AFC North Report

A look at the Browns' divisional foes as they meander through training camp toward the regular season

BALTIMORE RAVENS

HOT TOPIC

In the first 10 days of training camp, the Ravens have had 21 players miss at least one practice because of injury.

That's over a quarter of the Ravens' 80-player roster.

One reason could be switching from Brian Billick's laid-back camp to a tougher one being run by first-year coach John Harbaugh.

But the Ravens players aren't complaining.

"We're going to be ready for anything," center Jason Brown said. "Do you think the New England Patriots (the opponent for the preseason opener) are going to be hitting harder than this when we play them? Or the Cincinnati Bengals (for the season opener)?"

None of the injuries are considered long term.

But the Ravens have been playing without running back Willis McGahee (knee), offensive tackles Adam Terry (ankle) and Jared Gaither (ankle) and defensive tackles Kelly Gregg (leg) and Haloti Ngata (knee).

One team official estimated that Harbaugh has had more full-contact plays in his first week than Billick had in his entire camp last year.

"Camaraderie comes from a sense of accomplishment," tight end Todd Heap said. "That's our goal right now: Fighting your way through the tough dog days. When it comes to the end, we'll say 'We made it through this and let's take on the season."

During his nine seasons with the Ravens, Billick was criticized for having a soft camp. Now, with the Ravens being one of the most banged-up teams in the NFL, Harbaugh is being criticized for having a tough one.

But Harbaugh, whose camp mirrors the one run by Eagles coach Andy Reid, cautions anyone from jumping to conclusions.

"We've had no injuries in live hitting," he said. "It's easy to say that it has, but that's not the case."

According to Harbaugh, most of the injuries have occurred in "thud" sessions, which are supposed to be drills run at half speed. But some players go full speed, causing others to get knocked off their feet. It was during one of those drills where offensive tackle Adam Terry fell over Rice and sprained his ankle.

Harbaugh laughs when he hears outsiders suggest that he should significantly curtail the hitting because he hasn't got one complaint from a player.

"These are special guys and I've never been around a group of guys that practice this hard. That's very encouraging," Harbaugh said. "The nicks and the bumps are part of it, but you don't want it. As a group, we need to do everything we can to avoid it. But we're getting work done and that's a good thing."

Because of a thinning number of players, Harbaugh has cut some contact drills short and removed others completely over the a few days. He also rewarded his players with some time off last weekend, canceling two practices to provide some extra rest.

Even with the recent changes, the players can feel the difference from last year's camp to this one.

"Yeah, the body is feeling it," Heap said. "I don't know what the percentages of my legs are right now, but it's not too good. It gets frustrating watching film and knowing you can run that route better but my body won't let me now."

CAMP CALENDAR: Camp concludes on Aug. 15.

PLAYER NOTES

--Ravens cornerback Fabian Washington was suspended one game by the NFL for violating the league's personal-conduct policy.

Washington, who was traded from the Oakland Raiders during the second day of the draft, will miss the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 7.

The punishment stems from his February arrest on a domestic battery charge. He was arrested at his home in East Manatee County, Fla., after the responding police officer noticed a red mark on the neck of Washington's 21-year-old live-in girlfriend.

Washington, 25, who had pleaded not guilty to the charge, said the altercation didn't get physical. He will avoid prosecution for the charge as long as he completes a program for first-time offenders.

"I put myself in a bad situation, and I did not handle it the right way," Washington said in a statement. "I was wrong and made a mistake. My girlfriend, my attorney and I wanted a quick resolution and knew that a suspension could happen."

--The Ravens had two practices canceled by coach John Harbaugh the weekend before the preseason opener.

Harbaugh said his decision wasn't based on the number of injuries that have occurred since training camp began. He said it was a reward for the way they've been practicing.

"They have earned it," Harbaugh said of the first break in this year's camp. "These guys have worked hard morning after morning. They got out today and did the same thing. They need the rest. We need to get them off their legs. We need to get them home with their wives and kids for 24 hours... I'm proud of them. I'm happy with the way they've worked."

The Ravens have had eight straight days of two-a-day practices before Harbaugh gave the unexpected schedule change.

--The veil of secrecy has been lifted around Ed Reed. The Pro Bowl safety has a shoulder injury, coach John Harbaugh said.

Reed is on the physically-unable-to-perform list and has yet to practice in training camp. Team officials had declined to comment specifically on Reed's injury, causing speculation about his status.

During camp, Reed has worked off to the side, running and catching passes.
"It's a strengthening issue and that takes a little bit of time," Harbaugh said.

