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Steelers notebook from Thursday’s OTA

By Mike Bires
Mendenhall impressive in OTA’s
If there’s been one player who’s stood out most so far at the halfway point of OTAs, it might be Rashard Mendenhall.
It’s only “football in shorts” as coach Mike Tomlin calls off-season workouts. Still, Mendenhall has been impressive in the first seven of 14 allowed organized team activity workouts.
The running back taken in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft seems fully recovered from a broken shoulder that ended his rookie season in a Week 4 win against the Baltimore Ravens.
“I feel good. My shoulder feels normal,” he said. “It’s great to be out here taking handoffs, running routes and being part of this offense.”
Big things were expected after the Steelers took Mendenhall, who turned pro after his junior year at Illinois, with the 23rd overall pick of the draft. He was expected to team with scatback Willie Parker to give the Steelers’ running game a dynamic one-two punch.
That didn’t happen last year. But it might this year.
“If Willie and I can both stay healthy, it just gives us depth and a chance to do a lot of different things,” said Mendenhall, who celebrates his 22nd birthday on June 19.

Mitchell to be inducted into Alabama Sports Hall of Fame
*** One of the no-shows at Thursday’s OTA was John Mitchell, the Steelers assistant head coach/defensive line coach.
That’s because Mitchell is already in Birmingham where he’ll inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday.
A native of Mobile, Ala., Mitchell played for the University of Alabama from 1971-72 under legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Mitchell was the first African American to play for the Crimson Tide.
Among those already inducted into the Alabama are such former star athletes as Hank Aaron, Ozzie Smith, Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis, Joe Namath, Bart Starr and Charles Barkley, to just name a few.
“It will be an emotional night,” Mitchell said of Saturday’s induction. “It means a lot because of some of the people who were inducted into it before me. To have the state that you grew up in feel that much about you as an individual and a person, I think that says a lot.”
Several Starters missing from Thursday’s workout
*** Among the Steelers who didn’t participate Thursday in the eighth of 14 allowed OTAs were several starters including James Harrison.
The star outside linebacker skipped his second straight OTA to be at home with his 2-year-old son as he recuperates from a serious dog bite.
On May 20, Harrison’s son was bitten by Harrison’s pit bull dog. The child spent a week in UPMC Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh.
Other starters who missed Thursday’s workout were tackle Max Starks, wide receiver Santonio Holmes and inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons.
Wide receiver Hines Ward and free safety Ryan Clark were also missing, but they’ve been excused from all OTAs as they recover from off-season shoulder surgery.
Strong safety Troy Polamalu is also missing all OTAs. Instead, he’s training with a personal trainer in southern California.
Sepulveda suffers minor setback
Punter Daniel Sepulveda, who missed last season due to a training camp knee injury, has yet to kick during OTAs.
He had a minor setback when he needed arthroscopic knee surgery on April 22 on his non-kicking leg.
“There’s no reason to rush it right now,” said Sepulveda, who had a solid rookie year in 2007 with a 42.4 yards per kick average. “I can do it right now, but it’s not necessary. I’ll probably start (punting) in a week or two.”
Handling the punting duties during OTAs is Dirk Johnson, an eight-year journeyman who was signed primarily to kick until Sepulveda is ready.

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Mike Bires

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