Tomlin takes a page out of the Noll playbook
Something quite rare has occurred at Saint Vincent College the past week of Steelers training camp, something not seen with this kind of regularity since Chuck Noll brought his teams to Latrobe in the summer.
The Steelers are tackling in practice, and not just in the annual goal-line drill that ended the workout Saturday. Mike Tomlin has run them through live 11-on-11 drills at least once each day, starting Monday when they pulled on the pads for the first time.
That is old-old-school, something Bill Cowher did not even do. You would have to go back to the 1980s to see that many real, live tackling practice sessions when Noll's players wore no numbers on their jerseys and twice-daily practices were common.
Even in Tomlin's first training camp in 2007 that he admitted was perhaps too tough, he did not put his players through as many live drills.
"We're young in a lot of areas, particularly in the lines," he said as an explanation for increasing the hitting. "We got young, talented defensive linemen, we got young, talented offensive linemen. The only way to improve is to play football. I've stated that many times and it's something I believe in. I'm going to give them an opportunity to do that and show what they're capable of."
Bumps and bruises
A gaggle of Steelers, including many first-teamers, did not practice. Tomlin declined to list the players or their injuries, but his top two rookie draft picks, Jarvis Jones and Le'Veon Bell, joined many veterans watching practice.
Bell has a left knee bruise from Friday when he bumped knees with a teammate. Tight end Matt Spaeth told reporters he had fluid drained from his right knee.
Others joining the previously injured on the sideline were Brett Keisel for the second day, Lawrence Timmons and Steve McLendon. Ben Roethlisberger dressed but did not participate in many of the drills including 11-on-11 and the goal-line drill.
Isaac Redman also did not participate in the goal-line drill.
"Obviously, we got a number of guys that are out with a myriad of minor training camp-like nicks," Tomlin said. "I'm not going to get into the details of that. Many of these guys will be working their way back here in the next 24 to 48 hours."
Haggling over tackling
Timmons was the team's leading tackler in 2012, according to their coaches' counting. But the NFL and the Steelers website give Larry Foote the crown.
Confused? So is the NFL when it comes to using tackles as a statistic. Unlike sacks, interceptions and fumble recoveries, tackles -- the foundation to anything a defense does -- are not considered an official statistic in the NFL.
Yet all kinds of people keep them, and all kinds of people purport them to be either accurate or "official."
The NFL uses the tackle count as recorded by the stats crews hired by each home team for games. There, Foote had 113 tackles (75 solo, 38 assists) and Timmons had 106 (75, 31).
But in the totals the Steelers coaches kept, Timmons had a wide lead with 134 tackles (93, 41) to Foote's 114 (86, 28). Those stats are what the team lists in its media guide. But because Steelers.com must carry the stats the NFL keeps, Foote is the team champ in tackles there for 2012.
"They tried to cheat me," Foote said, sort of jokingly, when he called out linebackers coach Keith Butler for the snub. " 'Butz' and them want to give Lawrence the tackles nobody sees, but they don't want to give me mine. It's politics, they want the first-round pick, Lawrence, to get all the glory."
Veteran tackle signed
The team signed veteran offensive tackle D'Anthony Batiste and placed rookie guard Nik Embernate on the waived/injured list.
Batiste has been with six NFL teams and in three different leagues since 2004, when he went undrafted. He played in the Arena and Canadian Football League before joining the Dallas Cowboys in 2006.
He has played in 37 NFL games and made 14 starts.
Embernate ultimately will be placed on injured reserve with a season-ending knee injury that occurred Thursday in practice when two ligaments were torn, his MCL and ACL.
The throwbacks are back
The Steelers will wear their 1934 throwback uniforms Nov. 17 for their home game against the Detroit Lions. They are the same throwbacks they wore twice in 2012 for the first time.