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Steelers

Notebook: Hope gets nod at free safety

Jerry DiPaola
| Saturday, May 8, 2004

The Steelers' secondary, one of the most troubled areas of the team last season, opened with a new look Friday at minicamp.

Both first-unit safeties are new. Troy Polamalu, the 2003 No. 1 draft choice, is the strong safety and Chris Hope has been inserted at free safety to replace Brent Alexander, who was released.

Hope, who is entering his third season, is playing ahead of eight-year veteran Mike Logan, who signed a three-year, $3.1 million contract, with an $850,000 signing bonus, to remain in Pittsburgh. Logan is moving to free safety after starting last season at strong safety.

"He's ready. It's his time," coach Bill Cowher said of Hope. "Just like it is for Clark (Haggans, at outside linebacker). There are a lot of guys right now that they need to step up and, hopefully, they will seize the opportunity."

Hope said he isn't surprised by the early promotion.

"That's what I expect from myself," he said. "It's not a big pat on my back. I look at myself as a starter no matter what team I'm on. I definitely feel I have the ability to be a starter in the NFL."

Hope wasn't happy sitting on the bench the past two seasons.

"Sitting on the bench is frustrating at times, especially when you feel like you can help out."

When Logan signed his contract, he was told that he would be able to compete for the job at free safety.

Logan, who will be 30 at the start of the regular season, beat out the heralded Polamalu last season for a starting job. Now, he must overtake Hope.

"I think a lot of people expected (Polamalu to start) last year, but I was able to fight off that competition," Logan said. "I think I did a pretty good job. But I knew in due time he was going to be the man to take that position.

"You know me -- I have never been one to shy away from competition. It's going to be good for me. When you get older in your career and you get more mature, you have to find things that motivate you to keep you going, and this is definitely one of those things I thrive on."

Logan said he remains in the No. 1 passing-down defense, along with backup cornerback Ike Taylor.

Ben's first day

Rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger displayed good arm strength during full team and seven-on-seven drills, but he attempted few deep throws on the first day of practice.

"He made some nice throws," wide receiver Antwaan Randle El said. "He stepped up and threw to the tight end and (threw) a hitch route and he put it right there. He's got a strong arm."

Roethlisberger, the 11th overall choice in the draft, admitted to being nervous.

"Oh, definitely," he said. "I think if you're not nervous, something's wrong with you. My legs were a little shaky, my arms were a little weak, but I'm ready to go now."

He said there was a lot of information to absorb, but he said the day went well.

"It's fast," he said. "The toughest part about it is not necessarily knowing the play, but being able to remember what the coach tells me to tell the rest of the team."

Said Cowher: "I'm sure it is fast and there is a lot being thrown at him, as with a lot of the young guys. But that is what this minicamp is for. I told Hines (Ward) it looks like we haven't thrown a ball in five months, but I guess that is what we haven't done."

NOTABLE

Linebacker Kendrell Bell suffered a groin injury and cornerback Chad Scott hurt his ankle when someone stepped on it during the afternoon practice session. Both players left practice, but the injuries aren't considered serious. ... Offensive tackle Josh Burr, who has been on the practice squad the past two seasons, tore the ACL in his knee in NFL Europe. ... Tight end Jay Riemersma, who had shoulder surgery and wasn't expected to participate fully in this camp, said he was not limited in drills, but is not ready for contact. All drills are non-contact, anyway. ... There are two practices scheduled today and one Sunday. ... Outside linebacker Jason Gildon is not attending minicamp. He will be released after June 1.

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