Sorry for the downtime here on the site earlier this morning. Apparently there were some issues with our host, and we were at their mercy to get back up and running. Anyway, on to a few notes about yesterday's OTAs:
* Hines Ward returned to practice yesterday following offseason knee surgery. It's good to see Hines back in the mix, if for no other reason than his presence should be great for the new faces on the squad. Mike Tomlin, however, said they would be bringing back Hines slowly and cautiously:
"We're cautious about the number of reps. We rep counted him a little bit,'' Tomlin said.
* For all the talk and attention the offensive line has gotten from the fanbase this offseason, our prospects in 2008 may hinge more on the health of DE Aaron Smith, who is trying to return from biceps surgery this past year. Tomlin said Smith is not fully recovered, but he was seen working with the sled and doing other inidividual drills.
* Willie Parker has progressed far enough to be taking reps in OTAs. They same can't be said for Rashard Mendenhall, who's still trying to shake a nagging hamstring injury.
* Because of a rule I was not aware of, rookie Bruce Davis will not be allowed to participate in the rest of the team's OTAs. Rules prohibit rookies from participating in more than one minicamp while his school is still in session. The final quarter at UCLA doesn't wrap up until June 13th, while the Steelers final OTA is on the 12th. This rule will also keep rookie free agent Roy Lewis of Washington out of action from here on out.
* According to Dale Lolley, Nate Washington, who was not at the activities, may want to get back as soon as possible, as 2nd year WR Dallas Baker continues to impress this offseason. Baker, who apparently has been working well with Big Ben, caught everything in sight according to Lolley.
* Also missing were Troy Polamalu, which we discussed yesterday, Marvel Smith (personal reasons), Nate Washington, and Santonio Holmes. No word on why Nate and 'Tone were not there.
* Here's an interesting tidbit from Lolley about the offensive line yesterday, which again, did not include Marvel Smith:
With Smith out, the Steelers looked at a lot of different offensive line combinations, using centers Sean Mahan, Darnell Stapleton and Justin Hartwig at guard, and tackles Willie Colon and Trai Essex at guard as well.
Max Starks saw plenty of action at left tackle.
Colon at guard!?! Hooray. I hope he impressed.
* Remember when I asked if punters improve from their rookie year? Sure sounds like it from Lolley's notes. Sepulveda apparently was hitting the roof inside the Steelers' indoor practice facility with consistency. The roof is 100 feet high!
* And finally from Bouchette's notes, Jason Capizzi returned to practice yesterday. Kendall Simmons, who had surgery on his shoulder on May 14th, was with the team, but not a full participator yesterday.