Mighty Casey strikes out

For the second consecutive year, nose tackle Casey Hampton struggled through the team's annual run test that kicks off training camp. Only this year, head coach Bill Cowher was a little more miffed about Hampton's failure than he was the year before.

"Casey's got a ways to go," said Cowher. "He's not where he needs to be, by his own addmission. That's disappointing, but that's the obstacle that he faces now."

Hampton, who is listed at 320 pounds but is obviously well above that weight, completed the first 10 40-yard sprints of the 14-sprint test. But after struggling to complete the 10th run in the afternoon heat, trainer John Norwig held Hampton out of the next three.

Linebacker Kendrell Bell completed runs 12 and 13 in Hampton's place, even though he had already finished his test.

"When you've got a teammate down, you've got to help him out," said Bell, who finished in a dead heat with running back Amos Zereoue to lead his group of runners.

"This isn't Casey's thing. He trained for it, but he did that back home. Once you get up here, it's a whole different thing.

Hampton did come out and finish his final run.

Hampton wasn't the only player to struggle with the test. Surprisingly, wide receiver Leonard Scott, an NCAA sprinting champion at Tennessee, nearly failed to complete his final couple of runs and was carted from the field after finishing his runs with the first group of the day.

"Some of the rookies really don't know what to expect with this," Cowher said.

In addition to Bell and Zereoue, others who looked good in the run test included safety Eric Totten, tight end Mark Bruener, cornerback Dewayne Washington, running back Jerome Bettis, defensive end Brett Keisel and defensive lineman Jabari Issa. All led their respective groups, with Issa dusting the competition on every run.

Linebacker Joey Porter, who looks to have added at least 10 pounds of muscle during the offseason, finished his runs in his underwear and did a roundoff into two back handsprings.

The Steelers will hold their first practice at 1 p.m. Sunday. It is open to the public.

Dale Lolley

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