By BOB LABRIOLA
When listening to Coach Mike Tomlin talk about it, you get the impression that instead of minicamp weekend it should be called mitigation weekend. As in, everything that happened – good and bad – is mitigated by the fact there is no hitting.
The Steelers completed their three-day, five-practice mandatory minicamp on Sunday with an abbreviated version of Hat Day, which Tomlin introduced when he was hired to replace Bill Cowher in 2007. For the final practice, the players wear hats instead of helmets, and the atmosphere is considerably looser than it is even for a typical session with no pads.
And it was over quickly, upon which Tomlin sent the players off until their next scheduled OTA, on Tuesday, May 19.
"We just brought to close what was a productive weekend for us, and it was productive on a lot of fronts," said Tomlin. "I had a chance to lay eyes on a lot of new guys – instruct them and watch them take the instruction and hustle around a little bit. It was also a chance to gather the veteran players and start the process of building our team for 2009. There was great energy and great enthusiasm. It was a successful weekend from that standpoint. It was also successful because we came out of the weekend virtually injury free."
Tomlin said the only injury occurred when somebody stepped on Mewelde Moore's foot during the Saturday afternoon session, but the sprained ankle that resulted should be fine by the end of next week.
Compared to 2007 when Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley both left minicamp with muscle pulls in their legs, and in 2008 when Rashard Mendenhall did the same, this weekend was a banner one for the players' health. "From that standpoint, it was a very great weekend," admitted Tomlin.
With most of the attention focused on the rookies, there were some bright spots in terms of the kinds of athletes the Steelers drafted. On Saturday afternoon, for example, No. 1 pick Ziggy Hood got down the line of scrimmage, batted an attempted pass into the air and cradled the ball before it hit the ground for a nifty-looking interception. Supposedly, Hood was in the wrong place on the play, but he also made something happen and came away with the football.
"I don't gauge them because it is not football. It is teaching," said Tomlin. "That's the way I approach it. It's a good camp if the guys come ready to learn like they did, if they hustle and if they don't get hurt."
One media member went to Tomlin's final briefing looking for platitudes for second-year receiver Limas Sweed, but it wasn't happening, again, because of the mitigation factor.
"I think it is too early to tell, because nobody got hit out there today," said Tomlin. "Particularly the wide receiver position, you can't evaluate guys until they play. We like what he is trying to do from a work standpoint, but that's just trying to tell a story to evaluate his level of confidence at this point."
MINICAMP NOTES: Tomlin said he stood by what he said on Friday about the status of veteran linebacker Larry Foote. "I won't speculate on what may or may not happen in the not-too-distant future." … Both Daniel Sepulveda and Greg Warren are continued to come back from surgery to repair torn ACLs, and both were limited to rehabilitation-like drills during the weekend … Ryan Clark will not participate at all in the offseason as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery. "We felt it was prudent to keep him out of the mix because he can't stay away from the contact," said Tomlin. "I like that about Ryan, I don't like that in May." … Receiver Martin Nance also didn't participated in on-field drills, and Tomlin said, "He is scheduled to be looked at in great detail (Monday) morning. We will have some information on him the middle of next week, at the latest."