LATROBE -- Anthony Chickillo was beating blockers so handily during "the backs-on-backers" period last night that Mike Tomlin asked the group of running backs and tight ends, "Can anyone block Chickillo?"
Tomlin called out "D.J." and tight end David Johnson did indeed step forward and block the second-year outside linebacker.
"All right, D.J.!" Tomlin said. "Thank you, D.J., thank you!"
But one linebacker could not be blocked during the feature drill of "Friday Night Lights," the once-a-camp Pittsburgh Steelers practice at the downtown high school stadium.
And Tomlin did call for someone to try to block rookie Tyler Matakevich.
"Give me Rosie and Dirty Red," Tomlin said of fullback Roosevelt Nix and linebacker Matakevich, the red-haired seventh-round pick out of Temple.
Nix, who had been having an outstanding night against the likes of Lawrence Timmons and even Chickillo, stepped in to take on Matakevich, who had been putting on a display of dead-leg fakes, spin moves, power and speed in blitzing past all comers.
Against Nix, "Dirty Red" used a deft outside move on the overaggressive fullback, causing Nix to lunge forward at nothing but air as Matakevich got to the quarterback.
Joey Porter and his linebackers erupted in joy, and then Matakevich beat Nix again to end the period.
"Everything's starting to come along," Matakevich said after practice. "All you have to do is come in here and work as hard as you possibly can. That's the only way you get noticed. Work as hard as you can, show everyone your work ethic and make plays."
Where did the man who made 493 tackles in college learn such nifty pass-rush moves?
"I've got a few things up my sleeve," he said with a laugh. "Hey, I'm just trying to get better every day, figure out an edge I can use out here to my advantage and hopefully be able to help this team out."
Tomlin said he was able to give a player such as Matakevich more practice time by giving healthy veterans such as Timmons a smaller workload.
"We preserved some people today," Tomlin said. "It creates more opportunity for others."
Matakevich, for one, took advantage.
"It doesn't appear significant," Tomlin said.
Further practice details will be made available in Saturday's "Morning After."
(To read our summer profile on Matakevich, click here.)
HALL OF FAME STEELERS
Among the eight men being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend, Tony Dungy and Kevin Greene have Steelers ties.
Dungy played for the Steelers from 1977-78 before being traded to San Francisco. He was an undrafted quarterback out of Minnesota and moved to safety with the Steelers, although he did replace the injured Terry Bradshaw and Mike Kruczek in a 1977 game against the Houston Oilers and in that game threw an interception and intercepted a pass, the last NFL player to do both in one game.
Dungy was hired by the Steelers as an assistant under Chuck Noll in 1981 and was defensive coordinator from 1984-88. He moved on to Kansas City, Minnesota and Tampa Bay where he hired Mike Tomlin as an assistant coach in 2001.
"He is a walking, talking blueprint for me," said Tomlin. "Not only in terms of professional but when I got to know him and be around him day to day he lived the type of life I desire to live and was just a good role model for me and anyone else that he touched."
Dungy left Tampa Bay to become the Indianapolis head coach in 2002 and won the 2006 season Super Bowl. He will be presented for enshrinement Saturday night by former Steelers teammate Donnie Shell.
Greene stands third on the NFL's all-time sacks list with 160. He averaged 0.70 per game throughout his 15-year, four-team career.
An outside linebacker in the Steelers' 3-4 defense from 1993-95, Greene had 35.5 sacks, or 0.74 sacks per each of his 48 games with the Steelers.
"He was a student of the game," said long-time Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell. "I had him in subpackages and I remember he would watch tape for hours and hours. He could tell you what hand the guy had down, what foot, how many steps he was going to take. He studied tape. You don't see that anymore. Kevin would stay there till eight, nine o'clock every night studying tape. He was a student, a student of the game. That's why he was a good football player. His production was no accident. Sucker was prepared every day. Great student of the game, and guys don't do that today. They want to see how quick they can get out of there."
Greene will be presented by Dom Capers, Greene's defensive coordinator with the Steelers in 1993-94.
NOT THE J-PEEZY RULE?
One of the new NFL rules this season prohibits assistant coaches from entering the field of play, although a step or two won't bring out the flag.
"It’s going to be a common sense type thing," said Joe Larrew, a side judge in charge of the presentation to the players and then the Pittsburgh media on Friday.
Larrew was asked if there was "anything specific in terms with Pittsburgh that you talked about with assistant coaches about being on the field?"
"Actually, Danny Smith," was Larrew's surprise answer. "Only because one of the big things is after the kickoff they go out there, and they’re all out on the field, and we don’t want them out there anymore."
Of course, the expected answer was Porter, who drew a key penalty in the playoffs last year while on the field.