwig, who has a broken toe. Both were limited participants in practice yesterday.

Darnell Stapleton played center with the first-team offense when Hartwig was out. Trai Essex took Stapleton's spot at right guard when the latter played center.

The Steelers didn't suffer any injuries on the first day of practice.

Linebacker Lawrence Timmons, guard/center Doug Legursky and running back Isaac Redman, however, didn't finish the afternoon practice because of cramps.

No big deal

Mammoth nose tackle Casey Hampton downplayed his getting a passing grade from Tomlin in the run test Friday afternoon.

Hampton had labored so mightily during the conditioning test a year ago that Tomlin banished him to the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Hampton said he worked out a "little more" prior to training camp than he had in 2008.

"If I passed it, I passed it. If I didn't, I didn't," said the 6-foot-1 Hampton, who is listed at 325 pounds. "I don't make a big deal out of it."

In retrospect, Hampton said, opening camp last year on the PUP list didn't turn out to be a bad thing for him.

"I felt pretty good going into the season, not really banging, so I think it kind of helped my body out a little bit," Hampton said. "I think (the media) kind of made it more of a big deal than it was. My time is Sept. 10. That's when I'll be ready to go."

Sept. 10 is when the Steelers open the regular season against the visiting Tennessee Titans.

Practices makes perfect?

Willie Parker spent part of yesterday's morning practice catching passes from running backs coach Kirby Wilson.

Parker said he has been catching as many as 250 passes in practices going back to minicamp in an effort to make himself a complete player
. He had just four receptions this past season. (This would be a welcome addition to our offense if Parker could catch out of the backfield. - mesa)

Wilson, Parker said, won't be confused with Ben Roethlisberger any time soon. But the two-time Pro Bowl running back added, there is a positive to that.

"I feel if I can catch his balls, I can definitely catch Ben's balls," Parker said laughing. "He's the worst quarterback ever."

Extra points

Response of the day: When Tomlin was asked which players had impressed him on the first day of practices, he said, "None." ... Former Steelers great Dermontti Dawson is in camp, as he has an internship with the Steelers' scouting department. Dawson played center for the Steelers from 1988-2000. ... The Steelers have just one practice today. It will be at 2:55 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Inside the Ropes

A daily look at the best parts of the Steelers' training camp in Latrobe:

PICKED CLEAN: Linebacker Keyaron Fox intercepted Charlie Batch during 11-on-11 drills Saturday afternoon. Linebacker Andre Frazier intercepted Ben Roethlisberger during 7-on-7 drills. Rookie cornerback Keenan Lewis made a leaping interception during 7-on-7 drills.

EARLY RETURNS: Receiver Santonio Holmes told the Tribune-Review recently that he wants more touches, even if those touches involve returning punts. Holmes fielded punts yesterday with running back Mewelde Moore, free-agent receiver Shaun McDonald and rookie defensive back Joe Burnett. Another potential punt returner, free agent Stefan Logan, is on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) with a foot sprain.

BACK IN THE SADDLE: Safety Troy Polamalu and cornerback Deshea Townsend, whom coach Mike Tomlin said Friday would be slowed because of hamstring injuries, were both on the practice field yesterday. Tomlin said Polamalu and Townsend "surprised us with their participation.'' Tomlin made it a point not to play either player too much during drills.

MOVING AROUND: With starting center Justin Hartwig recovering from a broken toe, Darnell Stapleton shifted from first-team right guard to first-team center. Hartwig lined up at center during 7-on-7 drills.

SCREEN TEST: The Steelers worked on their screen game yesterday with an emphasis on throwing short passes to running backs out of the backfield. According to Tomlin, the drills also can help the defense in terms of pursuit and changing direction in going after the ball.

FIRST IMPRESSION: Free-agent receiver Tyler Grisham, a rookie from Clemson, made three good catches yesterday afternoon. Most impressive was a long catch down the middle of the field from second-year quarterback Dennis Dixon. Grisham also made a pair of lunging catches near the sideline.

Scott Brown can be reached at or 412-481-5432.
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