It was a minicamp. A minicamp in May, no less, which means that the Steelers still are a couple of months away from a training camp that starts about six weeks before the first game that will count in the standings.
At this stage of a "season," any news to come out of a padless practice tends to be bad, and so it was for the Steelers on Sunday, May 2, the final day of their weekend minicamp.
Limas Sweed injured an Achilles in what was the lightest of the five on-field workouts conducted over the three days. Coach Mike Tomlin said Sweed will be examined and his status will be determined over the next couple of days, but Achilles injuries can be serious.
Sweed, a second-round pick in 2008, missed the final three games last season and was placed on the reserve/non-football illness list by the Steelers on Dec. 22. He had returned to the team for the start of the offseason program and had participated in all of minicamp leading up to his injury.
"I don't know where Limas stands at this point, because he just suffered what appears to be an Achilles injury," said Tomlin in meeting with the media after the final minicamp practice. "Of course, I will have more information in regards to that, probably as early as (Monday). That probably takes precedence as we sit here today."
Outside of that, Tomlin had little interest in making any pronouncements following a minicamp in May.
"A good weekend for us (because) we got a lot of teaching done," said Tomlin. "Able to see some guys move around, and starting the process of preparing ourselves for the 2010 season. It's just the beginning, kind of a barometer of where those guys are from a football understanding standpoint, from a football conditioning standpoint. And we can spend the next two weeks making the necessary adjustments both from a conditioning standpoint and a football standpoint to be prepared for the month of OTAs that follow. Three-a-week of course, starting the week of May 18, so we're excited about that. Guys got a little barometer of where they are, a little direction in terms of where they need to go here in the short term, and that's exciting."
With Ben Roethlisberger absent from minicamp as part of the terms of the suspension levied by Commissioner Roger Goodell, the quarterbacks taking part were Byron Leftwich, Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch. Leftwich was getting his first on-field work with the team since being re-acquired in a pre-draft trade with Tampa Bay.
"Byron is a sharp guy," said Tomlin. "He has reacquainted himself to our environment rather quickly, interacting with teammates, understanding the offensive concepts, being able to communicate those things. He's doing a nice job, as are the other guys. We got a long process here for the rest of the offseason. We're looking forward to watching those guys work and find rhythm with receivers and so forth, and just continuing to grow."
That is the order in which they practiced – Leftwich, Dixon, Batch – but Tomlin said there was no significance to it, and no urgency in establishing an order that is.
"I wanted to give him as many opportunities to reacquaint him to this environment, with some of the people that he works with in that group and so forth," said Tomlin. "The other guys will be given opportunities, no question.
"There will be a time (to decide on the quarterbacks), but it won't be a time in the near future. There's no need for it to be. The purpose of the offseason is to instruct. Organized team activity days are just that. They're for teaching. I'm less concerned about evaluation. Some of the evaluation oriented things of course can't take place in shorts. So it's on my radar, but not very high on the to-do list at this point. More importantly than anything else, we just want the guys here working, communicating and getting better. Again, it's on my radar, but it's not a priority right now. It will be addressed at some point."
Of Roethlisberger, Tomlin said he continues to stay in touch with him, but that any timetable for his return to the team will be determined by Goodell.
A priority of this minicamp for Tomlin was to see how the rookies assimilated themselves during their first taste of professional football. In that way, Tomlin was able to establish a base-line for the new guys, which will give the coaches a starting point with each of them.
"I wanted to see how they respond to failure," said Tomlin. "When they mess something up, how do they take the instruction? Do they carry it over to the next play? Does it snowball? Are they able to put it behind them? It's a little window into how they would potentially ride the roller-coaster that comes with being a player in this league. That's all I was really looking for from those guys. I was pretty sure they were going to make mistakes because I've been in enough of these camps and they confirmed that. And I was able to look and see how they responded to the corrections, criticisms and instructions. And really that's all that you're looking for in terms of the young guys."
STEELERS NOTES: Of the hamstring injury that kept Hines Ward out of all but the first practice, Tomlin said, "Hines had a hamstring injury, but he is elderly. He'll be fine."