Practice Notes, Aug. 5

Mike Tomlin ratcheted up the 5-minute offense with good reason, while Byron Leftwich got hot, Thaddeus Gibson got heat, Doug Legursky got down and dirty, and Ramon Foster was moved back home. It's time for Practice Notes:

With an NFL crew working practice, Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin took advantage of the opportunity to work with and film the new field position of the umpire, who's been moved from behind the defensive line to the offensive backfield because of a new league rule.

"The reality is that you're going to lose some plays," said Tomlin. "The spotting of the ball isn't going to be as quick if he was positioned at his original position. On balls that are 10 to 20 yards downfield in the middle of the field, if we don't utilize a timeout there is going to be a lapse relative to what's been in the past in terms of the spotting of the ball and the readying of the ball for play. Not only is he coming from a further distance, but he also has to remove himself to a further distance. It's subtle but it's significant. … It may change how you utilize timeouts in those instances."

So Tomlin put five minutes on the clock and called plays as if the offense was down by two scores.

Byron Leftwich matriculated the first team 77 yards down the field for a touchdown in 2:20. He completed six of eight passes, with three of the completions to Hines Ward, who caught a 25-yard touchdown pass down the middle of the field.

The second team, behind quarterback Dennis Dixon, reached the 28-yard line on a six-for-six passing performance, but three consecutive incompletions left the drive short of the end zone.

PRACTICE NOTES

* Another 9 on 7 run drill and another breakaway run by Rashard Mendenhall, this time, though, Matt Spaeth made the key block with help from Heath Miller. The two sealed the left edge and were there to help James Harrison up off the ground.

* Tight end David Johnson is really the only hope at fullback – a position that's been ignored in spite of Art Rooney's run-game mandate early in the year. Anyway, Johnson lined up in the backfield, led the tailback through the hole, made a big noise when he collided with James Farrior (as the crowd oohed and aahed) but the block was too high. Farrior slipped underneath and made the tackle anyway. Still, no fullback.

* Emmanuel Sanders made the best catch of the afternoon workout during the 5-minute drill. Dixon threw him a pass that was deflected by cornerback David Pittman, but the sticky-fingered Sanders remained focused and made the catch.

* Part of the reason Dixon threw three incompletions to end the 5-minute drill was the constant pressure from Thaddeus Gibson. On fourth down, Dixon scrambled right, had the ball poked away by Gibson, picked it up, and threw incomplete. Jonathan Scott was the right tackle who had his hands full with the rookie OLB.

* In the one-on-one line drills, center Doug Legursky held Chris Hoke at bay twice. The second time was a classic brawl between the two players that left coaches on both sides of the line satisfied.

* Brett Keisel had one rep and gave Chris Kemoeatu all he could handle. One reporter standing next to me said "Chris is barely hanging on to that wild buffalo."

* Aaron Smith easily beat Flozell Adams twice, leading one scout to say, "That's the first time that's happened up here." The personnel department is pleased with Adams's work so far.

* Rookie Maurkice Pouncey caught the ferocious Ziggy Hood in a spin move and put him on the ground. Tomlin left the field and said to a reporter, "Young fella figuring out how to block Hood."

* In the final team scrimmage, Legursky and Pouncey took several snaps with the first team. When the second team took the field, the two players switched positions with Legursky going to right guard and Pouncey moving to center.

* Leftwich, who may have had his best practice yet, looked nimble in jumping to avoid "trash" on the ground before throwing a BB to Ward.

* With Jonathan Scott having left the field with a possible concussion, Ramon Foster moved to right tackle on the second line and Kraig Urbik moved to left guard.


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