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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Steelers activate Miller, Dwyer among cuts to get to 53

In moves that should be shocking to nobody who reads this blog regularly, the Steelers activated Heath Miller from the PUP list on Saturday and released running back Jonathan Dwyer, their leading rusher from 2012.

Miller likely won't be ready to play in the regular season opener, but shouldn't miss too much time as he continues his comeback from a torn ACL.

Dwyer, meanwhile, had lost the trust of the coaching staff after showing up overweight again in the offseason. He had also shown a lackadaisical attitude over the years, showing up late for meetings and such - things that are obviously frowned upon.

The release of Dwyer means the Steelers will go into the opener next week with Isaac Redman, Felix Jones and LaRod Stephens-Howling as their primary ballcarriers until Le'Veon Bell is ready to go.

Bell, who is off crutches and moving around much better, has been in and out of his walking boot as well. He's likely at least two weeks from returning to action.

Recent draft picks Alameda Ta'amu, a nose tackle taken in the fourth round in 2012, cornerback Terry Hawthorne, a fifth-round pick this year, and wide receiver Justin Brown, a sixth-round pick this year, were also released.

In addition to Dwyer, veterans released included linebacker Marshall McFadden, cornerback Josh Victorian, tight end Jamie McCoy and punter Brian Moorman were released.

McFadden was beaten out for an inside linebacker spot by Kion Wilson and Vince Williams, Victorian by Curtis Brown and Moorman by Drew Butler.

First-year players released included wide receiver Kashif Moore, running back Alvester Alexander, tight end Nathan Overbay and tackle Joe Long. Veteran linebacker Brian Rolle and safety Ross Ventrone were also released.

Eight undrafted rookies were also released, wide receiver Reggie Dunn, offensive linemen Mike Golic Jr., Joe Madsen and Chris Hubbard, defensive end Brian Arnfelt, linebackers Alan Baxter and Terence Garvin and cornerback Devin Smith.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Starks released by Chargers

Veteran offensive tackle Max Starks was released by the San Diego Chargers on Friday, one day after allowing three sacks in a preseason game against San Francisco that Starks called, "The worst game of my life."

Starks had already lost the starting LT job in San Diego to King Dunlap and might not have a lot left in the tank at this point in his career.

That said, he should get looks from a number of tackle-starved teams around the league looking for backup help.

Will the Steelers be among those teams?


Right now, the Steelers' top backup at tackle is Kelvin Beachum. But he's also the top backup at every offensive line position.

Behind him are Guy Whimper and possibly John Malecki. Whimper is a tackle - at least in name. But didn't show the capability of playing on the edge in the preseason. He was passable as a guard.

Malecki is strictly an interior lineman.

That's eight offensive linemen on the active roster. The Steelers could certainly use a ninth.

Starks' wife is from Pittsburgh and he's well liked in the locker room. But he was already given his walking papers when the team decided to go with Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert at offensive tackle.

That duo will remain the starters unless one is injured.

Starks wanted an opportunity to go somewhere and be a starter. He might still get that chance somewhere else if there is an injury.

But for now, he's unemployed.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Post-Carolina 53-man roster

With the preseason now in the books, here's a look at how the Steelers' 53-man roster breaks down following the team's finale:

Quarterback: (3) Ben Roethlisberger, Bruce Gradkowski and Landry Jones. Simply put, the season is tied to Roethlisberger's health. If he plays in 14 or more games, the Steelers have a chance to win 10 or 11 games. If he does not ...

Running back: (5) Le'Veon Bell, Isaac Redman, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Felix Jones and Will Johnson. I know there's going to be a lot of disagreement on this, but Jones can do more for this team than Jonathan Dwyer. If I were Kevin Colbert, I'd be working the phones trying to deal him. The Giants lost Andre Brown to a broken leg Thursday night. Dwyer for a conditional draft pick would get it done. Bell is off his crutches and moving around well. Redman should be ready for the opener, and Stephens-Howling and Jones are both different enough types of runners to offer a change of pace. Johnson's hamstring injury suffered Thursday night is a concern, but David Johnson can help out here.

Wide receiver: (5) Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery, Markus Wheaton and Derek Moye. Moye has practice squad eligibility but get a shot to possibly contribute until Heath Miller returns.

Tight end: (3) Heath Miller, David Johnson, David Paulson. Miller will be activated off the PUP list, though he might not be ready to play for a week or two. In the meantime, the Steelers will get by with Johnson and Paulson, with Kelvin Beachum helping out. Matt Spaeth will go on season-ending IR. No sense using the IR with a designation to return on a backup player, when the combo of Beachum and Paulson can accomplish the same results.

Offensive line: (8) Mike Adams, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, Kelvin Beachum, Guy Whimper and John Malecki. Depth is an issue, though Whimper is better at guard than tackle. Beachum is serviceable at center in a pinch, but Malecki is better as a long-term option. They'll be watching the waiver wire on this one.

Defensive line: (6) Ziggy Hood, Steve McLendon, Brett Keisel, Cameron Heyward, Al Woods and Hebron Fangupo. Woods can play inside or out, which is a bonus. Fangupo is a run-stuffing fireplug and has been better than Alameda Ta'amu. Brian Arnfelt is a nice practice squad option.

Linebacker (10) LaMarr Woodley, Larry Foote, Lawrence Timmons, Jason Worilds, Jarvis Jones, Chris Carter, Alan Baxter, Marshall McFadden, Kion Wilson and Vince Williams. Special teams, special teams, special teams. Terence Garvin goes to the practice squad.

Defensive back: (10) Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Cortez Allen, William Gay, Shamarko Thomas, Robert Golden, Terry Hawthorne, Ross Ventrone and Josh Victorian. Ventrone makes it over Brown as a special teams ace.

Specialists: (3) Shaun Suisham, Greg Warren, Drew Butler. Butler has beaten out veteran Brian Moorman.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Final preseason roster battles

As the Steelers head into their fourth, and final, preseason game, the starting lineup is all but settled.

Many of the key spots are also filled.

But roster spots 45 through 53 are pretty much in play.

Here's what to watch this week:

Tight end-David Johnson returned last week and immediately moved ahead of David Paulson on the depth chart. Can he hold off Michael Palmer and Jamie McCoy? Matt Spaeth is headed for injured reserve. With Johnson back, the Steelers have a decent blocking tight end. The use of Kelvin Beachum helps there as well. Paulson would be the receiving threat until Heath Miller returns. The guess here is that Paulson holds down the job, though Palmer is pushing hard.

