OTA No. 3

SCI.com publisher Jim Wexell gives his thoughts and makes some notes on each of the Steelers' Organized Training Activities. Here's the third installment:

It appears that Troy Polamalu has gone back to Southern California to resume his high-intensity spring workouts with his personal trainer. Polamalu didn't show up for Tuesday's resumption of Offseason Training Activities (OTAs), and he'd hinted at minicamp that he might skip the remaining voluntary sessions in order to work with his trainer, as he had the previous two springs.

Also missing was Hines Ward, who's healing from a minor hamstring injury at minicamp.

Rookie fourth-round pick Thaddeus Gibson also missed, as expected. He's bound by NCAA rules to remain off the field until his class graduates. It's always a problem with Ohio State players, although rookie Doug Worthington was able to report to OTAs since he's already graduated from OSU.

Lineup changes from last year: Byron Leftwich at QB, Doug Legursky at C, Will Allen at SS, and Mike Wallace and Antwaan Randle El at WR. Legursky is filling in for Justin Hartwig, who suited up but only snapped in the 7-on-7 drills as his shoulder heals from surgery.

As for the quarterback situation, Leftwich plays better with each practice, but it seems as if Dennis Dixon plays worse. Charlie Batch has been the most consistent quarterback. He doesn't have Leftwich's arm strength, but can drop an intermediate pass into the right hands for big gains. In fact, Batch threw a beauty to tight end David Johnson, who had a step on rookie OLB Jason Worilds about 25 yards down the field along the sideline, but Johnson dropped it.

Leftwich is beginning to have some fun with speedster Wallace. Leftwich slightly underthrew the receiver on a completed deep ball early in practice, and two plays later – with the nervous CB playing well off Wallace – threw a laser to Wallace on a slant over the middle that went for a big gain. Late in practice, Leftwich hit Wallace in stride on a deep pass.

On the other hand, Dixon made two of the worst throws in Tuesday's practice. On the first, he attempted to throw an out to rookie Antonio Brown but Anthony Madison stepped in front and intercepted it for a touchdown. Dixon was also intercepted by diving safety Tuff Harris on a pass over the middle without an offensive player in the area.

Here are some other practice notes from Tuesday:

* William Gay accidently blew up Eugene Bright when he broke up a helmet-high pass to the tight end.

* Arnaz Battle and Will Allen were the first gunners to work, but Battle wouldn't consider that to be any kind of promotion over Madison. My interview with Battle will be posted a little bit later.

* During the third-down portion of practice, the Steelers stuck with their nickel defense. On one play, ILB Lawrence Timmons lined up over Randle El in the slot and blanketed him before going over Randle El's shoulder to break up a short pass.

* On another third-down play, Allen lined up over Battle in the slot, and had good coverage, but Battle rose up to snag a high Leftwich fastball that left Allen muttering to himself.

* One play after Madison stepped in front of Brown for his pick-six, Dixon went right back to the rookie from Central Michigan but Brown dropped the easy pass.

* The second-team OL, from left to right, is: Jonathan Scott, Ramon Foster, Kraig Urbik, Maurkice Pouncey, Tony Hills.

* Gay played some safety during 7-on-7 drills.

* Wallace and Rashard Mendenhall were the only players used on kickoff returns.

* I asked someone in the know whether the Vikings feared the Steelers when the Vikes traded up in the second round to draft Toby Gerhart. "I don't know," he said. "But I know we loved Jason Worilds."

* Stefan Logan went in motion the wrong way and drew the ire of an assistant coach. Logan then went the right way and caught the short pass. I believe it's further proof that the Steelers are making an effort to include Logan more in the offense.

* Rookie fullback Demetrius Taylor caught another short pass and rumbled down the sideline for a big gain. The 273-pounder looks interesting.

* Later, rookie tailback Jonathan Dwyer took a handoff and cut off right tackle for an impressive run. He looked fast and powerful, but when someone asked Mike Tomlin what he thought about Dwyer, the coach just said, "He's a rookie wearing shorts."

* Gotta love that.


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