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Steelers notebook: LeBeau impressed with Jones, Thomas

| Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013, 8:30 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers first-round pick Jarvis Jones drops back in coverage during practice Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013, at St. Vincent in Latrobe.

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has spent more than 50 years as an NFL player and coach, but he said that doesn't give him any insight into recognizing when a player has arrived.

“You never know,” he said.

But he is pleased with rookie outside linebacker Jarvis Jones and safety Shamarko Thomas.

“I'm tremendously encouraged by what I see,” he said. “I think we did our homework well from the scouting group, and I think we made good, wise selections.

“It's pretty early yet, but they got great work ethic and natural football ability. What they become is up to them, to a certain extent, but I think they're willing to work and do what they have to do. They both have that hunger.”

• The Steelers lack veteran depth at multiple positions — including the offensive line, where Kelvin Beachum has the only substantial playing time among those not starting. Given how many injuries the Steelers had last season, it's a worry to offensive coordinator Todd Haley. “It's always a concern, but that's part of the league,” he said. “You've got to develop your down-the-line talent, whether it's young guys or veterans. You got to have guys that can step in and play.”

• The Steelers signed tight end Nathan Overbay on Thursday. Offensive tackle Mike Farrell, a Pittsburgh native and Penn State and Shady Side Academy product who signed as a free agent earlier this year, was released to make room on the roster for Overbay. Overbay's signing comes a week after a knee injury sidelined tight end Matt Spaeth, who is being re-evaluated. David Paulson likely will be the starter in the preseason opener against the Giants on Saturday night at Heinz Field.

• CoachMike Tomlin said he's eager to see how some of the new players fare returning kicks, including running back LaRod Stephens-Howling and wide receivers Markus Wheaton, Justin Brown and Reggie Dunn.

• As the offense works to improve its short-yardage packages, linebacker Larry Foote has been impressed with what he's seen during training camp. “It's a lot better, and they've been popping our defense,” Foote said. “I saw it building last year once they started to develop cohesiveness and an identity.”

• Linebacker Chris Carter said it feels as if he's starting over. The third-year pro started the first two games of the 2012 season in place of James Harrison before an abdominal injury dropped him on the depth chart. Now he's fighting for a roster spot but figures his versatility will help. “They have put me in position to play both sides. In case something happens to one of the backers, they want me to be capable of playing both sides so we don't miss a beat defensively,” he said. “We need depth at the outside position. The past has proven that's not enough depth at that position.”

• The Steelers are encouraging fans to arrive early to avoid heavy traffic delays around Heinz Field. All NFL teams have implemented a new safety policy at stadiums that will make the security process more efficient and effective. The policy affects the type and size of bags that are permitted into the stadium, not the items that fans normally need to bring to a game.

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