--Quarterback Troy Smith missed 75 minutes of a two-hour practice for an embarrassing reason.

"There's an issue -- we've had this happen three or four times at camp -- with the new drug-testing policy that's in place. It's very strict, very stringent, and they have to get the drug test done before they can come out and practice in the morning," Harbaugh said.

"Sometimes it takes guys a little longer to get it done. Troy took awhile to get that taken care of."

--Harbaugh said the team would continue to respect cornerback Samari Rolle's bereavement period over the loss of his father, Harry, who died of cancer two weeks ago. "We've got a tentative timetable, but I'd rather leave that to Samari right now," Harbaugh said.

--Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who recently injured his right knee, said he has a sprained medial collateral ligament and is day-to-day.

"It's just a little minor thing," Ngata said. "It's just a speed bump that I'm trying to get over. I'll be back sooner than you guys think."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think it's too early to be able to separate yet because we haven't had any game action. Nobody has jumped ahead of the other guys in the live action or the drills significantly enough to say it's a 1, 2, 3. We all got our opinions ... but one thing's for certain, they've all gotten better." -- Ravens coach John Harbaugh, on the quarterback race between Kyle Boller, Troy Smith and Joe Flacco leading up to the preseason opener.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

With three of their top offensive tackles injured, the Ravens signed Chad Slaughter, a longtime backup for the Oakland Raiders. Starting OTs Adam Terry and Jared Gaither are expected to return soon from ankle injuries, but Slaughter could make the team as the No. 3 or No. 4 tackle.

The Ravens also needed to add depth at running back and signed Alex Haynes, who was at the Ravens' training camp three seasons ago. He had three carries for three yards for the Carolina Panthers last season. Haynes is considered a long shot to make the Ravens.

The Ravens released CB Anwar Phillips and OT Sean Dumford.

--RB Willis McGahee missed a majority of the practices last week with a knee injury. He did not report in great condition, which has concerned team officials. Although McGahee is expected to be ready for the regular season, he could lose some snaps to Ray Rice, a second-round pick.

--RB Ray Rice continues to impress the coaching staff by taking a majority of the snaps while injuries hit the Ravens running backs. Because of his ability to run tough up the middle and catch passes out of the backfield, Rice seems to be a better fit in the offense than Willis McGahee.

--OT Adam Terry is expected to miss another week with an ankle injury. He has been replaced at right tackle by Mike Kracalik.

--CB Fabian Washington has been suspended for the season opener under the NFL's personal-conduct policy. That means Samari Rolle should start the Sept. 7 game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

--WR Mark Clayton has missed a few practices with a sprained shoulder but he said he wants to play in the preseason opener. Yamon Figurs has filled in for Clayton in the starting offense.

--LB Edgar Jones has replaced Terrell Suggs in the starting lineup. Suggs is skipping training camp to protest the franchise tag.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Haruki Nakamura vs. Tom Zbikowski for backup S -- Nakamura has been a playmaker in camp, always hustling to the ball. Zbikowski is more physical and seems to be more of a factor in run defense.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Kyle Boller, Troy Smith and Joe Flacco for starting QB -- Smith has come on strong as of late. Boller has been the most consistent QB throughout camp. Flacco has looked like a rookie.

Samari Rolle vs. Fabian Washington for starting CB -- Rolle has been absent because he attended his father's funeral. Washington continues to have a strong camp.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: FS Haruki Nakamura -- He has intercepted all of the Ravens quarterbacks and broke up a handful of other passes. The rookie sixth-round pick has proven to be a ball hawk and has played most of training camp with the first-team defense (filling in for injured Ed Reed).

ROOKIE REPORT: QB Joe Flacco (first round) seems to be losing confidence. He is still competing for the starting job. ... RB Ray Rice (second round) has been running with the first-team offense because Willis McGahee is sidelined with a knee injury. Rice has been one of the most impressive players on offense this camp. ... LB Tavares Gooden (third round) has shown off his quickness. He will make an impact on special teams and be the backup dime back. ... WR Marcus Smith (fourth round) is working as the No. 3 receiver because Mark Clayton (shoulder) and Demetrius Williams (leg) have both been hurt.

INJURY REPORT: FS Ed Reed (shoulder), WR Demetrius Williams (lower left leg) and TE Daniel Wilcox (offseason toe surgery) remain on the physically-unable-to-perform list.

OT Jared Gaither (ankle) and Adam Terry (ankle) are expected to miss another week.

