The Pittsburgh Steelers got back to work this morning for their first set of what will be twelve OTA practices over the next four weeks.
With Ben Roethlisberger absent from OTA’s and suspended for at least the first four games of the season, all eyes continue to be on the quarterback position.
For the fourth straight practice, dating back to mini-camp, Byron Leftwich took first team reps at quarterback and thus far appears to be the front runner to win the starting quarterback job. The coaching staff has confidence in Leftwich as do his teammates.
A slimmer Leftwich threw the ball well today after having an inconsistent mini-camp in his first set of practices with the team.
Head coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged today that Leftwich has received the bulk of work but there will be opportunities for Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon in the near future. However, Tomlin noted that there won’t be an equal opportunity for all three quarterbacks.
“There are going to be opportunities to work with the first group for all three guys, ” Tomlin said following practice. “Byron has gotten the bulk of the work to this point, I will acknowledge that, ” Tomlin added.
Last week Tomlin told Steelers.com that he will know who his starter is by the end of OTA’s. He touched base on the situation and backed off that stance a little.
“No, I won’t necessarily know who the starter is per se by the end of the OTAs, ” Tomlin said. “I did make a comment last week in regards to how I’m approaching it, and this is how I’m approaching it, and this is how I intend on approaching it.”
“I really don’t believe it’s an effective approach to go in with a pure open quarterback competition, if you will. There simply aren’t enough snaps to go around. We’ll go in with a pecking order, and the opportunities to show what you’re capable of will be based on that pecking order. All three guys will be given an opportunity…..not an equal opportunity.”
- Wide receiver Hines Ward remains limited with a sore groin and did not participate in drills. Ward did do some jogging on the side for the first 30-45 minutes of practice. Wards hamstring issues have to be somewhat of a concern as he played last season with two bad hamstrings but Tomlin indicated today that Ward is progressing.
- “Hines is progressing well with the hamstring injury that he sustained in minicamp, Tomlin said. “He’s running a little bit……He’s getting treatment. We expect him to continue to get better and join us at some point.”
- Safety Troy Polamalu was absent from today’s practice. Polamalu had previously been present for the bulk of off-season practices, including mini-camp two weeks ago. Polamalu is known to workout and train in California during the off-season.
- Polamalu is still recovering from a knee injury that cost him most of the 2009 season. When present, Polamalu has yet to participate fully in drills due to the injury.
- Free agent signee Will Allen took first team reps at strong safety in place of Polamalu. When asked about Polamalu today, Tomlin believes it’s better to focus on the guys who are here than the players who are not.
- “I tend to focus on the guys that are here, and that’s probably a good approach to have with voluntary offseason conditioning and work and so forth, ” Tomlin said. “As a coach, you can be a miserable person worrying about the ones that aren’t….You can have a productive day when you focus on the ones that are and I tend to do that.”
- The speed and acceleration of running back Jonathan Dwyer (6th rd pick) was the buzz of practice today as Dwyer broke a few runs to the outside and has looked impressive. Football in shorts though won’t impress Tomlin.
- “He’s a rookie wearing shorts, ” Tomlin said, when asked about Dwyers performance in OTA’s.
- 4th round pick Thaddeus Gibson was absent as he’s finishing up school, according to Tomlin.