The Pittsburgh Steelers are building a strong wall this spring

Without any fanfare, the Steelers' offensive line is forming the nucleus of a contender. This and practice notes, the punting derby and the rehab progress of Jordan Zumwalt and Travis Feeney.

PITTSBURGH -- If cohesion really is the cornerstone of a quality offensive line, the Pittsburgh Steelers' line is off to a good start.

Every member of the first unit -- and, really, all three units -- has attended every voluntary OTA workout and the first two minicamp practices.

It's the start of a great family experience.

Then again, right tackles Ryan Harris and Marcus Gilbert didn't appear too brotherly during their dust-up in individual drills.

"Families fight, too," said Ramon Foster. "It's all good now. It was a hot day. The end of camp's coming."

Of course. And the work put in this spring by the offensive line -- a group Mike Munchak is cultivating for a third season -- says plenty about the group's work ethic.

"Oh, yeah," said Munchak. "These guys want to be here. They know how important it is to them. They know how important it is to each other. (Maurkice) Pouncey's back, everyone's healthy, so, yeah, it's exciting for me to have them all here every day because we're getting a lot done. We're getting better at this stage with the stuff we can do mentally and physically."

The first team has remained in the same alignment throughout the spring, with Alejandro Villanueva at left tackle. The second unit rotates the same three interior players -- Cody Wallace, B.J. FinneyChris Hubbard -- while Brian Mihalik has received time lately at tackle with Harris and rookie Jerald Hawkins.

"They're a great group to coach," Munchak said. "They have high expectations, a high standard, and by making the commitment to find a way to make sure they don't miss anything is a huge commitment to what they want to achieve."


The two punters -- second-year man Jordan Berry and undrafted rookie Will Monday -- went at it Wednesday with the incumbent, Berry, dominating the competition with some towering end zone-to-end zone punts.

"He was OK," said Cam Heyward, who was sitting near Berry in the locker room. "Let's not go crazy."

"I mishit two," confirmed Berry. "I need to get consistent."

Berry had a gross average of 42.6 last season and a net average of 39.1 and wasn't happy with the second half of last season.

"I was a little bit cooked," said the Aussie. "Last year getting those tryouts in, I was kicking from January all the way through, so getting the break helped my body out. I feel a lot more fresh and a lot more relaxed."

It showed Wednesday, and Berry is looking forward to another break before training camp to add to his strength.

"I'll get that body right," he said. "I still have to do power cleans and stuff for the legs. Once I can do some real lifting with the legs I can really get going."


* Travis Feeney, the sixth-round draft pick with family in the surrounding area, played his entire 2015 season at the University of Washington with a sports hernia, and was still able to zip off a 4.5 40 with a 40-inch vertical jump at the NFL Combine.

He hasn't been able to practice this spring, but said he's completing his rehab, is near full strength and doesn't believe he's fallen too far behind as a rookie.

"Nah, I don't think I'm behind," he said. "I'm getting all the mental reps that I can and am staying in my playbook. I'm not getting the field reps but I'm going to be ready when camp comes. I'm looking forward to it. It's coming along well."

* Jordan Zumwalt, the sixth-round pick in 2014, participated in team drills Wednesday as he wraps up his rehabilitation process in a comeback bid. Zumwalt has spent his two seasons on injured reserve with an unspecified injury.

"It's relatively the same injury," he said. "But camp is the light at the end of the tunnel. I have no choice but to be ready by camp, or I fear the worst."

Zumwalt was asked if he feels the walls closing in on him.

"I'm happy for it though," he said. "I feel the walls closing in only because it's time to get out of that room, you know what I mean? So I am looking forward to camp."


Markus Wheaton is out with an injury but Mike Tomlin expects him to be ready for training camp.

Lawrence Timmons intercepted Ben Roethlisberger, returned it for a touchdown and flipped the ball at quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner because the two have a running bet on the linebacker's interceptions of the starting quarterback.

"A gentleman's bet," said Timmons.

* Tight end/fullback David Johnson had his best practice yet since returning to his original team following a two-year stint in San Diego.

"It was rough at the beginning (of OTAs)," said the 28-year-old. "But I'm feeling loose now, and on these hot days I feel great."

Johnson has lost 20 pounds since he last played with the Steelers, and loves the mobility he's found at 245 pounds.

"Just to be able to run better, be in better shape," he said. "I've been eating healthy, working out more, doing a lot of different things. It's paying off for me."

Johnson said he's lost 15 pounds since the end of last season and it's helped him play fullback, run in the open field and catch passes.

"Everything," he said. "I'm faster and quicker but I still do a lot of training to keep my strength up for blocking. That's kind of a habit anyway. I've still got the power."


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