WR Mark Clayton (shoulder) is day-to-day.

DT Haloti Ngata (knee sprain) could return next week.

DT Kelly Gregg (leg) is expected to miss another week.

RB Willis McGahee (knee) is day-to-day.


CINCINNATI BENGALS

HOT TOPIC

The Bengals held their annual intrasquad scrimmage and mock game on Aug. 1 and 2, and the results offered a glimpse into the type of team coach Marvin Lewis is hoping to field in 2008.

The offense is oriented more toward the run game, as Lewis promised it would be in the offseason. And new coordinator Mike Zimmer's defense is playing more aggressively at the line of scrimmage and in pass coverage than any defense in Lewis' previous five years as head coach.

Even with two projected starters unavailable -- defensive end Antwan Odom sustained a sprained foot in the first practice July 28, and rookie outside linebacker Keith Rivers is one of two remaining unsigned draft picks in the league -- Zimmer's defense played well in the scrimmage.

Outside linebacker Brandon Johnson, an Arizona Cardinals castoff, is starting in Rivers' spot. He had collected four total tackles, including two for loss. Frostee Rucker is playing right defensive end in Odom's spot.

Carson Palmer, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jordan Palmer threw touchdown passes, and rookie safety Corey Lynch intercepted Jordan Palmer in the end zone. Carson Palmer, playing with the first-team offense, was 6-for-10 passing for 52 yards and a 21-yard touchdown pass to a diving Antonio Chatman. He got behind cornerback Leon Hall in the end zone. Fitzpatrick threw 43 yards to a diving rookie Jerome Simpson, who achieved separation from cornerback Deltha O'Neal, but still had to sell out to get to the ball. He hit at the 1-yard line and rolled into the end zone.

But the star of the scrimmage, played before a crowd of 7,100 at Toyota Stadium at Georgetown College, was the defense.

"I thought they did what I asked them," Zimmer said. "I said if you make a mistake make it full speed. Play hard. And we've been stressing all week, tackling. We surrounded the ball real well and played physical. I thought we did a decent job of stopping the run."

With top two tailbacks Rudi Johnson and Kenny Watson out, Chris Perry had most of the work. Perry, coming back from serious ankle and shin injuries that prevented him from playing in 2007, rushed nine times for 33 yards. He added three receptions for 17 yards.

"I have to do better," Perry said. "I got tired real quick."

The Bengals wrapped up their sixth day of training camp on-field work Saturday with the annual mock game. In the glorified touch football game, more of a dress rehearsal for substitutions, down-and-distance situations and play-calling from the sideline are stressed.

The defense came up with four interceptions - one thrown by each of the Bengals' quarterbacks. Lynch had his second of the weekend. Cornerback Johnathan Joseph returned a Fitzpatrick pass 69 yards for a touchdown, and safety Dexter Jackson and linebacker Jim Maxwell each had one.

The mock game was the ninth on-field practice of the week.

"It was a quick first week," Lewis said. "We got a lot of work done. Now we have some idea about how guys will play with pads on. There are some guys who have been injured, and they need to get out and get work."

CAMP CALENDAR: The Bengals returned to practice Monday, and will work daily through Saturday. They will travel to Wisconsin for the preseason opener Aug. 11 (Monday night) against the Packers. Camp breaks Aug. 15.

PLAYER NOTES

--First-round pick Keith Rivers, the projected starter at weak-side linebacker, is one of two draft picks in the entire league unsigned as of Aug. 3. He missed the first week of camp. The other unsigned player is Jacksonville defensive end Derrick Harvey, taken one slot ahead of Rivers, at No. 8.

In Rivers' absence, journeyman Brandon Johnson is starting and making the most of his opportunity.

--It's a tradition under Marvin Lewis. The first day of full pads at training camp features the live-blocking drill known as Oklahoma, or the nutcracker. One offensive and one defensive player are pitted against each other in a narrow lane -- the offensive player is to block the defender and allow the ball carrier to run through. Many of the matches were draws, with both players doing their jobs. Some were not.

Tight end Reggie Kelly pushed linebacker Rashad Jeanty to the outside. Rookie wide receiver Andre Caldwell impressively moved cornerback Johnathan Joseph out of the way.

Right tackle Stacy Andrews moved rookie defensive tackle Jason Shirley 15 yards downfield with a lightning-fast start. Most entertaining, though, was the enthusiastic response of first-year defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer when a defensive player performed well. Zimmer was all over them, slapping their backs and rear end and top of the helmet.

