Simmons shines, Hampton finishes

The Steelers completed their annual run test Monday as their first official act of training camp, with no players falling victim to the grueling 14 40-yard timed sprints.

Guard Kendall Simmons and nose tackle Casey Hampton were two of the stars of the day, Simmons for leading his respective group of runners, Hampton for finishing his test.

Their efforts may not have meant much if both were not coming back from major reconstructive knee surgeries that cost Simmons the entire 2004 season and Hampton all but six games.

Was Simmons trying to make the statement that he was all the way back from his torn ACL?

"The only statement I was making was one to myself," said Simmons. "I wanted to go out there and show myself that I could do this. This is a good test for the knee because of the pounding, especially at the end, when you have to dig in."

Others who looked good in the test included cornerback Willie Williams, safety Troy Polamalu - who barely broke a sweat - wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, linebacker Clark Haggans, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and defensive end Brett Keisel.

Keisel in fact, was gliding to an easy first-place finish in his heat when he looked over his shoulder and saw Aaron Smith closing. Keisel kicked it into another gear and stretched his strides out for an easy win.

Nine players did not participate in the annual test, including the team's top three running backs, Duce Staley, Jerome Bettis and Verron Haynes, something that could be an ominous sign. Also skipping the drill were all four kickers on the roster, center Jeff Hartings - who hasn't participted in the run test in the past three seasons because of a balky knee - and quarterback Charlie Batch.

Offensive tackle Barrett Brooks, looking considerably overweight, barely completed the drill, while linebacker Alonzo Jackson struggled at the end after a very strong start.

Brooks' struggles could lead the team to again look at free agent tackle Scott Gragg, who the team had in for a physical last week.


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