Steelers Practice Report (7-28)

The Steelers' first full-contact practice since bye week 2011 was fraught with intensity, aggressivenss and even anger. Jim Wexell has the complete rundown.

LATROBE – Willie Colon practiced Saturday as if he wanted to scuttle any talk about moving rookie guards into the Steelers' starting lineup

On the first snap of the first full-contact scrimmage of the season, Colon fired out of his left guard spot and buried inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons – with extreme prejudice.

And then Colon got up and went back after Timmons and knocked him down again to begin the first official tussle of camp.

Why was Colon so mad?

"Life," said coach Mike Tomlin. "I don't know. He's a good player."

Perhaps Colon was making up for an embarrassing play the previous day in which he couldn't get out in front of a screen pass as his shorts slid down to his knees and caused him to belly flop on the field.

And perhaps Colon heard the snickering in film review, or from Timmons, or read about it on the local Internet site.

Whatever ignited Colon's anger could not be learned from the man himself because a post-practice storm wiped out the interviewing period. Tomlin, though, walked up to the media dorm to discuss the practice with reporters.

"It was a good start for us in terms of carrying our pads," Tomlin said. "We're just starting the process of putting them in competitive situations. But we won't read too much into it. We'll take a look at the tape and just continue to move forward."

Perhaps we "read too much into it" the previous day when first-round pick David DeCastro showed far greater mobility than either Colon or right guard Ramon Foster.

But Colon and Foster played with anger on Saturday, while the smaller DeCasto wasn't nearly as physical as the current first-team guards when he and second-round pick Mike Adams were given first-team reps. DeCastro had his hands full with reserve defensive end Al Woods in the main scrimmage.

Tomlin refused to get caught up in any of the instant analysis of the rookie linemen.

"The process just started," Tomlin said. "I know you guys want to report their progress, but it's too early to paint with a broad brush in that regard. They're sharp young guys, they're competitors, and they're working like the others. Time will tell that story."


The linemen went head to head individually in pads for the first time since the 2011 bye week. Following were some of the more notable matchups:

* Nose tackle Steve McLendon whipped Maurkice Pouncey on both snaps of their matchup.

* Cameron Heyward walked Mike Adams back with ease on the first snap, and Adams jumped early on the second snap, but came back to stone Heyward on the final snap of The Buckeye Battle.

* Fourth-round nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu showed a lethal combination of power and quickness to Doug Legursky.

* Woods ran past DeCastro on the first rep and overpowered him on the second, but DeCastro came back to pancake Woods on the third.


The gigantic tackling dummy hanging from the chain and supported by four long iron posts is nicknamed "Big Bertha," and when "Big Bertha" gets to swinging she has a tendency to "hit back sometimes," as Tomlin warned his running backs.

In the drill Saturday, Bertha was sent swinging from side to side as the power and fortitude of the running backs was tested

Jonathan Dwyer was impressive Saturday. So was David Johnson. But on the other side of the size spectrum, 178-pound rookie Chris Rainey had some problems.

Dolled up in his gold football pants (the only player not in shorts), a "Rainman" inscribed towel hanging from his belt, and his rainbow-tinted helmet visor, Rainey was sent flying by "Big Bertha."

Rainey got off to a bad start by running to the wrong side of the bag and the coaches chewed him out. He then ran to the correct side, but bounced off Bertha and slammed his head into one of the iron posts.

The near-disaster ended the session as the bigger backs moved on to the blocking sled and Rainey moved over to work with the pass-catchers. Rainey was then held out of the backs-on-backers drill that's designed to find competent pass-blockers for the backfield.

"I'm not going to pull my boat with a Ferrari," Tomlin explained. "I took him out of the drill. If he can't cut(block) in that drill, I'm not putting him in the drill. Obviously I don't want him cutting LaMarr Woodley and others."


* Ta'amau returned from his foot injury, but third-round pick Sean Spence sat out practice with a minor shoulder injury.

* Isaac Redman was clearly the Steelers' best pass-blocking back against the linebackers. Near the end of the session, RB coach Kirby Wilson shouted over to assistant LB coach Jerry Olsavsky, "Anyone you put out there, Red's gonna whup 'em." So Olsavsky send Woodley on the next blitz, and Redman stopped him short of the quarterback as Wilson celebrated the win.

* Stevenson Sylvester may have been the most impressive linebacker. He trucked tight end Weslye Saunders in a pile-drive reminiscent of Adrian Peterson v. William Gay two seasons ago. Sylvester also forced Baron Batch to whiff before he was finally blocked by plucky rookie tight end David Paulson.

* During team scrimmage, Troy Polamalu timed a snap perfectly and nearly blew up a handoff between QB Jerrod Johnson and Rainey. The crowd roared its approval, but Rainey ran for a sizable gain.

* During the special-teams session, Brett Keisel ventured into the crowd to take a photo with five ladies wearing fake beards who had spent their day at the women's football camp at St. Vincent. While Keisel socialized, Da Beard stayed on the field and got its work done.


On Friday, Ryan Clark walked through prone teammates in varying stage of stretch and warned them to be ready for Saturday's full-contact workout. And during that Saturday workout, Clark engaged in an ongoing verbal battle with new millionaire Antonio Brown that could be heard from all corners of the field.

Tomlin was asked about these humorous outbursts and Clark's leadership skills in general.

"He's a really good leader," Tomlin said. "Aside from some of those types of things, he's an energy-bringer instead of an energy-drainer, and that's consistent. But I always focus on the things that he does in uniform and on the field. He's a great communicator. Very rarely is he out of place. He helps others do their job and that's what great centerfielders do, and he's one of them."

Steel City Insider Top Stories