Thursday, Aug. 17 practice report

The Steelers ran through their final full practice before their second preseason game Saturday at Heinz Field against the Minnesota Vikings. But the big story was Ben Roethlisberger's injured thumb once again.

LATROBE – Once again, the head coach and the quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers can't agree on exactly how an injury happened.

A few hours after head coach Bill Cowher told reporters that Ben Roethlisberger injured his thumb on his throwing hand on a jersey or somebody's arm, Roethlisberger insisted that it happened on somebody's shoulder pads.

Why does this matter? Normally it wouldn't. But given the he-said, he-said nature of Roethlisberger's injuries in the past – he has broken toes, he doesn't have broken toes, etc. – it's always interesting when the two can't agree on the quarterback's injuries.

Roethlisberger watched practice Thursday afternoon with his jersey wrapped around his injured hand – what better way to keep cameramen from shooting pictures of it. But I did see him unwrapping it later and he appeared to just have it taped up, something I took as a good sign.

Center Chukky Okobi continued his amazing comeback from neck surgery last week by serving as the team's center in non-contact seven-on-seven drills. Maybe Okobi is Superman after all.

Tight end Jon Dekker had a strong practice making a couple of nice catches and continuing to work at times with the first-team offense with Tuman out. Dekker, who looked like a child playing a man's game Saturday at Arizona, made a nice catch in the back of the end zone against linebacker Clark Haggans, then turned Rian Wallace around to catch a fade pass touchdown from Charlie Batch.

Not to be outdone, rookie Charles Davis also had a couple of nice grabs, including one down the middle in which he split the safeties and made a diving catch for a big gain.

Linebacker Larry Foote looked very fluid in coverage in the team's quarter and dime packages, batting down a couple of passes on underneath throws. Foote's not the most athletic linebacker on the team, but he has great instincts.

Rookie receiver Willie Reid continues to impress. He made a nice leaping touchdown pass from Omar Jacobs working against Haggans. That's a mismatch by anyone's standards, though.

Nate Washington has been struggling of late. He seems to be coming up with at least one drop per practice in the past few days. But he's still not being challenged for the starting job by Quincy Morgan just yet.

Washington was involved with one of the worst plays in practice Thursday. He went to take a reverse from running back Willie Parker and Parker dropped the ball, kicking it with his feet before picking it up again. They'll have to work on that one.

Deshea Townsend made the defensive play of the practice, making a beautiful leaping, one-handed interception of a Shane Boyd pass while dropping into zone coverage.

Boyd really seems to struggle against zone coverage and you have to wonder if he sees the field very well. It sure doesn't seem like it.

Linebacker Clint Kriewaldt (groin), wide receiver Sean Morey (wrist) and running back Duce Staley (age) returned to practice today after sitting out Wednesday.

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.


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