By Dale Grdnic
LATROBE, Pa. — After two days and three fairly intense practices, the Pittsburgh Steelers had a much lighter workout Monday morning with anticipation for a tougher session in the afternoon.
Veterans Hines Ward, James Farrior and Aaron Smith joined walking wounded Casey Hampton (hamstring), Maurkice Pouncey (hamstring), Jonathan Dwyer (hamstring) and Ramon Foster (concussion). And despite having his right foot in a boot (ruptured Achilles), Willie Colon has been at every practice.
Hampton said he could return by the end of the week, while the remaining players are expected back sooner, possibly as early as the afternoon practice.
“I feel pretty good,” Hampton said. “I ran a little bit today, and I’m feeling better all the time. But I don’t want to push it now and have a problem later. So, that’s been my approach for now.”
For the second straight day, rookie linebacker Jason Worilds had issues with his right knee. He returned to practice, but certainly was hampered by the injury.
“I hope to be able to go in the afternoon, but we’ll see,” Worilds said. “It’s been a tough camp for me so far.”
For the first time during this training camp, the Steelers worked on kickoff returns and like their punt-return brethren Stefan Logan was the main return man.
Also dropping back to the end zone were rookie wideouts Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown and cornerback Joe Burnett. Isaac Redman and Justin Vincent were up men among the kick-return group.
“I’m still looking to help this team in any way I can,” Logan said. “I think I did all right last season, but I can do better. I had some decent punt returns, but I never really got going on kick returns. This year, I hope to break one or two for each unit. That would be ideal for me and would help the team the most.”
While the special teams were on the field Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sat on a collar under cover and talked to a young fan (less than 10 years old) for about 10 minutes, much to the youngster’s delight.
The kid was wearing a Troy Polamalu jersey, and Roethlisberger pointed out the child’s favorite player and what he was doing.
This is a side of Roethlisberger that has been rarely evident in recent years, but it appears at least that he’s making an effort to connect with the fans and be closer to his teammates. Whether that is enough to reduce his suspension from six games to four remains to be seen.
Commissioner Roger Goodell could inform the Steelers about their quarterback’s fate when he visits camp within the next week or so. Or he could wait until just before the season.
“He isn’t coming here just to talk to me,” Roethlisberger said. “But I’m sure I’ll get to talk with him for a while. I guess we’ll see what happens when he gets here, but I’m just trying to concentrate on football right now.”
Both Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich shared the first-team quarterback duties nearly equally during the Steelers’ morning practice. And both were pretty sharp in the brief team session that ended practice.
The Steelers have an afternoon practice today, two on Tuesday with just a one-hour, special teams workout in the morning, and two regular practices Wednesday before getting a break on Thursday. There will be just one afternoon practice that day.