Steelers Notebook: Reid, Holmes back on returns

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Willie Reid is back where he should have been last season, returning punts for the Steelers.

So, too, is Santonio Holmes, who did return punts last season.

One player who had trouble returning punts has been booted. Ricardo Colclough, whose dropped punt against the Cincinnati Bengals in the third game of the season led to the Steelers' downfall in that game and perhaps to their season, is no longer a candidate.

Colclough had been part of the handful of players returning punts during the incessant special teams practices through the first week of training camp. Once Holmes became healthy enough to practice, he bumped Colclough from the rotation.

But first up yesterday was Reid, whom the Steelers drafted in the third round last season in part because he was such a good return man at Florida State. His 15.4-yard punt return average set a school record, and he scored three times on punt returns in 2005.

Yet, he did not dress for the first three games of the season. It wasn't until after Colclough's costly fumble that Reid dressed for the fourth game to return punts. A foot injury in that game cost him the rest of the season.

He, too, thought he would return punts and kickoffs as a rookie from the start.

"Yeah, honestly I did. It wasn't my decision, it was the coaches' decision. They went with the best decision they thought was right at the time. So I have no hard feelings about it."

Reid's just happy to be doing it now.

"It feels real good to get my feet wet and do some nice things out there."

Holmes became the full-time punt returner after Reid's injury and averaged a healthy 10.2 yards on 26 returns and one touchdown.

Thin on the outside

Lawrence Timmons continues to prowl the sideline at Chuck Noll Field. He has had three full practices, counting spring and summer, since the Steelers made him the 15th overall pick in the draft.

He was injured in his first spring practice with the Steelers. He went through two full practices last Tuesday, their first. They had a special teams drill Wednesday morning followed by a full practice that afternoon, and he was injured Thursday.

It's a re-injury of his groin on what he termed "side to side movement, that's all." The Steelers also are eager to see what he can do. There's not much experience behind their two starting outside linebackers.

"We're still keeping it day to day but I'm feeling better," Timmons said. "Everything was positive."

With Timmons and now James Harrison (ribs) out for the second day, linebacker Clark Haggans moved again from the left side to the right. Rookie LaMarr Woodley ran with the first team at left outside linebacker. The move is an obvious way to get Woodley some more repetitions.

Timmons had some tests done to determine the extent of his injuries, but coach Mike Tomlin would not say what.

"I don't want to state it," he said. "I might mess the letters up."

'Nice guy' trims practice

The Steelers held two full practices yesterday, although Tomlin cut each scheduled two-hour practice by 20 minutes on a hot day in the Laurel Lowlands.

"I'm a nice guy," Tomlin explained. "These guys are working extremely hard. It's easy to subtract, tough to add. They've played with energy and enthusiasm and we want to throw them a bone every now and then."

If anyone thought the first week of Tomlin's first camp was tough, week two started yesterday.

"Week two, this is where it probably gets a little miserable," Tomlin said. "You get to know people under duress. Nobody feels great. It's getting hot, I like that; keep turning up the heat. We'll get to know them more, they'll get to know themselves more."

Roster shuffle

The Steelers shuffled their training camp roster for the first time yesterday.

They released first-year safety Harrison Smith and claimed linebacker Marquis Cooper off waivers from the Seattle Seahawks.

Cooper, a four-year veteran with 28 tackles in 30 games, signed with the Steelers Oct. 31, 2006, played in two games and was inactive for a third before being released Nov. 25. He played two seasons, 2004-05, with Tampa Bay, making a career-high 18 tackles in '05, and in four games last season with Seattle.

Smith signed with the Steelers as a free agent Jan. 12, 2007. He began his pro career with the Detroit Lions in '06 as an undrafted rookie free agent out of California, but was released before the regular season.

The Steelers also released rookie wide receiver Chris Jackson and re-signed first-year wide receiver Gerran Walker, who was released four days before training camp began. Jackson played at Millsaps, Walker at Lehigh.

Keisel scores again

The coaching staff promised they would put defensive end Brett Keisel's versatility on display, but no one thought it would be like this.

Keisel caught his second touchdown pass in two days. Yesterday's was a little different yet a little more conventional for his position -- he intercepted a Charlie Batch pass and returned it for what would have been a score in the morning. On Sunday, he lined up as a tight end in a goal-line practice and caught a touchdown pass.

The coaches want to move Keisel around more in their defense to take advantage of his abilities and to help confuse offenses.

His interception yesterday came in the dime defense where he lined up in a three-point stance with Haggans to his right. He engaged the guard, then stood up and dropped into pass coverage.

Peter Diana, Post-Gazette photos
Receiver Dallas Baker holds on to the ball as Troy Polamalu defends yesterday at afternoon workouts at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe.
Click photo for larger image.


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