Steelers Notes: Hines the coach
By Mike Bires, Times Sports Staff
Published: Tuesday, August 4, 2009 11:39 PM EDT
LATROBE — For the past three days, it’s been Hines Ward, assistant wide receivers coach.
While coach Mike Tomlin continues to rest the Steelers’ veteran wideout, Ward has been helping out the younger receivers on the team. He’s offering tips on everything that a wide receiver needs to know.
“That’s how it was when I first came in here,” said Ward, a 33-year-old, 12th-year pro who hasn’t practiced since Saturday. “That’s my job as a veteran and one of the leaders on the team. I want to make sure these guys are well prepared. They look for a guy with experience so they can ask questions.”
Ward, who had off-season shoulder surgery, stressed that not practicing for three days has nothing to do with an injury.
“I’m OK,” he said. "That’s Coach (Mike) Tomlin. If he wants to give a guy off, that’s up to him. Yeah, it looks kind of strange, me not out there and people wondering. But it’s up to him. So ask him.”
“Hines has money in my emotional bank account, so I take care of Hines,” Tomlin explained, with a laugh.
On Friday when the Steelers reported to camp, Tomlin said he would take it easy on several veterans in the first week or so of camp. He’s doing just that. For example, strong safety Troy Polamalu and cornerback Deshea Townsend didn’t practice Tuesday.
“We’re still preserving some of those veteran guys,” Tomlin said.
ROETHLISBERGER LOOKS SHARP
One day after saying his arm isn’t in mid-camp form, QB Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball with authority.
On Monday, he was upset that he didn’t connect on a few long passes. But yesterday, he launched a perfect bomb to WR Santonio Holmes. And he didn’t throw an interception in 11-on-11 team drills as he’s done the first three days of camp.
“He was throwing darts,” Ward said.
“It’s camp, and he’s our lead-dog guy,” Tomlin said of Roethlisberger. “We're going to ask him to throw a lot of balls, so I’d imagine through the initial phase (of camp), he’s not going to feel real great. (But) he launched a couple of deep ones today which is what we expect and I’m sure what he expects. He’ll find his rhythm.”
It appears that the knee injury to OL Darnell Stapleton is more serious than originally diagnosed. Stapleton missed his second day of practice, watching from a hillside overlooking the practice fields for the second straight day.
“Darnell Stapleton did have an MRI, but we’re getting some more work done, some other things looked at,” Tomlin said. “We’re still evaluating him and seeing where he is. When we’re ready to talk about that, I will.”
With Stapleton out and incumbent C Justin Hartwig still nursing a sore toe, the only two healthy centers are Doug Legursky and rookie A.Q. Shipley (Moon Area).
TE Heath Miller (sports hernia) has yet to participate in any 11-on-11 team drills.
“I thought Heath Miller took a step this afternoon in terms of participation and it’s good to see that he will continue to move forward, as is the case with Justin Hartwig,” Tomlin said.
RB Willie Parker didn’t practice due to a sore shoulder, and RB Mewelde Moore left early with a sore hamstring.
WALLACE FIRST UP
When the Steelers worked on their kickoff return game for the first time in camp, Mike Wallace, the rookie wide receiver, was first up as the deep return man.
The others were RBs Rashard Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore, rookie CB Joe Burnett and WR Stefan Logan.
“I was the first guy up today, but things can change at any time,” Wallace said. “It’s not that I’m looking at it like I have a secure spot. It’s a wide-open competition, but I look at it as it’s my job to try to keep.
“But like I said, we have a lot of good returners and no one has a secure spot. I welcome competition at all times. If I’m the best man for the job, the coaches will put me back there."