Running back-Can Felix Jones beat out Jonathan Dwyer? The coaching staff doesn't trust Dwyer, the team's leading rusher in 2012. He was the starter coming into the offseason and showed up grossly overweight. Dwyer has been the only back of consequence who has stayed healthy in this preseason, but the fact the Steelers traded for Jones - a back with an NFL track record - last week shows that they're looking to continue to push Dwyer. Isaac Redman and Bell won't play against Carolina. Their spots are secure. LaRod Stephens-Howling had perhaps the best showing of any of the team's backs in the preseason opener against the Giants. This is coming down to Dywer or Jones.

Reserve inside linebacker: With Stevenson Sylvester being jettisoned earlier this week, it comes down to Marshall McFadden, Vince Williams, Brian Rolle, Kion Wilson and Terence Garvin. McFadden is a given. He's had an excellent offseason and training camp. Williams has been moved up to second string, but Wilson was on all of the first-team special teams units last week. That leaves Rolle on the outside looking in since he's not eligible for the practice squad, where Garvin would likely be headed. That's at this point. A strong showing on special teams could change all of that.

Reserve safety: There's an assumption that the Steelers will only keep four players here. But given the age and injury history of starters Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark, it could be five since Robert Golden can also play some corner. That means DaMon Cromartie-Smith and Ross Ventrone could both be in the mix. DCS has something the other safeties on the roster don't have - size. Ventrone is scrappy. He did a decent job as a gunner last week. Though he didn't make the tackle, he did his job, taking on two guys and keeping contain.

Cornerback: Isaiah Green, Josh Victorian Terry Hawthorne and Devin Smith are battling for what will likely be one spot on the active roster and one practice squad position. This will strictly come down to special teams. Green didn't help himself by not getting on the field last week against Kansas City, but the team thought enough of him to keep him around. Hawthorne missed the entire offseason and first couple of weeks of training camp with a knee issue. That opened the door for Victorian to keep his name in the mix. This battle is too close to call at this point.

Wide receiver: It's no given that the Steelers will keep five, but it is probable. Reggie Dunn helped himself as a return threat last week, and Derek Moye was featured in the second half passing game. It comes down to a battle between those two, though Justin Brown could force his way back into the conversation with a strong game.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Monday news, notes

I saw Le'Veon Bell walking around today at the Steelers' facility without his walking boot on, a good sign for the rookie running back.

Bell still has some work to do before he's ready to get back on the football field, but it was far different than he was Saturday night when he was still in a walking boot and using crutches.

Now, just because he was walking around sans the boot doesn't mean he's totally gotten rid of it, but it does show that he's making progress.

@ Jarvis Jones said he had the wind knocked out of him after landing on the football Saturday night.

The Steelers erred on the side of caution with Jones, particularly after what happened to Barkevious Mingo in Cleveland. Mingo suffered a bruised lung in a preseason game and is out of action for a while.

Jones did take some ribbing from fellow linebacker Larry Foote for being taken from the stadium on a stretcher.

Foote said Steelers linebackers never leave on stretchers.

Jones was held out of practice Monday but hopes to play in the preseason finale.

@ Talked to Landry Jones today and he was still unsure if he was going to make the 53-man roster.

Imagine his surprise when I told him Kevin Colbert said a couple of weeks ago that the Steelers will keep three quarterbacks.

With John Parker Wilson now out of the picture, that third quarterback is Jones.

Jones said it was a different feeling fighting for a roster spot and knowing that the loser wasn't going to be around any longer. That doesn't usually happen to quarterbacks in high school or college. And it certainly doesn't happen to quarterbacks who have Jones' pedigree.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Steelers trim roster

The Steelers made 15 roster moves today, reducing their roster to the league-mandated 75 players prior to Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline.

Not surprisingly, linebacker Sean Spence was placed on the Reserve/PUP list. That gives Spence the possibility of returning to the active roster later in the season.

Guard Justin Cheadle and cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke were placed on the Waived/Injured list. If they clear waivers, the Steelers can re-sign them at some point.

Given their outright release were offensive linemen D'Anthony Batiste and Mike Farrell, running backs Baron Batch and Jeremy Wright, wide receivers David Gilreath, J.D. Woods and Tyler Shaw, cornerback Ryan Steed, tight end Peter Tuitpou and quarterback John Parker Wilson.

The release of Wilson means that Landry Jones will serve as the team's No. 3 quarterback this season.

The team also placed rookie defensive end Nick Williams, a seventh round draft pick, on the Reserve/Injured list.

Pittsburgh must reduce its roster to 53 players by Saturday at 6 p.m.

Steelers lose game, Jones to injury

Steelers rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones, the team's top draft pick, was taken to a Pittsburgh hospital for evaluation following Saturday night's 26-20 overtime loss to Kansas City in the team's third preseason game.

Jones, who had been rotating with Jason Worilds at right outside linebacker, suffered the injury in the fourth quarter of the game after apparently landing on the ball while being tackled following an interception. The interception was nullified by a pass interference penalty on Josh Victorian.

There is no further word on his status, but he seemed to be in some discomfort while being wheeled through the stadium tunnel.

@ The first-team offense showed some spark in the first half, putting together some decent drives and taking advantage of a failed fourth down attempt by Kansas City deep in its own territory.

The Steelers did some nice things on a 70-yard drive to open the game, most notably, giving Ben Roethlisberger just enough protection to complete a 49-yard bomb to Antonio Brown. But Roethlisberger then missed an open Brown on third down and the Steelers settled for a field goal.

Roethlisberger then made one of his vintage Big Ben plays on the team's second possession and found Jonathan Dwyer open in the flat for a 13-yard TD pass.

On the next two drives, the team again just missed by thismuch on adding to its total. An iffy chop-block call on Dwyer - OK, it was ridiculous - killed the first drive and nullified a 25-yard pass to Brown that would have put the ball at the Kansas City 17.

On the next possession, Emmanuel Sanders bobbled the ball as he hit the ground in the end zone, killing what would have been a 34-yard touchdown pass. Shaun Suisham then had a 52-yard field goal attempt blocked.

