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Steelers notebook: Coty Sensabaugh gets 1st-team reps

| Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017, 12:27 p.m.
Steelers cornerback Coty Sensabaugh defends on a pass intended for Darrius Heyward-Bey during practice Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2017, at St. Vincent.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers cornerback Coty Sensabaugh defends on a pass intended for Darrius Heyward-Bey during practice Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2017, at St. Vincent.

Are the Steelers considering a change in their secondary?

Veteran cornerback Coty Sensabaugh confirmed he got reps with the first-team defense in practice Wednesday, the first of training camp at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side.

A 28-year-old six-year veteran, Sensabaugh said that it was the most first-team reps he had gotten so far with the Steelers when all the team's cornerbacks were healthy and accounted for.

“Whatever it takes to help the team win and wherever this team needs me, I'm all for it,” Sensabaugh said.

“Whenever they tell you to go in, go in and try to take advantage of your opportunities.”

Sensabaugh similarly diplomatically downplayed the subject when he was asked if he might be a starter when the regular season opens.

“I don't focus on that. I just focus on the things I can control,” he said. “Just going out and trying to do everything I can to get better and concentrate on the things I can control, and then whatever happens, happens.”

Sensabaugh said he's comfortable playing either on the outside or in the slot, explaining that he was mostly a nickel cornerback his first few years with the Titans before transitioning to the outside. Last season, he played outside cornerback in his three games with the Los Angeles Rams — but then was back in the slot in New York after he was cut and signed by the Giants.

While Artie Burns is entrenched at one cornerback spot, other starters Ross Cockrell (outside) and William Gay (slot) could be targets for upgrades by Steelers defensive coaches. Cockrell was beaten for a 44-yard reception Saturday against the Atlanta Falcons.

Sensabaugh mostly has played second-team outside cornerback this camp, but he has moved around some and has played plenty with the first team when Burns was out because of injury.

“Every day is an opportunity to go out there to get better,” Sensabaugh said. “Take advantage of the reps you're given, whether you're on 1s, 2s, 3s, wherever.”

Ben to finally play

Following the script used last preseason, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will make his preseason debut when he starts Saturday against the Indianapolis Colts.

Roethlisberger expects to play “one or two” series against the Colts, much like he did last year in the team's third preseason game.

Against the New Orleans Saints in 2016, Roethlisberger led the Steelers on touchdown drives on each of the first two series before departing. He completed 12 of 17 passes for 148 yards and threw touchdown passes to tight end Jesse James and wide receiver Antonio Brown.

Roethlisberger's goals against the Colts?

“Just to click, move the ball, pick up first downs,” he said. “Obviously, getting in the end zone is always a big deal. We want to move the ball.”

It will be Roethlisberger's first game getting calls from offensive coordinator Todd Haley in the coaching box. Quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner will take Haley's spot on the field as the Steelers continue an experiment that began in the preseason opener.

“We'll give it one more shot this week and see if it makes communication easier or difficult,” Roethlisberger said.

Roethlisberger also will get the chance to throw passes in a game setting to wide receiver Martavis Bryant for the first time in 19 months.

“There's a lot of guys we need in-game to work with,” Roethlisberger said. “Justin Hunter, even (Antonio Brown) and I are always trying to get better. Martavis is one who missed last year, but hopefully we'll get some action this week.”

Practice plans

Coach Mike Tomlin watched James Harrison practice in pads for the first time in the preseason. Harrison took limited repetitions.

“I guess he's catching up to speed,” Tomlin said. “I'm sure he will. He's in shape. Now, he's just knocking the rust off from a football perspective. I'd imagine he's a quick study. This is not his first day on the job.”

Martavis Bryant and Anthony Chickillo were limited by “bumps and bruises,” Tomlin said.

Backup quarterback Landry Jones went through a full practice for the first time since suffering an abdominal injury early in camp.

“It doesn't appear there are any physical restrictions,” Tomlin said. “We will see how his body responds to a day's work.”

Roster moves

The Steelers added former West Virginia cornerback Antonio Crawford and wide receiver Justin Thomas, a former quarterback at Georgia Tech, to the roster Wednesday. Both are undrafted free agents.

Running back Brandon Brown-Dukes was waived, and cornerback Greg Ducre was waived/injured.

Crawford was added to the roster three days after Ducre injured his left ankle while covering a punt in the 17-13 preseason win against the Atlanta Falcons.

Crawford played one season at West Virginia after transferring from Miami.

Thomas spent three seasons as Georgia Tech's quarterback but was signed by the New Orleans Saints after trying out at defensive back and wide receiver. He was waived in July and also spent time in the Los Angeles Rams' training camp.

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.

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