- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
LATROBE, Pa. -- As the AFC North blog puts the final touches on its visit to the training camp of the Pittsburgh Steelers, here are some final notes and observations:
Let's get right to the "goal-line drill," which was the highlight of Sunday's practice. The football was put on the 1-yard line and in a best-of-seven scenario, the defense won the drill 4-3. But it wasn't nearly as close as the score would indicate. The first- and second-team defenses dominated the opening sessions as Steelers tailbacks Rashard Mendenhall and Frank "The Tank" Summers were stuffed at the line of scrimmage on four consecutive attempts. With the drill already won, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin elected to continue the final three reps, and Summers and rookie free-agent Isaac Redman scored on their final three tries. Despite the victory, starting safety Ryan Clark was upset with the way his backups on defense finished the drill. "I don't like that at all," Clark said to his defensive teammates.
Two key players returned to practice Sunday. Starting outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley (knee) and rookie receiver Mike Wallace (groin) had full participation. Running back Willie Parker (back spasms) was held out for the second straight day but is expected to return soon, possibly as early as Monday.
Receiver Dallas Baker is starting to turn it on after stringing together a few solid days of practice. Baker had a solid scrimmage Friday and returned with some nice catches throughout the weekend. Baker has always been a bubble player in Pittsburgh, and it will be interesting to see if makes the 53-man roster out of training camp this year.
Pittsburgh is putting a lot of work into pass protection from the running backs as a way to improve overall blocking for the quarterback. Starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked 46 times last year and the Steelers are trying to improve all aspects of their protection in hopes that they can lower that sack total.
Overall the Steelers looked focused. I didn't hear the words "Super Bowl champs" the entire time I was in Latrobe from anybody in the organization, which is a good sign that this team learned from the 2006 season. Health permitting, this visit further confirmed my thoughts that Pittsburgh placed itself in a great position to make another run at the title.