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Good weekend so far for Steelers rookies

Posted May 5, 2012

Steelers’ rookies hit the field on Saturday for their second day of the team’s three-day rookie mini-camp and Coach Mike Tomlin is pleased with what he has seen so far.

“We’re having a really good weekend, getting to know these guys, introducing ourselves to these guys, introducing these guys to some of the fundamental things we believe in from a football standpoint,” said Tomlin. “We’re beginning the process of helping them to develop skills that they’re going to need to earn jobs, but largely this is an instructional camp. We’re having a heckuva time, and these guys are working extremely hard.”

With just rookies and select first-year players on the field it’s giving the coaches a chance to see the versatility of the players.

“You know that we value the concept of position flexibility,” said Tomlin. “You have to start somewhere. These guys who are going to be viable candidates are going to need to have more than one skill set, and of course we’ll get to a point where we see who’s capable of doing multiple things.”

* * *

When linebacker Sean Spence was first assigned his number during rookie mini-camp, he knew right away about the guy that wore it before him. Spence was assigned No. 51, the number worn by former defensive captain James Farrior.

“They just gave it to me,” said Spence. “I don’t think any other number was open. I understand James Farrior wore this number. He was a great linebacker. I am not James Farrior. I am just trying to come in and compete and help the team any way I can.

“I watched the Steelers a lot. They were my favorite team growing up. I watched the defense a lot. I knew he had this number. Being that I was a defensive guy, the way they played defense and flying around all of the time, I liked them.”

Farrior is a player who knew the Steelers defense inside and out, and Spence feels that with time he will grasp it as well.

“It’s complicated. There are a lot of different things,” said Spence. “Once you get the hang of it it’s going to be fun. You have to get a lot of reps which is what we are doing out here this weekend. It’s that and muscle memory. You have to get constant repetitions, studying the playbook on my down time and just putting in work.

“You just play ball. That is the best thing you can do. The coaches know we are going to make mistakes but the best thing to do is get to the ball.”

* * *

Fourth-round draft pick Alameda Ta’amu came in to rookie mini-camp weighing around 346 pounds, close to the playing weight the nose tackle is shooting for and nothing close to a reported weight of 380 pounds he was once at.
 
“I was 17 and coming into college then,” explained Ta’amu of his weight. “I didn’t even know I was that big. I thought I was around 330 pounds and it kept going up the scale. I fractured my right foot in high school and I think that’s how I gained weight, sitting around all day.”

Ta’amu said he is feeling good now, comfortable as to where his conditioning is after the first few days of mini-camp.

“In order to get in football shape, you have to play football,” said Ta’amu. “I was doing drills back home but I was worried I would come here and it would be different. I feel good. I feel in good football shape.”

* * *

Wide receiver Toney Clemons had a sheepish look on his face when he was asked about breaking the collarbone of Dan Rooney, the son of Steelers President Art Rooney II, when he played against him in high school.

Clemons’ Valley High School played against Rooney’s Shadyside Academy team on a Thursday night, with the game televised on FSN Pittsburgh. Rooney, Shady Side’s quarterback, broke the collarbone when he was hit by Clemons.

“He was lighting us up,” said Clemons. “He was going in to score. I came in and got a lucky shot on him to keep him out of the end zone, but I didn’t mean to hurt him. I didn’t know I hurt him. When I got the news I felt terrible about it.

“I remember that play. Now I am out here trying to make plays for his family. His uncle said something to me yesterday. He came up to me and told me I broke his nephew’s collarbone. It was surreal. I apologized to him as well. I haven’t talked to him. I talked to some of his former teammates on Twitter. They reached out to me and we reminisced about that and playing in high school.”

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