"Well, what I was trying to do, what I'm trying to do is build some spirit, some togetherness, if I have to do it, I'll do it, I'll do whatever, if I have to be the leader, I'll be the leader," he said. "If one of these guys wants to step up and be the leader, then they will. I want them to understand the emotion we want to play with and the tempo we want to play with and the expectations we play with."

--Strong-side linebacker Rashad Jeanty stood out from his group of black-shirted teammates Thursday afternoon. He wore a numberless orange practice jersey, presented him by defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.

"Kind of lead the defense, lead by example," Jeanty said of the jersey's meaning. "It's not necessarily an honor. (Zimmer) just wants to find leaders. It could be anyone. It could be a (college) free agent. Hopefully I led by example."

--The NFL has suspended wide receiver Chris Henry for the first four games of the season. But he is free to sign with any team at any time and could be eligible for the final 12 games. The Bengals waived him April 3 following his fifth arrest as their employee.

--Commissioner Roger Goodell wants a shorter preseason and a slotting system for rookie contracts to prevent holdouts. In a visit to Bengals training camp Saturday morning, Goodell met with the Bengals management team, including club president Mike Brown, and had a 20-minute session with the players. He then had lunch with six selected Bengals players: quarterback Carson Palmer, wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, cornerback Leon Hall, defensive tackle John Thornton, offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth and linebacker Dhani Jones. After his visit Saturday morning, Goodell jetted back to Canton, Ohio, for more Hall of Fame weekend events.

"It would have to be collectively bargained," Goodell said of a system currently in place in the NBA, which prevents draft picks from holding out. The Bengals' first-round pick, linebacker Keith Rivers, the ninth overall selection, is one of two drafted players not signed. The other is Jacksonville's Derrick Harvey, a defensive end taken No. 8 overall.

"We have an issue here and something is wrong with the system, flawed with the system, and we have to address it," Goodell said. "I think it's better for the players, the teams and, most important, for the fans. I think it's a disservice when players aren't in camp. ... My issue is it's clearly having economic issues and it affects all of the players in a negative fashion. It has some non-football issues. Veteran leadership suffers when rookies are paid more than veterans. They are uncomfortable asserting the leadership they should in the locker room."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "They keep going back and forth a little bit. It's a shame, because I think Keith would benefit, and we're well above (in dollars) where we need to be. ...  It's something that ought to be very quickly finished and easily finished. We just need to get the other side to engage and say 'let's get this done.'" -- Coach Marvin Lewis, expressing his disappointment that first-round draft pick Keith Rivers, a linebacker, remains unsigned.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

--RG Bobbie Williams continues to get work on the sideline as a center. Coaches say he could be an emergency center or even the top backup to starter Eric Ghiaciuc.

--CB Johnathan Joseph, limited in camp last year because of surgery to correct a stress fracture, is playing on two healthy feet and appears poised to have a big season. He is emerging as the leader of a very young secondary.

--WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, slowed by sore legs toward the end of the first week of training camp, is entering the last year of a four-year deal. Coach Marvin Lewis said a contract extension for Houshmandzadeh, who will be 31 in September, is an organizational priority.

--RB Chris Perry, coming back from a 2007 season spent on the injured reserve list, is getting a lot of work in practice and was busy in the scrimmage and mock game. He appears to be handling the transition back into full contact well and regaining his football conditioning.

--DE Frostee Rucker, getting a lot of work because of the foot injury to starting RDE Antwan Odom, came to camp in much better shape than in his previous two NFL seasons. He said he stayed in Cincinnati and worked hard in the team's offseason program. Even without Odom's injury, the Bengals are counting on Rucker to contribute.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: No player has emerged as the favorite for the third-receiver spot behind starters T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson. Rookies Andre Caldwell and Jerome Simpson have flashed, as have veterans Marcus Maxwell, Antonio Chatman and Glenn Holt. But no one has stood out in a complete fashion.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Though Stacy Andrews is the starter at right tackle, don't count out 13th-year pro Willie Anderson. Anderson is as healthy as he has been for several seasons, and he is having a strong camp physically and mentally, focusing on what he can do to help the team win without complaining about his depth-chart status. ... Starting FB Jeremi Johnson has yet to practice because he reported to camp much heavier than his listed 270 pounds. Converted TE Daniel Coats is having an impressive camp as the starter.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: LB Brandon Johnson -- Filling in for unsigned rookie first-round pick Keith Rivers, the Arizona Cardinals reject is fitting perfectly into coordinator Mike Zimmer's defense and responding well to the in-your-face coaching of linebackers boss Jeff FitzGerald. Johnson runs well and shoots gaps in the defense effectively.

