By Dale Grdnic
LATROBE, Pa. — Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin believed his team still made some progress despite intermittent rain and an entire practice on the lower field with an artificial surface during training camp Wednesday afternoon at Saint Vincent College.
“We got some good, quality work out here, and we’re starting to see the fruits from some of our labor,” Tomlin said. “We’re playing better from an assignment standpoint, but we still have miles to go technically.”
The Steelers were without a laundry list of players, including about a dozen who aren’t officially aloud to practice until the league year begins Thursday — but that now is a tentative date — and it also included a group of injured players. The club’s cornerbacks were prominent on both lists.
Ike Taylor and William Gay just signed free-agent deals, so they aren’t allowed to practice. And Bryant McFadden, Cortez Allen and Crezdon Butler are out with hamstring issues. That meant Keenan Lewis, who also is returning from a hamstring problem, and rookie third-round pick Curtis Brown were the starters.
“This is a great opportunity for me,” Lewis said. “That’s why I had to get back on the field after missing a day. My hamstring’s a little a sore, but I have to play through it. And it should get better every day.”
Lewis was able to cover wideout Mike Wallace, not only because the he has similar speed, but because the two are close friends and trained together throughout the offseason. On one play during a team drill, the two were lined up wide right. Wallace took off downfield, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger launched a rocket.
Lewis stayed with Wallace stride-for-stride and even got his hand in. Some believe it was a little early, while others believed Wallace should have caught the pass anyway. But he couldn’t hold on. It appeared that Lewis distracted Wallace more than anything and disrupted his attempt to catch the pass.
“Did he tell you he could cover me, because that’s not true,” Wallace said. “No, Keenan’s fast, and he knows me. That’s for sure, so I have to watch out when I play against him. He definitely knows my moves.”
Wallace got another chance on the other side of the field, and he appeared to be open. But Roethlisberger did not have time to get the ball long downfield.
More CBA News
Charlie Batch, who was a member of the NFLPA’s executive council throughout the lockout, wanted to let everyone know that while the players and owners came to a settlement agreement, the new CBA still needed to be ratified.
“Guys like Ike and Willie Colon and Jonathan Scott, Chris Hoke, they can’t practice until the league year begins, and that tentatively is scheduled for (Thursday),” Batch said. “That may or may not happen if we don’t ratify the agreement. There are still some things holding up the deal.
“We had about 10 days to get these things done, and we still have time. But I don’t know if it will happen. Among the issues concern Roger Goodell being the lone determinant where fines and suspensions are concerned. We will push for that to change. Benefits for retired players are another issue.”
There are some 1,900 players in the NFLPA, and a majority decision would ratify the new collective bargaining agreement.
Notes: Linebacker Erik Clayton (quad), wideout Emmanuel Sanders (left foot) and offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert (hamstring) also did not practice. … Outside linebacker James Harrison and safety Troy Polamalu were given the day off by Tomlin. … Even though the preseason opener at Washington Aug. 12, Tomlin wasn’t ready to rule out the veteran free agents if the league start date is pushed back.