"He did have surgery," Tomlin said. "I don't know if it was directly related to what he dealt with in the past. We were quickly able to address it because he's familiar with what it felt like. Notice that he didn't go the last couple of Organized Team Activities.
"We had it looked at. We acted pretty quickly and got it out of the way. He should be ready to go but we're going to proceed with caution with him to make sure that when fatigue sets in we don't move backward instead of forward."
Tomlin also said that Troy Polamalu has another hamstring injury, as does Deshea Townsend, and that the cornerbacks would be eased back into action. Tomlin also said that kick returner Stefan Logan, a former CFL star with an outside chance of making the team, would start camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list because of a mid-foot sprain. Right guard Darnell Stapleton will be limited during two-a-days because of a knee problem, and center Justin Hartwig suffered a minor injury to his right big toe and could miss time.
The 2006 Steelers rolled into camp like the kings of the world. And they were. But the 2009 defending champs might best be symbolized by James Harrison's Smart car.
The NFL's reigning Defensive Player of the Year jumped out of his tiny two-seater and cracked, "I just want to help the environment."
Harrison was asked about the gas mileage. "I don't know about that," he said. "I haven't had to put any in yet."
Hines Ward walked past the car laughing. "I've seen it all," he said.
Harrison also had some interesting points to make to reporters. One, his son is "a hundred percent" in his recovery from the summer pit bull attack.
"He was back walking in like six days," Harrison said. "He's just got a few scars, but he's fine."
And, two, this defending championship Steelers team is in a better frame of mind than the 2006 team.
"We guarded against that this year in preparation," Harrison said. "I think last time we won the Super Bowl, a lot of guys were real lax and took too much time off in getting back to what needed to be done. I feel this year everybody stayed focused."
WHERE'S THE BEEF?
"You'll be the first one I tell when I get off the scale," said Essex, who admitted to losing "a lot of weight."
Essex believes he can win the right guard spot from Darnell Stapleton and has obviously shown up for a fight.
Stapleton, who still considers himself a center at heart, took umbrage to a reporter's claim that he's been targeted by fans and media as the line's weak link for allowing three sacks to Darnell Dockett in the Super Bowl.
"Well," Stapleton said, "Dockett had two sacks on me – actually one on me personally – and I think I played pretty well in the Super Bowl. I never heard any criticism. We actually won the game, so everybody's a critic. I can't take it personal. I can only continue to get better and work on my game."
Speaking of weight, nose tackle Casey Hampton, put on the PUP list last year for being overweight, reported in better condition this season. He finished the run test without any noticeable languish.
"I was curious," Tomlin said of Hampton's conditioning. "You're always curious about the big man, and he's probably the biggest of the big men. But he did a nice job, as well as a lot of the other guys."
Tomlin said every player passed the test.
NEXT UP ...
Next up on the Steelers' hit list for contract extensions are kicker Jeff Reed and defensive end Brett Keisel. Reed is currently in talks, while Tomlin, according to a source, went to the front office to kickstart talks with Keisel. They should begin shortly.
WILD VICK CHASE
There are no talks – in case anyone was still wondering – with Michael Vick. A caller to a local radio station claimed to be a cab driver who'd dropped Vick off at the airport. This caused a metro newspaper and a TV station to rush to the airport to talk to cab drivers.
"I don't know whether he was in Pittsburgh or not," Tomlin said with a smile. "I'm in Latrobe, and everybody else in our organization is."
BACK DOOR MAN
And, finally, Ben Roethlisberger smartly ducked the media camped in front of Rooney Hall. Of course they wanted to ask him about the civil suit for sexual assault that's been filed against him. Tomlin answered the question for him.
"I have no question about Ben's mindset or anybody else's mindset for that matter," Tomlin said. "That civil case is just that: It's civil. We'll assume that he's going to handle that business as his personal life and we're going to proceed professionally, and the standard of expectation in regard to Ben is the standard of expectation. I would imagine that he's not the only guy on our football team that has a civil proceeding of some kind in their life. We're just going to focus on football."