One of the most popular offseason storylines for the Steelers was their decision to add speed to the roster through the draft and their free-agent acquisitions. But don’t expect coach Mike Tomlin to address the topic of speed much at the training camp that begins today.
“Speed is speed,” Tomlin said in a news conference Friday afternoon that kicked off camp at Saint Vincent College. “A good defense is predicated on being where it is you are supposed to be and good tackling. Speed is an awesome asset, but it’s not going to be a defining asset for us. It’s going to be our ability to play collectively, smart, be where we’re supposed to be and be a good tackling group. Obviously, we have some young people who are capable of infusing some speed into the unit, but we’re not going to hang our hat on it and we’re not going to talk too much about it.”
Breaking in a rookie draft class that is expected to produce starters and other role players, in addition to several new free agents in the same boat, Tomlin said he expects a physical training camp.
“I would anticipate it,” he said. “I know I’m excited about seeing some guys play and seeing what they are capable of and I know they are excited about showing what they are capable of. Really, the only way to do that is play football.”
Tomlin emphasized his point by saying live tackling sessions will be included in practices.
Mitchell on PUP list
One of those speedy, new players will be on the sideline watching the first few practices. Mike Mitchell, the team’s biggest offseason free-agent acquisition, will start camp on the physically unable to perform list with a groin injury.
Tomlin said Mitchell, who was signed to replace Ryan Clark as the starting free safety, hurt his groin while training.
“We anticipate it being maybe a week,” Tomlin said. “We’ll see how it unfolds.”
Running back Alvester Alexander also will begin camp on the PUP list. He also has a groin injury.
Starting left guard Ramon Foster has been excused from the first three days of camp because of the death of his mother. He is expected to report Monday. Punter Adam Podlesh also has been excused for the start of camp because his wife is expecting.
Thomas had alternative plan
Shamarko Thomas reported to camp Friday afternoon fresh off a unique experience he hopes will make him a better player. Thomas spent some of his summer vacation training with safety Troy Polamalu in San Diego.
Thomas was looking for an edge as he prepared for his second NFL training camp, so he reached out to Polamalu with a text that read “I want to be great.”
That led to a correspondence with Polamalu, who extended the invitation to join him in his alternative training methods. Polamalu, entering his 12th season, does not follow a typical football training regimen. He follows an iso-kinetic regimen that develops faster muscles rather than bigger ones.
“It was an amazing experience,” Thomas said. “It’s like a karate movie. It’s like some ninja stuff. But it works for him, and I felt it worked for me, too.”
Thomas earned a spot in defensive sub-packages early last season, but he injured an ankle that forced him to miss two games. After he returned from the injury, he did not regain his spot in the rotation. Will Allen took his place for the remainder of the season.
When Polamalu was absent from OTAs, Allen took the reps with the first-team defense. Thomas, a fourth-round draft choice in 2013, was relegated to second-team reps, but he is looking to open some eyes when practices begin today.
“I’ve matured a lot,” Thomas said. “Last year, it was a fast game, a lot of things going through my head. I’m slowed down right now and confident I’ll be able to play.”
Pouncey is sued
Two women and a man are suing Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey in a civil suit for his alleged involvement in a nightclub incident earlier this month in Miami Beach.
According to the lawsuit first reported by 940 WINZ radio in Miami, Ricquan James, Brentley Williams and Niya Pickett are suing Pouncey, his twin brother, Mike, and Cameo Nightclub for damages stemming from a July 12 incident inside Cameo where the Pounceys were celebrating their birthday.
The three plaintiffs are claiming Maurkice Pouncey struck James in the face several times and then punch, hit and kicked James when he was lying in a fetal position. Pickett claims Maurkice Pouncey struck her in the face and knocked her unconscious.
All three plaintiffs are claiming they suffered blunt force trauma to the head, neck, chest and back and bruises. James claims he had broken teeth, Pickett claims she has an eye injury and Williams claims she has contusions and a cut that required stitches.
Police are investigating the claims of the three plaintiffs, but they have not filed any charges.
Joel Segal, Pouncey’s agent, could not be reached for comment.
Pouncey spoke to reporters before the news of the lawsuit broke.
Ray Fittipaldo: email@example.com and Twitter @rayfitt1. First Published July 25, 2014 12:00 AM