Steelers OTA Workout No. 3

The Pittsburgh Steelers will conduct 14 Organized Team Activities this spring. After a two-week break the team reconvened Tuesday for OTA No. 3. Here are the details:

For those who wanted changes on the offensive line, Tuesday was the day. Because of injuries and absences, the Steelers used only one of last year's first-team starters in his same position.

Willie Colon lined up at right tackle, but Darnell Stapleton started at right guard and Sean Mahan started at left guard. Free-agent acquisition Justin Hartwig opened at center. Max Starks was the left tackle. Guards Kendall Simmons and Chris Kemoteatu were on the sideline nursing minor injuries while left tackle Marvel Smith was tending to a personal issue. The second-team line, from left to right, was Jason Capizzi, Mahan/Trai Essex, Hartwig, Stapleton, and Jeremy Parquet.

The receiving corps also missed most of its key players. Hines Ward returned, but Nate Washington and Santonio Holmes were out, replaced by Dallas Baker and Willie Reid. Baker, in particular, had a strong practice.

TE Matt Spaeth may have made the best catch of the practice, going high to snare a Ben Roethlisberger pass in the back of the end zone. The best catch by a defensive player was made by rookie safety Ryan Mundy, who dove to intercept an overthrown Charlie Batch pass.

The top defensive play might've been made by undrafted rookie cornerback Travis Williams, who broke up a deep pass intended for Reid.

By unanimous decree, the top catch on special teams was made by nose tackle Chris Hoke, who made a running, over-the-shoulder catch of a pass off a fake field goal.

First-round pick Rashard Mendenhall remains sidelined by a hamstring injury. Also on the injury front, defensive end Ryan McBean is out of his boot and off crutches, but remained sidelined by a stress fracture in his foot.

Mike Tomlin, post-practice press conference:

Excited to be here today. Really, what we did today was get started in the final phase of our offseason program, if you will. March 17 started the physical conditioning. We had two Organized Team Activity days prior to the draft, a two-practice block there. We had a five-practice block with minicamp following the draft. And then we go into what is the final phase of our offseason, which is a 12-practice block, three a week over the course of the next month. Enthusiasm was awesome today, a little rust from our last time but that's to be expected. We'll continue to move forward. I'll answer any questions at this time.

Q: When do you get some of the rookies, who weren't here, in?

A: Those guys who go quarter schools, they really can't come back until their schools are done.

Q: So you might not get them at all? A guy like Bruce Davis?

A: You could very well get very little of that guy, very similar to the Santonio Holmes situation when he came out of Ohio State. It's an agreement we have with the NCAA, one we respect, so unfortunate for them but it's just short-term misery. I'm sure they'll be prepared to catch up.

Q: Who besides Davis has to wait for their graduating class to finish school?

A: Roy [Lewis], the corner from Washington, and Bruce Davis are the two guys.

Q: How are the guys coming off injuries?

A: So far so good. We'll take it day to day. Of course, we're erring on the side of caution in some instances like Hines Ward, Aaron Smith. Of course Troy [Polamalu]'s not practicing. He's just rehabbing. So far so good. The truth about those things is you don't know until they go out and play football. The guy's are progressing well; they feel good about where they are. It's good to have them back in some capacity or another, but we'll see.

Q: How's Rashard Mendenhall?

A: He's doing good. Very similar situation to the veteran players we were just talking about. We're probably erring on the side of caution because what we don't want to do is have a short-term issue become a long-term issue.

Q: Why wasn't Marvel Smith here?

A: He's got a personal situation and we're letting him address that. It's day to day. We'll see how it sorts out.

Q: How does missing these practices affect them?

A: It doesn't at all, to be honest with you. I'm not going to get into attendance and why guys are here and why guys aren't here. It's funny how mandatory voluntary workouts become. I tend to focus on the guys that are here and be excited about coaching them and getting better that way. If you show up, you've got a chance to get better. We're going to have open arms welcoming these guys. For the most part we've got great team camaraderie. We've got a vast majority of our guys working. I'm not going to worry about the few guys who, for whatever reason – legitimate or otherwise – aren't here. I'm not going to get into that. It's not that time of year.

Q: How is Chris Kemoeatu progressing?

A: As I get to know him, at least personally, he has a better understanding of what's going on. He doesn't do a great job of expressing it. He doesn't talk a bunch. But he doesn't make mistakes. Really, [offensive line coach] Larry [Zierlein] is probably in the same comfort zone as I am, just from that standpoint. Just because a guy isn't verbal or a guy doesn't express what it is he does doesn't mean that he's not capable of doing it. The more you watch him the more you realize he doesn't make mistakes. He knows what's going on. Of course, he's a big, powerful man.

Q: Coach, because I'm required to by my newsroom, I'm asking everybody in the city about the Penguins. You've been to a number of games, what do you think about what they're doing and what does it mean?

A: It's awesome. I'm like any other emerging hockey fan. My boys and I enjoy going to the games. They've got the opportunity to win the Stanley Cup and I'm excited like everybody else is in Western PA.

Q: Aaron Smith dressed. Did he practice?

A: He worked in some capacity. He did basically individual [work].

Q: Mike, do you concern yourself at all with what the owners did with the CBA? What might happen over the next couple of years?

A: To me, from my perspective, it seems like they're just probably bringing it to a head. I don't think anybody wants a work stoppage, owners and players. But I tend to focus on the 53 that I coach. I'll let them handle that.

Q: Is Aaron fully recovered from his biceps injury?

A: I wouldn't call him fully recovered. We're being cautious but he is progressing. He's hitting the sled, participating in individual. He's chopping at the bit, if you know Aaron, but we'll exercise a little caution.

Q: How about Willie Parker?

A: Willie's taking reps, but if you ask him he's probably a little less than 100 percent.

Q: And Hines Ward's return. Did he go through the whole practice?

A: He did but we're cautious about the number of reps. We rep-counted him a little bit, but that's part of it.

Q: Is Chris Hoke emerging as a tight end candidate?

A: Not hardly. Not hardly. That's his five minutes of fame, if you will.

Q: What's Chris Kemoeatu's injury?

A: He tweaked his hammy in the conditioning program last week or two weeks ago and he's just marching his way back.

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