Wednesday morning practice report

<b>LATROBE -- </b>The Steelers showed up early for practice this morning and were full of vim and vigor. No surprises there after the tongue-lashing they received yesterday. <p>Some of the veterans did receive excused absences for minor injuries. Jeff Hartings called it "veterans' morning off" but really only he and Kimo von Oelhoffen were excused, along with the walking wounded -- Eric Taylor, David Upchurch, Charlie Batch and Chad Scott. Chukki Okobi and Travis Kirschke were the replacements.

A couple of notes on the special teams portion of the workout: Joey Porter returned some punts for the "look" team and fullbacks Troy Polamalu and J.T. Wall took some snaps for fake punts.

The seven-on-seven drill (red zone) was a smashing success for the offense. Tommy Maddox hit Plaxico Burress for touchdowns on the first two plays against the scout defense. The third pass was dropped by Burress. A few plays later, Maddox passed five yards to tight end Jay Riemersma for another touchdown.

With Ben Roethlisberger again the second quarterback used in practice, his first pass was a 20-yard touch pass into the arms of a leaping Antwaan Randle El in the middle of several defensive backs. A few plays later, Roethlisberger rifled a 5-yard scoring pass to Randle El, who caught a third touchdown pass from Roethlisberger a few plays later.

Brian St. Pierre also threw a touchdown pass on his first play as quarterback, this one going to Chris Doering. He was the second choice after the defense overreacted to the Steelers' favorite player in their favored zone -- the fullback in the flat.

Ike Taylor made a couple of exceptional pass break-ups to finish the drill.

In the team scrimmage (shells), the offense went up against the Oakland Raiders' 4-3 as the installation process began in earnest. Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley alternated at tailback. It appears as if Staley will be first in practice tomorrow, setting up Bettis to start the preseason opener.

Roethlisberger threw a 20-yard bullet to Zamir Cobb, who catches more passes than anyone but Randle El. Speaking of whom, Randle El, perhaps the best receiver in camp, had Taylor beat deep by five to seven yards but St. Pierre overthrew him. St. Pierre then completed a 25-yard pass to Cobb.

Defensively, Dedrick Roper tackled/tabbed Cobb for a huge loss on a reverse. Yes, the rookie linebacker stayed home on the play. Chidi Iwuoma broke up a deep pass intended for Fred Milons. Roethlisberger gave it too much air, allowing Iwuoma to make the play to the shouts of "Bang! Bang!" from teammates.

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