The Tank takes a big hit at Steelers camp
By Scott Brown and John Harris
Monday, August 3, 2009
Two days into training camp, running back Frank "The Tank" Summers got his welcome-to-the-NFL moment. Near the end of practice Sunday, cornerback William Gay lowered his shoulder into the 5-foot-10, 240-pound rookie on a running play. The collision jarred the ball loose, giving Gay the hit of the day in what turned out to be a lively practice.
"When you carry a nickname like 'The Tank,' guys are going to try you," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "They want him to prove that that nickname is earned. That's the story of the National Football League. This is a show-me game. He's starting to understand that."
When asked if he welcomed such physical play among teammates, Tomlin said, "I'd rather say 'Whoa' than 'Sic 'em.' "
• The Steelers held starting inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons out of practice yesterday as a precaution, Tomlin said. Timmons, who is ticketed to take over Larry Foote's old spot alongside James Farrior, didn't finish practice Saturday afternoon because of cramps caused by dehydration. Keyaron Fox and Donovan Woods got extra snaps in the absence of Timmons yesterday.
"We'll start fresh with him (today)," Tomlin said of Timmons.
Wide receiver Hines Ward was given practice off yesterday, a nod to his veteran status, while the Steelers held rookie defensive end Sonny Harris out of drills because of a strained groin. Center Justin Hartwig (toe) and tight end Heath Miller (abdomen) were again limited in practice.
• Rain intruded on practice yesterday. It did not, however, interrupt it, even though the threat of a storm caused the Steelers to clear spectators from the field at St. Vincent an hour early. Tomlin said he didn't mind the wet weather.
"We don't worry about the things we can't control," Tomlin said. "No lightning so there was no real danger. I thought we had a very productive day. Very physical practice."
• Dennis Dixon said last week that he'd welcome the opportunity to run the Wildcat offense for the Steelers. It looks like the second-year quarterback has as good a chance of beating out Ben Roethlisberger as he does of getting featured in the sub package that is the wrinkle du jour in the NFL.
"I'm not a Wildcat guy," offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said, "and Dennis would get broken in half."
One of the top passing and running quarterbacks his senior year at Oregon, Dixon is long and lean at 6-3, 209 pounds. He gave the Steelers' first-team defense a look at the Wildcat before last season's regular-season finale when he played the role of Cleveland's Joshua Cribbs. But it doesn't look like Dixon will run the Wildcat in a game any time soon.
"The only Wildcat runner in this league is a 240-pound running back named Ronnie Brown," Arians said of the Miami Dolphins running back.
• Dick LeBeau could appreciate the work of former Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, a fellow innovator and crafter of attacking, blitzing defenses. Their similarities are one reason why Johnson's death last Tuesday at the age of 68 hit LeBeau harder than most.
"Jim and I were friends, and I thought he was a wonderful man and a great coach," said LeBeau, the Steelers' defensive coordinator. "It's a loss for all of us in the league. He was a great asset and beyond that a great man."
Johnson had taken a leave of absence from the Eagles in May to deal with a cancerous tumor on his spine.
"We just wish his family the very, very best," LeBeau said.
• Punter Daniel Sepulveda unleashed a bomb yesterday in practice. Kicking from the 10-yard line, Sepulveda boomed a punt so far that Santonio Holmes had to back-pedal into the shadow of the opposite end zoned to catch it.
• The Steelers have two practices today. The second one starts 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:
ZIGGY UNLEASHED: Steelers first-round draft pick Ziggy Hood faced third-round pick Kraig Urbik in one-on-one drills Sunday afternoon. Both players had their moments, but Urbik had more of them. The first time they lined up, Hood beat Urbik, who was playing right guard, with an outside rush. The next time, Urbik stopped Hood's bull rush. On the third try, Urbik stopped another Hood outside rush. Hood and Urbik went against each other three more times, with Urbik winning twice. Overall, Urbik won four of the six matchups. Urbik also looked good matched against veteran defensive end Aaron Smith.
WIN SOME, LOSE SOME: Rookie defensive back Keenan Lewis played well Saturday, breaking up a long pass intended for fellow third-round draft pick Mike Wallace and also recording an interception. Yesterday, the tables turned on Lewis, who was beaten deep by Wallace, outjumped for a long pass by Limas Sweed and was beaten on a short route by rookie free agent Tyler Grisham.
NO MORE PLAYING IN SHORTS: Coach Mike Tomlin is fond of saying he doesn't put much stock in minicamps and voluntary practices because it's football in shorts. Tomlin finally got to see his players, especially his rookies, handle the physicality of training camp. Wallace caught a pass from Ben Roethlisberger yesterday and was flattened by cornerback William Gay, who was congratulated by cornerback Ike Taylor for dropping the hammer on the rookie. When Wallace returned to the huddle, Roethlisberger congratulated him for making the catch under duress.
PROVING GROUND: Two players who contributed very little as rookies squared off under the watchful eye of Tomlin yesterday. Linebacker Bruce Davis, a third-round pick in 2008 and tackle Tony Hills, last year's fourth-round selection, faced each other in one-on-one drills that received Tomlin's rapt attention. On one play, Tomlin used colorful language to motivate Hills. When Davis, trying to anticipate the snap count, jumped offsides, Tomlin said, "C'mon, 5-0 (Davis' number)!"
GROUND ATTACK: As promised, Tomlin ran a goal-line drill yesterday following a rainstorm that scattered large groups of fans. With linebackers James Farrior and James Harrison egging on their teammates from behind the end zone, the defense stopped running back Justin Vincent for a 1-yard gain on first down. On second down, Shaun McDonald couldn't handle Dennis Dixon's pass in the end zone. On third down, Vincent slammed inside and scored standing.