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Steelers notebook: Tomlin relents, gives players slight respite

| Thursday, June 19, 2014, 8:30 p.m.

A handful of teams around the league canceled the final day of minicamp. Mike Tomlin decided to cut the Steelers a break as well.

The Steelers coach cut the final mandatory session short by one whole period.

Tomlin typically lets his players leave early on the final day of minicamp. He made his team go through nearly the full practice Thursday, although he moved them to the indoor facility for the final hour because of heavy rain.

“He told us his mind was already made up, so it didn't matter (that it rained),” cornerback Ike Taylor said. “When you go 8-8 two years in a row, we don't get any free passes. We need all the time we can get, and there are a lot of young guys on the team.

“We need as many reps to squeeze in before training camp.”

The Steelers have a lot of new faces at spring practices. Forty-eight players on the 90-man roster weren't on the team last year at this time.

“Since we have such a young team, we expected it,” guard Ramon Foster said. “Guys need that extra work, and I was OK with it. Coach T gave us a heads up that we were going to be here because he didn't want guys booking flights early in the day. It was a known thing.”

Not that difficult

It's said that a Dick LeBeau defense isn't easy to learn.

Free agent safety Mike Mitchell seems to think it's not that difficult.

“I don't think it has been hard at all,” Mitchell said. “Coach LeBeau and Coach (Carnell) Lake are both great teachers with what they are asking us to do here. ... I don't want to say easy, but they have made it easier on me to pick up the playbook. They are asking things that you just have to know and remember that is different from other defenses that I played in.”

Mitchell, who will replace Ryan Clark next to Troy Polamalu on the back half of the Steelers' defense, has had to learn three defenses in three years, so he's used to picking things up on the fly.

“It's not like this defense is rocket science,” Mitchell said.

Needs more work

Rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant has made great strides getting ready for the start of training camp. But the fourth-round pick out of Clemson needs more seasoning.

“I am nowhere near where I need to be heading into training camp,” Bryant said. “I still have to get in shape and still have routes to work on. I have a lot to learn.”

Bryant has been strictly playing the “Z” wide receiver position. The “Z,” or flanker, position tends to play off the line of scrimmage more and gets to run more deep routes.

Bryant, who averaged 22.2 yards per catch in college, is getting his share of deep passes in practice.

“It comes with the position, but they are adding a little more to see what I can do,” Bryant said.

Wanting more

The Steelers were 25th in the league in sacks a year ago with 34, their lowest total since 1990. They are trying to improve that total by emphasizing more pass-rushing drills.

“We haven't done as many of them in the past, and the entire defense is starting to be better for it,” linebacker Chris Carter said.

Carter might benefit the most from the extra work put on pass rushing. He came out of Fresno State four years ago known for his pass-rushing ability.

“Coming out as an original pass rusher in college, and now we are getting back to all that stuff,” Carter said. “I feel that stuff made me a better player coming out of college, so now that we are finally getting back to that is helping me.”

Odds and ends

Linebacker Jason Worilds was excused from the final minicamp session by Tomlin. … The Steelers will not reconvene until July 25 in Latrobe.

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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