By BOB LABRIOLA
LATROBE, Pa. – If you were one of the 12,000 who attended Monday's afternoon practice at Saint Vincent College, you couldn't help but notice rookie Joe Burnett.
By way of introduction, Burnett is the team's first choice in the fifth round of the 2009 draft, a 5-foot-9 cornerback who is quick and nifty enough to deal with receivers in the slot. And since there is no such thing in the NFL as having too many cornerbacks, Burnett is an interesting prospect in this camp.
Things didn't start out so well for Burnett on Monday afternoon, because during an individual passing drill, he was beaten deep badly by fellow rookie Mike Wallace, who caught a long pass down the sideline for a touchdown.
But as Coach Mike Tomlin said on Sunday, the nature of training camp forces players to deal with good days and bad days, and within those days, good drills and bad drills. The measure of a professional is his ability to overcome the bad days and bad drills and not be lulled into a false sense of security by the good ones.
Burnett didn't go in the tank after Wallace's catch. In fact, he came on to finish the afternoon with an acrobatic, diving interception of Ben Roethlisberger, and he also broke up two other passes. Among those eye-opening good plays were a couple of others where he was in good position but couldn't prevent the receptions.
It was a day where Burnett wasn't perfect, but also one where he dealt with the setbacks and battled back to make some plays to help his unit. In other words, he looked like a real NFL player.
Another rookie who made an impression was Wallace, because in addition to the deep ball he caught behind Burnett, he also made a catch over the middle and held onto the ball despite a big hit from veteran Tyrone Carter in a non-contact drill.
After the session, Tomlin said he planned to address the concept of proper practice etiquette with the players.
"We come here to develop skill and to develop our team, techniques, and assignments but we also have to learn how to practice," said Tomlin. "We take examples like the things that happened today as a teaching tool. This is part of football. That is the nature of this game. We have to instruct and teach that just like we teach assignments, and that is what we intend to do."
INJURY UPDATE: "I gave some of the thirtysomething guys an off day to preserve them," said Tomlin. "It was purely a coach's decision. Trying to take care of those guys: James Farrior, Deshea (Townsend), Hines (Ward), Travis Kirschke and a few others. Some of our existing injuries are status quo – Troy (Polamalu) and Darnell Stapleton are still limited, as are Jeff Hartwig and Heath Miller.
NIGHT PRACTICE: The Steelers will hold their lone night practice of this training camp on Friday, Aug. 7 at Latrobe Stadium. Gates open at 5 p.m., and there will be an autograph session from 6:45-7 p.m. After that, practice will begin.