Spring football news, notes

The best show in Pittsburgh, the Steelers' coaching sessions, entered the second of a three-week homestand on the South Side yesterday, replete with interceptions, touchdowns, interceptions for touchdowns and several noteworthy practice items. We also have some inside dish for you on the next page.

Rookie offensive tackle Jack Fadule graduated from Harvard and reported for work in the NFL. In a little bitty opportunity at the end of the scrimmage, Fadule showed some quick feet. ... Missing from the voluntary session yesterday was cornerback Chad Scott. No reason was given, so we don't have to worry about an injury. Scott was replaced in the starting lineup by Deshea Townsend. Backing up Townsend was Chidi Iwuoma, who was scorched deep by Plaxico Burress. The big man easily grabbed the bomb from rookie quarterback Brian St. Pierre over the outstretched hands of Iwuoma. ... Speaking of St. Pierre, the ball doesn't seem to fit in his hand very well. He appears to shot-put his passes, but he gets it there. His competition, Tim Levcik, whistled a pass into the chest of Lee Mays, who held onto the ball over the middle and coasted into the open field. A few plays later, Levcik was intercepted by Dewayne Washington on a woefully underthrown deep out. Washington returned it as far as allowed by running back Jerome Bettis, who, as is his tradition, runs down interceptors whether he's on the field or on the sidelines. ... The other interception today was made by inside linebacker Larry Foote, who picked off an overthrown Tommy Maddox pass to Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala and returned it for a touchdown. ... Every now and then a tackle erupts during "underwear ball", as superscout Bill Nunn puts it, and yesterday rookie No. 1 pick Troy Polamalu roped Antwaan Randle El around the neck and yanked him to the ground. Polamalu said later he was just going for the ball and became accidentally entangled. Randle El didn't raise a stink, just jogged back to the huddle. ... Speaking of Randle El, the jitterbugging slot receiver embarrassed rookie defensive end-turned-linebacker Alonzo Jackson on a short route over the middle to take in a pass from Charlie Batch. Of course, Randle El would embarrass most linebackers but dropping into coverage looks like it'll be Jackson's problem for at least this season. He doesn't have the greatest hips and may only help as a pass-rusher for the time being. ... By the way, Iwuoma, the 5-foot-8 cornerback, just gained revenge on Burress by leaping to knock a ball out of the outstretched arms of the 6-5 receiver. ... Fourth-round pick Ike Taylor struggled with Leonard Scott and then Hines Ward. Both separated easily from the rookie corner, who's obviously more worried about technique than making a play on the ball. Taylor didn't turn for it either time. ... Polamalu, in two opportunities, held his own with Randle El. Covering slot men will be an important part of his game when the Steelers are in several man-coverage schemes this season. With three wides on the field, Polamalu would often cover the slot receiver and the strong-side linebacker would cover the tight end. ... Since the signing of receiver Chris Doering, the Steelers would only look to re-sign Terance Mathis if a.) They're displeased with what they have after minicamp, or b.) There's an injury. Doering will be used as a slot receiver. He doesn't have deep speed, but the Steelers like his hands, toughness and ability to weave through traffic in the middle of defenses.

Jim Wexell
SteelCitySports.com


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