SATURDAY AFTERNOON’S PRACTICE
Mike Tomlin said that from his perspective, none of the Steelers particularly stood out Saturday. But the coach did concede that running back Rashard Mendenhall had “a good day.”
Mendenhall, the Steelers’ No. 1 pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, did look impressive on occasion. That was especially true when he had his hands on the football.
He needs a lot of work as a blocker, but he wasn’t drafted to block defenders. He’s here to complement starting halfback Willie Parker and eventually move into the starting role.
“Day One was cool, man,” Mendenhall said. “It’s good to be out here in pads.”
Saturday’s afternoon practice marked the first time since last Sept. 29 that Mendenhall has encountered contact. That’s the night he had his shoulder broken courtesy of a hit from Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.
“The shoulder feels good. I don’t even think about it,” said Mendenhall, who turned pro after his junior season at Illinois.
Mendenhall was especially impressive during team drills Saturday afternoon when he caught a short swing pass in the flat and turned it into a long gain.
“It’s early on camp, so it’s hard to say what my role is going to be this year,” Mendenhall said. “But there a lot of teams out there that use two running backs. Maybe we’ll do that here. I’ll do whatever I’m called upon to do.”
“I think he is happy to be back and prove to people he can get out there and play ball and be a dominant force,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said of Mendenhall.
REDMAN SHINES IN “BACKS VS. ‘BACKERS”
Rookie running back Isaac Redman doesn’t have much of a chance of making the team. But he sure looked good in a drill pitting a running back trying to block a pass-rushing linebacker.
“I like it 33! I like it!” Tomlin yelled after Redman, an undrafted free agent, held his own against two veteran linebackers.
But later in a one-on-one pass rushing drill involving linemen and linebackers, Tomlin ripped into rookie guard Kraig Urbik when he struggled against rookie defensive end Ziggy Hood.
“Come on Urbik! Have a little dignity!” snapped Tomlin.
On his next chance, Urbik, a third-round draft pick, did regain his dignity by faring much better against Hood, the Steelers’ first-round draft pick.
The lineman who really struggled most, however, was second-year tackle Tony Hills. He was flat-out embarrassed twice when linebacker James Harrison blew by him with ease.
THREE STEELERS CRAMP UP
Linebacker Lawrence Timmons, guard Doug Legursky and Redman had to leave practice early for what Tomlin described as cramps.
“Nothing major,” said Tomlin, who expects all three back at practice today.
In other health matters, tight end Heath Miller (sports hernia) and center Justin Hartwig (toe) practiced in the afternoon just as they had in the morning. They participated in most practice periods except for 11-on-11 team drills.
“It started to bother me in the spring,” Miller said of his sports hernia, which needed corrective surgery in June. “We’ve been down that road before and I kind of knew what it was. The best thing was to take care of it then as opposed to later on in the season.”
Miller’ first sports hernia came during his senior year at Virginia. He needed surgery then as well.
A GOOD FIRST DAY
Overall, Tomlin was pleased with the first two practices of camp.
“I thought that was a good tough start for us, and really that’s what we’re looking for,” he said. “We carried our pads on both practices.
I really think that’s the mentality that we got to have as we approach this. We’re not going to stick our toe in the water; we are just going to jump in. I thought they did that. It was a good, tough day.
“Of course, it’s far from perfect but it won’t be. That’s why we’re here. I just like the way we attacked the tough day that we (as coaches) kind of put together for them.”
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