Steelers notebook: Polamalu, Kemoeatu sit out with injuries


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Coach Mike Tomlin did more than chase the media from the practice field for the first day of Steelers camp. He chased a few of his players, too, at least for the time being.

Tomlin, though, wasn't upset at Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu (hamstring) and guard Chris Kemoeatu (tricep), not like he was with Casey Hampton.

They were placed on the physically unable to perform list -- along with Hampton -- after reporting to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe yesterday with what are believed to be minor injuries. That means they are not allowed to practice with the team until they are removed from the PUP list.

No timetable was given for their return.

Polamalu, who was permitted to skip the team's offseason training program so he could work out in California, has what Tomlin termed a "mild" hamstring problem, even though he completed all eight 100-yard runs in the conditioning test.

"It's part of getting himself ready to play," Tomlin said. "You saw it didn't prohibit him from running the conditioning test because he didn't have to sprint at full speed in the conditioning test. But he's in great shape."

Tomlin said Kemoeatu, who is expected to be the replacement for Alan Faneca at left guard, reported with a "slight weakness" in his tricep. Like Polamalu, though, Kemoeatu also completed the run test.

Tomlin was busy making some other scratches, too -- specifically, the media.

He did not allow reporters or cameras on the practice field to watch the run test, the first time anyone could remember a Steelers coach doing that. Instead, he had them ushered to a hillside walkway outside the media dormitory, where they could watch the test from high above the field.

"It wasn't my intent." Tomlin said. "What I wanted was for the guys to focus on executing the conditioning test. I didn't view it as [something for] public consumption. It was part of the registration process. It's not a practice. So that's why I took the approach I took in regards to that."

Mendenhall's role?

As a No. 1 draft pick with a new five-year, $12.55 million contract, running back Rashard Mendenhall knows one thing for certain: He is going to get a long look in training camp, whether in the same backfield with Pro Bowl running back Willie Parker or as his backup.

"Being picked high, you expect to contribute," Mendenhall said in a news conference to officially announce his signing. "But that's what training camp is for -- to get in here and start to learn my role and, as training camp goes on, start to see what that's going to be."

Part of Mendenhall's job description could be to return kickoffs, something he said he hasn't done since high school. Mendenhall spent part of the offseason workouts returning kicks and said he felt "confident and comfortable doing it."

He added, "If I return kicks, I'll be able to do it."

How Sweed it is

Wide receiver Limas Sweed, the team's No. 2 pick, officially signed a four-year contract worth $3.3 million. Sweed agreed to terms last week.

The deal includes a signing bonus of $1,560,000 and rookie-minimum salaries of $295,000 in 2008, $380,000 in 2009, $470,000 in 2010 and $595,000 in 2011.

Debate on Nate

The arrival of Sweed does not bother Nate Washington, who comes to camp as the No. 3 receiver behind Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes.

Washington even showed up at camp looking as though he's ready to fight for his job, sporting a Mr. T-style Mohawk haircut.

"It's a different look," Washington said. "Somebody suggested it and I took them up on it. I'll see how high it gets."

Washington, 24, enters his fourth season with the Steelers after signing as an undrafted free agent from Tiffin College. He is the team's fastest and most athletic receiver and is coming off a season in which he caught 29 passes for 450 yards and five touchdowns.

Washington moved into the No. 3 receiver role last season, moving past Cedrick Wilson on the depth chart. But, one month after the Steelers released Wilson after his arrest for assaulting his girlfriend, the Steelers drafted Sweed, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound receiver from Texas, in the second round.

The Steelers had Sweed rated as a first-round pick and thought he was too good a value to ignore in the second round.

"I feel good about it," Washington said. "It puts a little fire up under me. It makes me play the way I can."

The Hines report
Hines Ward

had a twist for the reporters and cameras waiting for him as he arrived at camp: He was recording them with a video camera as part of a program for NFL Network.

"The more you can do," Ward said, joking, "I might be with you guys one day. I'm learning from you guys."

Ward, a four-time Pro Bowler, is the team's most tenured player, beginning his 11th season with the Steelers. Inside linebacker James Farrior and defensive end Travis Kirschke are beginning their 12th NFL seasons and quarterback Charlie Batch enters his 11th. But each has spent several seasons with other teams.

Ward was asked if the potential sale of the franchise -- the four Rooney brothers are each considering selling their ownership stake -- would be a distraction for the players.

"I'm not going there," Ward said. "You can ask Mr. [Dan] Rooney. As a player, I'm concentrating on winning a Super Bowl. For me, I don't want anything less than a Super Bowl. Anything less is a bad year."


Gerry Dulac can be reached at gdulac@post-gazette.com .


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