By Teresa Varley
First-round draft pick Ziggy Hood is taking full advantage of the team's OTAs, but he knows when training camp rolls around things are going to be different.
Right now the players are in shorts and t-shirts each day, but in camp they will put on the pads and start hitting, his first chance to go against the offensive line.
"Pretty much all of those guys are big," said Hood. "I am looking forward to testing my skills to see where I stand. I know there are going to be some battles. I am looking forward to it."
Hood knows that camp will be a physical challenge, but that is why he is spending time in the weight room and working out as much as possible to be prepared for whatever faces him.
"I can say that right now that I am ready, but once week one gets here I will be more tired than expected," said Hood. "It's going to get a lot tougher, more physical once training camp starts."
Punter Dan Sepulveda is back in the swing of things at OTAs, punting for the first time last week and increasing his workload this week.
"I am still trying to get my feet under me a little bit," said Sepulveda. "After taking so much time off you have to get back in the rhythm. I am happy to be out working on it again."
Sepulveda missed the entire 2008 season with a torn ACL suffered during training camp, but said the knee feels good and he is not worried about it.
"You gain your confidence back through the rehab process, pounding on your knee in the weight room pretty hard," said Sepulveda. "When you compare that to punting, it's not asking a whole lot. I had my confidence in the knee before I got back out here swinging it. Now it's just about getting back in the rhythm."
Sepulveda was admittedly a bit winded after practice on Thursday following punting and running sprints, but knows that the conditioning aspect will come with time.
"I would say I am 100 percent now," said Sepulveda. "The only thing I am lacking is the conditioning that comes with punting a lot. It will be good to get back to where I can kick 80 balls without getting fatigued."
Cornerback William Gay is hoping to earn a starting job this season with the departure of Bryant McFadden, but first and foremost he wants to focus on making sure he is ready if called upon.
"I just have to improve each and every day, in practice and games," said Gay. "I have to take it one day at a time. I have to not worry about seizing the job. I just want to go out and help the team as much as possible."
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returned to practice on Thursday during the team's OTAs after leaving practice early on Wednesday. Roethlisberger and running back Willie Parker bumped knees during practice on Wednesday.