ROOKIE REPORT: Sixth-round S Corey Lynch has lived up to his college reputation in the first week of camp of making big plays. Lynch had a big weekend, capping his performance Friday night with another interception and two passes broken up in the mock game. Playing nickel for the first time, he was beaten on a touchdown pass. Then he picked off Carson Palmer. "I haven't been comfortable on the field, but these past two days I have been more comfortable," Lynch said. ... Third-round WR Andre Caldwell is getting a ton of work at receiver and on special teams. He is an impressive blocker. ... Fifth-round DT Jason Shirley has shown the ability to penetrate the middle of the offensive line.

INJURY REPORT: Coach Marvin Lewis said WR Chad Johnson, out so far as he rehabs from ankle surgery, could be back on the field this coming week (Aug. 4). Johnson, WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh and RBs Rudi Johnson, Kenny Watson and DeDe Dorsey were among the players who missed the scrimmage and mock game over the weekend.

LB Ahmad Brooks was out Saturday but should be back this week, Lewis said.

No sign yet of FB Jeremi Johnson, who reported much heavier than his listed 270 pounds and has not been allowed to practice.


PITTSBURGH STEELERS

HOT TOPIC

Two changes in the linebacking corps could have a big effect on Pittsburgh's defense this season, and both involve second-year players.

Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley, Mike Tomlin's first two draft picks as coach in 2007, are ready to make impacts on his defense one year later.

Woodley already is installed as the starting left outside linebacker, taking the place of Clark Haggans. Last year, Woodley had four sacks in just 80 snaps, then two more sacks in the playoff loss. Timmons is competing with Larry Foote for the mack inside linebacker job, but it will be his soon. Timmons already plays in the nickel defense and the way he's looked in training camp, he not only will take Foote's job, he could be a dominant force on coordinator Dick LeBeau's defense.

"He's doing great job," veteran linebacker and team captain James Farrior said of Timmons. "He can play any position. Really, he can play all of them. He's an excellent athlete and he's able to play any position. It's just a matter of him learning the system. Once he gets it down, he's going to be good player."

As for Woodley, "I'm looking forward to that one," Farrior said. "LaMarr's doing real well in this training camp. It seems like he really understands it a lot better than he did last year. You can tell by his confidence and the way he plays."

Besides the two young veterans and Farrior, the Steelers have last year's club MVP, Pro Bowl outside linebacker James Harrison, who led the team with 8.5 sacks in his first season as a starter.

The Steelers hope to boost their pass rush and they believe that the additions of Woodley and Timmons will help them do just that.

"I like LaMarr's  pass rush," Harrison said. "He has a good speed rush and has a lot of strength and weight to go around the corner.

"He complements me and I complement him. It's going to get to a point where, just by me and him rushing, offenses may have to keep two backs in just to keep us off the edges, and that helps out our covering DBs and inside linebackers. Everything rolls downhill."

Pittsburgh always has been loaded with linebackers, many of them on Pro Bowl rosters going back to their Super Bowl days with Hall of Famers Jack Ham and Jack Lambert. It's no different today, only the names Timmons and Woodley are yet to be known.

Said Farrior: "I love it. Those guys give me a lot of energy and keep me motivated. They're young guys, learning the system and they're doing good right now. They're going to help us out.

"We can do a whole lot of stuff with James. He's a monster. We have a good group. I love this group, it's one of our better groups. We might not have the big names that we used to have but I think we work well together."

CAMP CALENDAR: Players reported to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe July 27. They have an evening practice Aug. 5 on campus. All other practices that are open to the public start at 2:55 p.m. No scrimmages are scheduled. The last practice at camp is Aug. 17.

PLAYER NOTES

--Former Steelers receiver Cedrick Wilson returned to football -- in high school. Wilson, released by the Steelers in March after he was charged with assault on an ex-girlfriend, returned home to Memphis, Tenn., as the offensive coordinator for the new Douglass High School of Public.

--There actually are some people in Pittsburgh who don't care all that much about whether the Rooneys remain owners of the Steelers or not -- the players themselves. Here are a couple of reactions:

"I don't have nothing to do with that," said OT Willie Colon. "Just pay me, that's all I care about."

WR Santonio Holmes: "I doubt if that's any worry on anybody's mind right now. We came in to play football; whatever happens inside the organization, happens."

