Notebook: Young (WR) opening eyes

Notebook: Young (WR) opening eyes

LATROBE – They could call him "Plax Junior" or even "Freddie Gibson Senior". Or they can just keep calling Walter Young that tall guy who catches everything.

That's what quarterback Tommy Maddox called the 6-foot-4, 220-pound receiver, who just might be the camp sleeper this summer.

"I tell you, he had a good spring and he's having a good camp," said Maddox. "He's starting to feel a little more confident every day. He's a tall guy who goes up and plays the high ball very well."

Maddox always had a good rapport with Plaxico Burress, the 6-5 receiver who left in free agency. Does Young remind him of Burress?

"Yeah," Maddox said. "I think it's nice, especially on the outside. I had a play today where Willie Williams made a great break on it. To be able to put it high and outside where only he can get it is nice."

Is Young a sleeper?

"He's got to keep going and continue to improve but I think through the spring and the first few days of camp, he's opened some eyes."

If Young hadn't opened eyes during his stint on the practice squad last year, or at this past mini-camp, he did today. He followed up a brilliant morning practice with a fine showing in pads Wednesday afternoon. In the team scrimmage portion of practice, Young caught a 25-yard out in front of Ike Taylor.

How did he rank this day among those he's spent with the Steelers?

"Probably my best one," Young said. "I felt good, went out there, the quarterbacks were throwing me the ball, I had an opportunity to make plays and I did."

Young went to the University of Illinois as a quarterback before switching to wide receiver as a redshirt sophomore. In three years as a starter, he caught 134 passes, capped by the 57 he caught as a senior. Young was part of a receiving contingent at Illinois that included three others who are currently on NFL rosters.

The Steelers liked Young better than Brandon Lloyd (San Francisco 49ers), Aaron Moorehead (Indianapolis Colts) and Greg Lewis (Philadelphia Eagles) in the 2003 draft. They liked Young's soft hands and athletic ability, but didn't have a pick in the sixth round. By the time their pick in the seventh round rolled around, Young had been drafted by the Carolina Panthers.

Young made the Carolina roster and played in seven games in 2003. He had a bad camp in 2004 and was cut before the opener. The Steelers signed him to their practice squad and now he's hoping to emerge in the NFL the way he did in college. After the first two days of camp, that appears to be his destiny.

"It was a good start," he said. "I wanted to come in and get a good start and hopefully build off that. You still never know, but I'm hoping to make their decision a tough one."

Coach Bill Cowher, for one, is paying attention.

"Walter's a big target and can catch the ball," Cowher said. "He had an excellent morning this morning and really has had an excellent camp to this point. He's got a lot more opportunities right now and he's making the most of it."

DREAM CONTINUED

While Young could be considered this year's "sleeper", last year's has picked up from where he off.

Zamir Cobb made a dazzling one-handed catch of a deep Ben Roethlisberger catch on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he beat defensive back Janssen Patten by at least five yards to haul in a Charlie Batch bomb.

Cobb was last year's camp sleeper before breaking his ankle in the second preseason game. "Coming back from an injury is a mental battle," said the 6-0, 182-pounder from Temple. "As far as picking up the way I left off, I wouldn't say that. I'm just trying to get better every day. That's it."

Cobb wasn't impressed by his one-handed catch; he instead gave credit to Roethlisberger. In fact, Cobb isn't impressed with much that he's done.

"I'm not a complacent dude," he said. "I really want to get better. I really don't feel like I'm there yet or I have arrived. I'm really pushing forward and just trying to eat at it every day."

As for his ankle, Cobb said it's not fully recovered. "I don't really want to mention it," he said. "It's getting better every day and I just want to get better with it."

INJURY REPORT

Lee Mays missed the morning practice with a minor hamstring injury but was back on the field in the afternoon. Duce Staley sat out the afternoon practice because of "a little inflammation on the knee," according to Cowher, who added that Staley would practice Thursday. Kendall Simmons missed some practice time Wednesday afternoon because "he didn't feel right with the sugars and everything else with the heat," Cowher said, "but he'll be all right (Thursday)." … The highlight of positional drills was the blocking of rookie tight end Heath Miller, who pushed James Harrison around to the delight of fans. Harrison, though, stood Miller up during the run-blocking drill on their next go-round.

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