OTA No. 1

SCI.net publisher Jim Wexell's observations from the Steelers' first spring workout:

Mike Tomlin spotted a couple of us reporters on the sideline and made his way over and with a big smile asked, "Are any of you under any undue pressure to come up with any real stories today?"

Now, that was a paraphrase. The real words – since forgotten – were far better phrased, far more Tomlin-esque. The guy, in fact, should be writing this notebook about the first day of Steelers spring OTA workouts.

Anyway, I smiled back and said that, no, there isn't any undue pressure, but that people really are interested in the seemingly innocuous minutiae of football in shorts.

"Like Reggie Dunn having 4.2 speed," I offered, as Heath Miller walked past us in the background.

"Or Heath Miller walking without a limp."

"Hey, Heath," Tomlin called over. "You're walking without a limp. You just made the 11 o'clock news!"

Miller only said, "Yeah, about a month ago." But there was news for spring football fanatics:

* Jonathan Dwyer's still pudgy; Troy Polamalu's not.

* The man wearing No. 92 has a big ol' gut; the man wearing No. 74 does not.

* The starting quarterback still has a big, strong arm capable of overthrowing 4.2 speed; the rookie quarterback drafted in the fourth round still throws wobbly ducks, one of which fell short of the deep-running Dunn and was intercepted by Josh Victorian.

Tomlin may disagree on the importance of any of that information, but it will be reported and mulled over by his Nation until, as he likes to say, "the rubber hits the road" in September.


With each passing season and each subsequent loss of a veteran – on this day it was Max Starks – there's an obvious question as the last Super Bowl title grows smaller in the rearview mirror: Does this team have the leadership to win it all again?

Well, when you see the massive Loni Fangupo wearing what used to be the form-fitting jersey of James Harrison, or the 286-pound undrafted guard Chris Hubbard looking so skinny in the jersey of Willie Colon, the question is bound to gnaw at anyone watching this team:

Where's the leadership?

Well, today it was in the middle of the main field, where the offense was working, in the form of No. 7.

Ben Roethlisberger worked without a helmet through the individual portion of the practice, and his buzz cut, combined with his thick-but-fit oak-like torso, made him cut quite a figure. He was the man in charge, perhaps like never before, and this was brought home all the more by the fact he was surrounded during drills by the numbers 3 (Landry Jones), 4 (John Parker Wilson) and 5 (Bruce Gradkowski) instead of 4 (Byron Leftwich) and 16 (Charlie Batch).

Roethlisberger's the man among boys right now, far from the rebel child of his youth. That and the fact he's most likely steaming on the inside over being named the 61st best player in the NFL on one of the recent lists should keep the Steelers' leadership at a championship level.


David Johnson caught the first pass of the spring, a little three-yarder from Roethlisberger, and two plays later Johnson caught another pass, this time eliciting another remark from the media-bemused Tomlin.

"Did you see that? There's your story," Tomlin said of Johnson, who, with Miller out, was clearly seeing plenty of work. "I did that just for you guys."

A few snaps later, Roethlisberger threw a short pass to one of the reserve tight ends, David Paulson. The ball ricocheted off Paulson's hands and into the quick mitts of Polamalu, who made the first interception of the day.

Polamalu, of course, is coming back from an injury-plagued season. He told a mob of reporters that he's found a new physical therapist who's been working on removing the scar tissue in his calf. He's hopeful of an injury-free season at the age of 32.

LaMarr Woodley also appears to be fit and on his way to a full recovery from hamstring issues that have dogged him the last couple of seasons, but he didn't want to talk about it with reporters yesterday.

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