Tomlin tough in first practice

Mike Tomlin's first practice as coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers brought back memories of another coach's first practice. Read about below and learn about the rookie who stood out on the first day of training camp.

LATROBE – Mike Tomlin didn't waste any time sending his message. His first practice as coach of the Steelers was all about hitting, just as it was in Bill Cowher's first practice 15 years ago.

"We did Oklahoma drills," Levon Kirkland recalled. "I had to go against Dermontti (Dawson) and (Carlton) Haselrig my first year. You know what happened to me. I got buried."

That was in Cowher's first camp, but it was the last in which the Steelers used the mauling Oklahoma drill. Cowher made his point, but eased off in subsequent camps.

Kirkland is back in camp as a scouting intern, and he watched Tomlin set a tone Tuesday morning. It was the first of a run of 10 morning practices in 11 days and it was the first time players wore pads in the morning in 15 years.

And the Steelers didn't just run pass patterns Tuesday. They opened with the backs-on-backers blitz-pick-up drill and went into the 9-on-7 run-game drill before finishing with special-teams work.

Hit, hit and get hit was the theme.

"That was pretty tough," Kirkland said. "It kind of makes you wonder what the evening practice is going to be about, but I kind of understand that. You've got to establish yourself as a coach and you've got to let the players know who's in charge and how things are going to be run. They'll respect that."

The veterans, of course, voiced their respect, but it was a rookie who popped pads with the most gusto. Second-round draft pick LaMarr Woodley could be heard across the field ramming into running backs on his first couple of blitzes. On his final blitz he flattened Najeh Davenport to end the drill.

"Oh, man, he's physical," fullback John Kuhn said of Woodley.

"He's a big guy," said fullback Dan Kreider. "He's going to be a challenging individual."

Woodley is a 6-foot-2, 265-pound outside linebacker who's making the transition from defensive end at Michigan. He's a decorated veteran of the college football wars who was praised for his instincts during spring drills. Tuesday's practice was his first chance to show what he could do in shoulder pads and he didn't squander the opportunity.

"I'm picking it up pretty fast," he said. "It's just learning the little stuff here and there, learning what to do during the whole play."

Was he surprised at the physical nature of the first practice?

"Not really," he said, "because in OTAs we were really getting after it."

"He's done some really nice things during the offseason," said Tomlin. "We thought he was ahead of schedule, maybe, of some guys that you'd compare him to in the past from an assignment standpoint. I thought he did well in that drill. He showed what he's capable of. He's a rush-man, and it's somewhat of a mismatch sometimes when LaMarr Woodley gets on a running back, so really you kind of expected him to get after some folks and I think he handled himself and handled the drill pretty well."

Woodley and first-round pick Lawrence Timmons opened up as the second-team outside linebackers. Timmons is quicker; Woodley the more physical. Both rookies appeared confused as floating linebackers in coordinator Dick LeBeau's third-down quarter defense, but it was to be expected.

"This whole defense is complex but I'm going to get it down," said Timmons. "I'm really practicing hard and I've been talking to the coaches about what I did wrong and what I need to do. I think it's going on pretty well."

Did the physical nature of the opening practice catch Timmons by surprise?

"Oh, no," he said. "At Florida State we'd be in an Oklahoma right now."

Sounds like an idea. Hit, hit and get hit.

NOTES – An afternoon thunderstorm forced the Steelers to practice in the St. Vincent College gym – without pads. … Verron Haynes (knee) took part in the indoor practice, but Tomlin said it didn't cost him his spot on the PUP list. … LB Derek Rehage (thumb) is also on the PUP list, but WR Santonio Holmes (non-football surgery) is "day-to-day" according to Tomlin.


