LATROBE, Pa. – On the day that Plaxico Burress visited campus last weekend, there was another veteran player whose trip to Saint Vincent College slipped under the radar.
But veteran tight end Daniel Graham decided to sign with the Tennessee Titans instead, and the Steelers were left to resume their search for a veteran tight end to replace Matt Spaeth, who left as an unrestricted free agent for the Chicago Bears.
On Tuesday, the team signed veteran tight end John Gilmore, and then in the afternoon the featured drill was one where tight ends were pitted against outside linebackers.
"Had some good work today, just continuing on with our team development," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "We had some interesting competition in some of our competition periods – tight ends vs. outside linebackers was the feature drill today."
Gilmore, a nine-year veteran from Penn State who most recently played with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, cannot participate in any practices until the start of the league year on Aug. 4, but as Tomlin often says, an absence by one player creates an opportunity for another.
Jamie McCoy, a free agent tight end signed as a futures player by the Steelers last January, looked to be taking advantage of an opportunity. McCoy, 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, from Texas A&M had himself a nice period during the one-on-one blocking competition, and then in a later drill he made a leaping catch in the back of the end zone for a touchdown.
There appear to be openings at tight end behind starter Heath Miller, and even with the addition of Gilmore (6-5, 257) Tomlin showed no interest in stacking his depth chart there.
"I'm not ready to anoint him at this point," said Tomlin about Gilmore. "We'll just put him in the group with the rest of them and let it sort itself out.
"I thought we had some young corners take advantage of some opportunities today with some short lines today to get some quality work, one of them being (rookie) Curtis Brown."
INJURY UPDATE: We had some minor training camp-like injuries," said Tomlin. "DE Sunny Harris has a mild triceps strain; CB Cortez Allen has a tight hamstring; CB Bryant McFadden has a tight hamstring and TE Jamie McCoy had some heat-related illnesses."
An injury Tomlin did not detail was Emmanuel Sanders', who was seen using crutches and wearing a protective boot on his foot.
Sanders reported to camp on July 28 and took part in the conditioning evaluation later that day. Sanders then practiced on July 29, but after developing some discomfort in his foot he has been sidelined ever since. Sanders said earlier on Tuesday that he will miss three weeks while waiting for his foot to become 100 percent and that he would play in the final two preseason games.
"Don't know right now," said Tomlin when asked about Sanders. "He had a procedure done and you see him out here in a walking boot. Hopefully he'll get back to us here soon. I'm not ready to frame it yet."
Sanders, a third-round pick from SMU used an impressive showing at training camp last summer to win the No. 3 receiver job. He caught 28 passes, 12 of which came in the final three games as he became more of a go-to guy for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Sanders said a procedure was done on his foot on Monday, Aug. 1 in which bone marrow was removed through his heel and then injected in his foot to speed the recovery.