Looking at the mini-camp that was

The Pittsburgh Steelers wrapped up their second mini-camp under head coach Mike Tomlin Sunday with hat day.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looked ridiculous dropping back to pass with his big, floppy sombrero, but not as ridiculous as placekicker Jeff Reed and long snapper Greg Warren, who were both running around with firemen's hats on.

Roethlisberger was going for laughs – as was running back Najeh Davenport, who had a huge afro wig on. Reed and Warren undoubtedly thought they were being cool.

Of course, wide receiver Hines Ward wore a silly old-school football helmet all weekend, but he's another matter altogether.

But the whole thing kind of showed how this team keeps things loose. Throughout every practice, they play little games with each other – ones that have been going on for years now – to keep everything a little light.

Talking to newcomer Justin Hartwig Sunday after his first camp with the team, he said the Steelers' locker room was much different than any other he's been in. Hartwig, who spent time with Tennessee and Carolina, said the outside view of the Steelers' organization is one of class and respect all the way.

And things like Sunday are why this team doesn't seem to flinch when it loses venerable leaders like Alan Faneca, as it did this offseason.

© Speaking of leadership, offensive tackle Marvel Smith says he's ready to step into that kind of role.

Always something of a quiet guy in the locker room in years past, Smith was much more gregarious this year.

Maybe it's because his back surgery has left him feeling like he's had the weight of the world lifted from his shoulders. Or maybe Smith just didn't want to step on the toes of Faneca and Jeff Hartings, the two respected leaders on the offensive line who have left in each of the past two offseasons.

© Davenport was lining up at fullback some in this mini-camp and while that in itself is not all that uncommon, it's become much more important for the veteran this year.

With the offseason additions of Mewelde Moore and Rashard Mendenhall, there aren't many roster spots left for running backs behind Willie Parker and fullback Carey Davis.

Playing some fullback might be something that keeps Davenport on the active roster.

© Pity poor Ryan McBean.

Assistant head coach/defensive line coach John Mitchell usually has a promising rookie to beat up on in training camp every year, giving that youngster his undivided, and often caustic, attention.

We reporter types love to wander over to the defensive line workouts during training camp to listen to the Mitch-isms.

With no new draft picks on the line this year, McBean will again be Mitchell's whipping boy – once he recovers from his lingering foot injury.

© You can really notice the difference in second-year players when the rookies are added to the practice mix.

Wide receiver Dallas Baker looks like a grizzled veteran on the field compared to some of the rookies running around out there at the position – though he dropped a few passes over the weekend.

And linebacker Lawrence Timmons seems much more at ease now that he's no longer the only No. 1 pick not playing at this time.

But Timmons is going to see plenty of more action this season, even if he doesn't beat out Larry Foote for a starting spot.

The Steelers are grooming Timmons to play in the middle in the nickel and dime and it really looks like a natural spot for him.

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter


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