AFC North: Steven Black
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers opened their first full-squad, mandatory minicamp Friday to kick off the 2009 season.
Here are some notes and observations:
- Inside linebacker Larry Foote was the only no-show Friday. Foote stated publicly that he wants to be released. The team has the option of fining Foote approximately $9,000 for missing this weekend's practices. But Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said that will not be the case, because Foote has remained in constant contact with the team.
"We will not fine Larry," Tomlin said. "He and I agreed mutually that it was best for all parties involved for him not to be here this weekend."
- Second-year players Limas Sweed and Rashard Mendenhall looked pretty good on the first day of minicamp. Sweed, a second-year receiver, made several nice catches Friday while Mendenhall's quickness and vision are still apparent. Mendenhall said he's now able to lift weights again to regain some of the muscle mass he lost while sidelined with a shoulder injury.
- Another player in the final year of his contract, starting tailback Willie Parker, said he's not going to cause a scene this offseason. Parker plans to show up for all the camps, and said he's disappointed with his performance and various injuries last year.
"I got to make the best decision, and I think the best decision is to be around the team and help the best way as possible," Parker said.
- To help prevent injuries Parker said he spent this offseason doing Pilates, which he deemed "kind of girly" but helpful at the same time.
- A funny play happened in team drills Friday when undrafted rookie receiver Steven Black of Memphis went across the middle against the first-team defense. Backup quarterback Charlie Batch hit Black right in the numbers when a hard-charging James Harrison scared Black so much that he dropped the ball. Even in non-contact drills, the Pro Bowl linebacker can intimidate.
- Pittsburgh made an interesting signing Friday in veteran receiver Shaun McDonald. The seven-year veteran could push Sweed for the No. 3 receiver spot. McDonald was most productive in 2007, when he caught 79 passes for 943 yards and six touchdowns.
"We desire to create competition," Tomlin said. "The only way that we're going to be a really good football team is if we have really good competition and guys competing."