Steelers Notebook: Mendenhall takes steps to get better

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If Rashard Mendenhall starts to dance through holes this season, maybe he can attribute it to part of his offseason workout program.

Who knows? He might even land a spot on "Dancing With The Stars."

Mendenhall, last year's No. 1 pick, began taking a hip-hop dance class last season after a season-ending shoulder injury and eventually took part in a dance performance before about 1,000 people, including some of his teammates, at Chartiers Valley Intermediate School.

He said the dancing helped with his conditioning and he "definitely" is in better shape than he was last year when he came to training camp. Mendenhall said he is more cut and has added more muscle since last season.

"It's a lot different," he said. "It's tough to be able to move like that for a period of time. You get a newfound respect going through that."

Mendenhall began taking the classes at the Bella School of Dance in Wexford shortly after his injury -- a broken scapula Sept. 29 when he was hit by Baltimore's Ray Lewis -- began to feel better.

He continued the classes through the spring, culminating with the performance in June that was attended by free agent running back Stefan Logan, free agent wide receiver Brandon Williams and director of player development Ray Jackson.

"I like it, it was something to do," Mendenhall said.

Asked if the hip-hop classes will help him as a running back, Mendenhall said, "I would think being able to move, the creativity of making guys miss, it probably can."

Then he added, "I have been dancing since I was little, but this was the first time I took a class, so it was exciting, it was new."

Is his dance career over?

"I don't see myself being done with it, but I don't know if I can do it if I'm around the whole season," Mendenhall said.

Tank buster

Rookie running back Frank "The Tank" Summers, a fifth-round pick from UNLV, was knocked off his feet and fumbled after being hit by 190-pound cornerback William Gay in the afternoon practice.

Gay's hit on Summers, who weighs 240 pounds, did not sit well with running back Carey Davis, who yelled at Gay. Safety Ryan Clark then came over and "stirred the pot," he said, verbally jousting with Davis.

"When you carry a nickname like 'The Tank' guys are going to try you," coach Mike Tomlin said. "They want him to prove that nickname is earned."

Asked if he likes it when the players are physical, Tomlin said, "I'd rather say 'Whoa,' than 'sic-em.'"

Working in the rain

Tomlin did not stop practice, nor cut it short, when a heavy rain came about an hour after the players took the field yesterday.

"We don't worry about things we don't control; we came here to work," Tomlin said. "They maintained their focus through the rain. There was no lightning, so no real danger."

Helping hand

Former Pro Bowl center Dermontti Dawson, who is spending a week as a scouting intern, is being asked to take on another job while he is at Saint Vincent -- work with rookie center A.Q. Shipley of Penn State and Moon Area High School.

"They just want me to help some of the young guys with some of the slant-tackle sets," said Dawson, who owns a commercial real-estate development company in Lexington, Ky.

Dawson said he wants to learn the scouting business because he is getting tired of working in an office.

"I like to be out and moving around," he said.

Quick hits

Wide receiver Hines Ward was held out of practice for precautionary reasons. Inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons did not practice after getting a cramp Saturday, but he is expected to be back today. Rookie defensive tackle Sonny Harris (strained groin), a sixth-round draft choice, also did not practice. ... Wide receiver Limas Sweed, a No. 2 pick last year, made two outstanding catches along the sideline on the first series of team drills. "Night and day," Sweed said, describing the difference in his comfort level between last year and this year. ... One of the early standouts has been rookie tight end/H-back David Johnson of Arkansas State, a seventh-round pick. Other rookies who have caught the attention of the coaching staff -- free agent running back Isaac Redman (6-0, 230) of Bowie State, the school's career rushing leader; and free agent tackle/guard Ramon Foster of Tennessee.

Gerry Dulac can be reached at .


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