If you've been "jonesing" for some Steelers' football, wait no longer. The first practice of training camp is in the books and the past weekend has been interesting to say the least. Most of it has already been discussed in a couple of different fan posts but we'll try and wrap the news of the past weekend and this morning into a nice, little present for all of those craving some Black and Gold news.
Three Starters on the PUP List: If you'd have told me that three starters (yea, I'm counting Chris Kemo as a starter) would open training camp on the physically unable to perform list, I might have jumped off a ledge right then and there. Not only are two of the three starters perennial Pro Bowlers, they're also the heart and sole of a defense that will have to be healthy to be effective. The good news is that the injuries to Troy Polamalu (hamstring) and Chris Kemoeatu (triceps) are considered minor and they shouldn't miss any extended time. The not so good news is that Casey Hampton, aka Big Snack, lived up to his nickname and showed up to camp overweight and out of shape. He couldn't pass the conditioning test and will be reevaluated by Coach Tomlin at a later date. To make matters worse, Hampton didn't seem to concerned about the situation and stated that he did the same thing in 2003 before going to yet another Pro Bowl. Coach Tomlin on the other hand, wasn't taking the situation too lightly and stated several times how disappointed he was in Hampton, the only player who couldn't pass the test. Hopefully this situation will be resolved sooner rather than later. I'd imagine that both Troy and Chris K will be back pretty soon. Tomlin did say that they're both in pretty good shape.
Offensive Line: Trim and Ready to Battle: We've known for a while that the battle for right tackle would be captivating but it might be even better than we expected. We've noted before that Max Starks is a much better player when he's in shape and he reported to camp 10 pounds lighter than last season. According to reports he looks so trim that reporters didn't notice him when he got out of his car. Starks' competition, Willie Colon opened some eyes of his own by reporting 10 pounds lighter himself. However the line position plays out over the next 4 to 5 weeks, it should be a great battle.
Recap of the First Practice: The first practice of Steelers' training camp is in the books and the eye opener in the AM practice was Willie Reid. He's apparently not ready to go down without a fight, literally. He got into skirmishes with Anthony Smith and Andre Frazier during the session. Smith took what some saw as a cheap shot on Reid during a non-contact drill and the brush with Frazier was after Reid attempted to crack him. Reid's on the bubble and he seems to know it. He didn't back down from either Smith or Frazier, both of whom outweigh him considerably. Big Ben talked with him after the practice about letting the coaching staff deal with cheap shots and keeping his cool. With Hampton, Troy P, and Chris K not on the practice field, their spots were filled by Hoke, Carter and Trai Essex. Essex is quite a surprise and if he can effectively backup both guards, he could go a long way to ensuring his spot on the roster over similar players like Capizzi. Also interesting were the players who worked on punt returns (Jeremy Bloom, Holmes, Travis Williams and Reid), but one notable absence from the group was Mewelde Moore.