Steelers notebook: 7th-rounders playing big roles this season
The Steelers drafted four players in the seventh round in April; two are gone (DB Terrence Frederick, WR Toney Clemons) but the other two are filling key roles. Kelvin Beachum is expected to start at right tackle Sunday in Baltimore now that Mike Adams (ankle) is out indefinitely. David Paulson is effectively the No. 2 tight end.
If Beachum didn't start, the only other viable option was to start rookie David DeCastro at right guard and shift Ramon Foster from guard to right tackle.
But DeCastro hasn't played a down in a regular-season game and has had only one week of practice since injuring his right knee in the preseason. And the Steelers are wary of sending an inexperienced right side of the line against Ravens pass rusher Paul Kruger, who repeatedly overpowered Adams in the Nov. 18 game.
• Former roster or practice squad members Clemons (Jaguars), offensive lineman Ryan Lee (Saints) and Gilreath (Buccaneers) were claimed this week.
• All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu (calf) is expected to go through a full practice Wednesday — his biggest test since he last played Oct. 7. He went through a limited practice Friday. “We're encouraged by his status,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “We are looking to get some guys back potentially, but we are not going to hold our breath.” Outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley (ankle) is doubtful, meaning Jason Worilds (two sacks vs. Browns) probably will start. Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (ribs) will resume practicing.
• Not only did James Harrison have a sack and seven tackles Sunday, but the Browns ran five running plays to his side — for a combined zero yards. Harrison, still healing from a left knee injury, has played two consecutive strong games with 12 tackles and two sacks. “Each week is better,” Harrison said. “There's a little more explosion back in the knee, but it's not something where I'm expecting to be 100 percent by the end of the year.”
• Tomlin is taking the blame for the eight fumbles in Cleveland, saying it's up to the coaches to instill a protect-the-ball mentality. Tomlin yanked each of his four running backs after they fumbled. “Evidently, they (the don't-fumble messages) are not being relayed strongly enough,” Tomlin said.
– Alan Robinson