Number 10 came off his worst practice Tuesday with his best on Wednesday, but it was a practice in which Dixon was asked only to manage the short game. He didn't have the opportunity to show off as a passer, but after a confidence-buster of a Tuesday practice, this step was necessary. Most importantly, Dixon didn't make any mistakes Wednesday.
Dixon's best pass was a cross-field throwback to tailback Isaac Redman all alone on the sideline to gain 15, 20 yards. Dixon rolled right, looked for his primary receiver over the middle, and checked down to Redman. Dixon did get the chance to show off his mobility later by faking a handoff on a read-option play and sprinting around left end. The coaches liked it enough to blow the whistle on team drills for the day.
Odd Couple: Hines Ward dressed like one of those coaches as the healing vet stood on the sideline poring over index cards and reviewing plays with teammates. Ward was a contrast to Dick LeBeau, a coach who dressed as a player by donning a No. 51 jersey.
LeBeau last year staunchly defended his defensive captain, No. 51 James Farrior, after Farrior was beaten on two critical fourth-down plays late in losses to Cincinnati and Baltimore. Seeing LeBeau in Farrior's jersey brought to mind a draft-day quote from linebackers coach Keith Butler regarding Farrior and those two plays:
"We had him in a coverage we felt he could handle and he got out of position on both of them. I don't know if it's a sign he's too old, but I think it's a sign he didn't use the proper technique to cover the guys; not that he doesn't have the speed to do it because James can still run. I don't think he has a problem running. His technique was faulty in both of those situations and it was a poor time to have faulty technique. He'll tell you that.
"The thing about veteran football players, the reason they've stayed around long enough to become veteran football players, is they learn from their mistakes. Do they stop making mistakes when they've been in the league 13, 14 years? No, they don't. They don't make as many mistakes, but they still make them and the mark of a good professional is you don't make the same mistake twice. James still runs as good as ever. He may not change direction as good as he used to, but he's still a valuable member of this football team. And I tell him all the time, hey, there's always someone coming to take your position in the National Football League, and James knows that."
Attendance Report: Ben Roethlisberger (league suspension), Troy Polamalu (working out at home) and Thaddeus Gibson (NCAA rule) again missed practice, as expected, so the next time either of those names is mentioned is to change his status. The same goes for center Justin Hartwig (off shoulder surgery), who only snaps in the contact-free 7-on-7 drills. Other than those players, Keyaron Fox, Brett Keisel and James Harrison also missed practice.
Daily Buzz: I stopped two team officials and asked them to name someone who's impressed them this spring. Both said "Jonathan Dwyer" and both talked about the rookie runner's speed, how he plays faster than his 4.7 40 time. Dwyer, though, didn't receive much, if any, action Wednesday. The same occurred with rookie WR Emmanuel Sanders, who was overthrown semi-deep by Charlie Batch and didn't touch the ball again until he returned a kickoff at the end of the session. Sanders' speed, though, was mentioned again by one of the aforementioned sources.
The Replacements: Nick Eason, not Ziggy Hood, replaced Keisel at right defensive end. The second D-line, from left to right, was Hood, Chris Hoke and Sunny Harris; the third D-line was Doug Worthington, Steve McLendon and Scott Paxson. Replacing Harrison at ROLB was Andre Frazier. On the other side, second-team tackles Jonathan Scott and Tony Hills switched sides Wednesday, with Hills at left tackle.
Notable Plays: QB Byron Leftwich threw a curl to primary receiver and fullback Frank Summers, but the ball bounced off Summers' helmet-high hands and into the downfield arms of Heath Miller. Summers bounced back later by catching a Dixon flare out of the backfield in stride for a sizable gain.
* Saddled with first-year third-teamers, Batch harshly checked out of a misalignment as both sides of the ball raised their chatter level with a series of calls and counter-calls. Batch took the snap, turned to his right to hand-off to … no one … and curled up to take a loss. To Batch's credit, he didn't chew anyone out.
* Antonio Brown showed shiftiness and quickness on a pass up the middle. The sixth-round pick also returned two of the four kickoffs during the teams drill that ended practice.
Special Teams: Adam Graessle was the kickoff man on all four looks, and the first-year player from Pitt failed to impress. His kickoffs didn't threaten the goal line and one knuckled low. Stefan Logan, Brown and Sanders were the return men.