Nice guys off the field; animals on it

SteelCityInsider.com publisher Jim Wexell provides some notes, thoughts, and opinions from the practice field and locker room after the first day of the Steelers' three-day minicamp.

PITTSBURGH -- Someone told me to ask Jonathan Dwyer about Jason Worilds, and how Worilds "ear-holed him about 20 times" in last season's Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech game. And so I did.

"He got me once," Dwyer said defiantly. "And then I got him back."

Apparently, the Virginia Tech plan against Georgia Tech's triple option was for Worilds to crash down the line from left defensive end and focus on tackling Dwyer on his dive plays up the middle. Perhaps it was a strategy to force Georgia Tech's hand into calling something else. Dwyer said that, in the second half, Georgia Tech made an adjustment and it resulted in Dwyer popping a 40-yard run.

Worilds is truly a nice, nice young guy who gave me his phone number and held out his hand to promise he'd answer the call Monday for a Tuesday deadline. He then thanked me for telling him he's a nice kid. Some, after reading up on his background, might even call him a mamma's boy.

"But he's totally different on the field," someone told me. "He's a total animal."

So I asked Dwyer about that, about Worilds, and whether he's an evil beast on the field.

"We all are," said Dwyer, another seemingly nice kid with a warm smile. "It's a different world out there once you cross the lines."

* On the field Friday afternoon, I noticed Emmanuel Sanders shift into an uber gear to blow past Anthony Madison on a fly pattern down the sideline. Charlie Batch knew what he had on the play, and heaved it right out of his final drop step. Batch overthrew Sanders by a few feet, but it was easy to see why the Steelers feel Sanders has "special, special quickness," and I saw that for the first time Friday.

* Speaking of Madison, his competition for the all-important punt gunner job, probably opposite William Gay, appears as if it'll come mainly from Arnaz Battle, who lined up second behind Madison during the gunner drills. I'd initially thought Madison would run unopposed this training camp after the Steelers failed to bring in a top-rated rookie cornerback or safety, but gunner appears to be on Battle's resume from San Francisco.

* After watching Stefan Logan, Antwaan Randle El, Mike Wallace and Jason Chery rotate as punt returners during the morning practice, I asked Joe Burnett whether he was still in the competition. "That's what I asked Amos (Jones)," he said of the assistant special teams coach. "I was wondering about that myself because I really want the job. Amos told me not to worry, that I'll get my chance but that it was more important for me yesterday to work as a gunner."

* Back on the field, Keenan Lewis intercepted Byron Leftwich to cap an excellent first day. Another player who stood out was Rashard Mendenhall. He reminded everyone about his great hands with a tough catch on the sideline. Mendenhall finished the second practice with a burst down the sideline in which he pulled away from Ike Taylor, one of the fastest players on the team and one who's being lauded for his offseason workout regimen with speed coach Tom Shaw.

* Speaking of Worilds, folks, he needs a nickname. "All" Worilds isn't good enough for a guy I'm certain will become a defensive difference maker some day. He already looks comfortable dropping into coverage and breaking on the ball and/or player. He's going to need a colorful moniker, and, really, it shouldn't be too hard to come up with one.

* Undrafted rookie safety Justin Thornton was scolded by all coaches late Friday after knocking a ball loose from a quarterback as he was bringing his arm back to throw. Angry coaches aside, that's an interception in the morning and a forced fumble in the afternoon for Thornton (6-1, 213), who played cornerback as a junior at Kansas before moving back to safety.

* I think we all know that UConn pass-rusher Lindsey Witten is an undrafted rookie to watch, and I just added Thornton to the short list. Another, I'm told, is Dorian Brooks, a 6-2, 306-pound guard-center from James Madison.

* And another undrafted rookie, Demetrius Taylor, the team's only fullback (and please, spare me the nonsense about converted tight ends and I-backs) doesn't look anywhere close to his listed weight of 273 pounds. I told him that in the locker room. He pointed to a nearby scale and said, "I'll prove it to you right now." I said no and he said, "I might be a couple pounds down right now, but I'm in the neighborhood." The weight must be hidden in those tree trunks he calls legs. The word on Taylor is that he hasn't played fullback since high school, but volunteered to run fullback drills for scouts at his Pro Day and that's how he ended up here in Pittsburgh.


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