@ The defense, like the offense, definitely had its moments in the first half. And Troy Polamalu looked like the Troy Polamalu of old, flying around the field and disrupting things.

He killed Kansas City's opening drive with a typical Polamalu deke, jumping up to the line of scrimmage late in the playclock and then dropping out to cover a crossing pattern.

That caused enough confusion for Alex Smith that he was sacked by Ziggy Hood to end the drive.

On the next possession, Polamalu was instrumental in stopping Kansas City twice on third and fourth-and-1 plays.

He later had a silly personal foul penalty for roughing Smith, but even on that play, he showed the old Polamalu burst to close on Smith just after he released the ball.

@ I thought the offensive line did a pretty decent job protecting the quarterback when it was in there. Yes, the Chiefs got a couple of sacks and Tamba Hali was disruptive at times, but Kansas City had a couple of well-timed blitzes to get to the quarterback and Hali isn't an All-Pro player for nothing.

The line did not, however, created a lot of running lanes. It still hasn't played a complete game. When it run blocks well, the pass blocking has been suspect. And vice versa.

@ I did like the addition of Kelvin Beachum as a tight end. And just to keep things interesting, the Steelers threw out of that formation about as much as they ran from it.

In fact, Roethlisberger's 49-yard bomb to Brown came with Beachum on the field.

Friday, August 23, 2013

What to look for against the Chiefs

Can the offensive line - and offense in general - get things going?

The Steelers haven't done any game planning for their first two games, choosing to come out and run, run, run as they try to establish something with their stable of backs and young offensive line.

The result has been no offensive touchdowns in six possessions by the first-team unit.

Will the implementation of a game plan change that at all this week?

The first-team offense will play at least a half against the Chiefs, a team this group struggled against in the regular season last year.

At least one touchdown drive is needed from this group to ease some of the angst among Steelers fans right now.

@ How will Cortez Allen play in his first preseason game? How about David Johnson?

Both will be big keys to the season; Allen at cornerback where he is taking over for Keenan Lewis, Johnson at least in the early part of the season while Heath Miller continues to work his way back to action.

@ Where, if at all, does new running back Felix Jones fit in?

Jones was way down the depth chart in Philadelphia before Friday's trade and will be down the line here as well.

In fact, he'd be lucky to even play against Kansas City given that he'll have been a member of the Steelers just over 24 hours by game time.

@ Will Jarvis Jones continue to share time with Jason Worilds or has he passed Worilds yet?

Jones is making some splash plays, but his pass rushing - supposedly his strong point - have been erratic.

He did help push the pocket on a sack by LaMarr Woodley last week, but has been sporadic in his pressure.

Steelers, Eagles make trade

The Steelers traded first-year outside linebacker Adrian Robinson to Philadelphia for veteran running back Felix Jones Friday.

The move solidifies Chris Carter's spot on the roster at outside linebacker and also opens the possibility of Alan Baxter also making it as well.

Jones, meanwhile, adds another experienced body to a crowded backfield.

A disappointment in Dallas after being a first-round pick - one ahead of Rashard Mendenhall - Jones signed a one-year deal with Philadelphia as a free agent.

As an aside, those calling Mendenhall's career with the Steelers a bust should look at Jones' tenure with Dallas.

Jones is no lock to make this roster, but the trade for a veteran running back does show that the Steelers aren't ready to just hand jobs to Isaac Redman or Jonathan Dwyer.

In fact, Jones has many of the same issue the other backs on the roster have had. He's missed a number of games in his career with injuries.

Robinson showed promise as a pass rusher in 2012, but for whatever reason, wasn't looked at as a special teams player, a necessity for a reserve outside linebacker.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Tomlin optimistic about Bell

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was optimistic about rookie running back Le'Veon Bell's injury status on Thursday. But he wasn't so optimistic that he would give a long-term prognosis on when Bell would return, only saying that he didn't know where reports that said Bell would be out eight weeks had come from.

That doesn't mean, however, that Bell won't miss the first month of the season.

Tomlin said Bell has a mid-foot sprain that involves the Lisfranc tendon, but that it wasn't a tear like the one tight end Matt Spaeth suffered.

That's semantics, since a sprain is, in fact, a tear, albeit not a complete one.

So, in reality, what Bell has is a sprained Lisfranc that isn't a complete tear like the one Spaeth had.

The Steelers play four games in September and then have their bye week. It makes a lot of sense for the team to allow him to sit out until after the Oct. 6 bye and return Oct. 13 completely healthy against the Jets.

@ On a positive note, tight end David Johnson and cornerback Cortez Allen are expected to make their preseason debuts Saturday against Kansas City.

Johnson, who suffered a torn ACL in last year's preseason opener, will give the team's thin tight end position a big boost.

Allen, meanwhile, returned to practice last week after sitting out the first two preseason games following a minor knee surgery.

He's being counted on to start at cornerback in place of Keenan Lewis, so his return is a big one.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Bell out for the first month

Given the situation, things could have been worse for rookie running back Le'Veon Bell.

As I expected, Bell has a Lisfranc injury in his right foot. The Steelers, however, feel it is treatable without surgery, unlike the one suffered by tight end Matt Spaeth.

The injury will still sideline Bell for at least the first month of the season, but he'll be ready from October on.

In the meantime, the Steelers will make do with Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer and LaRod Stephens-Howling at running back.

The loser in the situation? Baron Batch.

Had been not been injured, Bell might have made this team instead of Dwyer.

After all, a healthy Bell and Redman - along with Stephens-Howling - would have been able to handle the rushing duties.

So the fourth running back spot would have come down to special teams. And Batch is a better special teams player.

Now, unless the Steelers decide to place Bell on the IR with return designation and lose him for half the season, Batch will likely be given his walking papers.

The Steelers can't carry six running backs to start the season.

@ I asked Redman today what he thought co-starter meant and he replied that he had no idea.

Redman, of course, had been listed as a co-starter at running back with Bell.

Redman said he didn't find out he was a co-starter - Bell was elevated last week - until he was asked about it by a reporter.

@ Talked to LaMarr Woodley today. Asked him if he was watching James Harrison on HBO.

Woodley said he caught the third episode on Tuesday night, one that featured Harrison working out and then getting accupuncture treatments.

