By Teresa Varley
After a training camp that was relatively dry the Steelers couldn't avoid the raindrops on Monday, but that didn't stop them as they went through a complete practice.
Three rain showers passed through Latrobe during the afternoon practice session, the heaviest falling just as practice was coming to a close and as head coach Mike Tomlin was addressing the media.
One of the first questions he was asked was why practice in the day's conditions. The answer was simple.
"You know, we are going to play in the rain from time to time," said Tomlin. "We can't let rain stop us from what we need to do. We will play in all sorts of circumstances; hot, cold, wet, dry. As long as it is not lightning we need to get our work done."
It seemed like every time the Steelers had a home game last season the rains came, the most memorable against the Miami Dolphins on a soaking wet Monday night game.
"You know, our guys know that we come out here to work," said Tomlin. "This can't make us stop. We have to compete. We have to stay on our feet. We have to catch the ball. We have to defend. There are no excuses because it is highly likely that we are going to play a rain game this year."
The Steelers did get in a good session and another opportunity for back-up quarterback Byron Leftwich to work on the offense, something that will be needed since he is expected to see playing time on Thursday night against the Bills in Toronto.
"I was impressed simply by the fact that he was quick to study," said Tomlin. "You saw that he was able to step out there and step into the huddle, get lined up and deliver the ball around. He is a very sharp guy, that's obvious. Of course, he has a ways to go in terms of catching up, but I thought it was a very good start today."
Another player who is making progress is nose tackle Casey Hampton, who returned to practice on Sunday after being on the physically unable to perform list for two weeks.
"It looks like he is knocking the rust off pretty quickly so we anticipate that he will participate on Thursday unless we have some kind of set back between now and then," said Tomlin.
On the offensive line center Justin Hartwig returned to practice on Monday after missing Sunday with a sore knee. Hartwig will get his shot at starting on Thursday night after Sean Mahan started against the Eagles.
"It's just running its course," said Tomlin of the battle at center. "I think we will have more information after we play Thursday night."
During the preseason the coaching staff does not game plan for an opponent the way they do during the regular season, so while the Steelers are getting ready to take on the Bills, it is a different kind of approach.
"We are still focused on Steelers vs. Steelers," said Tomlin. "We will prepare for Buffalo and be ready for those guys, but it's not a complete game preparation, as we would prepare for an opponent during the season. Our focus is getting better and competing Steelers vs. Steelers and trying to sort out who our best people are. Tomorrow we will come out and work toward Buffalo a little bit, but the business of today was about guys getting better."
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Quarterback Charlie Batch had surgery on his broken collarbone on Monday but Tomlin didn't have any more information at the end of practice. Kyle Clement missed practice with a knee sprain and Mike Humpal was held out after suffering a stinger against the Eagles. Ryan Mundy missed practice due to a high ankle sprain suffered against the Eagles. Deshea Townsend (groin) and James Harrison (shin) also missed practice.