Notebook: Cowher enraged

<b>LATROBE -</b> It may have been the rain that interrupted practice early. It may have been the slipping quarterbacks or the fumbled snaps. It may have just been a case of the mid-week, training-camp blues.

Whatever it was, Steelers Coach Bill Cowher was not happy with his campers on Tuesday afternoon at St. Vincent College.

"It wasn't a very good day," Cowher growled to reporters. "Not a very good practice at all, in any sense of the word. I don't know what it is, but we better get out of it fast."

Any clues?

"It was everything," he said. "It was just a bad practice."

Rain fell at 3 p.m., which is the normal start time for afternoon practice. Cowher pulled the team off the field after spotting lightening and moved the players into the St. Vincent College gym. But the sky cleared quickly and the Steelers were back on the field by 3:30 p.m.

In the middle of a rather quiet practice with a few fumbled snaps, Cowher called the team together in the middle of the field and chewed the players out for several minutes. Upon resuming practice, he shouted, "I'm watching each and every one of you."

It didn't seem to shake the malaise of a group of players going through their 10th day of practice. "I'll be talking to our football team," Cowher said of his plans. "It's not any set of guys in this business. If it were one or two guys who make a difference, then you'd talk to one or two guys. But you have to be collectively all on the same page.

"What it takes for us to get there is going to be done by some of the people who understand the standards and expectations that are on this football team. That will be done. I'm sure of that. But we need to get there faster than we are going at this point. I can't read their minds. All I can do is base it on what I see."

Kendrick Clancy (calf) is the only active player with a significant injury, but the minor injuries are beginning to add up.

Also missing Tuesday's practice were defensive lineman Eric Taylor (hamstring), David Upchurch (ankle/knee), Nathaniel Adibi (hamstring), Charlie Batch (shoulder/knee), Shane Walton (abdominal), Duce Staley (knee), Jerome Bettis (quadriceps) and Chad Scott (abdominal).

Jerame Tuman (elbow) is expected to be activated from the PUP list on Monday, while Clark Haggans (hand) will have the pins removed from his fingers Aug. 19. He's not expected to return until after the preseason game against Houston on Aug. 21.

With Staley out with a slight inflammation of his knee and Bettis still gimpy after running into tackle Marvel Smith on Monday, the reserve running backs had their chance to impress the coaching staff.

Verron Haynes was the starter and continued his exceptional camp. Dante Brown continued to show off his fine cut-back ability. Rookie free agent Willie Parker is the fastest running back of the five and he showed it once again by taking a Tommy Maddox screen pass and weaving through the defense untouched.

"Duce and Jerome should be back working tomorrow," Cowher said.

But was he impressed by the reserves? "I like the three young running backs; they've had pretty good camps," he said. "It's a very competitive backfield right now. Verron has an opportunity to step up, and we'll see what he does with it."

The Steelers will practice this morning at St. Vincent College, but will move to Offutt Field in Greensburg tonight. The practice will begin at 7:05 p.m. and will be preceded by a 15-minute autograph session at 6:45 p.m. The cost for the evening practice is $3 for adults 18-65 years old. Children under 18 and senior citizens will be admitted free. Proceeds benefit the Greensburg Volunteer Fire Department and the Greensburg Salem Athletic Department. Tickets can be purchased at the gate.

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