LATROBE – Tony Hills may have played his best game yet at left tackle Friday in Washington.
The Steelers’ response?
They moved him to right guard.
That’s where Hills practiced Sunday afternoon with the first team.
Last year’s RG, Ramon Foster, and Doug Legursky split time at left guard Sunday as last year’s left guard, Chris Kemoeatu, worked individual drills only in his first day off the PUP list.
The coaching staff was sketchy about whether Hills is now in the mix for the starting RG spot, or whether they were merely providing him with position flexibility to become a more valuable swing tackle on game days.
“We’re going to let them sort themselves out,” was all coach Mike Tomlin would say about the RG candidates.
But line coach Sean Kugler seems to be among the crowd who believe Hills is more suited to play guard than tackle.
“We’re looking at Tony at the guard spot,” said Kugler. “We finally got all our people back healthy so we can look at guys at the positions we originally wanted to look at them.”
Hills practiced a bit at RG last week and then played there in the fourth quarter in Washington once his stint as the second-team left tackle ended.
“He responded well to that,” Kugler said. “We didn’t throw him into the fire and get him a full half; he wasn’t ready for it. But hopefully this week with the preparation that he has he’ll be a little bit more ready for it.”
It’s likely that Hills will start at RG Thursday night against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Chris Scott started at RG in Washington in his first game action with the team and made too many mistakes. Legursky is more of a center. Foster, perhaps inspired by the promotion of Hills, played with fire at LG yesterday and remains a legitimate contender at RG. Perhaps it’s come down to either Hills or Foster at RG.
“Tony’s doing a solid job this camp,” Kugler said of the fourth-year player. “He’s working hard. I think he’s taking football serious, as he should. I’m expecting more improvement from him this week, but I’ve been pleased with Tony.”
Jerricho Cotchery, the 6-0, 203-pound wide receiver, was given No. 82 for his first practice with the Steelers yesterday.
“He moved around well,” said Tomlin. “Of course we’ve been microwaving him from an assignment standpoint, but he’s a veteran guy. This guy’s eight years in the league so we expect him to catch up pretty quickly.”
In seven seasons with the New York Jets, Cotchery caught 352 passes for 4,454 yards and 18 touchdowns. After a limited rookie season, Cotchery has averaged 59 catches, 742 yards and 3 touchdowns per season. But after refusing to take a pay cut, Cotchery was released by the Jets. He said Pittsburgh is the perfect place for him.
“That’s exactly why I came here – to play for a Super Bowl contender,” he said. “And the atmosphere, the way they handle their guys over here, it’s something I need at this time. It’s the best atmosphere for me to thrive in as a player and as a person.”
Cotchery, 29, played collegiately at North Carolina State where he was Philip Rivers’ go-to guy.
To make room for Cotchery, the Steelers waived injured DE Sunny Harris.
CB Ike Taylor will undergo surgery on his broken left thumb Tuesday and only then Tomlin consider estimating Taylor’s recovery time.
“We’re anticipating participation in him after a number of days once the thing settles down after the surgery,” was all Tomlin would say.
RB Baron Batch will undergo surgery on his torn ACL on Wednesday.
DE Aaron Smith missed his first practice Sunday with a swollen knee while bookend DE Brett Keisel also missed with an ankle that was hurt during Friday’s game. Neither injury appears to be serious.
Also missing Sunday’s workout were K Shaun Suisham (illness), CB Crezdon Butler (quad), WR Emmanuel Sanders (foot), WR Arnaz Battle (knee), and WR Wes Lyons.
Kemoeatu, ILB Mario Harvey, and CBs Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown returned to practice but worked individual drills only.