Steelers practice notes

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

LATROBE, Pa. -- The AFC North blog spent its first day with the Pittsburgh Steelers for training camp.

Here are some notes and observations from Thursday's practice:

  • Starting with some injury news, starting offensive guard Darnell Stapleton is going to have arthroscopic knee surgery on Friday. Depending on the severity, "scopes" can hold a player out anywhere between two to six weeks. The Steelers said they would have more of an update after surgery. But at the very least, Stapleton likely will miss a good portion of training camp and the preseason, which could hurt chemistry on the offensive line. Backup Trai Essex is getting work in Stapleton's place at guard.

  • Both receivers Mike Wallace and Limas Sweed looked good in practice Thursday. Sweed used his big body to shield defenders for several catches in team and 7-on-7 drills, and the lightning-quick Wallace looks more polished than I expected for a first-year player.

  • University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari was at practice and it turns out he's a big Steelers fan. Players such as Ben Roethlisberger, William Gay and Deshea Townsend all seemed to get a kick out of talking to one of the top college hoops coaches before practice.

  • It only took one practice to notice the Steelers are not holding back Lawrence Timmons. Despite playing him at inside linebacker, Timmons was turned loose several times with nice pressures on the quarterback, which is something Pittsburgh didn't do much of last season with Larry Foote.

  • Here is some minor but useful info: I asked one of the referees after practice what's the hardest call to make in the NFL. The ref said offensive pass interference. "It does happen, but sometimes it's just too difficult to call," the ref said.

  • Backup tailback Rashard Mendenhall seems to have gained his bulk back. After last year's shoulder injury he lost some weight, particularly in his upper body. But Mendenhall looked strong physically and still has his good feet in open space.