It's back to work for the black and gold


By Teresa Varley

The Steelers were back at work on Tuesday as they kicked off the next segment of their off-season program with the final 12 OTAs (organized team activities).

Rainy weather forced them to work indoors at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex on the South Side, but it was still a productive day for the black and gold.

"I am excited," said head coach Mike Tomlin. "The enthusiasm was awesome. There was a little rust from the last time but that is to be expected."

Tomlin wasn't alone in his enthusiasm. The Steelers haven't been on the field together since mini-camp the first weekend of May and the players were glad to be back in action.

"It's fun to come out here," said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. "It felt like the first one again because it's been so long since we were off. It's good to be out here and have some fun again and get back in the groove."

The OTAs are not mandatory, but the turnout was strong. Linebacker Bruce Davis and cornerback Roy Lewis are the only rookies who are unable to attend as they have not graduated yet.

"It's an agreement we have with the NCAA and one that we respect," said Tomlin. "It's unfortunate for them. I am sure they will be prepared to catch up."

Safety Troy Polamalu also was not on hand as he is spending the remainder of his offseason rehabbing in California after having knee surgery.

"You have to get healthy," said linebacker Larry Foote. "That is more important. I think right now for him it's about getting healthy. He knows what to do. As long as he gets healthy that's what we need."

Polamalu is hoping to rebound from what he called a disappointing 2007 season for himself and his teammates agree that it's best that he does whatever he needs to in order to get healthy.

"Troy is a veteran, an experienced guy," said Roethlisberger. "You know what you are going to get from Troy. The best thing for him right now is rehabbing it. Of course you would like to have him around, he's a great guy. If what is best for him is to be where he needs to be rehabbing, then that's the best thing for him and this team."

For the most part the talk on Tuesday was all about football, but hockey wasn't far from the Steelers minds with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup finals against the Detroit Red Wings.

"I love watching them play," said Roethlisberger, who plans on attending a game in Detroit as well as the games at Mellon Arena. "They have a great chance. It will be a good series. I don't want it to go to seven because I hope they can sweep it, but a game seven and us winning it would be pretty sweet."

Tomlin has become more of a hockey fan since arriving in Pittsburgh and is looking forward to the series as well.

"It's awesome," said Tomlin. "I am like any other emerging hockey fan. My boys enjoy it. We enjoy going to the games. They have an opportunity to win the Stanley Cup and I am excited like everybody else is in Western Pa."

There is one player on the team, though, who isn't pulling for the black and gold. Foote, who is from Detroit, is pulling for the Red Wings and hopes that Pittsburgh fans don't hold it against him.

"Don't cut me off in traffic or yell at me or anything like that," joked Foote. "It will be a good series."

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