FRIDAY, MAY 1
The first day of camp wrapped up today and Mike Tomlin finally spoke to the media about the situatiion with Larry Foote and other things. As expected, Tomlin said Foote wasn't at the mandatory mini-camp because he and the coach felt it wasn't the best thing for either party. Foote will not be fined.
A player who caught my eye today was one I really didn't even realize they had signed early in the offseason - wide receiver Brandon Williams. A former third-round draft pick of the 49ers, Williams spent last season with St. Louis and is yet another guy who has returned kicks and punts during his career. He made a beautiful diving catch along the sidelines during team drills in the afternoon. Williams, a Wisconsin product, was a 4.4 guy coming out of college.
Keenan Lewis is listed at 6-0, 208, roughly the same size as the man who used to wear No. 20 here, Bryant McFadden. But Lewis certainly fills out the No. 20 jersey more than McFadden did. And McFadden was no small guy. I can see now why some thought Lewis might play some safety as well.
It's interesting that the Steelers signed a veteran punter in Dirk Johnson rather than a rookie. Daniel Sepulveda is still not doing a whole lot and Johnson was actually booming his kicks this afternoon - not that Sepulveda is in any danger, if he's healthy.
Johnson and Piotr Czech - I love that name - were both punting today. Newly signed Shaun McDonald, rookie Joe Burnett and running back Stefan Logan were the return guys. They all looked comfortable back there despite swirling afternoon winds.
Tomlin was very cryptic about what's going on with wide receiver Martin Nance, saying that the team wouldn't have anything to say about Nance's availability until Sunday or Monday.
Mike Reilly, the QB from Central Washington that Ron Jaworski spent half a draft day praising on TV, is considered one of the team's top undrafted rookie free agents. The other is offensive tackle Ramon Foster
from Tennessee. He played right tackle today. Two scouts each said they were most excited about Foster as a free agent.
One of the rookies who flashed on the field, in my opinion, was sixth-round pick Sonny Harris. The defensive tackle can run, as DL coach John Mitchell said on draft day.
Potential injuries are the reason the Steelers are hanging on to Larry Foote, and not just potential injuries to their own team. With seven mandatory minicamps going on around the league this weekend, the Steelers will wait to see if any other team might need a 28-year-old starting linebacker with an affordable contract before releasing him.
Last year, after losing Philip Daniels for the season, the Washington Redskins traded second and sixth-round draft choices to the Miami Dolphins for 33-year-old Jason Taylor and his $8.1 million salary. It's simply sound business on the Steelers' part.
Last we left Larry Foote, he was being cut by Lenny Pasquarelli of ESPN, but the Steelers insist Foote remains part of the team. Foote wasn't at the first minicamp practice this morning, the only player not at the mandatory workout, and no one has an explanation. Perhaps the Steelers are waiting to get out of the minicamp injury free before letting him go.
Lawrence Timmons, of course, replaced Foote at the inside mack linebacker position.
The backup to Timmons is Donovan Woods, the outside linebacker who spent some time with the team last season as an undrafted rookie. The third-team inside linebackers are rookie free agents Andrew Schantz and Tom Korte. Korte intercepted a pass from Charlie Batch to Matt Spaeth.
* Attending but sitting out the practice were Ryan Clark, Hines Ward and Martin Nance. Clark was replaced by Tyrone Carter and Ward was replaced by Limas Sweed. Roy Lewis and Deshea Townsend also saw time at free safety.
* Rookie fifth-round pick Joe Burnett was the only rookie to spend time with the first team. He played several snaps at right cornerback. He covered Santonio Holmes over the middle on a high pass that was intercepted spectacularly by opposite corner William Gay.