Steelers Notebook: Tomlin traveled I-35W bridge

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Coach Mike Tomlin said it scares him to think how many times he drove across the Interstate 35 West bridge in Minneapolis. Rookie Matt Spaeth was unnerved because the bridge is a link across the Mississippi River to the University of Minnesota campus where he played and just a couple blocks from where he lived.

John Heller, Post-Gazette
Chancellor Archabbot Douglas Nowicki, center, leads the crowd in prayer at the dedication of Chuck Noll Field yesterday at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe.
Click photo for larger image.

And veteran safety Tyrone Carter said he has a fear of driving across bridges over water, like the I-35W bridge he would cross when he played at Minnesota and with the Minnesota Vikings.

However, none of them said they knew anybody who was on the bridge when it buckled and collapsed in rush-hour traffic Wednesday night.

"Everybody I know is really down south in Mankato at camp," said Tomlin, referring to the Vikings' summer training-camp site. "I never used that bridge going to work because we were in Eden Prairie, but the number of times I've gone across that in the last year I can't count."

Tomlin spent one season as the Vikings' defensive coordinator before coming to the Steelers. So he did not spend as much time in Minneapolis as Carter, who played three seasons with the Vikings after graduating from Minnesota; or even Spaeth, who grew up in St. Michael, Minn., less than a half-hour away, and spent five seasons, including a redshirt year, with the Gophers.

"Right there, where the bridge [collapsed], that's where all the current is in the water," Carter said. "It's like a dike right there. I saw the pictures last night and it looked devastating. That's tough, man."

Spaeth said he had come out of a team meeting when he heard about the bridge collapse and immediately turned on the television to see the horrific images. Then he phoned his family and some of his friends to make sure they were OK.

"After you see it on TV, the initial shock is kind of like awe, like how did this happen," Spaeth said. "Then you get like scared because you have a lot of friends and a lot of family back home.

"I made a lot of phone calls. I called my family, first and foremost, but we're a little ways away [in St. Michael]. I was more concerned about all my friends on campus because it's so close and the chances of them being there [on the bridge] are a lot greater."

Parker out

Running back Willie Parker had his left knee heavily bandaged with ice as he walked off the practice field yesterday morning and said he would not play in Sunday's Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. Parker said he did not know when he would return to practice, but indicated the injury was nothing serious.

Noll Field dedication

Chuck Noll Field -- the name for the new football home for Saint Vincent College -- was officially dedicated with an afternoon ceremony that featured Steelers chairman Dan Rooney, team president Art Rooney II, several former Steelers players and former running back coach Dick Hoak, who retired after the 2006 season.

The Rooneys were joined by Saint Vincent Archabbot Douglas Nowicki and president Jim Towey. The field was dedicated before the Steelers' evening practice.

Go through proper channels

After complaining he wasn't being thrown the ball enough, receiver Cedrick Wilson caught two passes in 11-on-11, one from Ben Roethlisberger and the other from No. 3 quarterback Brian St. Pierre.

"A wideout who's not upset about not getting the ball, I'm concerned about that," Tomlin said. "He's got to do a better job of expressing it to the right people. Go to somebody who can help solve the problem."

Getting better

The Steelers held another goal-line drill toward the end of practice and this time the offense won the best-of-seven drill, 4-3.

The decisive score came when St. Pierre threw a touchdown to Spaeth in the back of the end zone. St. Pierre also threw a touchdown to tight end Jon Dekker.

However, the drill lacked the passion and intensity of some of the goal-line drills during camp.

"The guys are getting better, getting crisper, but by no means are we a finished product," Tomlin said.

Quick hits

Rookie free-agent offensive line man Darnell Stapleton will have surgery today for a lateral meniscus tear in his knee and will be out a minimum three weeks. "We'll know more about the recovery after the procedure," Tomlin said. ... Outside linebacker James Harrison (ribs) and rookie outside linebacker Lawrence Timmons (groin) remain out. Free agent linebacker Marcello Church (groin) also did not practice. ... Tomlin canceled today's morning practice. The team will practice at 2:55 p.m. in a session that's open to the public.



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