By Dale Grdnic
LATROBE, Pa. — During a second full day in pads during training camp Tuesday at Saint Vincent College, the Pittsburgh Steelers reeled off another 2 1/2-hour practice that featured two red-zone drills and one-on-one drills between the offensive and defensive line and outside linebackers and tight ends.
With many veterans not allowed to practice due to the new CBA and others not able to practice due to various injuries, several young Steelers are getting more work during this opening week than would usually be available. Count rookie sixth-round pick Keith Williams from Nebraska among those taking advantage.
“Yes, this is a great opportunity for me to show the coaches and the whole team that I can play ball, that I can be a pro,” Williams said. “So, I have to limit my mistakes, keep working hard and take advantage of every chance I get.”
Williams was among the first competitors against the defense, and he was handled against Cam Heyward, while center Maurkice Pouncey beat Steve McLendon three straight times. And Ramon Foster had little to no trouble with Ziggy Hood during several attempts. And Chris Ellis had trouble getting around second-year player Chris Scott.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin finally had something positive to say about a young player, but only briefly.
“We had some good work today to continue on with our team development,” Tomlin said. “We had some more interesting competition in our competition periods like tight ends versus linebackers, which was a featured drill, and run-blocking. … There were some minor training-camp (injuries).
“Those things are unfortunate, but they provide opportunities for others. So, I think we had some guys, like our young corners, take advantage with the short lines today. They got in some quality work. One of them is (third-round pick) Curtis Brown, who’s a highly-conditioned young man. I liked his effort.”
During the first-team red-zone, Ben Roethlisberger was intercepted in the back of the end zone by Cromartie-Smith. His next rocket sailed through the end zone with Mike Wallace and Ryan Clark waiving at it to no avail.
Quarterback Chris Dieker, the rookie from Southern Illinois, got a few reps and had short tosses to 6-foot-7 Eric Greenwood from Idaho and Terrance McCrae that went for touchdowns.
No. 2 quarterback Byron Leftwich got a chance and rifled a pass wide of Arnaz Battle, and his diving attempt came up short. Leftwich hit Greenwood sailing across the middle for a TD on his next chance.
Isaac Redman had two chances for big plays during the run-blocking drills. He muffed a toss and was popped by James Harrison, who knocked the ball loose.
Redman redeemed himself later by jumping outside for a big gain. Rookie Baron Batch did the same when he got a toss for a sweep left.
Jonathan Dwyer, the forgotten man so far in camp, also got loose around left end. Despite conditioning issues, Dwyer shifted gears and ran away from the defense.
Mike Wallace deflected a sideline pass from Roethlisberger, and Will Allen secured the pick off the carom.
The defense picked things up in the second red-zone phase, as Troy Polamalu and Clark both made plays.
And cornerback Donovan Warren knocked one away from Heath Miller, although he might have arrived a little quick. Leftwich fired a strike to tight end Jamie McCoy, as the drill came to an end.
Notes: Tomlin said that DE Sunny Harris (triceps strain), cornerback Cortez Allen (tight hamstring), cornerback Bryant McFadden (tight hamstring) and tight end Jamie McCoy (heat-related illness) are the walking wounded from today. … Two former Steelers — Carnell Lake and Jerry Olsavsky — are on the club’s coaching staff now, while former DE Brentson Buckner and former tight end Mark Bruener a coaching intern, along with Artrell Hawkins, formerly from Johnstown, Pa. Bishop McCort High School and the Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots in a nine-year NFL career.