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Steelers Steelers Notebook: 8/12/02

Monday, August 12, 2002

By Gerry Dulac, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Cowher not concerned about latest special teams gaffes

Kevin Spencer could joke about all the attention he has received since the Steelers lost to the New York Jets in the preseason opener, saying "I'm just a gosh darn special teams coach."

But Bill Cowher wasted little time yesterday coming to the defense of Spencer, who was brought in as new special teams coach to correct the problems that plagued the Steelers last season.

Spencer's units did not have a good debut Thursday night at Heinz Field. The Steelers had too many men on the field on the Jets' first punt, Troy Edwards was penalized for grabbing the face mask on a kickoff and Josh Miller had a punt blocked.

"Let me say this: Kevin Spencer is doing an outstanding job with this," Cowher said after an afternoon practice at St. Vincent College in Latrobe. "We're doing a lot of different things right now. ... We're going through some of the growing pains. I'd rather experience them right now."

Then Cowher added, "We're going over everything very slowly, doing a lot of technique work out here, and this is a part of it. There's a lot of scrutiny being given it, but I'm not concerned about it at all."

Cowher said the penalty for too many men -- punt returner Hank Poteat came on the field while the Steelers kept their regular defense in for the punt -- was because safety Brent Alexander couldn't spot Spencer on the sideline. Alexander calls the signals for the defense.

"He's not as big as Jay [Hayes, former special teams coach]," Cowher joked.

The blocked punt came when Amos Zereoue and rookie Larry Foote failed to pick up a "game" -- one player running around another -- by the Jets. Like most NFL teams, the Steelers do not use game plans for preseason games. Spencer said the Steelers would have been prepared for the maneuver if it had been a regular-season game.

"Heck, yeah," he said. "You should get shot in the butt if you don't."

Quotable

Cowher on his team's first practice since the preseason loss to the Jets: "It looked like we haven't done anything for a couple days."

Missing persons

Cornerback Dewayne Washington was kept in his dorm room and did not practice because of a virus. He is expected to resume practicing today.

Washington was replaced by cornerback Deshea Townsend in the first-team defense and by rookie Lavar Glover in the dime defense.

Safety Mike Logan, who has not practiced because of a hamstring injury, returned to practice. Tight end Jerame Tuman (abdominal) and wide receiver Dallas Davis (hamstring) did not practice.

Playing catch-up

Terance Mathis said he doesn't let too much bother him. That's why he said he wasn't worried when he got off to a slow start at training camp, then caught five passes for 87 yards against the Jets

"I love to compete," he said. "Every time I get out there, guys look at me and I'm like calm, this is like old hat. I don't get uptight, I don't get too excited. Just play football."

Mathis, though, did not know if we would get another chance to compete this season. After playing 12 seasons with the Jets and Atlanta Falcons, he went unsigned for four months before the Steelers signed him to a one-year deal in June.

"Now that was pressure," Mathis said.

Ladies men

More than 200 females from several states showed up for the Steelers/Motorola Training Camp for Women yesterday morning.

Former players Louis Lipps, Mike Tomczak, Craig Wofley, Edmund Nelson, Dwayne Woodruff and Robin Cole served as instructors for the session, which lasted several hours on the practice field at St. Vincent College.

Open practice

The Steelers will practice twice today. The afternoon session, which begins at 3 p.m., is open to the public.

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