PITTSBURGH -- Strong safety Troy Polamalu, cornerback Ike Taylor, running back Dri Archer and outside linebacker Jason Worilds were among those who weren't at the Steelers' second offseason practice on Wednesday.
Organized team activities are voluntary and Archer, the Steelers' third-round draft pick earlier this month, has been absent this week because of an illness. Polamalu and Taylor missed the first OTA on Tuesday, and Polamalu isn't expected to practice with the Steelers until mandatory minicamp next month.
Rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant was among the players fielding punts on Wednesday and the fourth-round pick said he would like an opportunity to help the Steelers in that phase of the game. Bryant, who has excellent speed, returned kickoffs at Clemson but not punts. He said he returned punts in high school. "I'd like to do it," Bryant said. "It's challenging and fun." Challenging is one word that can be used to describe the brief time that Bryant has spent with the Steelers so far. "I get down on myself sometimes because it's different," Bryant said, "but once I learn everything I'll be fine."
Mike Mitchell and Darrius Heyward-Bey were teammates for four seasons in Oakland and are good friends. Heyward-Bey will be among the wide receivers fighting for a roster spot in training camp and Mitchell expects big things from him. Heyward-Bey, the seventh overall pick of the 2009 draft, has struggled with drops throughout his career. "Darrius is a very hard worker and he's been through some adversity," Mitchell said, "but I'm totally confident he's going to be on this team and help us win football games."
Rookie Ryan Shazier has been running with the first-team defense at the linebacker spot where the Steelers once envisioned Sean Spence starting. Spence is working his way back from a career-threatening knee injury and the 2012 third-round draft pick has looked good in the Steelers' first two OTAs. But neither Spence nor the Steelers will know how much he will be able to contribute this season until the grind of training camp. Spence, who is from South Florida along with Shazier, said he is willing to do anything he can to help the first-round pick with the transition to the NFL. "It's all friendly competition," Spence said. "He is trying to better himself. I am here trying to better myself. He's a hometown guy. I am just happy to be working with him."