Running back John Clay came into camp a little bit lighter this year and in better condition wanting to show that he is ready to do whatever is asked of him in the Steelers offense.
“I just wanted to get myself in condition, get prepared,” said Clay, who leaped over defenders to score on the goal line drill on Saturday. “Last year we got thrown into the fire because of the whole lockout. This year getting a chance to have OTAs, getting to know the system really helped out.”
Clay also spent time working on the various aspects of his game, proving he can be an all-around back.
“I can be on the field longer, helping myself, giving myself a chance to be on the field,” said Clay. “I’ve worked on my blocking. Technique-wise it’s good. I just have to get a chance to do it and show them in a game. I am catching every ball. I am showing them I can be the first or third down back if I need to be.”
The competition at running back is tough this year, with Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer, Baron Batch, Chris Rainey and Clay all fighting for time with Rashard Mendenhall still sidelined.
“It’s going to be who comes out and shows what they can do in the preseason,” said Clay. “I have to make sure I know my assignments, stay in the playbook, and do a good job on special teams.”
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Wednesday, January 4
Cold. That is the only way to describe how Wednesday started off. Very, very cold with the temperature only 14 degrees as players made their way in to the team’s practice facility.
The talk at breakfast was Michigan’s win in the Sugar Bowl the night before, with Larry Foote proud of his school.
It was a good day for safety Troy Polamalu who was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Browns, an honor that was announced at the start of the team meeting.
Polamalu came up big with an interception of Seneca Wallace and had a tackle of Wallace or a loss.
The Steelers also made a roster move in the morning, activating running back Chad Spann from the practice squad for depth at the position. In a corresponding move linebacker Chris Carter was placed on injured reserve. Carter has been battling a hamstring injury. Running back Albert Young was also added to the practice squad.
A big topic of conversation in the locker room at lunch time was Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, with the horde of media on hand asking every player – both offense and defense – about Tebow, from his style of play to his faith – something that wide receiver Antonio Brown respects him for being vocal about.
“That is what it’s all about,” said Brown. “A guy like him displaying that is something special about his will and showing his true character. We are all different. But at the end of the day we both possess a strong will and great faith. Guys like that you respect, strong will and great faith.”
Brown, a devout Christian, lives by the motto “Chest up, Eyes up, Prayed up,” in his daily life.
“That’s my motivation,” said Brown. “I’ve been using that since I was a kid. I pride myself on believing that if I keep my chest up and my eyes up, and I remain prayed up, I have what it takes to move forward and get the good out of any situation that may hinder me.”
Another player who was hit up with a lot of questions about Tebow was Maurkice Pouncey, who played with him at the University of Florida. Pouncey has plenty of respect for Tebow, but his focus is on the Broncos defense.
“They have a great defense,” said Pouncey. “We have to get ready to play against these guys.”
There were large crowds around many players’ lockers, with local media joined by national media including ESPN, NFL Network and the New York Times. Among those drawing crowds were Ben Roethlisberger, Isaac Redman, Brett Keisel and Mike Wallace, who is ready to get going on Sunday.
“I have been caged in for about six or seven weeks,” said Wallace. “I’ve got to get loose. I’ve got to come out here and set the tone for my team and do my part to help the team get back to the championship.”
Running back John Clay is getting his share of attention this week as well as he will be the one to give Redman a spell.
“I am looking forward to showcasing my talents and helping the team out any way I can,” said Clay. “I just want to do my best.”
Clay has come a long way in the last month, going from practice squad to playing in his first post-season game.
“Everything is happening so fast,” said Clay. “Four weeks ago I was on the practice squad and not worrying about suiting up for Sunday and all of this happened and I am preparing myself for Sunday. I have been preparing from the beginning as if I was playing. Coach (Tomlin) always told me get ready like you are playing every Sunday. I already had that mindset.”
The cold temperatures forced the Steelers to go inside for practice, where the atmosphere was light beforehand but then got down to serious business.
On hand watching practice was Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle and PNC Bank President Sy Holzer, who visited with Coach Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert.
The Steelers injury report from Wednesday had five players that did not participate at all including CB Cortez Allen (shoulder), LB James Harrison (toe), DE Brett Keisel (groin), RB Mewelde Moore (knee), and S Troy Polamalu (calf).
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (ankle) and center center Maurkice Pouncey (ankle) were both limited in practice.
A good sight was linebacker LaMarr Woodley (hamstring) has a full participant in practice along with guard Doug Legursky (shoulder).
Brett Keisel was busy during the media session
Roethlisberger surrounded by media
Chris Hoke chats with Steve McLendon in the weight room
Chad Spann, John Clay and Mike Tomlin at practice
Chilling out before practice starts
Photographer Karl Roser taking headshots of those new to the roster
Who is that wearing No. 86 – not Hines Ward. See if you can take a guess.
The Steelers.com Live @ 4 Team on air on Wednesday. Check it out daily for the latest news.
Tags: Antonio Brown, Chad Spann, Chris Carter, Clint Hurdle, John Clay, Larry Foote, Maukice Pouncey, Tim Tebow, Troy Polamalu
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RB John Clay
“We just had to pick up for everybody. A lot of people went out, so us, as a team, and as professionals, had to step up to the plate and contribute in any aspect.”
At what point did you know you were going to get the call to dress this week?
“Early in the week, there was a possibility that I could get moved up. It was finalized on Friday.”
On your touchdown play, did you know you were going to be the guy to go in?
“Coach just told me to go in there and give [Rashard Mendenhall] a spell. And that’s what I did.”
What was it like to cross the goal line for the first time in your career?
“There was so much excitement and joy. Too bad my family wasn’t here to share it, but I know they were watching TV. I was just happy that I could do that for my family.”
It really opened up, didn’t it?
“It did. They plugged everybody up on the inside, and I was able to bounce it out. I just had to make one guy miss, and I did.”
You’ve had some ups and downs since you got drafted. How much does it feel like it paid off by getting a touchdown in the home finale?
“A lot. They had a lot of hopes for me coming in here. They said I was a special guy that could do special things for them on offense and on special teams. So with them giving me the opportunity, I took advantage of each one.”
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Rookie John Clay, who was activated on Friday, scored his first NFL touchdown on a 10-yard run to put the Steelers up 10-0. It was his first NFL play as well.
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