WEDNESDAY’S MINI-CAMP BUZZ
By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers practiced Wednesday afternoon likely for the final time this spring, as Thursday’s scheduled workout is expected to be cut short to send the players on a six-week hiatus before training camp begins July 26 at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa.
The 12 practice sessions, albeit in shorts and T-shirts, were productive, according to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.
“Our goals have been simple, and that’s to lay a foundation for our football team here in 2013,” Tomlin said. “Obviously, our goals are … to be the world champion, and I think we’ve done a nice job in terms of laying a foundation individually and collectively toward that goal.
“The expectations are simple as well. I expect those guys to come in highly conditioned (and) ready to work.”
The Steelers got through the workouts relatively unscathed, although two starters — quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and right offensive tackle Mike Adams — did not finish the sessions. However, both are expected to be ready for training camp. Another key backup, cornerback Justin King — a Gateway High School and Penn State grad — suffered a serious hamstring injury and was placed on injured reserve to end his season.
Several other players were rehabbing after knee surgeries. That group included tight end Heath Miller (right knee), rookie cornerback Terry Hawthorne (right), linebacker Sean Spence (left) and tight end David Johnson (right). Spence’s status for the season is still up in the air, but the others are expected to be ready to play at some point.
Adams Makes Guest Appearance
Steelers right offensive tackle Mike Adams showed up for Wednesday afternoon’s practice, his first appearance since being injured in a stabbing incident nearly two weeks ago.
Adams was unavailable for comment, but Tomlin offered the following.
“We expect Mike to be here,” Tomlin said. “He had an appointment today, and the appointment went well. So, he’s just continuing to take steps to get back out on the field.”
More Former Steelers at Practice
Former NFL offensive tackle Oliver Ross was a volunteer at practice. He played in the NFL from 1998-2006. After playing for the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles during his opening two seasons, Ross played five seasons for the Steelers (2000-04) and ended his nine-year career with two seasons for the Arizona Cardinals.
Former cornerback and special teams assassin Chidi Iwuoma, the team’s new BLESTO scout, watched practice as well. He started his career with the Detroit Lions in 2001 and also played for the New England Patriots, St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans during a seven-year NFL career. Iwuoma played for the Steelers from 2002-05 and parts of 2006.
Butler Praises Jones
Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler had a lot to say about rookie outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, who has worked exclusively on the right side, battling Jason Worilds for James Harrison’s former starting spot.
“He did some good things in terms of rushing the quarterback, and he really had better coverage ability than we knew about, until we saw him out there and he intercepted a couple passes,” Butler said. “I told him that he was my shutdown linebacker, and we weren’t going to rush him anymore. So, that kind of pissed him off a little bit.
“So, he’s done well in the drops, but he freelanced quite a bit in college (at Georgia). We’re a little more structured here with what we do and the techniques we ask him to use in the passing game. He understands a little bit more in the passing game, but he doesn’t exactly know what we require from him. It’s not like in college, even though he played outside linebacker in a three-four defense.
“It doesn’t mean he can be plugged right into this defense,” Butler added. “He was five yards off and looked at the quarterback (in college). We ask him to do a little bit more than that here in terms of pass coverage. So, we have to get him away from doing that, but he’s eager to learn. And he’s done pretty well so far.”
LeBeau on No. 1 Defense
Even though the Steelers had the No. 1 defense the past couple seasons, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau believed his unit had room to improve.
“The first thing, the obvious, thing, is that we have to get more turnovers,” LeBeau said. “We’ve had years that we’ve been real productive there, but the last couple we haven’t been.
“I wish I knew the answer to the why, but we’re searching for those answers, and we’re working in that direction. We’ll keep stressing it. That’s the most obvious area.”
LeBeau added that it was too early for any of the young guys to distinguish themselves, but he looked forward to training camp to see them all perform in pads.