Practice Report, Aug. 11

Another scorcher and another run-oriented practice have toughened the team's character, says one vet. Also, Jim Wexell's daily and opinionated rundown of the significant practice plays.

LATROBE – Mike Tomlin couldn't have asked for better weather for the Steelers' last full two-a-day of training camp.

"A good dog day for us today," Tomlin said. Coming off a practice with a 102-degree heat index on Tuesday, the Steelers worked out twice in the steamy conditions Wednesday, and turned up the heat even further by working mainly on the run game in the 98-degree heat (index) of the afternoon workout.

"But I really think this morning was hotter than the afternoon," said defensive end Aaron Smith.

The fields at St. Vincent College traditionally contain little to no breeze in morning workouts, and Wednesday morning the Steelers took part in five team scrimmages, two more than in normal practices.

In the afternoon, the Steelers opened with a 9-on-7 run scrimmage that has marked this camp in a way that the term "Camp Cupcake" marked last year's.

"We're running 9-on-7 at least three times a week," said Smith. "We ran it maybe once last year."

Once the entire camp?

"Yeah," he said. "The nice thing about 9-on-7 is I know you're going to run; you know you're going to run, so it's up to you now to do it.

"I think you develop some character. It's not a realistic drill, but you do develop some football character."

Smith believes the run-intensive sessions forge an overall toughness, something former coach Bill Cowher believed when he instituted a similar approach in 2004.

"I agree," Smith said, "because if you can run on somebody that knows you're running, you should be able to run in the game.

"I think this offense is going to be better than last year's offense. It's definitely been a good camp."

As for the heat, Tomlin said on Tuesday that he's happy with the rise in temperatures because the Steelers have 1 p.m. games in Nashville and Tampa Bay next month.

"If you can function in this when you're tired already, those games will be that much easier," Smith said.

The big defensive end said the weather isn't all that bad on the players.

"This week the heat hasn't bothered me nearly as much as it did the first week," he said. "Your body gets acclimated. It takes a little while, but your body acclimates to it if you come in in shape. That first day was brutal."


Chris Hoke left practice with what Tomlin described as a minor knee injury, while Arnaz Battle missed afternoon practice with a "little training camp knee." Joe Burnett stayed out with back spasms, Matt Spaeth is day-to-day with a minor groin injury, and Tony Hills missed with an ankle injury.


* TE Eugene Bright, a defensive end at Purdue, ran one-on-one drills Tuesday and had great success against Ramon Foster. Yesterday he spent the individual session with the defensive line, but it's believed to be due to the need for an extra body rather than a position switch.

* Jonathan Scott had another difficult outing as the second-team left tackle. The result is that Tony Hills's stock has risen since his injury at the start of the week.

* Dick LeBeau doffed his cap to the crowd after a spontaneous ovation during special teams drills.

* Often called "Bronco" Legursky in this space, Doug Legursky's appearance on the field as a fullback in short-yardage situations has been dubbed the "Bronco" package by the team.

* Stefan Logan extended fully to haul in a Charlie Batch bomb. The 5-6 Logan fell on the ball but a standing ovation eased his pain.

* Logan caught three passes in four plays before the whistle blew for kickoff return work. Logan let Manny Sanders take the first kickoff, while another rookie, Antonio Brown, took the third. All three were and are impressive return men.

* Brown sprinted down the sideline in an attempt to catch up to a Ben Roethlisberger bomb. Keenan Lewis covered him step for step as the ball was overthrown.

* Lewis's coverage contrasted that of David Pittman two plays later. Sanders had Pittman beat by two steps on the same sideline route and pulled in the Roethlisberger pass that had a bit more loop to it.

* The Steelers worked a three-safety alignment featuring Ryan Mundy against the offense's multiple tight end sets.

* Mewedle Moore broke through the line and, as is Steelers' tradition, continued his run down the right sideline. Left cornerback Lewis ran across the field and chased Moore some 50 yards down the sideline before catching him.

* Defensive end Sunny Harris broke through the line and blew up a handoff to Jonathan Dwyer on the last play of practice.

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