Morning Practice Report

The Steelers returned to the cornfield this morning and worked on their punt returning before splitting into two camps, one for 7-on-7 passing drills and another for individual line drills. A team scrimmage, in shells, followed. Here's the notebook:

* Hank Poteat stood on the sidelines with a wrap around his right shoulder. He has an AC sprain and will miss the next three or four days.

* Antwaan Randle El and Jason Armstead were the punt returners. The jammers received plenty of attention from ST coach Kevin Spencer. The first-team pair on the left side was Troy Polamalu and Deshea Townsend. On the other side were Ike Taylor and Chris Hope. Another aside, Dan Rumishek, the rookie defensive lineman, was the long-snapper for punter Mike Hayes.

* The first play of 7-on-7s was a 20-yard touchdown pass from Tommy Maddox to Jay Riemersma. Nice to see the big guy get untracked.

* Polamalu is being used as the second-team strong safety and in the second dime as the dime backer, or the position Mike Logan and Chris Oldham used to play. Polamalu looked confused, but that's to be expected.

* QB Brian St. Pierre continues to struggle. His first pass was either his misread or the receivers', but it ended up in the hands of Taylor, the cornerback. Not that Taylor needed to make a great play on the ball because it was thrown right to him, but at least he showed soft hands, which is a concern for someone with only one college interception. As for St. Pierre, on the next play he threw a high completion to Riemersma, who was in a height mismatch with the smaller Polamalu.

* In the first-team dime defense, Chris Hope and Brent Alexander were the safeties with Logan moving up to his dimeback role.

* In the team scrimmage, Chidi Iwuoma, filling in for Hank Poteat, stood out for back-to-back pass breakups. On the first, he leaped high to knock a high pass out of Plaxico Burress' hands. On the second, Iuwoma broke up a pass over the middle to Chris Doering.

* Alonzo Jackson jumped offsides and the offense lackadaisically went through the play. This incited the anger of line coach Russ Grimm. "We get a free play! Finish it! Finish it!" Now, for you old-timers, this is fundamental football. But in college these days they teach QBs to take a knee. I HATE THAT. Refs should call two-yard losses on that every time. "Finish it!" is right. Thank you, Russ.

* The reporters who are staying up here all have a gold hat that reads Everybody Up. It's what Coach Bill Cowher says to the team to signify the end of practice and it makes everyone on the field happy. So that's our theme, but when Trib reporter Jerry DiPaola was asked by Kevin Colbert what it meant, DiPaola said, "It's an ad for Viagra." Oh, boy.

* Don't miss the goal-line drill tonight at the end of the practice at Latrobe's community stadium downtown. It's shaping up to be a great one. Kendrell Bell's excited. So is Jerome Bettis. And Joey Porter's mouth will be running a mile a minute.

Jim Wexell

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