Steel City Insider Top Stories

\r\n\r\n\r\nLATROBE – Mike Tomlin didn't waste any time sending his message. His first practice as coach of the Steelers was all about hitting, just as it was in Bill Cowher's first practice 15 years ago.\r\n\r\n

\"We did Oklahoma drills,\" Levon Kirkland recalled. \"I had to go against Dermontti (Dawson) and (Carlton) Haselrig my first year. You know what happened to me. I got buried.\"\r\n\r\n

That was in Cowher's first camp, but it was the last in which the Steelers used the mauling Oklahoma drill. Cowher made his point, but eased off in subsequent camps.\r\n\r\n

Kirkland is back in camp as a scouting intern, and he watched Tomlin set a tone Tuesday morning. It was the first of a run of 10 morning practices in 11 days and it was the first time players wore pads in the morning in 15 years.\r\n\r\n

And the Steelers didn't just run pass patterns Tuesday. They opened with the backs-on-backers blitz-pick-up drill and went into the 9-on-7 run-game drill before finishing with special-teams work.\r\n\r\n

Hit, hit and get hit was the theme.\r\n\r\n

\"That was pretty tough,\" Kirkland said. \"It kind of makes you wonder what the evening practice is going to be about, but I kind of understand that. You've got to establish yourself as a coach and you've got to let the players know who's in charge and how things are going to be run. They'll respect that.\"\r\n\r\n

The veterans, of course, voiced their respect, but it was a rookie who popped pads with the most gusto. Second-round draft pick LaMarr Woodley could be heard across the field ramming into running backs on his first couple of blitzes. On his final blitz he flattened Najeh Davenport to end the drill.\r\n\r\n

\"Oh, man, he's physical,\" fullback John Kuhn said of Woodley.\r\n\r\n

\"He's a big guy,\" said fullback Dan Kreider. \"He's going to be a challenging individual.\"\r\n\r\n

Woodley is a 6-foot-2, 265-pound outside linebacker who's making the transition from defensive end at Michigan. He's a decorated veteran of the college football wars who was praised for his instincts during spring drills. Tuesday's practice was his first chance to show what he could do in shoulder pads and he didn't squander the opportunity.\r\n\r\n

\"I'm picking it up pretty fast,\" he said. \"It's just learning the little stuff here and there, learning what to do during the whole play.\"\r\n\r\n

Was he surprised at the physical nature of the first practice?\r\n\r\n

\"Not really,\" he said, \"because in OTAs we were really getting after it.\"\r\n\r\n

\"He's done some really nice things during the offseason,\" said Tomlin. \"We thought he was ahead of schedule, maybe, of some guys that you'd compare him to in the past from an assignment standpoint. I thought he did well in that drill. He showed what he's capable of. He's a rush-man, and it's somewhat of a mismatch sometimes when LaMarr Woodley gets on a running back, so really you kind of expected him to get after some folks and I think he handled himself and handled the drill pretty well.\"\r\n\r\n

Woodley and first-round pick Lawrence Timmons opened up as the second-team outside linebackers. Timmons is quicker; Woodley the more physical. Both rookies appeared confused as floating linebackers in coordinator Dick LeBeau's third-down quarter defense, but it was to be expected.\r\n\r\n

\"This whole defense is complex but I'm going to get it down,\" said Timmons. \"I'm really practicing hard and I've been talking to the coaches about what I did wrong and what I need to do. I think it's going on pretty well.\"\r\n\r\n

Did the physical nature of the opening practice catch Timmons by surprise?\r\n\r\n

\"Oh, no,\" he said. \"At Florida State we'd be in an Oklahoma right now.\"\r\n\r\n

Sounds like an idea. Hit, hit and get hit.\r\n\r\n

NOTES – An afternoon thunderstorm forced the Steelers to practice in the St. Vincent College gym – without pads. … Verron Haynes (knee) took part in the indoor practice, but Tomlin said it didn't cost him his spot on the PUP list. … LB Derek Rehage (thumb) is also on the PUP list, but WR Santonio Holmes (non-football surgery) is \"day-to-day\" according to Tomlin. 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