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Tomlin plans less demanding training camp

After the Steelers' final offseason practice of the year, Brett Keisel sprinted off the field. "See you at training camp!" the veteran defensive end said to reporters.

When Keisel and his teammates report July 27 to St. Vincent College in Latrobe, they are in for a less demanding camp than the one they endured a year ago under coach Mike Tomlin.

For starters, the players will report almost a week later than last year, when they practiced early because they had a fifth preseason game. That is not the only reason why Tomlin's second Steelers camp will have fewer practices than it did in 2007, when two-a-days were more the rule than the exception.

"I know the guys a lot more than I did last year," Tomlin said Thursday. "We are a veteran team in some areas. You have to approach it differently because of that."

With the elimination of NFL Europe, the maximum number of players that teams can take to training camp has been trimmed from 86 to 80. That, Tomlin said, is another reason why he won't push his players as hard as last year.

"There's been some minor adjustments to the schedule," Tomlin said. "The goals will remain the same and that is to exit Latrobe as a hardened unit that is ready for battle. But how we get to it will be different."

Complaint, uh, noted

Third-year wide receiver Santonio Holmes said Wednesday that he felt the Steelers had too many offseason practices. Tomlin made it clear yesterday that Holmes' opinion won't be taken into account when Tomlin is planning the schedule in future offseasons.

"I like Santonio," Tomlin said. "Santonio's a good player. He's a good guy. He's learning how to be a professional. We'll continue to work with him."

Many happy returns?

Holmes has made it clear he would like return punts this season -- he played exclusively at wide receiver last year - and Tomlin said the Steelers will "take a peek" at the dynamic playmaker there.

"We'll see if he can handle it," Tomlin said of Holmes, who returned punts in 2006.

Other candidates to return punts, Tomlin said, are Mewelde Moore, Willie Reid and Jeremy Bloom. In the mix for kickoffs are Moore, Reid, Bloom and rookie first-round pick Rashard Mendenhall.

Extra points

Chris Kemoeatu will enter training camp No. 1 on the depth chart at left guard. Competition could come from centers Sean Mahan, Justin Hartwig and Darnell Stapleton. ... Veterans Troy Polamalu and Casey Hampton did not take part in OTA practices. Polamalu stayed in California to work with a personal trainer. The Steelers never gave a reason for why Hampton missed OTAs.

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