I asked if he had ever tried the accupuncture treatments, which some Steelers, including Harrison and James Farrior, swear by. He said he'd tried it a few times, but didn't like it. Doesn't like needles.

Woodley also said his sack Monday night doesn't prove he's feeling any better or worse than last season. He has higher expectations for himself.

I think he's primed for a big year.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Post-Washington thoughts

It doesn't sound good for Le'Veon Bell. Head coach Mike Tomlin said following the Steelers' 24-13 preseason loss to the Washington Redskins that Bell has a mid-foot sprain and will undergo an MRI Tuesday.

Many times, mid-foot sprains wind up being the dreaded Lisfranc injury. If that's the case, Bell could be out for a long time.

We'll find out more in coming days.

With Bell limited to four carries, Isaac Redman (shoulder) and LaRod Stephens-Howling (knee sprain) sitting out, Jonathan Dwyer made a pitch to stick around this season.

Dwyer ran well, gaining 68 yards on 14 carries. He did, however, lose a fumble.

Fullback Will Johnson suffered a rib injury as well, so it was a tough night for the running backs.

@ As tough a night as it was for the running backs, it might have been worse for the offensive line, particularly Maurkice Pouncey, Marcus Gilbert and Guy Whimper.

All were beaten badly numerous times at the line of scrimmage. It's one thing for it to happen to Whimper, who is likely to be cut.

It's another for your supposedly Pro Bowl center and starting right tackle to have issues. Then again, David DeCastro had some issues as well, so maybe it was just one of those nights.

@ Shamarko Thomas made seemingly every tackle in the second half from his safety position, many with authority.

But if he continues to lead with his head, he's going to have issues.

@ Backup tight end Michael Palmer really helped himself with a pair of touchdown-saving special teams tackles late in the game.

Starter David Paulson, meanwhile, continues to struggle with his blocking.

Heath Miller can't come back soon enough for this team.

@ Emmanuel Sanders had a strong game both catching the ball and blocking in the run game.

@ Reggie Dunn could be playing himself onto the team as a punt and kick returner. He had one kickoff return for 30 yards and averaged 18.5 yards on two punt returns, showing nice patience.

Yes, the Steelers have LaRod Stephens-Howling to return kicks, but if Bell is out for a while, they might want to use LSH a little more out of the backfield.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

What to look for against Washington

After his false start last week, I expect Le'Veon Bell to try to give it a go this week.

Can he transfer what he's done on the practice field to a game against another defense?

The Steelers are giving Bell every chance in the world to take the job away from Isaac Redman, including limiting Redman to two carries last week.

@ How much will Jarvis Jones and Shamarko Thomas play with the first-team units?

Jones rotated in with the starters this week as Mike Tomlin was obviously not happy with Jason Worilds taking a couple of silly penalties late in the first half against the Giants.

Jones' worst attribute thus far has been something everyone expected him to be able to do - rush the passer.

He needs to come up with some different moves. But his feel for the game as a linebacker against the run and in the passing game are solid.

As for Thomas, he could see some time in the first-team nickel. Can he take advantage?

@ Watch the punters.

Both will get a half and Brian Moorman is a lot closer to winning the job than Drew Butler is to losing it.

Moorman's hang time is outstanding, but Butler's not going down without a fight.

@ Can any of the reserve linemen other than Kelvin Beachum play?

Beachum will see time at center in this game. John Malecki's spot is safe on the roster, but the Steelers are obviously hoping Beachum can show he can play center as well so they can save a roster spot on game days.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday news and notes

Both Le'Veon Bell and Isaac Redman were back on the field today for practice, a day after leaving with injuries.

Redman had a stinger that he suffered when he ran into the back of a lineman - and Larry Foote - during a team 11-on-11 drills.

Later, Bell went down in an 11-on-11 drill when he knee appeared to buckle after being run into downfield at the conclusion of a sweep around left end.

@ Ben Roethlisberger said today that the Steelers went into the game last week against the Giants wanting to work on their short passing game and screens against a 4-3 defense.

Antonio Brown's near miss on a 20-yard touchdown catch in the front corner of the end zone came on an option pattern that Brown took deep.

@ The Steelers have not yet opened any negotiations with players heading into the final season of their contract, but look for those talks to begin next week when the team gets back from Washington.

Ryan Clark and Brett Keisel are both guys who could get an extension of a year or two.

The team will likely wait on Emmanuel Sanders, Ziggy Hood, Jason Worilds and Redman and Jonathan Dwyer until they see what kind of production they have in 2013.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

News, notes from Thursday

Obviously, the big news from practice Thursday were the injuries to running backs Isaac Redman and Le'Veon Bell.

Redman ran into the back of a lineman and was hit by linebacker Larry Foote. He immediately fumbled the ball and went down in a heap.

It was just a stinger, though he did not return to practice.

Later, in another team portion of practice, Bell ran around left end and into a pack about 15 yards downfield. He began to pull up and was smacked hard by somebody in the group - nobody was sure who and nobody was owning up to the hit in what was supposed to be a non-contact drill.

Bell went down in a heap. Trainers looked at his left knee and put an ice pack on the back of it. But he stayed with the team on the field, a good sign.

I'm hearing it's a slight MCL sprain, but we'll learn more Friday.

First-round pick Jarvis Jones also appeared to tweak his groin about midway through practice. Team trainers stretched him out a little while and he returned for the final session.

@ A report surfaced today that the Steelers could be looking to deal wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery. That's ridiculous. Had Plaxico Burress not gotten injured, maybe they would have considered offers for Cotchery.

But with Burress out, there's no way they're going to be comfortable going with Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and a bunch of rookies, even if they have been impressed with Markus Wheaton.

@ The Steelers are comfortable with what they've seen from their quarterbacks and will keep three on the active roster.

Whether that's Landry Jones or John Parker Wilson to go along with Ben Roethlisberger and Bruce Gradkowski remains to be seen.

Jones has shown better arm strength recently. As long as he can keep our of Baron Batch's way in the backfield against Washington next week, he's probably the guy.

@ Shamarko Thomas laid a big hit on Alvester Alexander in the hole Thursday, knocking the 213-pound back backwards about five yards.

@ I have one big concern with Jones, the rookie linebacker. He seemingly jumps offsides at least once every practice.

He also had some issues getting off blocks in the tight ends on backers drills Thursday.

