Steelers Notebook: Tomlin not so tough on first day

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After all the talk of how tough his training camp would be, new coach Mike Tomlin turned soft on his very first day at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe.

Not only did he relieve more than half the team from going through a run test yesterday, he stopped it short for the 35 players who did run it.

Tomlin revealed yesterday that those players who completed 44 of the 50 offseason workout sessions were absolved from running yesterday. The others were to run 110-yard jobs 16 times on the newly named Chuck Noll Field.

Among those running were some of the biggest names on the team -- newly minted team salary leader Troy Polamalu, Hines Ward, Ben Roethlisberger, James Farrior and Alan Faneca. Some players did not have to run but chose to do so anyway.

"Guys were doing so well we cut it at 14," Tomlin said. "It didn't look like anybody was going to have a tough time making it, a testament to their preparation. Hats off to them."

When Tomlin came up with the idea to give 51 players off if they had a good attendance record in the spring is unknown, but he did not spring it on his players until it was too late for many to make up lost time.

"We wanted to reward those guys for being in town and being part of a voluntary program this offseason," Tomlin said. "If they were here working out, we knew what kind of shape they were in."

Unable to go

Tomlin downplayed the fact that three players will open training camp today on the physically unable to perform list, including starting receiver Santonio Holmes.

The others are veteran halfback Verron Haynes and NFL Europa linebacker Derek Rehage.

All, he predicted, would be temporary.

Holmes "had a minor surgical procedure that's not football related," Tomlin said. "He'll be watching for a day or two but it's a non-issue."

They will hold out Haynes a day or two because of the surgery he had on his knee last season. Rehage recently had a pin removed from an injured thumb.

Promotion for Mitchell

Tomlin promoted defensive line coach John Mitchell to assistant head coach.

Mitchell enters his 14th season as defensive line coach, a job he will continue in his new capacity. He succeeds former offensive line coach Russ Grimm, who carried the title of assistant head coach the past two seasons.

This is Mitchell's 34th season in coaching -- 17 in the NFL, 15 in college and two in the old United States Football League. He is a former All-America defensive end at Alabama and the first black player for Bear Bryant's Crimson Tide. He began his coaching career under the legendary Bryant shortly after he graduated from college.

"John Mitchell is a very respected coach in this league by his peers," Tomlin said. "It didn't take me long to realize we share some philosophical thoughts on football. I thought he was a very deserving man."

Kirkland returns as intern

The Steelers released one veteran linebacker in Joey Porter this year, and picked up another yesterday -- Levon Kirkland.

Kirkland, who played for the Steelers from 1992-00 and made two Pro Bowls, has joined the team in camp for one week as a scouting intern. He holds down a full-time job as a minority student recruiter at Clemson, his alma mater.

"I'm just kind of seeing if I like it," Kirkland said. "It's an opportunity for me to see if I want to get back in it."

Timmons to practice

The Steelers officially announced the signing of top draft pick Lawrence Timmons, a linebacker of few words from Florida State.

Timmons' groin was injured in his first spring practice and he did not practice again. He said he's "100 percent" and plans to take the field this morning, when the Steelers hold their first of two practices today.

"I'm healthy, but I'm going to take it day by day and not rush things, be smart about it," Timmons said.

Throwback player

On the day he signed the richest contract in club history, Polamalu showed little sense of fashion. While running with his teammates during their test, he wore a pair of short, ugly, striped brown and orange socks that looked like they came from the 1960s and the home team in Cleveland Stadium.

"They're Jim Brown's old socks," Polamalu said. "There goes my whole check."

Camp critic

Polamalu has expressed his disdain for NFL training camps and how they are traditionally conducted in the past, and this one likely will be no different.

"It's like going through boot camp every year," Polamalu said. "The army only does it once. We have to do it every year."

Quick hits

All 86 players on the roster reported on time. ... The Steelers' second practice today is the first one open to the public, scheduled to start at 2:55 p.m. at Saint Vincent College.

Peter Diana, Post-Gazette
Steelers first-round draft pick Lawrence Timmons checks in to camp yesterday at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe.
Click photo for larger image.


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