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Steelers Steelers Notebook: Cowher pleased with heat

Monday, July 23, 2001

By Gerry Dulac, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

The sun was scorching, the air was thick and steamy, and the grass was baking under his feet. With the temperature at 93 degrees for an afternoon practice, Bill Cowher had only one thing on his mind.

Jacksonville.

"This is closer to Jacksonville weather," Cowher said. "But it will probably be hotter than this down there."

Only two days into hitting at training camp, Cowher already is thinking about the Steelers' season-opener Sept. 9 in Jacksonville.

Yesterday, he welcomed the steamy conditions at St. Vincent College because it allowed his players to get a feel for what they will face in six weeks.

What's more, it gave Cowher a chance to put his team through a lively, up-tempo practice that included something rare at training camp anymore -- plenty of hitting.

"We finally got a chance to hit a little bit," Cowher said. "It was a crisp practice. We're going to be playing more physical this year."

Tempo switch

Cowher said he thought No. 1 pick Casey Hampton spent most of the afternoon practice -- his first with his new teammates -- trying to get accustomed to the tempo.

Especially after Cowher referred to the 90-minute afternoon session as "crisp."

"There's no substitution for repetition and the speed of the game," Cowher said. "It's one thing in minicamp, then you get out here and the tempo is a little faster."

Said Hampton: "It's a different type of tempo."

Tylski stars

Guard Rich Tylski was one of the stars of the one-on-one blocking drills, easily stuffing all four defensive linemen he faced.

Tylski, a free-agent acquisition from the Jaguars last season, started all 16 games in 2000 and performed very well at right guard.

"These guys keep getting younger and I keep getting older," said Tylski, 30, in his sixth NFL season. "It keeps getting tougher."

Injury update

Punter Josh Miller stayed in his dorm room and did not practice because he had stomach flu.

Guard Alan Faneca also did not participate in drills because the team wants to make sure his right wrist is fully recovered from off-season surgery.

Quick kicks

One day after being booed by the hillside crowd for dropping an easy pass, wide receiver Plaxico Burress drew their applause when he made a nice adjustment to catch a deep pass from Kordell Stewart. Burress had to stop his route, cut inside rookie free-agent cornerback Dwayne Stukes and reach high to catch the pass. ... Former Penn State running back Blair Thomas, a former No. 1 draft choice, is at camp as a visiting college coach, helping the running backs. Thomas is a running backs coach at Temple. ... Jamel Smith, a 6-1, 235-pound outside linebacker from Virginia Tech, was signed as a free agent. He was signed last year by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent, and signed with the Rams after being released by New England. The Rams released him July 5. ... The Steelers will practice twice today -- at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. The afternoon session is open to the public.

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