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Steelers notebook: Team might be looking for outside help at offensive line

| Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers receiver Markus Wheaton tries to make a diving catch against the Giants in the second quarter of their preseason opener Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013, at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers offensive lineman John Malecki practices Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013, at St. Vincent.

The Steelers might be looking outside the organization for help along the offensive line, where Kelvin Beachum is the only experienced backup who has played previously for them. Of the five starters, only guard Ramon Foster has been in the NFL more than three seasons.

Guy Whimper and D'Anthony Batiste, who was picked up during camp, have experience with other teams. Among those trying to play their way onto the roster are Joe Long, the brother of former No. 1 pick Jake Long; and Justin Cheadle, who left the practice field Monday with a knee injury.

Offensive coordinator Todd Haley said it's a situation that needs to stabilize soon.

“It's still early, but that's something we've got to get done,” he said. “We've got to develop the young guys on the roster. Whether it comes from within or outside, we've got to be sure we're solidified by the time we get to Week 1.”

• Wide receiver Markus Wheaton's reaction to his adventuresome NFL preseason debut? “My wheels were spinning,” the third-round draft pick said Monday. “It was a bunch at once. No kidding. During one short sequence, the former Oregon State star caught a pass for 8 yards, ran once for 10 yards, was called for a penalty and lined up incorrectly, forcing a time-out to be called. “That was on me,” he said. “I was excited to be out there, too excited. …. There's a lot to go over, a lot to fix.” Also a lot to excite the Steelers, as Wheaton competes with Jerricho Cotchery to be the slot receiver — the No. 3 wideout who is on the field frequently.

• Coach Mike Tomlin isn't happy that Tuesday is a required day off for the players. The Steelers haven't had successive full practice days since last Wednesday and Thursday, and won't have another set until they go for four consecutive days starting Wednesday. They don't play again until Monday in Washington. “Unfortunately, I've got to give them a day off in this new collective bargaining agreement,” Tomlin said. “I'll deal with that and we'll get them back out there Wednesday.”

• Cornerback Terry Hawthorne and defensive end Nick Williams returned to practice after missing most of camp to date with knee injuries. Williams, who is being converted from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defensive end, needs considerable time to learn the Steelers' system and has been set back by his layoff. Remaining out were cornerbacks Cortez Allen (knee), Curtis Brown (knee) and DeMarcus Van Dyke (hamstring).

• Linebacker Stevenson Sylvester sat out with a sore ankle, but expects to practice later this week. He was hit accidentally Saturday by teammate Markus Wheaton while covering a punt. “I'm lucky (the injury wasn't worse),” Sylvester said.

• The Steelers' top five running backs aren't competing just with themselves to make the 53-man roster but, because of special teams responsibilities, with the linebackers and defensive backs. “I've told them, if you want to win coach Tomlin's heart, that's the quickest way to do it,” running backs coach Kirby Wilson said. “You've seen we've got a lot of young linebackers who can hit and run, so it's going to be pretty competitive the next two or three weeks.”

• With nose tackle Steve McLendon missing for personal reasons, Al Woods stepped in to take first-team snaps Monday. Woods has been practicing mostly at end, but said he doesn't care which position he plays. “One man's misfortune or circumstance creates opportunity for others,” coach Mike Tomlin said.

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