So much for the easy stuff.
While Monday’s run test may have been easier than what many of the players expected, Tuesday’s opening practice of training camp for the Pittsburgh Steelers involved hitting - and plenty of it.
After some position drills, head coach Mike Tomlin brought the linebackers and running backs together for a little backs on backers – something that had never been done in the morning drills under Bill Cowher.
By my scoring, the offense won the drill by a slight margin, with undrafted rookie running back Gary Russell showing very good skills as a blocker on blitz pickup. Russell stoned Clint Kriewaldt, Lawrence Timmons, Larry Foote and Richard Koonce in his one-on-one blocking, showing good leverage.
On the defensive side, James Harrison, as usual, looked good in this drill, dominating Willie Parker, Kevan Barlow, Larry Croom and getting good pressure on Najeh Davenport despite being fought to a draw. That’s four experienced NFL running backs Harrison went up against.
Davenport had the drill’s most embarrassing moment, getting run over by rookie linebacker LaMarr Woodley on the final repetition of the drill for a pancake into the quarterback.
After that, it was on to 10 minutes of 9-on-9 inside running drills with only the corners and wide receivers not taking part. There was plenty of hitting here and it almost looked like a goal-line drill with its intensity and hitting.
Team portion of the morning practice came next, with the only notable moments being fumbled center exchanges by Ben Roethlisberger and Chukky Okobi, and later by Sean Mahan and Charlie Batch.
Nate Washington opened at wide receiver in place of Santonio Holmes, who’s out after having some kind of minor surgical proceedure. Holmes was at practice and is moving around fine, so he shouldn’t be out long.
During punt drills, the return men were Washington, Willie Reid, Dan Sheldon, Cedrick Wilson, Jovon johnson, Chris Jackson and, yes, Ricardo Colclough. Only Wilson mishandled a punt, though.