Notebook: Stronger Keisel still quick as ever

LATROBE – Brett Keisel figures that if any running back has success over his side, calls for the return of Kimo von Oelhoffen will follow. But left offensive tackle Marvel Smith doesn't think Keisel should worry.

"He's a lot stronger," Smith said of Keisel. "I was amazed that he put on all of that weight to get bigger and he still has all the quickness that he had when he was a lot lighter."

Smith, of course, blocks Keisel, the Pittsburgh Steelers' new starting right defensive end, when the first teams butt helmets as they did Wednesday night in the goal-line drill. But Smith said Keisel's been a handful all week. It makes him wonder sometimes if von Oelhoffen really did leave as a free agent last March.

"I figured the difference between going against him and Kimo in practice would've been a little bit of a let up on, like, round blocks or whatever," Smith said. "But Keisel's just as strong. He holds the point well."

Keisel added weight in order to play the two-gap style of defense that the Steelers' linemen must play. He'd been more of a pass-rusher, and his speed helped the team as a wedge-buster on special teams. But those days are long gone since it's obvious Keisel's added at least 15 pounds to weigh in at about 300.

"The weight helps, but it also helps going against guys like Marvel and Alan Faneca every day," Keisel said. "How can you not improve when you see those two every day?"

CLARK NOT THE STARTER … YET

Ryan Clark played free safety with the first-team in the Wednesday night goal-line drill, and followed it up by working with the first team Thursday afternoon. But he said it's just the rotation the coaching staff is using with Tyrone Carter at the position.

"We just move around and try to keep you all guessing," said Clark, who also dismissed what working at the goal line might've meant.

"I was really in there because T.C. knows how to play it already," Clark said. "That was my opportunity to get a chance to learn before I go into a preseason game. That's the only reason I was in there."

Word is Clark was one of the defense's better performers during the Wednesday night drill.

"Well, it's hard to stand out with four plays," he said. "But I will say that playing football with the lights on, when it's live, is different. You're supposed to be a different player. Look at Troy [Polamalu]. He's so humble, but when the lights go on look out. He turned it up a notch. That's what I was hoping to do because the way Coach [Bill] Cowher takes care of us, we never get to hit."

"A very, very good situation," Cowher said of the free safety competition. "We'll come out of this having to make some tough decisions and I think we'll upgrade that position."

HARD SLOG

A third day of high heat and humidity might've been the reason the Steelers were so sluggish at Thursday afternoon's practice.

"You'd think we had a practice last night," Cowher said.

The coach was irritated with the lack of production by both the first and second-team offenses in the one-minute drill.

"We huddled up for eight plays and didn't complete a pass," he said. "We've been up here a week and it's about time now for us to start raising our standards and holding everybody accountable from this day forward. You can't make the same mistakes. We've got to start picking it up a notch."

CHARGE DROPPED

The disorderly conduct charge against rookie first-round pick Santonio Holmes was dropped by Miami authorities after Holmes agreed to donate $250 to the police officers' assistance trust fund. Teammate and mentor Hines Ward was happy for Holmes, and believes the good news comes on the heels of Holmes's fine practice Wednesday night.

"He's a good kid," Ward said. "Right now his mind's going a hundred miles an hour trying to figure out all the plays. We try to simplify things, and when we do you can see him go out and make plays. He's going to be a tremendous asset to our offense."

GOAL LINE REVIEW

Films proved James Farrior right when he said he put the big hit on Verron Haynes on fourth-and-one Wednesday night in the goal-line drill.

"They had the guard pulling around, Alan [Faneca]; he slipped and I got a free shot at him," Farrior said.

In talking to reporters Wednesday night, Farrior mocked Haynes, saying, "He's a little guy so we weren't too worried." Why did Farrior put it that way?

"He's been talking since we got here about what he was going to do on the goal line and how he feels he should be the third-down back and the goal-line back, so we had to shut him up," he said.

So, should Duce Staley carry the ball in short yardage instead?

"No, Verron's a very strong back," Farrior said. "He knows how to run low to the ground and he always keeps his feet driving. He would be a good goal-line back."

QUOTABLE

Ben Roethlisberger on the Steelers' best athlete: "Troy. Just watch him. Watch the things he does; absolutely amazing the way he moves around and the way he can do things. It's just awesome. And I'm close, right behind him."


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