Both are correctable issues, though.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

New depth chart, new questions

The Steelers released their depth chart for the game against Washington with some major/minor changes to it.

Le'Veon Bell is now listed as a co-starter at running back along with Isaac Redman, despite missing the opener with a sore knee.

Brian Moorman has also moved up to co-No.1 at punter with Drew Butler, which is obviously a big deal since only one of those guys will be sticking around.

On the second units, Joe Long has moved up to co-No. 2 at left tackle with D'Anthony Batiste. Considering that Long didn't play in the preseason opener, it's pretty much an indictment of how Batiste performed against the Giants.

At reserve strong safety, Shamarko Thomas was moved up to a co-No. 2 spot with Damon Cromartie-Smith. This is one I'm not going to read too much into.

Thomas is obviously a reasonably high draft pick and Cromartie-Smith made a big mistake on special teams, allowing his man in to block a punt. Thomas hasn't flashed all that much at training camp and Smith made a big mistake. The coaching staff is likely trying to light a fire under both in Mike Tomlin's old two dogs, one bone theory.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

An early look at the 53-man roster

The Steelers still have some time before they have to cut to 53 players. But that doesn't mean we can't have some fun with it. Here's an early look at the roster:

Quarterback (3): Ben Roethlisberger and backup Bruce Gradkowski are givens. The third spot is not. Landry Jones is a fourth-round draft pick, so there's a good chance he gets to go on scholarship for a year ahead of John Parker Wilson, even though Wilson has looked slightly better in training camp.

Running back (5): Le'Veon Bell, Isaac Redman, LaRod Stephens-Howling and fullback Will Johnson are givens, so the final spot will come down to special teams. That gives Baron Batch the edge over Jonathan Dwyer at this point. Dwyer could change that stance, however. Stephens-Howling excelling in the opener as a ball carrier didn't help Dwyer's chances, though.

Wide receiver (5): This will be a tough cut for the team. Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery and rookie Markus Wheaton are givens. I like Justin Brown, J.D. Woods, Derek Moye and Reggie Dunn, but only one will stick on the 53. Make it the sure-handed Brown, but barely.

Tight end (3): Heath Miller, David Paulson and Michael Palmer. Miller should be ready by the end of September at the latest, so the Steelers won't put him on the PUP. Paulson, Palmer and fullback Johnson will hold down the fort until then.

Offensive line (8): Seven are givens including the starters, John Malecki and Kelvin Beachum. Guy Whimper probably makes it as well, though the Steelers will be scanning the waiver wire. Justin Cheadle was headed for the ninth spot, but now, the Steelers might not have a ninth - at least to open the season.

Defensive line (7): Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood, Steve McLendon, Cam Heyward and Al Woods are givens. Alameda Ta'amu and Hebron Fanguopo get the final two spots because Keisel and Hood are entering the final year of their contracts. McLendon could be asked to slide outside next season with Woods, though I expect Keisel to get an extension of at least one year. Brian Arnfelt is a sleeper.

Linebacker (10): This will be one of the toughest cuts. The starters and first-round pick Jarvis Jones are givens. That's five. I also like Chris Carter, Stevenson Sylvester and Marshall McFadden. The final spot goes to Brian Rolle, Terrance Garvin or Adrian Robinson. I'm going with Garvin on the inside, though Rolle helped himself in the preseason opener. Going to keep Vince Williams as well.

Defensive back (9): The starters are Polamalu, Clark, Taylor and Allen. William Gay, Robert Golden, Damon Cromartie-Smith and rookie Shamarko Thomas will also likely make it, which leaves room for a cornerback. I'm going with Curtis Brown edging out young Isaiah Green and Ryan Steed. Brown has been hurt in camp, allowing Green to make a push, but Brown was a solid special teams performer in 2012.

Specialists (3): Shaun Suisham and Greg Warren are locks at plackicker and long snapper. I'm going to give the edge at punter right now to veteran Brian Moorman, whose hang time on kicks is ridiculous, though Drew Butler certainly isn't out of the picture.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Post-Giants thoughts

For a preseason opener, it wasn't a train wreck, at least not early.

The Steelers gave up a long touchdown and had a punt blocked, but both were correctable things.

Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu both took the blame for the 57-yard TD pass from Eli Manning to Victor Cruz. The Steelers were in a cover 2 there and Clark and Polamalu said they both got out of position trying to disguise what they were doing.

That's something that has not been a problem and likely won't be one in the future.

@ The fact that the running game clicked early, to the tune of 56 yards on 11 carries in the first quarter, was a good sign.

LaRod Stephens-Howling, getting a surprise early look with Le'Veon Bell sitting out, was especially effective cutting back against the grain.

@ Several young defensive players stood out.

Among them were Al Woods, who had been playing a lot of nose tackle with Alameda Ta'amu out, but recorded nine tackles, two for losses, a sack and a hurry working at defensive end.

Woods was very active, though he was working against the New York JVs.

Veteran Brian Rolle also had a nice game from his inside linebacker position, recording four tackles, a sack, two hurries and a tackle for a loss.

Rolle is undersized at 5-10, but he's put together solidly.

Rookie Jarvis Jones also showed up as you would hope a No. 1 pick would. Jones had two tackles, including one on a screen in which he beat three blockers on third down to get to the running back.

Had Jones not made that shoestring tackle, it would have gone for a big gain and first down. He also recovered a fumble.

He does, however, need to work on his pass rush. You can see his strength show up, but he needs to develop some moves to get to the quarterback. Strength alone might have worked in college, but there are plenty of strong guys in the NFL.

I thought second-year safety Robert Golden was also solid, though you'd like to see him hold onto the football after making a nice read and jumping a pass at the line of scrimmage.

@ Offensively, the young receiving group of Justin Brown, Markus Wheaton, Derek Moye, Reggie Dunn and J.D. Woods all had their moments.

With Plaxico Burress now out of the picture, there are now likely two spots, maybe even three, open for those guys.

Wheaton, a third-round pick, obviously has one locked up.

That's going to be a nice battle for those final one or two spots.

@ The run defense, regardless of which unit was out there, was very good.

@ Conversely, the rest of the offensive reserves weren't very good, as expected.

The backup offensive line on this team is really poor, which is disappointing in many ways.

It seemed like late in the game, even Kelvin Beachum and John Malecki, two guys who will make this team, were being beaten.

