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Thread: OTA No. 8

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    Default OTA No. 8

    Kraig Urbik said he hasnít gained any weight, that heís only gotten stronger. And I could only agree after shaking hands with the second-year interior offensive lineman. He nearly crushed my means of employment, but I sucked it up and interviewed him anyway.
    The big guyís been playing first-team center this week because of the injuries to Justin Hartwig and Doug Legursky, and Urbik believes heís made great strides since his rookie season. Iíll have the complete interview, but Iíd better roll through the highlights of OTA No. 8 right now:

    * This one started like most, with a big play to Mike Wallace. Itís almost as if Byron Leftwich wants to make that statement every practice. This time, Wallace lined up in the slot and whipped strong safety Will Allen across the field to catch the pass before heading for the opposite sideline.

    * Leftwich came back for a second turn at QB during the first scrimmage and his first play was a deep post to tight end Heath Miller, with Lawrence Timmons trailing by a few yards.

    * Leftwich is playing with complete confidence right now, while his backup, Dennis Dixon, also looks like a different quarterback than he was just a week ago. Both quarterbacks are finally taking command of their respective units and have pulled away from Charlie Batch. We presumed as much, but itís now become clear that Leftwich is the teamís best big-play threat at the position and that Dixon is the youngster with upside who must be given work every day.

    * I watched third-round pick Emmanuel Sanders closely today and noticed he runs an awful lot of short ins, outs and curls, and that the QB doesnít look his way much. Dixon did on one play, but Sanders cut the wrong way and Dixonís pass landed inside instead of out. On another play, Keenan Lewis cloaked Sanders on an intermediate route and the two squabbled about each otherís contact all the way back to the line.

    * Speaking of Lewis, he was beaten deep by 6-foot-4 WR Brandon London, who made the diving catch of the day along the sideline. Lewis, otherwise, has been superb. At minicamp he said, ďIíll be awesome this year,Ē and his buddy Wallace agrees with him. Said Wallace: ďHeís been doing pretty well, 10 times better than last year, night and day. Heís just grinding. Heís so much more focused than last year. If he keeps it up, weíve got a good one.Ē Lewis is playing behind Bryant McFadden as the second-team left cornerback.

    * Speaking of London, he also made a great catch on Wednesday Ė right in front of me along the sideline Ė and after he got up and fired the ball in celebration against the fence, I told him ďnice catch." But since he didnít thank me, I didnít include him in my notes. (Ha, thatíll show him.) So, anyway, his catch today made me re-think my position and give the guy a break. Iím not saying heíll be any kind of camp surprise, but the big manís doing OK in shorts.

    * Antwaan Randle El had another strong practice. Leftwich hit him deep between Will Gay and Ryan Clark off a play-action fake and Randle El made a juggling, fingertip snag.

    * The staff concentrated on the run game today, but without contact thereís really not much to say, other than Rashard Mendenhall, Mewelde Moore, Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer all look fit, quick and ready to form a solid corps.

    * Limas Sweed stood on crutches while watching practice. Said Sweed: ďI was playing the best football of my life before I got hurt. Everything had slowed down tremendously.Ē

    * Later in practice, Leftwich threw deep to Wallace, who was being tied up by first-year cornerback Trae Williams. The young CB was physical with Wallace Ė perhaps too physical, because he mightíve drawn a flag had it been a game.

    * Dixon may have found himself a main man in rookie receiver Antonio Brown. The two connected on back-to-back 20-yard gains against rookie cornerback Crezdon Butler. Brown cut out on the first and in on the second.

    * Chris Scott played second-team left guard today. Down a couple of men, first-teamers Chris Kemoeatu and Trai Essex had alternated at the spot Wednesday, but the staff finally moved the rookie tackle inside.

    * Tight end Eugene Bright led linebacker Lawrence Timmons across the middle by a step or two, caught the pass, turned it up, but Timmons recovered to poke the ball free from behind.

    * Leftwich threw an interception directly into the waiting hands of Butler, who was playing well off the line in the Steelersí Cover-3. Obviously, Leftwich and receiver Arnaz Battle had a miscommunication. On the next play, Leftwich smoked an out to Miller, who shielded Butler from the ball and made the catch.

    * Batch connected with Brown for a touchdown pass over David Pittman to end practice.

    Later in the evening, the league announced that QB Ben Roethlisberger could return to the Steelers on Tuesday for their final six workouts.

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    Default Re: OTA No. 8

    Thanx for the post, man... ...Where did it come from (source)?

    ... BTW, welcome to the board! Kick your feet up and enjoy the Tavern...
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    Default Re: OTA No. 8

    I hope Leftwich gets some confidence and can play well for us...we'll need it.
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    Default Re: OTA No. 8

    Thanks for the update. I'm wondering if there is a chance that Batch doesn't survive camp. I love the guy, but I am wondering if it may be the time for him to make the transition to the coaching ranks, right to our staff.
    Mendenhall and Dwyer could make a real nice 1-2 punch with an improved offensive line.
    This whole suspension thing with Ben could turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the renewed focus on the running game it is resulting in (I know Art ll called for it after the season ended, but the need is even greater now).
    I know Sweed said things have really slowed down for him and he was playing his best ball when he was injured, but it would have sounded better after a few preseason games as opposed to OTA's.
    Welcome Zalapski24!!!
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