Steelers notebook: Rookies get set for first game action
By Alan Robinson
Published: Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013, 9:57 p.m.
The Steelers will get their first look at running back Le'Veon Bell, outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, wide receiver Markus Wheaton, safety Shamarko Thomas and the rest of their rookie class Saturday against the Giants.
Rookies are also pushing for jobs with the Super Bowl champion Ravens, who could start defensive end Brandon Williams, safety Matt Elam and, possibly, linebacker Arthur Brown.
“It's not uncommon to have one or two draft picks get out there and have to play for you,” said NFL Network analyst Charley Casserly, a former NFL general manager. “The Steelers have been kind of the exception to the rule It's kind of different for them. ... But Mike Tomlin, he has a history of playing young players. Todd Haley, it's his history to play young players. The real change is on defense, where they haven't done that. There will be an adjustment for them.”
• While he's cut back a bit recently, Tomlin has ramped up the hitting at this camp. Cornerback Ike Taylor doesn't seem to mind, especially if it creates the desired mindset. “We're just bringing that physicality back,” Taylor said. “We were physical last year, but we weren't Pittsburgh Steeler physical. It's a difference being physical and being Pittsburgh Steelers physical. We've gotten back to it, offense and defense.”
• Tight end Matt Spaeth was taken off the field with an apparent foot injury after tripping over a linebacker. His status was uncertain. Cornerback Curtis Brown (ankle) remained out and isn't expected to play Saturday against the Giants, but coach Mike Tomlin said the injury wasn't serious. Brown, Cortez Allen, DeMarcus Van Dyke and Terry Hawthorne have been hurt since camp began. “This is the most I've seen at the cornerback position, guys dropping,” Ike Taylor said. “It's part of the game: One guy's loss is the opportunity for the next guy to step up.” Josh Victorian and William Gay have benefitted most from the injuries with increased practice time.
• With heavy thunderstorms forecast, Tomlin moved practice up one hour, but it still wasn't raining an hour after practice ended. “I'm not going to quit my day job,” Tomlin said of his weather forecasting skills. It was by far the most humid day since camp opened nearly two weeks ago, with temperatures in the low 80s rather than the low 70s of last week.
• Because of the shortage of cornerbacks, the Steelers added cornerback Devin Smith, who was cut recently by the Cowboys, and running back Alvester Alexander and waived running back Curtis McNeal and defensive end Cordian Hagans.
• Tomlin on what he wants to see from his wealth of rookies against the Giants: “How they deal with the failures. That's one of the things we don't know about these guys at this point. Do they wear failures or are they capable of moving on? Do they stack negative play upon negative play, or are they capable of moving past it?”
• Running back Jonathan Dwyer began practice with the starters, but Le'Veon Bell, Isaac Redman, Baron Batch and LaRod Stephens-Howling were mixed in. No decision on a starting running back is expected to be made until perhaps after the preseason. Redman is listed as the starter on the depth chart for the Giants game. Also on the depth chart, Mike Adams is the starting left tackle, and Marcus Gilbert is at right tackle. The two switched sides last week and have remained there.
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