Tomlin refutes rumors of Arians' firing
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was not in danger of losing his job following the 2009 season.
There had been speculation that Tomlin would fire Arians, who has been a lightning rod for fan criticism as the Steelers have become a more pass-oriented attack and struggled in short-yardage running situations.
Asked specifically about a rumor that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger talked him out of firing Arians in early January, Tomlin said, "All false. It's really a joke.
"I don't know where it came from. I think it was generated by people outside of our building. I didn't have an opinion regarding it then and I really don't now."
The Steelers had a 4,000-yard passer, two 1,000-yard receivers and a 1,000-yard rusher for the first time in franchise history last season. But they finished 19th in the league in rushing (112.1 yards per game) and had trouble running the ball when they were inside their opponents' 20-yard line.
Tomlin said the Steelers, who hired Sean Kugler as offensive line coach, need to make more of a commitment to running the ball.
He said he is open to adding a traditional fullback -- something the Steelers haven't had since releasing Dan Kreider in 2008 -- to the roster.
But, Tomlin said, "If we don't have that guy, we're not going to put a square peg in a round hole. Everything that we do offensively, defensively and special teams is geared toward accentuating the skill set of the people we have."
Tomlin said he has gotten positive reports regarding players who missed significant time last season because of injuries.
That includes strong safety Troy Polamalu, who was limited to five games in 2009 because of separate injuries to his left knee, and defensive end Aaron Smith.
The Steelers put Smith on injured reserve in October after he tore his rotator cuff.
Tomlin said he will limit the amount of work Smith gets in offseason practices, though not just because Smith will turn 34 next month and is coming off a major injury.
Tomlin said the Steelers want to give extra work to second-year defensive ends Ziggy Hood and Sunny Harris this spring.
"(Smith's) number of snaps in the spring and summer would be de-emphasized whether he was injured or not," Tomlin said.
Losses turn into gains
The Steelers will have two extra fifth-round picks and an additional seventh-round selection in next month's NFL Draft.
The Steelers were awarded three of the 32 compensatory draft picks that were doled out yesterday at the NFL owners meetings.
They received the picks for losing wide receiver Nate Washington, cornerback Bryant McFadden and quarterback Byron Leftwich in free agency last year.
The extra picks are No. 164, 166 and 242 in the draft, which will be held April 22-24.
The Steelers had one pick in all seven rounds prior to picking up the additional selections.
The New England Patriots lead all teams with four compensatory picks.
Starting center Justin Hartwig will be limited in offseason practices after having offseason shoulder surgery, Tomlin said. ... Larry Foote, who signed with the Steelers last week, may have scared some teams off because of a lingering foot injury. But Tomlin said Foote passed the Steelers' physical and that he is "comfortable" with the signing. ... The Steelers will hold their first two offseason practices April 21-22. The NFL allows teams to hold 14 voluntary practices during the offseason.