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Old 08-09-2009, 07:26 PM   #1
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Default Steelers practice notes

Steelers practice notes
August 9, 2009 6:00 PM

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

LATROBE, Pa. -- As the AFC North blog puts the final touches on its visit to the training camp of the Pittsburgh Steelers, here are some final notes and observations:

* Let's get right to the "goal-line drill," which was the highlight of Sunday's practice. The football was put on the 1-yard line and in a best-of-seven scenario, the defense won the drill 4-3. But it wasn't nearly as close as the score would indicate. The first- and second-team defenses dominated the opening sessions as Steelers tailbacks Rashard Mendenhall and Frank "The Tank" Summers were stuffed at the line of scrimmage on four consecutive attempts. With the drill already won, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin elected to continue the final three reps, and Summers and rookie free-agent Isaac Redman scored on their final three tries. Despite the victory, starting safety Ryan Clark was upset with the way his backups on defense finished the drill. "I don't like that at all," Clark said to his defensive teammates.

* Two key players returned to practice Sunday. Starting outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley (knee) and rookie receiver Mike Wallace (groin) had full participation. Running back Willie Parker (back spasms) was held out for the second straight day but is expected to return soon, possibly as early as Monday.

* Receiver Dallas Baker is starting to turn it on after stringing together a few solid days of practice. Baker had a solid scrimmage Friday and returned with some nice catches throughout the weekend. Baker has always been a bubble player in Pittsburgh, and it will be interesting to see if makes the 53-man roster out of training camp this year.

* If I had to pick four players that stood out most during my visit, I would say James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, Wallace and Daniel Sepulveda.

* If I had to pick four players that struggled during my visit, I would say Summers, Dennis Dixon, Kraig Urbik and David Johnson.

* Pittsburgh is putting a lot of work into pass protection from the running backs as a way to improve overall blocking for the quarterback. Starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked 46 times last year and the Steelers are trying to improve all aspects of their protection in hopes that they can lower that sack total.

* Overall the Steelers looked focused. I didn't hear the words "Super Bowl champs" the entire time I was in Latrobe from anybody in the organization, which is a good sign that this team learned from the 2006 season. Health permitting, this visit further confirmed my thoughts that Pittsburgh placed itself in a great position to make another run at the title.

Steelers practice notes

August 8, 2009 5:59 PM

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

LATROBE, Pa. -- The Pittsburgh Steelers just wrapped up their second practice of two-a-days Saturday evening.

Here are some personal notes and observations:

* Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looked sharper Saturday. He probably had his best practice in the evening session that I've witnessed since arriving to camp several days ago. Roethlisberger made some nice deep and intermediate throws to receivers Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward and tight end Heath Miller in team and 7-on-7 drills that he struggled with the previous few days. Perhaps it's a good sign that Roethlisberger is starting to regain his form after admitting his arm wasn't strong at the beginning of camp.
* Speaking of quarterbacks, backup Charlie Batch looks much better now than he did in spring minicamps. Batch suffered a season-ending collarbone injury last year and appeared rusty earlier this offseason. But he has made plenty of good reads this summer. Batch's best throw Saturday was a beautiful deep ball to rookie receiver Tyler Grisham for a long gain.
* Starting safety Ryan Clark looks healthy and excited to be back on the field. There were several opportunities to make big hits Saturday where Clark got antsy but had to let up because the team wasn't in full pads. He won't have to pass up those opportunities in game situations.
* On the injury front, key players who sat out Saturday were running back Willie Parker, who had some back spasms, and rookie receiver Mike Wallace (groin).
* As I mentioned earlier, the play of the day came from Roethlisberger with his deep connection to Ward in team drills. Ward made a tough catch after running a deep in across the middle. Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu had a good read on the play, which forced Ward to adjust and jump in front of Polamalu to make the catch. It's was a unique battle between Ward and Polamalu that people would never get to see in a real game.
* Finally, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin warned that the famous "goal-line drill" will make its 2009 training camp debut on Sunday. The drill is super physical and a personal favorite of the AFC North blog.

Pittsburgh Steelers, AFC North, Mike Tomlin, Troy Polamalu, Hines Ward, Ben Roethlisberger, Willie Parker, Rashard Mendenhall, Mike Wallace, Charlie Batch, Tyler Grisham, Heath Miller, Santonio Holmes

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Old 08-09-2009, 08:16 PM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers practice notes

With the way McDonald is performing, with Wallace and Sweed being locks, Bakers chances of making the team are slim to none
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Old 08-10-2009, 12:36 PM   #3
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Default Re: Steelers practice notes

Nice read thanks Mesa
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