But we'll chalk that up to the utter chaos that was happening around them. Both of those guys have looked better than that in training camp.

@ David Gilreath, with so many talented young wideouts in camp, it wasn't a good time to muff a punt - or field one inside your own 5.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Things to watch on Saturday

There are a number of things to watch for in Saturday night's preseason opener for the Steelers. Here's what I'll be watching:

@ How is Mike Tomlin rotating his offensive linemen, if at all. We saw Kelvin Beachum with the 1s on Thursday at right tackle, with Marcus Gilbert working with the 2s. Are they trying to motivate Gilbert or does Tomlin think Beachum has a chance to win the job?

@ Beyond that, is any offensive lineman on the roster other than the starters, Beachum and John Malecki worth keeping around after all the cuts are made. Joe Long has looked decent at times and after proving he's not tackle capable, Mike Golic Jr. has been OK at guard - just OK. The Steelers will need at least eight and possibly nine on their active roster. Right now, they have seven definites and a bunch question marks.

@ With Plaxico Burress down for the count, who wants to grab the No. 5 receiver spot?

J.D. Woods and Derek Moye have flashed some talent, while Reggie Dunn has obvious speed and return ability. Justin Brown was a draft pick and, like Moye, has size.

And then there is veteran David Gilreath, who quietly goes about his job without dropping passes.

@ With so many corners out, can one of the new corners make a push to stay on the roster.

One of the big things about playing in the NFL is the ability to stay healthy. You have to question that ability, at least a bit, with DeMarcus Van Dyke and Curtis Brown.

Josh Victorian is in the mix, but Isaiah Green is pushing for a spot, as well. Special teams could be the difference.

@ Speaking of special teams, can Drew Butler hold off a strong contender in Brian Moorman for the punting job.

Moorman has a track record and has looked better in camp. But Butler's the incumbent and is the younger athlete.

@ Can any of the quarterbacks not named Ben Roethlisberger play a lick?

At this point, I'd say no. They've all looked bad at times in training camp, with rookie fourth-round draft pick Landry Jones being consistently bad.

Bruce Gradkowski is obviously the backup and has looked passable at times. But Jones and John Parker Wilson look like they should be quarterbacks at Turkeyfoot Valley, not with the Steelers.

@ What in the wide, wide world of sports are the Steelers going to do at tight end? Matt Spaeth is out eight to 10 weeks with a Lis Franc sprain. That's about the same time Heath Miller will likely be back after going on the PUP list to open the season.

What will the Steelers do until then? Look for fullback Will Johnson to pick up the slack.

They, of course, claimed Michael Palmer off waivers from Seattle on Thursday. He immediately becomes their most experienced active tight end with 21 receptions for 123 yards and three touchdowns in 43 career games.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Thursday news and notes

It was a rough day for Plaxico Burress.

The 6-5 wideout was running down the sideline against 5-11 corner Ryan Steed when a pass was lofted his direction. Burress went up for the ball, just as 6-2 safety Damon Cromartie-Smith appeared and outleaped him, knocking the ball away and Burress to the ground.

Burress landed hard on his right elbow and left practice with his shoulder in ice. He later had a sling on his right arm. Reports have surfaced that it's a torn rotator cuff, which would likely end his season/career.

It was already a tough day for Burress, who hadn't been working with the first team even though Emmanuel Sanders sat out practice Thursday.

The Steelers used Jerricho Cotchery as Sanders' replacement on the outside, with rookie Markus Wheaton playing in the slot.

Wheaton looked good at times, but was chastised by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger after he failed to execute a hot route correctly.

Roethlisberger called out the audible and looked directly at Wheaton, asking him, "You good?"

Wheaton nodded.

Roethlisberger then threw a quick out while Wheaton ran 10 yards down the field before breaking the route off.

"If you don't know, ask," Roethlisberger yelled at the rookie as he came back to the huddle.

Sanders is OK - it was apparently a day off to rest his surgically repaired feet - but Wheaton showed he's still got some learning to do despite his obvious talent.

That was on display during the red zone session to close practice.

Wheaton caught a pass from Roethlisberger at the 3, juked Isaiah Green to the outside and went back inside to score untouched.

He also beat Troy Polamalu deep on another pass in the team portion of practice.

@ Wheaton and fellow rookie Shamarko Thomas got the first look working as gunners on punt duties Thursday. Lot of speed there.

@ Thomas, meanwhile, continues to work as the nickel corner in the second nickel defense. The Steelers still have four corners out, but head coach Mike Tomlin said Thomas, a safety by trade, is more than capable of handling that position.

The other guys in the second nickel were Josh Victorian, Green, Cromartie-Smith and Robert Golden in the secondary, Chris Carter, Al Woods, Brian Arnfelt, Adrian Robinson, Stevenson Sylvester and Marshall McFadden across the front.

@ In the final portion of practice, Kelvin Beachum replaced Marcus Gilbert at right tackle, with Gilbert moving to the second unit.

@ The Steelers signed free agent tight end Nathaniel Overbay, nephew of former Pirates first baseman Lyle "The Friendly Viking" Overbay and released offensive tackle Mike Farrell.

The team also claimed tight end Michael Johnson off waivers from Seattle and released tight end John Rabe.

Rabe was signed last week, but looked far smaller than the 6-4, 258 pounds he was listed at.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Wednesday news, notes

If there was anyone still trying to figure out why the Steelers selected Jarvis Jones in the first round of the draft, they needed only watch the final few minutes of practice Wednesday to figure it out.

First, Jones read a screen play and dropped to the flat, deflecting John Parker Wilson's pass to the running back for an incompletion.

Next, he dropped into coverage on tight end Peter Tuitupou and batted away another Parker Wilson pass over the middle.

On the final play of practice, Jones dropped into the middle and leaped to bat down Parker Wilson's final pass attempt over the middle.

Yes, it was all against Parker Wilson, who has about as much chance of making this team as I do.

But Jones also batted down three Ben Roethlisberger passes at the line of scrimmage last week, intercepting the deflection on one of them.

He just has that knack.

Jones also showed good power and feet while going one-on-one against tight end Matt Spaeth in a tight ends backer drill - before Spaeth was carted off after aggravating his previous knee injury.

He's a keeper.

@ Jonathan Dwyer got some work today as the first-team running back. Both Isaac Redman and Le'Veon Bell practiced as well, so it just must have been Dwyer's turn.

