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Tomlin gets wish with hard-hitting first practice

LATROBE, Pa. -- The Pittsburgh Steelers wore full pads on Tuesday, began hitting immediately and kept up the contact for most of a lengthy practice. Or exactly what new coach Mike Tomlin wanted.

Sounds like a normal training camp practice -- but, really, it wasn't.

Under former coach Bill Cowher, the first full day of training camp was devoted to a conditioning test, but Tomlin got that formality out of the way minutes after some players reported to camp Monday. The hitting began during the first full practice Tuesday morning and rarely let up for two hours.

"Everything was at full speed, and there's pads on the first day, it lets you know what he has in store," rookie linebacker LaMarr Woodley said.

Tomlin was so eager to get practicing for real that he planned two full-scale practices, but an afternoon thunderstorm revised those plans and forced the team inside St. Vincent College's gym for a shortened session. The storm disappointed the numerous fans who showed up for what was supposed to be the first workout open to the public.

The Steelers didn't get much done inside except to run through plays while wearing shorts, but at least they got some work in.

"If we had waited for it to stop raining, we'd still be waiting," Tomlin said after the 90-minute workout ended.

The rainout probably didn't disappoint the players who were surprised there was so much contact so early in camp. Among the highlights was the 'backers vs. backs blocking drill in which running backs and linebackers go at each other. Woodley stood out for the defense, fullback Dan Kreider and undrafted rookie Gary Russell for the offense.

"We still have the philosophy that we're going to be a physical team," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "We can be physical in the pass game, we can be physical in the run game."

Physical on a July morning, too, it appears.

"There are a lot more practices (than before), a lot more hitting going on," wide receiver Hines Ward said. "The first week is all about hitting. He (Tomlin) wants to see it.... You can't evaluate players if you don't hit, so maybe we start off fast and he starts to cut back toward the end."

Tuesday was supposed to be the first of 15 twice-daily practices until camp breaks Aug. 17.

"Until he calls it off, we've got to go out as players and do what's expected of us and do a lot of hitting," Ward said.

First-round draft pick Lawrence Timmons practiced for the first time since injuring a groin on the opening day of a spring minicamp, lining up as right outside linebacker James Harrison's backup.

"The groin? No problem," he said. "I think I would have had a bigger head start on today (if he hadn't gotten hurt), but I think I would get to this point either way. I think I will be fine."

Notes: FB Verron Haynes (knee surgery) and LB Derek Rehage (thumb) were placed on the physically unable to perform list, though Haynes caught some passes during the gym practice. ... Also not practicing is WR Santonio Holmes, who is coming off minor surgery of an unspecified nature unrelated to football. ... Woodley leveled RB Najeh Davenport during the blocking drills but said, "I'm still lost, I don't know quite what to do yet."

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Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) rushes during an NFL football game between the between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Peter Joneleit)

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