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Steelers notebook: Antonio Brown, Ben Roethlisberger ruled out of Sunday's preseason game

Chris Adamski
| Friday, Aug. 18, 2017, 1:30 p.m.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has a smile for receiver Antonio Brown during practice Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, at St. Vincent.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has a smile for receiver Antonio Brown during practice Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, at St. Vincent.
Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger talk during practice Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, at St. Vincent.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger talk during practice Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, at St. Vincent.
Steelers quarter Josh Dobbs during practice Saturday, July 30, 2017 at Latrobe High School.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers quarter Josh Dobbs during practice Saturday, July 30, 2017 at Latrobe High School.
Steelers quarterback Joshua Dobbs looks to throw during practice Friday, Aug.18, 2017 at Latrobe High School.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers quarterback Joshua Dobbs looks to throw during practice Friday, Aug.18, 2017 at Latrobe High School.

There are Steelers starters who are the same age or older and those with more NFL experience than Antonio Brown.

But Brown joins Ben Roethlisberger as the only players coach Mike Tomlin has held out of the Steelers' first two preseason games. The second one is Sunday at home against the Atlanta Falcons.

Why Brown and not, say, Ramon Foster or Cameron Heyward — players of similar age and experience level?

"This is not necessarily a democracy," Tomlin said with a grin Friday.

Speaking at a news conference on the final day of training camp at St. Vincent, Tomlin ruled out only Brown and Roethlisberger among healthy players. He also made it clear it's unlikely that James Harrison would play. Harrison has taken part in just one of 16 camp practices.

Tomlin added the caveat that several others would not play because of injury. Included in that group could be Maurkice Pouncey, Mike Mitchell, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Cameron Sutton, Keion Adams, Senquez Golson, Demarcus Ayers and Foster — with some less likely to play than others.

"We will (officially) deem no one out. We will leave the light on for these guys," he said.

Dobbs to start again

Rookie Joshua Dobbs will get another opportunity to be an NFL starting quarterback in the preseason.

Another opportunity might yet be in front of him, too.

Tomlin said Dobbs will start Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, in part because backup Landry Jones is still recovering from an abdominal injury.

Tomlin also did not rule out that Dobbs, a fourth-round pick from Tennessee, could show enough this preseason to pass Jones on the depth chart.

"The door has never been closed on anyone having an opportunity to move up the depth chart," Tomlin said. "We're in business of winning. If (Dobbs) proves he's capable, I'm open to it. Not only him but all men."

As for Jones, Tomlin said he's "been perking up." Jones threw passes, albeit just short ones, at practice for the first time in two weeks.

"I'm sure he will be back in fold as a full participant here soon," Tomlin said.

Conner debut

Arguably the most-anticipated player to make an appearance Sunday would be running back James Conner, whom Tomlin said is "scheduled to play." A rookie third-round pick from Pitt who's had the best-selling jersey in the NFL this summer, Conner did not play in last week's preseason opener at the New York Giants because of a shoulder injury but returned to full practice this week.

Conner was a limited participant in practice Friday after two days of taking regular reps.

Bell rung

As he has all throughout training camp, Tomlin played coy with the status of star running back Le'Veon Bell. Bell has yet to sign his $12.1 million franchise-tag tender and has been absent from all team activities this offseason.

Tomlin was asked if he's remained in contact with Bell.

"I have."

Could he share the content of their discussions?

"I could."

Would Tomlin like to do so?

"I wouldn't."

A reasonable line of speculation has centered around Bell signing his tender next week. With the Steelers back to their South Side facility and with two of the four preseason games completed, it would figure to give Bell enough time to get ready for the regular season.

"(Media) can speculate all (it) wants," Tomlin said. "When he gets here, you'll know. (Media) will probably know before I will."

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

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