@ Antonio Brown continues to look impressive. On the first play of team, he turned William Gay inside out on a post, turning it into a big gainer.

Later, he got deep behind Ike Taylor to haul in a bomb from Ben Roethlisberger. There was no safety help on either, but Brown's playing at a different level.

@ DaMon Cromartie-Smith made a nice play in help coverage to pick off a Parker Wilson pass. At 6-2, 203, he has the one thing the other safeties on the roster do not - size.

He's also a heady player.

This might finally be the year he sticks on the roster full time.

@ The Steelers released running back Curtis McNeal, who was injured, and defensive end Cordian Hagans, who was not, to sign cornerback Devin Smith and Alvester Alexander.

With so many corners down - Cortez Allen, Curtis Brown, Terry Hawthorne and DeMarcus Van Dyke were out again Wednesday - it's opening the door for a player such as Isaiah Green to have a shot at making this team.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Steelers release depth chart

The Steelers released their first depth chart in advance of their first preseason game Saturday against the New York Giants.

Mike Adams is listed as the starting left tackle, while Marcus Gilbert is at right.

Certainly this could still change, but it appears that Adams has won the job for now.

The only other interesting thing I saw was that Emmanuel Sanders is listed as the No. 1 kick returner, ahead of free agent signee LaRod Stephens-Howling and rookie Reggie Dunn.

Stephens-Howling had better hope that doesn't remain the case if he hopes to remain on the roster.

With rookie Le'Veon Bell looking like he'll be the starting running back - even though he's still listed as only ahead of fellow rookie Curtis McNeil on the depth chart. That's just window dressing.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Monday news, notes

Mike Tomlin finally eased up on his players on Monday, skipping the heavy hitting practices and instead allowing them to dress in shorts and shells.

That did not, however, mean they took things easy, as Monday's practice was heavy on cardio and running.

The physical practices have been a big change from any other camp I've covered. Nobody wants to get a high-priced veteran injured in the salary cap age.

But with so many new faces in key places, it's almost as if the team has already played a preseason game - though some players disagreed with that.

They still can't wait to go out and tackle someone other than teammates.

@ Curtis Brown tried to come back today and wound up aggravating his ankle injury.

@ Alameda Ta'amu was activated from the PUP list and practiced for the first time. The coaching staff still likes this kid a lot, hence the second chance he was given after playing dodge cars on the South Side last year.

@ Brett Keisel was asked today if he was preparing as if this was his final season.

The 12-year vet replied that it's just the final season of his contract.

I could see a situation in which the Steelers possibly extend him for at least a season, particularly with Ziggy Hood heading into the final year of his deal.

Cameron Heyward, meanwhile, continues to draw praise for the jump he's made in his game during the offseason.

@ Heath Miller rode up to lunch today with defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and they chatted away as they walked into the lunch room.

That's one reason why LeBeau is so beloved. He can talk to anyone. Same goes for Miller.

@ Speaking of guys who can talk to anyone, add Larry Foote to that column.

Foote has never turned down an interview request by anyone.

Monday, he playfully shouldered a new beat reporter as he walked by him. The new guy asked if Foote always does stuff like that? Can't speak for his year in Detroit, but Foote has always been a stand-up guy.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Sunday's my funday notes

The Steelers got some of their injured players back today, as Steve McLendon, Jason Worilds, Jarvis Jones and Le'Veon Bell returned on a limited basis. They participated in position drills but not in the team portion of practice.

That left the team pretty thin at a number of positions, as several others joined the walking wounded today, including a new one at CB, Curtis Brown. That puts the Steelers down four corners with Cortez Allen, Terry Hawthorne and DeMarcus Van Dyke also out of action.

With all of those guys out, the top three corners were Ike Taylor, William Gay and Josh Victorian.

Victorian might make this team as the last man standing, which is a good thing for him since he apparently went out during the offseason and got a whole bunch of clothes that say "Victorian-35" on them.

Don't do you a lot of good if you're no longer on an NFL team.

Also sitting out were safeties Troy Polamalu and Ross Ventrone, running back Curtis "Moody" McNeil, linebacker Adrian Robinson, tight end Matt Spaeth and defensive end Nick Williams.

Polamalu was given the day off by Mike Tomlin due to a "contusion of the birth certificate."

Damon Cromartie-Smith got the call as Polamalu's replacement.

@ With Spaeth hurting, the Steelers are down to one tight end, David Paulson, with any kind of NFL experience. And Paulson has only played in 16 NFL games.

Practice squader Jamie McCoy was active last season in the finale against Cleveland, but only played on special teams.

Because of that, the Steelers might be forced to use fullback Will Johnson some at tight end.

There just aren't many good all-around tight ends in college football any longer.

@ For the third consecutive day, the Steelers had Mike Adams at LT and Marcus Gilbert at RT.

Something tells me that is going to stick.

@ A lot is being made of Ben Roethlisberger limping around a little on his knee when he's not practicing, mostly by guys who haven't been here a lot.

They show up one day, see Roethlisberger with his knee and arm wrapped and freak out.

That's pretty much the norm for a 31-year-old QB who has been through the wars. Ever see the pictures of Joe Namath after a game?

And Roethlisberger is certainly more agile than Namath was at the same point in their careers.

Roethlisberger looked plenty nimble moving around on the field today. The ice is more precautionary than anything.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Saturday news, notes

The Steelers had a myriad of players sit out with injuries today, perhaps the result of full tackling drills all week long, perhaps the result of the team wanting to give a day off to some guys.

Linebackers Jason Worilds, Jarvis Jones and Adrian Robinson, running back Le'Veon Bell, tight end Matt Spaeth and defensive tackle Steve McLendon all watched from the sidelines.

Spaeth's injury might be the most serious. He had his knee drained on Friday.

Linebacker Lawrence Timmons was away due to a death in the family, while defensive end Brett Keisel was given a second consecutive veteran's day off.

Ben Roethlisberger also left a little early due to some knee discomfort, but again, it's nothing major. Just the everyday bumps and bruises of being at this all week.

Makes me wonder when head coach Mike Tomlin will dial things back before the team's first preseason game.

@ The Steelers placed guard Nik Embernate on the waived/injured list, signing veteran offensive tackle D'Anthony Batiste, who has spent time with six NFL teams, most recently Arizona.

