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Ward, Polamalu sit out

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By Scott Brown
Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Steelers held wide receiver Hines Ward and strong safety Troy Polamalu out of practice Friday afternoon as a precaution.

Ward hurt his left hamstring during the Steelers' first minicamp practice, though the injury isn't believed to be serious.

Polamalu practiced yesterday morning but watched afternoon drills, as the Steelers are erring on the side of caution when it comes to the five-time Pro Bowler.

Polamalu played in only parts of five games last season because of two separate injuries to his left knee. He participated in the Steelers' first two offseason practices April 19-20 and said his knee has gotten stronger since then.

"It feels better with time," Polamalu said. "It feels better than it did the previous week."

Also, outside linebacker James Harrison didn't practice yesterday because his uncle died.

Attendance at minicamp is mandatory, but the three-time Pro Bowler was granted an excused absence by coach Mike Tomlin.

Andre Frazier worked with the first-team defense in place of Harrison.

» Quarterback Byron Leftwich worked with the first-team offense yesterday, and he was followed by Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch. The three are competing for the starting job for at least the first four games in 2010 because of Ben Roethlisberger's suspension. "I always liked (Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians') offense," said Leftwich, who played for the Steelers in 2008 and the Buccaneers last season. "To be honest, I was trying to add some of his stuff down in Tampa. I never really forgot it."

» Ward said recently he would retire if the Steelers win the Super Bowl this season. But asked recently about the statement, the 13th-year veteran left himself some wriggle room. "I don't know," Ward said. "It would be a nice way to go out." Ward is 34, and the finish line may be in sight, even though he's coming off a 1,000-yard receiving season. "Every year, it's: 'How much longer can you go?' " Ward said. "I enjoy being here. I like the camaraderie between the guys. I love to come out here and compete."

» Steelers rookies could be forgiven if they felt like their heads were spinning as they left the team's practice facility yesterday. Their day included two practices, meetings, meeting new teammates and the annual dinner the Steelers have for rookies on the first day of minicamp. Former players are invited to the dinner, and among those in attendance yesterday were Hall-of-Fame cornerback Mel Blount. "It's a new experience," veteran defensive end Brett Keisel said while recalling his first day of minicamp. "It's hard right now when you're receiving all of this information and you're around all new teammates, but the best ones find a way to do it. I was talking to Charlie (Batch) in the morning, and I'm like, 'Man, you can just feel the anxiety out here from some of these guys.' "

» The Steelers worked out several players yesterday, including former Kiski High and Pitt standout Adam Gunn. The linebacker returned from a career-threatening injury in 2008 and recorded 78 tackles and five sacks last season.

» Starting center Justin Hartwig (shoulder) was limited in team drills.

» Center/guard A.J. Trump, who signed with the Steelers earlier this week as an undrafted free agent, is no longer with the team.

» The Steelers will have two more practices today and conclude minicamp Sunday with one practice.

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