Notebook: Tomlin upset over remark

The hit that won't go away: Mike Tomlin comments on the comments surrounding last week's cheap shot on Hines Ward.

LATROBE – A week ago, one Steelers assistant coach bellowed out a line that hung heavy in the air over a prone Hines Ward:

"Are you out of your G-- d--- mind?!"

Anthony Smith was too busy celebrating the late hit in the 7-on-7 non-contact drill to answer.

Yesterday, the head coach wondered the same thing about the media, scolding reporters for one writer's reaction to Smith's hit.

"He's very sensitive and our guys are very sensitive, too," Tomlin said. "I think at one point his actions were referred to as thuggery, or he was referred to as thug. We take offense to that. These are young, professional people that are very good at what they do and are very sensitive to how they're portrayed in a public light. I was offended by that reference in reference to him. He's not a thug; he's a young professional football player who's trying to be at his best. We happen to play the games very physical."

The remark in question was made by Post-Gazette columnist Gene Collier, who, in the Aug. 9 edition wrote: "This week's training camp thuggery at the expense of one of the franchise's most decorated veterans smells to me like strike three."

Collier called for the release of Smith, who made similar plays last training camp and later in the year guaranteed a win over the undefeated New England Patriots. Smith has since been demoted from a rotation system at starting free safety with Ryan Clark to a strict backup who's learning both free and strong safety to maximize his versatility off the bench.

Tomlin said that while he was disappointed in the columnist's remark, he did have a problem with Smith's recklessness.

"Absolutely," Tomlin said. "We desire to be professional and practice with great professional etiquette. We understand that we fall short of perfection sometimes. That happens. This is a physical, emotional game played by those kinds of people, but it doesn't necessarily make him a thug."

CAROLINA TIME CHANGE

The Steelers' preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers on Aug. 28 has been changed to 7 p.m. The game was moved from its original 7:30 p.m. start time to, according to the Steelers' release, "accommodate the Democratic National Convention."

MORE FIRST TEAM IN TORONTO

The Steelers' next preseason game, Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in Toronto against the Buffalo Bills, will feature more playing time by their first team. Justin Hartwig at center and Casey Hampton at nose tackle are the only non-injury lineup changes.

Ben Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon, in that order, will take shifts at quarterback. "If we have enough snaps, maybe we'll play (Mike) Potts," Tomlin said.

Out with injuries are QB Charlie Batch (collarbone), LB Mike Humpal (stinger), FS Ryan Mundy (ankle) and CB Deshea Townsend (groin).

ROOKIE REPORT

Tomlin on running back Rashard Mendenhall: "I thought he showed flashes of his pedigree the first time out. … I look for him to be better this game. I think that he will. He's a hard worker."

And Tomlin on outside linebacker Bruce Davis: "He was active, not to be confused with productive. He's a young guy with a lot of energy, got a desire to be great. He's playing catch-up and he's got to catch up in a hurry this week. I was pleased with his approach to getting after it, but we need to see some results."

NEW DEFENSIVE END

The Steelers claimed third-year defensive end Kevin Huntley off waivers from the Washington Redskins.

Huntley (6-7, 290) originally signed with the Oakland Raiders as a rookie free agent from Kansas State in 2006. He played in the final five games of his rookie season with Oakland and registered 10 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a recovered fumble. He spent the 2007 season with the Atlanta Falcons and recorded three tackles while playing in five games.

The Steelers made room for Huntley on their roster by releasing rookie free agent defensive end Kyle Clement.


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