The issue with the offensive line is that outside of the starters, John Malecki and Kelvin Beachum, there isn't a lot there right now.

I would expect the Steelers to continue to explore the waiver wire for some help, particularly at tackle.

The more I see, by the way, the more I'm convinced that the best five consists of Mike Adams at left tackle and Beachum on the right side, with Marcus Gilbert on the bench.

Gilbert will show flashes, but just isn't consistent.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Allen has surgery, other Friday news, notes

The statement from Mike Tomlin was short and to the point:

"Earlier today, Cortez had minor surgery on his right knee. We wanted him to get the surgery done now so he can begin rehabilitating immediately. This surgery was a minor procedure and will have no long-term effects on his return to the field. We look forward to his rehabilitation process and having him back on the field in a couple of weeks."

That's both bad and good news for the Steelers.

Allen had been sidelined for the first week of practice with what was being considered a day-to-day soreness in his knee.

I haven't confirmed this yet, but when speaking with other reporters Thursday at practice, I was guessing it was a meniscus issue.

Allen is being counted on to move into the starting lineup this season to replace Keenan Lewis, and the Steelers expect big things from him.

But he also logged enough snaps in 2012 that the team was looking at him as a returning starter, not a new one.

The fact that they are able to get this issue fixed now instead of a month from now, is actually a good thing. It gives the team more time to work with some of its younger corners, most notably, Curtis Brown.

@ The Steelers flip-flopped their two tackles on Friday, moving Mike Adams to the left side and Marcus Gilbert to the right.

I think this is the better lineup for them, and we'll see if that holds up at all down the road, though Tomlin said it was just taking a look at them at those spots.

@ Le'Veon Bell had a good night, looking much more prepared in the backs on backers tonight. He's now bending and delivering a blow instead of taking the complete brunt of the rush.

He also had a couple of nice runs in the team portion, including a nice burst and cutback up the middle.

Again, the only way he doesn't win the job is if he's hurt or fumbles in the preseason.

Bell did get a little dinged at one point, having team trainers look at his left knee. But they found no structural damage and he returned to action, making his big run after that incident.

@ Tomlin has had the players hitting in every practice this week with live tackling sessions. Can't help but wonder when that gets dialed back a bit.

@ Rookie Mike Golic Jr. was moved inside to guard today - his college position - and actually looked much better there than at tackle. Maybe with Nik Embernate's injury, the Steelers feel they have more of a need inside than out.

Embernate, Tomlin revealed, tore his ACL and MCL on Thursday. No surgery date has been set.

@ Just when it appeared that Ben Roethlisberger would lead the offense to a score in a hurry-up drill, Troy Polamalu ended the session with a deflection on the final play at the goal line.

To be honest, though, even I had remarked to PR man Burt Lauten that the matchup on that side, Antonio Brown vs. Curtis Brown, was a juicy one for Roethlisberger.

But Polamalu jumped the slant perfectly, showing great explosion.

@ Last year's camp phenom, Adrian Robinson, is this year's whipping boy.

Tomlin chewed Robinson out during backs on backers, saying, "Adrian, you don't inspire me from an energy standpoint. You had better pick your shit up."

Robinson, it appears, is being passed by this year's camp phenom, Alan Baxter.

After all, who doesn't want to hang with my good friend Baxter, and a glass of scotch?

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Embernate injured, other news from Thursday

Rookie offensive guard Nik Embernate suffered a serious knee injury during Thursday's one-on-one practice drills, getting rolled up by defensive end Cordian Hagans.

Embernate, who had a serious chance to make the roster, immediately grabbed for his knee upon going down and was on the ground for several minutes before being taken from the field on a cart.

A number of veteran players, including Brett Keisel and Maurkice Pouncey, stopped by while drills were continuing - they just moved the drill over while trainers worked on Embernate - to give some words of encouragement to the young man.

@ The Steelers had another physical practice as head coach Mike Tomlin again put the team through live tackling during the team portion of practice on running plays.

It's about trying to establish a mentality with the offensive line and running backs. But it's also about getting a better look at some of the young linemen and defensive front players. Let's face it, they only have 10 padded practices and a couple of preseason games before they have to start making serious decisions.

They want as much tape of these guys as possible.

@ LaMarr Woodley missed all of the team work with a strained calf - read, veteran's day off - giving the team an extended look at Jason Worilds and rookie Jarvis Jones at outside linebacker. Worilds moved across to Woodley's spot and Jones stepped in on the right side.

Worilds got caught up in the wash while making a tackle in the backfield on Isaac Redman and was slow to get up with a toe injury. It later bothered him again during one-on-one drills. But he says he'll be OK.

Jones looked lost at times, perhaps not knowing exactly what to do, but did make a nice J.J. Watt play once again, batting a Ben Roethlisberger pass into the air and intercepting it in the second team portion.

That's twice he's batted balls into the air this week.

@ With Cortez Allen still out, the Steelers' kept William Gay as the nickel corner and put Curtis Brown on the outside.

@ Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger had a nice day hooking up against Josh Victorian, who was in good coverage both times but burned anyway.

On the first, Roethlisberger made a back shoulder throw to Brown down the sideline, with Brown leaping to pull the ball off of Victorian's head.

On the second, Roethlisberger dropped a perfect throw into Brown's hands just beyond Victorian.

Brown looks extra quick this camp. And Roethlisberger looks very sharp.

@ Marcus Gilbert had his best day in one-on-one drills. Mike Adams was solid but needs to get better with his hands.

Ramon Foster has yet to be beaten in a one-on-one.

The surprise of the group as been the play of John Malecki, who seems to have an innate ability to read the defender and react accordingly. He's nothing flashy, just efficient.

@ Fullback Will Johnson made a nice one-handed catch down the sideline in backs vs. backers passing, screening off Chris Carter while hauling in the long pass from Ben Roethlisberger.

@ Rookie Le'Veon Bell continues to impress. He completely turned Marshall McFadden around in a circle in the same drill. Later, however, he couldn't shake Lawrence Timmons, the king of this drill for the linebackers.

Bell did show some nice cutback ability running in the team drills, sidestepping a would-be tackler in the hole and getting upfield for a gain. Later, however, he ran right into the waiting arms of Steve McLendon on a run to the left while looking for a cutback lane.