Steelers vets ready to get going
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Isaac Redman works on the heavy blocking dummy in drills during training camp at St. Vincent College in Latrobe. (AP photo)
It’s nothing personal. The Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman has no issue with the black-and-white cross-trainers he sported on the practice field at Saint Vincent College on Tuesday morning.
It’s just he’d rather be in cleats. He’s healthy. He’s happy after re-signing with the Steelers last Friday. The only thing he isn’t is playing.
“It’s pretty weird,” Legursky said. “I’ve been playing football 19 years, and this is the first time I’ve been OK and not able to practice.”
Welcome to the truncated — and complicated — 2011 NFL free agency period.
Though he’s signed, sealed and delivered, Legursky and all the other free agents who have inked new contracts since camps opened last week have been unable to join their teammates on the field.
Players with new deals can’t practice until Thursday, when the league year officially begins. It has made for an interesting and sometimes frustrating day at the office for guys such as Legursky and linemates Willie Colon, Jonathan Scott and Tony Hills.
All agreed to come back to the defending AFC champions to take make another run at the Super Bowl. All have spent the first days of camp standing around watching the players they’ll be competing against get an early jump on trying to take their jobs.
Ask Legursky and company if it’s clear to them what they can and cannot do and they shrug their shoulders and carefully word their answers.
“Like I said, this is from my understanding, it has a lot to do with collective bargaining and things of that nature,” Scott said. “They say don’t do it, and I don’t do it.”
Sitting in meetings? Yes. Eating team meals? Yes. Putting on pads and going to work? No. Work out with the guys already officially in camp? No.
Wide receiver Hines Ward, currently on the physically unable to perform list with a thumb injury, said the sight of regulars such as Legursky, defensive tackle Chris Hoke and defensive back William Gay in the weight room while rookies and undrafted free agents run with the first team has given camp a somewhat bizarre feel.
“It doesn’t feel like camp until we have our whole team,” Ward said. “It’s a different experience having training camp and the free agency process at the same time.”
Veteran defensive tackle Aaron Smith has a different word for it. He spent Tuesday afternoon working alongside first-round draft pick Cameron Heyward and going against the likes of rookie offensive guard Keith Williams, guys that probably won’t see much time with the first string come Thursday afternoon.
“It’s a little awkward,” Smith said. “You know this guy is going to be there, but somebody else is there right now. It’s kind of, almost like we’re at an OTA or a mini-camp right now.”
That might not be a bad thing for a team with some significant depth issues, particularly along the offensive line.
Williams is doing his best to take advantage of his time working with the first and second units, hoping to soak up as much knowledge as he can.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to show the coaches and the whole team that I can play ball, I can be a pro,” Williams said. “I’ve got to limit my mistakes and study hard.”
It’s one of the few things the re-signed guys can do with their teammates.