There they were, out on the field under the midday sun, doing the same kinds of drills in the same basic order, just as they had since July 29. Surveying the overall scene, an onlooker might be seduced into thinking that it was just another training camp practice for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
But closer examination would prove that it was anything but a typical training camp practice, at least not a typical 2011 training camp practice for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
How was it different? Well, it wasn't raining. The sun was shining. The practice was not on artificial turf. It was able to be conducted on grass, which had not been turned into a bog as a result of days and days and days of rain. Then there was the location. This wasn't a college campus nestled in the Laurel Mountains, this was the City of Pittsburgh with the Monongahela River just beyond the one end zone.
The Steelers have moved their operations from Saint Vincent College to their practice facility, the UPMC Sports Performance Complex, but they're doing a lot of the same work here as they did there.
"The point we were making to our football team is that even though we're back here in the comforts of our facility, the team-building hasn't stopped," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "We're still very much in development, we're still very much in a training camp-like mode in terms of how we work – pitting Steelers vs. Steelers and competing. We had a good day from that standpoint."
It was a good day in most ways for the Steelers, both from an on-field perspective and from a health standpoint. During their game last Thursday night against the Philadelphia Eagles, tackles Jonathan Scott and rookie Marcus Gilbert both were knocked out of the game by knee injuries. Afterwards, Tomlin characterized both problems as hyperextensions and said Scott and Gilbert would be able to return in a few days. On Saturday, he confirmed that.
"Yes. Maybe a day or two," said Tomlin. "We're anxious to get both of those guys back out here, particularly Marcus Gilbert. A young guy like him needs as many opportunities as he can to get better."
One of the intriguing topics surrounding the team continues to be the emergence of Tony Hills. The fourth-year pro from Texas played well enough at right guard in the preseason opener to warrant a start there against the Eagles. But after Scott and Gilbert went down with knee injuries early, Hills moved to left tackle. He played some right guard later in the game with the second-team offensive line.
"He's a guy who's in the mix, like some others, and that's what we're here for," said Tomlin . We've got 90 guys trying to shape them to 53 and within that group we're trying to define the division of labor. He has represented himself well and if he continues to do that he'll continue to be given opportunities."
INJURY UPDATE: In addition to the good medical reports on Scott and Gilbert, Tomlin also said Jerricho Cotchery (hamstring) would be fine. "A few training camp-like injuries today," said Tomlin. "Donovan Warren has a tight hip flexor, Jason Worilds has a quad. (Doug Legursky) has some kind of injury, lower body. We're going to give him a day or two."