Practicing how to practice

By Bob Labriola – Steelers Digest

LATROBE, Pa. – In a way, it was an exercise in practicing how to practice.

The Steelers open the regular season with their first three games against teams that employ a 4-3 defensive alignment. Because their entire training camp is spent going against their own defense, which is a 3-4, and because they don't game plan for preseason games, Coach Mike Tomlin wanted to expose the players to the scout-team process.

And so during the second-to-last day of two-a-day practices during this training camp, the Steelers spent some time working off the cards that will be used during the regular season to help the on-field preparation for the upcoming opponent.

"It was a good dog day for us," said Tomlin in reference to the heat index that was measured at 95-degrees midway through the afternoon session. "We were able to get two practices in. This morning we focused on scout teams. It is not necessarily about over-preparing for our first preseason game against Detroit but more about just going through the process of serving one another, executing scout teams, playing off of cards, and still being somewhat competitive. We had a good start in regards to that this morning and came out here this afternoon and competed some more. It was overall a solid day."

The cards used by the scout team help the guys on those units mimic plays and alignments utilized by the upcoming opponent. The young players got exposed to the procedure, because they will most likely be the ones on the scout teams when the season begins, and it also was a way to get everyone a look at the 4-3 defensive alignment that will be utilized by Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Tennessee.

"That is why we started this morning with the scout teams," said Tomlin. "They are working off cards and in some instances it is not only different looks but different techniques in terms of the people who are working the scout teams. There's no time like the present to start the presentation of that. That is going to be a critical element of our preparation over the course of the season. I thought we had a productive morning from that standpoint."

INJURY REPORT: Said Tomlin, "Chris Hoke has a minor knee injury and could be day to day, so we will see how that goes. We had some other heat related injuries; Arnaz Battle had a little bit of training camp knee, he should be back tomorrow. Joe Burnett had some back spasms and he should be back as well. Matt Spaeth injured his groin. That is new. It was minor and training camp related. We should only need a day or two to get him back." … James Harrison, Frank Summers and Jonathan Scott all returned to practice on Wednesday.

STEELERS NOTES: Thursday's practice will be the final one of the week that is open to the public. It begins at 3 p.m. Because the team opens the preseason on Saturday against the Detroit Lions at Heinz Field and the players are off on Sunday, the final three practices of this training camp that will be open to the public will be held on Monday, Aug. 16, Tuesday, Aug. 17 and Wednesday Aug. 18. All begin at 3 p.m.

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