Steelers Notebook: Rookie safety is opening eyes
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Rookie safety Anthony Smith, the team's second draft pick, is not involved in the competition with Ryan Clark and Tyrone Carter for the starting free-safety spot. At least, not now.
But Smith, a three-year starter at Syracuse, has shown enough to the players and coaches that it's only a matter of time until he lines up alongside Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu in the secondary.
That time might not come until next season, but Smith has been a training-camp standout.
"Wait till next year," cornerback Ike Taylor said. "You can already see when he's out there in the sub packages. Once he understands the defense more, he's going to be something."
Said defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau: "He's ahead of the curve right now. I think the coaching sessions helped all those guys in terms of running our defense and making the calls."
Coach Bill Cowher said Pro Bowl linebacker Joey Porter, who has not practiced since having surgery on his right knee in May, likely will resume practicing today.
Wide receiver Hines Ward tried to test his injured hamstring early in practice, but he still felt tightness and sat out the remainder of the afternoon session.
"I wanted to see where I was," Ward said. "I got to go back and get it better."
Ward said he did not know if he would play in the preseason opener Saturday in Arizona.
On the move
One week after being moved from defensive end to outside linebacker, free-agent rookie Lee Vickers was moved back to defensive end -- the position he played at North Alabama.
Vickers is tall (6 feet 6, 285) and rangy like a lot of the team's other defensive ends, including Brett Keisel and Shaun Nua. He has impressed the coaches with his quickness and ability to rush the passer.
"He's a guy like Brett Keisel -- if he's able to make this team he'll have some luxury in being able to play outside linebacker," Cowher said. "I think he's got a lot of upside."
Rookie tackle Willie Colon, a fourth-round draft pick, began working at left tackle because of the injury to Trai Essex (groin), who could be out a week to 10 days. Colon was used solely on the right side during the first week of training camp.
Right tackle Max Starks, who was a left tackle at the University of Florida, said switching sides involves more than just a change in stance and technique.
"Being on the right side, you generally get the stronger, more powerful pass-rushers," Starks said. "On the left side, you get more of your quicker, outside linebacker-build type guys who are quicker and more elusive. The speed and the technique are the two biggest changes that you have to make."
Inside linebacker Mike Kudla, a rookie free agent from Ohio State, was released -- the second injured player in as many days to be waived by the Steelers. Kudla (6-3, 265), a former nose tackle with the Buckeyes, had not practiced with the team since reporting to camp with a hamstring injury. ... The Steelers will practice twice today with the second session beginning at 6 p.m. It is the final night practice of training camp. The Steelers will have only one more double practice, and that's next Wednesday.