Injuries scarce as Steelers minicamp ends early



Coach Mike Tomlin canceled the final day of minicamp, perhaps not wanting to test his spring's near-perfect record -- just two lost starters to surgeries.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had knee surgery last week but declared himself nearly ready for action and certainly ready when the Steelers open training camp. Offensive tackle Mike Adams returned to the team to watch practice Wednesday after he was stabbed in the stomach June 1 on Carson Street. He, too, supposedly will be ready to go when training camp opens July 26.

The Steelers lost 78 starts to injuries in 2012, and those might have helped drag down their record to 8-8. Steelers president Art Rooney II declared afterward that they needed to investigate why they had so many injuries and what they can do to prevent them.

Steelers coach hosts football camp for youths

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin talks about his football camp for kids. (Video by Nate Guidry; 6/13/2013)

"I think we do have to look at everything we are doing," Rooney said in January. "And we will look at everything we are doing from a training and conditioning side of things and a practice side of things and see if there are things we can do to get better."

They employed some different tactics this spring. Players now are required to warm up more intently and for a longer period before practice, and the team has given each player a stress test.

Safety Ryan Clark, who rarely misses games because of injuries, believes more can be done and not necessarily by the team.

"I think the team can't put the blame on themselves for that," said Clark, 33, the Steelers' starting free safety since 2006. "They want to because this is an organization that accepts responsibility, an organization that is accountable.

"But it's on each individual guy. Although we are a team, we're independent contractors, and, if we don't go out and train ourselves and get ourselves in the best condition to play football, you're going to have injuries. I don't think the team can change that."

Clark has missed just two games to injuries in the past five seasons. He missed those in 2008 because of a shoulder injury. He also has been held out of two games in Denver after his violent sickle-cell reaction while playing in the thin atmosphere in 2007.

Other than those games in Denver, he has not missed another over the past four seasons. He has trained in Arizona the past seven years and convinced outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley to join him this past offseason. Woodley has fought leg and ankle injuries that reduced his playing time and his effectiveness in 2011 and 2012.

Clark played some of his best football the past several seasons and made his first Pro Bowl after the 2011 season. He might have played even better last season while his partner at safety, Troy Polamalu, missed nine games with a calf injury that Polamalu has acknowledged might have been prevented with better care by him.

"He's coming off one of his better years," defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said of Clark. "He's been playing really good football for some time."

Clark, who turns 34 in October, credits that to experience and to staying in shape.

"Sometimes, when you have injuries in the offseason, surgeries and different things like that, you're not allowed to train the way you have to in order to keep up with these young guys.

"But being healthy in the offseason has allowed me to train extremely hard and kind of bridge that gap physically in which you think you may have with a young guy but also having the experience and knowledge of a veteran."

Minicamp ends early

The players had a few meetings Thursday but no practice as their coach abruptly ended minicamp. They will reconvene July 26 at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe to start training camp.

"As I sit here today, I feel good about the foundation we've laid for 2013," Tomlin said. "I like the efforts of the guys, the messages have been received. We're just in a good place, but that doesn't assure us anything. We understand what we do moving forward is what's really significant."

Tomlin said there is no specific need for the Steelers to sign any more free agents before training camp, although they will monitor what might become available.

"I think more than anything we want to get the group that we have right now in a training-camp setting and see what their capabilities are. Obviously, we're going to do our due diligence in terms of looking at the free -gent market like we always do."

QB Jones last draftee to sign

Landry Jones, the highest-drafted quarterback by the Steelers since they took Roethlisberger in the first round in 2004, signed a four-year contract, the last of their nine draft choices to do so.

The Steelers drafted Jones in the fourth round, and he has been training with them all spring. He started four seasons at the University of Oklahoma.

Steelers - mobilehome

For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com and Twitter @EdBouchette. First Published June 14, 2013 4:00 AM


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