LATROBE, Pa. (93-7 THE FAN) — Wednesday’s full-pad practice was perhaps the most uneventful one of training camp so far, and considering the Steelers are one of several teams affected by the recent rash of injuries around the NFL, that’s probably a good thing.
Safety Troy Polamalu, linebackers Jason Worilds and Lawrence Timmons, and running back Le’Veon Bell all participated, but head coach Mike Tomlin only had the players go “live” (i.e.: full contact) for a short stretch during the first 11-on-11 period. That was to help acclimate running back Alvester Alexander, who was signed in the morning.
The Steelers also brought in free agent cornerback Devin Smith to try and shore up that injury-riddled spot, while cutting defensive lineman Cordian Hagans and running back Curtis McNeal.
Smith is an undrafted free agent from Wisconsin who was cut by the Dallas Cowboys, while Alexander, a Wyoming grad and also an undrafted free agent, has worked out with the Bears, Colts, and Titans.
Hagans was an undrafted free agent from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, and McNeal, a former 1,000-yard rusher at USC, was also undrafted.
The play that drew the biggest cheers was a bomb from Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown that went for a long touchdown. That said, those fans will be just as pleased if Polamalu and Ike Taylor are not similarly burned when the New York Giants come to Heinz Field Saturday at 7:30 to open the preseason.
A lot of eyes in the building are presumably going to be on top draft pick and outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, easily the defensive star of the day. He broke up three passes at or near the line of scrimmage, albeit facing backups John Parker Wilson and Landry Jones, not Big Ben.
With Worilds back, Jones ran mostly with the third unit. Normally, however, that’s just Tomlin’s way of keeping rookies in their place; in fact, Tomlin joked with reporters about listing Bell as “fifth string” on the depth chart.
Meanwhile, Roethlisberger joined “Vinnie & Cook” (weekdays 10:00 A.M.-2:00 P.M. on The Fan) to give his own scouting report on some of the Steelers’ rookies, including Bell.
“Bell has done a great job of not only being elusive, I’ve seen him make some moves and leave a couple of DBs behind, and also lower his head and run through linebackers and safeties,” he said. “I like the different things he brings to the table. I think he could be a good back for us…a compliment or the guy.”
The brief absence of Big Ben was a big blow to the 2012 Steelers, as he sat out three key games with a shoulder injury and a rib injury. Now, after off-season knee surgery, he insists he’s ready for 2013.
“For the first time in three years, my knee doesn’t hurt every time I drop back to pass. Or my shoulder doesn’t hurt. I feel really good. I just hope we can make it through one game at a time staying healthy,” Roethlisberger said.
Click here to listen to the full interview, as Ben was also asked if Tomlin is getting tougher, and if his relationship with offensive coordinator Todd Haley is getting healthier.