Sunday Practice report

<b>LATROBE - </b> The hits just keep on coming. <BR><BR> After skipping the team's run test Saturday because of a twinge he felt in his groin, linebacker Joey Porter left the Steelers' opening practice of training camp here at St. Vincent College Sunday because of what head coach Bill Cowher described as a heat-related problem.

While Porter's departure wouldn't necessarily raise many eyebrows - he's expected to be ready for the team's first two-a-day sessions Monday - combined with fellow outside linebacker Clark Haggans' broken hand and tight end Jerame Tuman's elbow problem, it leaves the Steelers down three starters just one practice into training camp.

Even if Porter's not out for an extended period, you have to wonder what the heck is going on here?

As for the practice itself, it was a nice first session in front of an extremely large crowd.

The wide receivers looked especially sharp, with Hines Ward making several nice catches that elicited oohs and ahs from the crowd, and Plaxico Burress make a couple of nice snatches out of the air with his hands - instead of letting the ball get into his body.

Chad Scott was up to his usual tricks, as he and Burress got into a clutching and grabbing contest in the one-on-one drills, with Burress first grabbing Scott's pads on a swim move and Scott retaliating by grabbing a big handful of Burress' jersey.

The players struggled with their footing on a very wet practice field. It hasn't rained here in about 24 hours, but the fields are still very swampy.

Chris Hope made a nice diving deflection on a pass down the sidelines, but the defensive play of the session was turned in by Chidi Iwuoma, who lept above Zamir Cobb to pick off a Charlie Batch pass. It wouldn't have mattered who the QB was on the pick, it was that good of a defensive play. Cobb has to learn to break that up.

Shane Walton didn't help himself by getting turned inside out by Chris Doering. Doering juked to the outside and Walton bit hard as Doering changed directions on the post pattern and caught the ball 10 yards behind Walton.

In the one-on-one blocking drills, seventh-round pick Eric Taylor really stood out, mugging whatever lineman he lined up against. He doesn't always win his battles, but he physically beats up whomever is blocking against him.

Brett Keisel was disappointing, consistently getting blocked by whomever he lined up against .

Alonzo Jackson was also disapppointing. Though he did beat Max Starks and Oliver Ross in one-on-one action, it was with the same move - a push to the outside then swim inside. AJax is going to need more than one move to make it in the NFL. The Steelers had better let Kevin Greene, who's here helping out linebackers coach Keith Butler, move in with Jackson.

Casey Hampton elicited a big cheer from the crowd when he shoved center Jeff Hartings onto his butt as he blew by him. But Hartings never looks good in this blocking drill.

The best offensive linemen were Alan Faneca - who is effortless in his blocks - and, believe it or not, Todd Fordham. Kendall Simmons was also pretty good, except for one play.

A player to keep an eye on is Nick McNeil, who explodes of f the line of scrimmage like he was shot out of a gun. If he shows something to go along with that speed, he could be a keeper.

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