LATROBE – Last year, the Steelers wouldn't say Willie Colon beat Max Starks for the right tackle job until the first week of September. This year, the Steelers are making that announcement on the third day of training camp.
At least that appears to be what offensive line coach Larry Zierlein said when asked about any future shuffling.
"We'll see what happens with the center position," he told the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, "but I'd say we're pretty well set."
When the reporter asked Zierlein if that meant Colon, the current first-teamer, had secured his spot, Zierlein said, "Willie's looking pretty good. Willie's pretty good in the run game. He just keeps working on his protections and he'll get better. He's a competitor."
The comment also presumes that Chris Kemoeatu has won the left guard spot while on the PUP list. His replacement the first two days of camp, veteran Trai Essex, was moved back to left tackle yesterday because of Marvel Smith's minor groin injury.
SWEED GOES DOWN
Rookie wide receiver Limas Sweed limped off the practice field during 7-on-7 passing drills yesterday, had his hamstring wrapped, and was taken away via cart, but Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin said after practice that it was only a cramp.
Sweed and Smith were joined on the sideline by inside linebacker James Farrior (groin), backup guard Jeremy Parquet (cramp) and running back Mewelde Moore (illness). All of the injured players are day to day.
After the third two-practice work day of the week, the Steelers will enjoy Thursday morning off.
"It's kind of right on time," Tomlin said. "I guess I did pretty decent with the schedule."
Tomlin was asked to assess his new punter, Paul Ernster, and Tomlin said, "He did a nice job today of holding the football."
Left unsaid was the fact Ernster rarely could get his kicks to "turn over" from the top of the arc. Most wobbled meekly into the return man's hands.
"We're just continuing to be in an evaluation process on that front," said Tomlin, who expects Dan Sepulveda to undergo surgery on his right knee next Wednesday. After which, expect the Steelers to sort through the waiver wire for another punter.
NO NEW CENTER
All week ESPN has reported that the Steelers will be signing injury-plagued center LeCharles Bentley, who was cut by the Cleveland Browns.
"Why would we do that?" replied one front-office source. "We've signed centers the last two years. I really don't see that happening."