Reading Between Tomlin's Lines

Mike Tomlin summed up the day's events and the summer's doings without saying too much.

A veteran writer once summed up a Chuck Noll press conference like this:

Not much information was passed.

Fast forward to Thursday, when the Steelers officially opened training camp with the annual running test, and the same five words describe what coach Mike Tomlin had to say.

Oops, according to Tomlin, the players instead were put through the rigors of a "conditioning evaluation."

"It was not a test," Tomlin said. "We wanted to know where these guys are in terms of conditioning. We like where most of the men are."

Which, by simple interpretation, means Tomlin and his staff does not like where some of his men are, in terms of conditioning. He was asked, more than once, if any of the players didn't perform well in this exercise. His answers went something like this:

"Again, this was a conditioning evaluation … ."

You get the point. Tomlin got plenty of knowledge about a lot of his players under threatening skies and muggy heat Thursday. He chose to keep it all to himself.

He did put forth that the team's roster numbers 86, including all draft choices and three players who are on the physically unable to perform list. They are receiver Hines Ward (thumb surgery), guard Chris Kemoeatu (knee swelling from conditioning) and tight end Eugene Bright (offseason shoulder surgery).

Tomlin also noted that all draft choices but two have agreed to terms on a contract. Those unsigned are first-round pick Cameron Heyward, a defensive end, and third-round pick Curtis Brown, a cornerback.

"The people who handle that (contract negotiations) are multitasking," Tomlin said, referring to league-wide free agency occurring at the same time draft choices must be signed.

Tomlin noted that most personnel are entering this camp with as much of an open mind as possible because of the quickness with which this and all NFL camps have been put together.

"By no means are we married to our schedule," he said. "We plan to stay light on our feet, so to speak."

The new collective bargaining agreement curtails the number of practice sessions that may be held in full pads. Tomlin said current plans call for walk-throughs in the morning and full practices in the afternoon.

Tomlin said linebacker James Harrison's comments in a men's magazine "were inappropriate, but not detrimental to what we are doing." A moment later, he clarified that, "What he said about the commissioner (Roger Goodell) was inappropriate."

One last football nugget: Tomlin said that as of Thursday evening, the team doesn't have a starting left tackle, but added that, "We will have one tomorrow (Friday)." He did not rule out moving Flozell Adams from right to left tackle.


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