--Retired LB Kevin Greene worked the first week of camp, helping coach the linebackers, and he's followed this week by another who succeeded him on the left outside in Pittsburgh: Jason Gildon.

It's a mystery why Greene, 46, hasn't attracted more support as a Hall of Fame candidate. He retired after the 1999 season and his 160 sacks are the most by any linebacker since the sack became an official statistic in the NFL in 1982. His total is behind only defensive ends Bruce Smith and Reggie White. Yet Greene still has not made the final 17 as a candidate the past two years.

--WR Santonio Holmes missed Friday and Saturday practices because there was a death in his family.

--NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will arrange a meeting among the five Rooney brothers within the next few weeks to help mediate the possible ownership change in the Steelers.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "At the end of the day, we know what Casey will bring to the table." -- WR Hines Ward, on NT Casey Hampton, who opened on PUP list because he was vastly overweight.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

A season-ending torn ACL to P Daniel Sepulveda and coach Mike Tomlin's continuing quest to find a decent return man prompted two moves in the first week of training camp. Paul Ernster was claimed off waivers from the Detroit Lions. He's also punted for Cleveland and Denver. Veteran WR Eddie Drummond, 28, was signed as a kick and punt returner. Drummond, a Pittsburgh native, played last year in Kansas City after five years in Detroit. WR Kevin Marion (sprained knee) was waived injured.

--P Daniel Sepulveda will go on injured reserve when they cut to 75, but Paul Ernster is not guaranteed a spot. He'll have some time to show if he can handle the job, but Mike Barr, who spent the past four training camps with the Steelers, is unsigned and they could call him in a heartbeat to come punt for them.

--WR Santonio Holmes was taken out of the punt receiving rotation when WR Eddie Drummond was signed. Holmes had expressed a willingness to return this year.

--WR Willie Reid enters his third year trying to stay healthy and make it as a No. 5 man in the rotation and as a punt returner. Eddie Drummond's signing did not help his chances.

--If the Steelers keep Eddie Drummond, it will come at the expense of a position player. That could be Willie Reid or WR Dallas Baker, who were hoping to stay as No. 5 and No. 6 on the roster.

--K Jeff Reed could lose his kickoff duties if Paul Ernster sticks. Ernster has kicked off in the NFL and Reed is not strong in that area.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Willie Colon vs. Max Starks at RT -- It's over! Colon remains the champ for the second straight year. The Steelers have decided to stick with him and have Starks back up on the left and right -- at a $7 million guaranteed salary this year. The coaches chose Colon last summer and there's been nothing to change their minds since then.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Sean Mahan vs. Justin Hartwig at C -- Mahan continues to go first, but it's only a matter of time before Hartwig wins it. ...  Larry Foote vs. Lawrence Timmons at ILB -- Timmons already nailed down the nickel job and will take over at ILB any time, probably after the first preseason game. ... Mewelde Moore vs. Carey Davis as third-down RB -- They alternate, but Moore is the favorite.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: LB Lawrence Timmons -- The second-year pro lit up the night practice at Latrobe H.S. Stadium to the oohs and ahs of the 10,000 fans who turned out Aug. 1. He dominated a drill called "backs on 'backers" in which various backs tried to block him. He was unblockable. Timmons, the team's top draft choice in 2007, is trying to take Larry Foote's four-year hold on the mack ILB job and it should not take long before he gets it.

ROOKIE REPORT: RB Rashard Mendenhall is getting work everywhere, behind Willie Parker at halfback, on third downs and as a kick returner. ... WR Limas Sweed was fitted for glasses after coach Mike Tomlin noticed he seemed to have a hard time seeing the ball. ... LB Bruce Davis is struggling to convert from DE, as do most who try to make the switch. ... LB Mike Humpal (hamstring) missed several days. ... QB Dennis Dixon is struggling and did not have a good first week in the pocket.

INJURY REPORT: S Troy Polamalu (hamstring) missed the whole first week but could return soon; he opened on PUP.

P Daniel Sepulveda (ACL) will have surgery Aug. 6.

NT Casey Hampton, also on PUP because he's overweight and out of shape, has been conditioning under the close eyes of the training staff. He may have another week before he's ready.

QB Ben Roethlisberger cut back some on practices over the weekend because of a sore groin that developed Friday night.

LB LaMarr Woodley (groin) also came down with a groin injury Friday.

S Anthony Smith (groin) has tried to practice a few times but been unable to finish.

OT Jason Capizzi (foot stress fracture) was waived injured but could return by midseason.

WR Kevin Marion (sprained knee) was waived injured.

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