Notebook: Foote's speed improving

LATROBE – After Brett Keisel finished his performance as the Steelers' one-man wrecking crew Saturday, it was Larry Foote's turn. The mack inside linebacker stopped Edgerrin James for no gain, broke up a pass to ...

... James, and tackled Troy Walters for a seven-yard loss on an end around.

Foote helped with another tackle on the next play, giving him three tackles and a pass-defensed in five plays before the series ended and the first of his two jobs was completed for the day.

It wasn't just the plays Foote made, but rather the manner in which he made them – as if he were shot from the proverbial cannon – that brought back shades of the rookie Kendrell Bell. And Foote was glad somebody noticed.

"I took my training to another level," he said of his offseason conditioning. "I went a little harder than I did in previous years. I did different drills: a lot of track workouts, resistance running, pulling, a lot of explosion work like jumping boxes, plyometrics. I used different workouts and hopefully it'll pay off out on the field."

Foote enters his fifth season, the third as a starter and first as the defending team tackles leader. Foote made 123 stops last season, 10 more than buck inside linebacker James Farrior, who, unlike Foote, stayed on the field on passing downs as the dime linebacker. And that brings us to Part II of Foote's job description last Saturday: Foote was the Pittsburgh Steelers' dime linebacker in place of Farrior. Was it a portent of things to come?

"We're just developing depth there," said coordinator Dick LeBeau. "We think James Farrior's done a great job there. We feel good about having Larry and Clint [Kriewaldt] in there with good experience, and I think the more game experience we can give those guys the better off they're going to be if they have to take it in the regular season. But we feel very good about James Farrior at the dime linebacker."

LeBeau was asked for his take on Foote's game Saturday.

"Larry's very quick," LeBeau said. "I think what you're seeing there is a maturation of experience in being able to decipher his run keys and formation keys, which he's always been able to do but he's just gotten quicker and quicker at it. As far as athletically quick, he's always been that and he's the player I think will continue to improve because of that reason. He was definitely in the right place at the right time Saturday night, as he was last year for us."

PEEZY FLASHES

It was a scene that stood out during Tuesday's practice: Charlie Batch threw a deep sideline pass to a streaking Willie Parker, but running stride for stride with Parker was linebacker Joey Porter, who intercepted the pass.

Was that really Porter, the rehabbing linebacker, covering Fast Willie out there?

"Yeah, you seen it," said Porter. "You saw the 55 out there. I know you seen it."

It was Porter's first full practice this camp. Is it a sign he's fully recovered from knee surgery?

"No, but I'm feeling better," he said. "I'm feeling better each day. I just had an opportunity to make a play on the ball. I knew they were going to try to throw it to Willie to take advantage of the gimp, but it backfired on them."

PRACTICE NOTES

Linebacker Clark Haggans missed practice for personal reasons. Hines Ward also remained out with his nagging hamstring injury. … Ricardo Colclough was beaten deep a few times before intercepting an Omar Jacobs deep pass intended for NFL Europe transfer player Marvin Allen. … In the one-minute drill, Batch, the starter for the first team, completed all three of his passes but they didn't add up to a first down. Batch was sacked by Brett Keisel on the first team's only other play. … Jacobs led the second team further down the field, but threw short on fourth-and-10. The coaching staff, though, gave the offense the first down at the 13-yard line, but the horn sounded after a wild pass fell incomplete on the next play.


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