Tuesday practice report

<b>LATROBE --</b> Rain at 3 p.m. forced the Steelers indoors for 15 minutes or so, and when the sky cleared they came back down to the field. That's when things got hot, and we're not talking about the weather.

The Steelers went through the motions, according to their coach, who eventually called them up and chewed them out. More on that later.

First, the Steelers concentrated on their punting game. Chris Gardocki boomed punt after punt after punt and appears to be a quality acquisition. He's never had a punt blocked and it's understandable after watching him practice. He takes one step and kicks the ball away very quickly.

The team then went into a scrimmage and rookie free agent Willie Parker -- the quickest running back on the team -- took a screen pass from Tommy Maddox and slid through the defense untouched and into the clear. Parker and Dante Brown were helping Verron Haynes with first-team carries as Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley sat out practice with minor injuries. Brown cut back one run into a wide open right side. His cut-back ability is uncanny.

Brian St. Pierre fumbled a snap from center that upset Cowher mildly, and as St. Pierre brought the team back to the line, offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt erupted, screaming "Back in the huddle!" It was only a warm-up for what was to come.

Rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw a beautiful stop-fade pass to Lee Mays, who spun around after catching it and broke past cornerback Nashville Dyer for a touchdown. It's not known whether Roethlisberger intended to throw a stop-fade or just threw it behind Mays and the cornerback. It IS known that Cowher called the team together in the middle of the field and chewed them out for several minutes. Upon resuming practice with the physical 9-on-7 run drill, Cowher screamed, "Come off the ball! Finish the play! I'm watching each and every one of you!" A few plays later, Brown cut back to daylight.

A couple notes on the 9-on-7: James Harrison received a rep (possibly two) at inside linebacker with a back-up unit, and TE Matt Kranchick and FB Darryl Kennedy forced the stoppage of one play by going in motion at the same time.

In the seven-on-seven drill, Tommy Maddox threw a deep pass to a wide-open Plaxico Burress, but Chris Hope recovered in time to break up the play.

Here are some one-on-one line notes: Jim Jones handled Casey Hampton; Brett Keisel blew by Barrett Brooks; Travis Kirschke obliterated Morgan Pears; Jones handled Aaron Smith; Bo Lacy did a good job with Kirschke; Nick McNeil grabbed Lacy by the pads to get past him, which is illegal, and made it to the QB; McNeil then was handled by Lacy in a do-over; Chris Hoke beat Caylor and then slammed into QB/coach Russ Grimm and Hoke came up hurting.

The final scrimmage session began with a fumbled exchange between Roethlisberger and Jeff Hartings; Antwaan Randle El made a sensational juggling catch; Troy Polamalu held back from drilling Chris Doering over the middle, but Doering short-armed the pass and dropped it because of Polo's presence; Roethlisberger and St. Pierre both slipped on the wet grass and fell to the ground at different points in the scrimmage.

Steel City Insider Top Stories