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Steelers notebook: Training camp starts on July 26

| Tuesday, June 11, 2013, 1:48 p.m.

Football season in Pittsburgh starts on Friday, July 26, the day the Steelers report to training camp in Latrobe.

NFL rules permit teams to open camp 15 days before the first preseason game. The Steelers' first exhibition game is Aug. 10 against the Giants at Heinz Field.

The first training camp practice open to the public is Saturday, July 27. All practices open to the public will start at 3 p.m. There will be evening practices at Latrobe's Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 2 and at Saint Vincent College at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 14. The last public practice will be Saturday, Aug. 17.

The Steelers are the only AFC North team to hold a traditional, out-of-town training camp; this will be their 48th consecutive summer in Latrobe. The Bengals, Browns and Ravens hold camp at their training complexes.

Protecting the passer is key for RB Bell

Whether second-round draft pick Le'Veon Bell starts at running back won't depend entirely on how well he performs with the football in his hands.

Asked what is the hardest aspect for a rookie running back to learn, assistant coach Kirby Wilson said, “Pass protection.”

“You are going against skilled pass rushers, as opposed to guys in college that are just rushing,” Wilson said. “For these guys, it's an art. There are counter moves, and these guys are very explosive that rush the passer in the NFL.”

And if Bell can't get the technique down?

“You have to be able to protect the quarterback or you won't play,” Wilson said. “That's not just in Pittsburgh. That's in every NFL city.”

Tomlin: QB Gradkowski did ‘nice job'

The Steelers held a morning walk-through indoors and a full practice outdoors on the first day of their three-day minicamp.

“We did some nice things today, situational football, two-minute and third-downs. We will continue to do similar things for the remainder of the week in an effort to be prepared and make the best of the opportunity to get better,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “Bruce (Gradkowski, the backup quarterback) did a nice job, particularly in two-minute and in other areas.”

Tomlin was a bit evasive when asked if any players won't be ready for the start of camp.

“Not as I stand here,” he said. “But we will know more in regards to that the closer we get. “

Inside linebacker Sean Spence, recovering from a serious knee operation, still isn't close to being able to return to the field. Also out this week are quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (knee surgery), tight end David Paulson (lower leg), cornerback Terry Hawthorne (knee) and right tackle Mike Adams (stab wounds).

Woodson, others attend minicamp opener

There were some familiar faces on the practice field, including former Steelers players Rod Woodson, Mike Tomczak, Jason Gildon and Rod Rutherford. The Steelers routinely bring back former players to assist the full-time coaches during the offseason workouts and training camp.

Woodson, the Hall of Fame defensive back, will return for training camp. Since retiring, he has worked for the NFL Network and spent one season as the Raiders' secondary coach. He wants to return to coaching again.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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