Steelers notebook: Top picks Jones, Bell square off in drill

| Monday, July 29, 2013, 8:21 p.m.

The Steelers put on the pads Monday, and that meant the return of the backs-on-linebackers drill. Coach Mike Tomlin gave the spectators what they wanted, matching first-round draft pick Jarvis Jones vs. second-round pickLe'Veon Bell. The two split their four head-to-head meetings.

“It's an easy match isn't it? They're two young guys that are high draft picks, and, obviously, a lot will be expected of them,” Tomlin said. “To pit one against the other, I think, is appropriate. You'll continue to see more of it.”

Bell also found himself matched with the experienced linebackers.

“He wants me to compete, so he's going to put me against some of the better players,” Bell said.

The Steelers ended their first traditional practice of training camp with Bell running with the starters. Tomlin cautioned not to read too much into that, but he outlined how he'll handle the three-way competition among Bell, Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer.

“If someone can distinguish themselves from the pack, we'll give them the ball. If they can't, obviously, we'll go with the hot hand or the healthy hand,” Tomlin said. “Obviously, you'd like a known, feature guy; I think everyone is of that mentality. But it's got to be taken by someone.”

• This is the Steelers' youngest and least-experienced offensive line in more than 50 years, but right tackle Mike Adams and right guard David DeCastro sense it has the makings of a unit that could stay together for years. “No one likes to get hurt, and, if we're all in there, we can do some real damage,” Adams said. Left guard Ramon Foster, at 27, is the oldest starter. “We're all energetic, healthy guys, and we work well together and get along really well together,” DeCastro said.

Dwyer and Redman already have been thrown for a loss as they compete at running back with rookie Le'Veon Bell. Dwyer, listed at 230 pounds, said he dropped at least 25 pounds. Tomlin called the weight loss “appropriate.” Redman said he's down to 235 from 244 and already can tell a difference. “I feel like I'm a little quicker because of the weight I got off me,” said Redman, who also worked with a speed trainer.

• Last season, Dwyer often tapped his helmet after a run, signaling he wanted to come out of a game. The Steelers felt he did so too often, and it might have led to Tomlin's push to get him to drop weight. But Dwyer doesn't see anything wrong with what he did. “Yeah, I tapped my helmet. Not because I'm trying to come out every play; I want to stay there as long as I can,” he said. “But I'm not going to be that selfish guy who is trying to continuously keep going until I absolutely die.”

• Cornerbacks Cortez Allen, DeMarcus Van Dyke and Terry Hawthorne sat out practice Monday. After only three practices, one in pads, the Steelers get Tuesday off under the NFL labor agreement. They'll return to practice Wednesday, the first of six consecutive days of on-field work.

• Linebacker Lawrence Timmons said it's natural for the Steelers' defense to want to hit hard, but they also don't want the running backs injured during practice. First-round draft pick Jarvis Jones said he instinctively wants to put a hard hit on a runner. “If they go down the middle, I'm going to try to light them up,” he said.

• Gov. Tom Corbett attended practice Monday at St. Vincent.

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