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Steelers begin to separate themselves

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By Mike Prisuta
Thursday, Aug. 9, 2007

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin informed his players this week that he's seen separation among some of them.

It's a process that began against New Orleans on Sunday night in Canton, Ohio, and will continue Saturday night at Heinz Field against Green Bay.

The early part of camp was about preparing individuals to compete for roster spots.

Now, it's about weeding out.

Now, it's time to step up or step back.

Amazingly, Lawrence Timmons has distinguished himself by doing neither.

Timmons was sent to Philadelphia on Wednesday for more medical evaluation of the groin that has kept him from practicing for seemingly all but five minutes of his Steelers career.

"Somewhat of a breakthrough there," said Tomlin, who added that he would have more information about Timmons today.

Tomlin still isn't sure when or to what extent Timmons will be able to practice. He's separated himself.

No. 4B pick Ryan McBean has, too.

Initially thought by assistant head coach/defensive line coach John Mitchell to be a prospect of great potential, McBean is struggling mightily with assignments and remains a distant third-teamer behind the established second line of Nick Eason, Chris Hoke and Travis Kirschke.

Heading in the other direction is linebacker Marquis Cooper, who was summoned to camp July 31, in part because of Timmons' continued unavailability.

Cooper played in two games with the Steelers a year ago -- against Denver and New Orleans -- and has played in 30 NFL games over three seasons, bouncing from Tampa Bay to Pittsburgh to Seattle and now back to Pittsburgh

He played on special teams Sunday night, and by Wednesday morning, he was moved up to the No. 1 kickoff team.

Linebacker James Harrison (ribs) was back in pads by then, and linebacker Clint Kriewaldt (shoulder) was back at work covering kickoffs.

Cooper's promotion to the No. 1 kickoff team, therefore, appears to be more of an acknowledgment of his special-teams effectiveness in the Hall of Fame Game than it does a body filling a vacated spot.

"I guess so, yeah," Cooper said.

Cooper's separating himself.

So is running back Carey Davis, who combined for 100 yards rushing and receiving and worked with the No. 1 units on kickoff and punt coverage against New Orleans.

So is cornerback William Gay, who joined the No. 1 kickoff team along with Cooper and Kriewaldt (linebackers Arnold Harrison and Richard Koonce and safety Anthony Smith were removed).

Gay had an interception against the Saints, but his most memorable play was the vicious, ball-separating lick he put on New Orleans wide receiver Robert Meachem.

Meachem was a No. 1 pick and Gay was a fifth-rounder, but that stuff only matters in April.

In August, it's about separation much more than selection.

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