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Steelers notebook: T.J. Watt says 'I'm just a chess piece'

Chris Adamski
| Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, 7:03 p.m.
Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt goes through drills during practice Monday, Aug. 14, 2017 at St. Vincent College.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt goes through drills during practice Monday, Aug. 14, 2017 at St. Vincent College.
Steelers linebacker J.T. Watt goes through drills during practice Monday, Aug. 14, 2017 at St. Vincent College.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers linebacker J.T. Watt goes through drills during practice Monday, Aug. 14, 2017 at St. Vincent College.

On Monday, outside linebackers coach Joey Porter declared rookie T.J. Watt the starter at right outside linebacker.

On Wednesday, the demoted James Harrison said he was “not gonna argue” with that.

On Thursday, Watt gave his reaction.

“I take it with grain of salt,” the rookie said after a morning walkthrough at St. Vincent. “Anything can happen on any given day out here.

“I'm just a player. I'm just a chess piece here. I'm just trying to do everything I can to put the best I can on film and do my best as possible.”

Again Wednesday, as Watt has for all but one of the first 15 practices of this training camp, he was with the first team at right outside linebacker. The first-round pick from Wisconsin had two sacks in the first quarter of his NFL preseason debut last week at the New York Giants.

Bone bruise for Smith-Schuster

A day after leaving practice with what initially appeared to be a serious injury, receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was diagnosed with a bone bruise.

“Day-to-day,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “We'll see what he looks like (Friday).”

The Steelers' rookie second-round pick, Smith-Schuster has suffered three injuries in the three weeks of camp: an ankle during the first practice, a concussion during the first preseason game and Wednesday's injury.

Report: Bell's holdout won't last into regular season

ESPN reported running back Le'Veon Bell will report to the Steelers before the start of the regular season but did not specify a date. That is only logical since it would behoove Bell to sign his one-year, $12.1 million franchise-tag tender before the first game because players are paid by the regular-season week, so Bell would forfeit more than $700,000 if he is not under contract by Sept. 10.

Bell has no bargaining leverage since league rules specify the only contract he can play for in 2017 is the franchise tender.

“When he gets here, he gets here,” said Tomlin, who has repeatedly said he is in contact with Bell. “I'm not responding to national reports or things of that nature. I just don't have the time in my day for that. I'm focusing all my energy on the guys who are here.”

No updates

Tomlin remained vague about the statuses of Maurkice Pouncey and Ryan Shazier, each of whom has missed extended time with lower-body injuries.

Pouncey came out in uniform for practice Thursday but did not participate in any team drills and left the practice field immediately after the “Seven Shots” session early in practice.

“I'm not getting into the details,” Tomlin said of the All Pro center's injury. “It's day-to-day. He will be back out shortly.”

Asked if there is a timetable for inside linebacker Shazier (hamstring), Tomlin said, “there is not.”

Veterans' days

Starting guards Ramon Foster and David DeCastro and cornerback William Gay — who between them combine for 26 NFL seasons — were given Thursday's practice off.

During the regular season, Tomlin typically gives veteran players a weekly day off from practice.

During camp, does he plot out ahead of time who gets the rest days?

“I play it by ear,” Tomlin said, “based on what I see from them as individuals and the group collectively.”

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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