LATROBE – Steelers coach Mike Tomlin didn’t need a doctor to tell him the knee injury suffered by rookie guard Nik Embernate is “a significant knee injury,” as Tomlin put it following Thursday’s practice.
“Don’t want to judge that too quickly. I’m not a doctor,” Tomlin said. “But obviously he’s being evaluated by the nature in which he went down and the way he was taken off. You can assume that was significant.”
Tomlin was, in fact, monitoring the drill in which Embernate was injured. The coach was even peppering Embernate with praise during the one-on-one drills.
“I like 51!” Tomlin shouted after Embernate defeated rookie defensive lineman Cordian Hagans.
“In-cog-NEE-to!” Tomlin said in comparing Embernate to Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito.
Embernate drew similar praise from Tomlin after beating Hagans a second time. But during the third rep against Hagans, Embernate’s knee buckled and he went to the ground with a painful shout. The training staff tended to Embernate and he was carted off the practice field.
“He was kicking butt, taking names,” said fellow rookie lineman Joe Madsen. “He’s a big Samoan, a good kid who just got in with the twos.”
The Steelers’ highest-paid undrafted rookie free agent, Embernate, a 6-4, 304-pounder out of San Diego State, was listed as a second-teamer on the Steelers’ depth chart, but hadn’t played with the second-team line until Thursday, when he played left guard.
“Nik was coming along really well,” said first-team left guard Ramon Foster. “He’s a small-school guy but he was fighting like a big-time college guy. Hopefully whatever happened today wasn’t significant and he’ll be back.”
WORILDS’ BIG TOE
A few reps before Embernate went down in the one-on-one drills, outside linebacker Jason Worilds came up limping after beating Marcus Gilbert. Worilds was held out of the remainder of practice.
Tomlin called it “a great toe injury. Should be some minor discomfort, maybe limit him a day or two.”
It might also allow more reps for rookie first-round pick Jarvis Jones, who yesterday batted a quick pass by Ben Roethlisberger high into the air and then intercepted it.
* After the interception, Roethlisberger turned red hot and put on his best passing performance of the week, highlighted by a 30-yard timing pass to Antonio Brown.
* For the second consecutive day, Bruce Gradkowski threw a long touchdown pass, this one a 40-yarder into the corner of the end zone to Derek Moye.
* The Steelers opened the first scrimmage session Thursday with rookie Markus Wheaton as the third receiver in the slot. The third cornerback – with Cortez Allen still injured and replaced by William Gay – was Curtis Brown.
* Backup safety Robert Golden may have had the hit of the day when he lit up Jonathan Dwyer during the full-tackle, run-game scrimmage.
* Cameron Heyward performed well during one-on-ones. In his three reps, the defensive end ran by Gilbert, was blatantly held by Guy Whimper, and then ripped past Whimper to go 3-0.
* Al Woods dominated the struggling Mike Golic Jr. in three consecutive one-on-one reps.