Steelers' offensive starters to get more snaps against Redskins
By Alan Robinson
Published: Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013, 12:40 p.m.
The Steelers are leaving training camp as a work in progress rather than anything close to a finished product.
That was coach Mike Tomlin's assessment Saturday as the Steelers held their final public practice at St. Vincent, one conducted in spring workout-like shorts and helmets rather than full gear.
Obviously, there was no hitting. There also weren't many personnel decisions settled for the exhibition game against the Redskins on Monday, with Tomlin suggesting his injured co-starting running backs, rookie Le'Veon Bell (knee) and Isaac Redman (pinched nerve), will be game-time decisions. Bell took a few carries in practice; Redman got none.
The offensive starters who play will stay in about one quarter, although most of the offensive line could play all of the first half because Tomlin wants to work on the two-minute drill, if possible.
“Game circumstance will dictate that,” Tomlin said. “It's more about a snap count as opposed to halves. So, if we get a bunch of snaps, they might not make it. If we get few snaps, they may.”
While wrapping up training camp creates the impression among fans that a majority of the preseason work is over, Tomlin said the team that faces the Tennessee Titans on Sept. 8 isn't close to emerging.
“It's really just about the midway point of the team development process. So, I'm not looking at this with any type of finality,” Tomlin said. “We've got three preseason games left before we have to determine who are the Pittsburgh Steelers for 2013. We're simply just changing locations in terms of where we work as we exit camp.”
The Steelers wind up the preseason by playing the Chiefs on Aug. 24 at Heinz Field — with the starters probably playing about a half — and the Carolina Panthers on Aug. 29 in Charlotte, when the regulars aren't likely to play much.
Tomlin didn't outline a quarterback rotation for Monday beyond Ben Roethlisberger, although backup Bruce Gradkowski and rookie Landry Jones will follow. The Steelers did not score a touchdown on offense against the Giants, and Tomlin suggested Gradkowski and Jones need to get better as they replace Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch from a season ago.
“I'm not displeased in any way with his (Gradkowski's) progress thus far. But obviously we've got a ways to go,” Tomlin said. “ (Jones) has grown daily, but we've got a lot of ball in front of us.”
Following a Giants game filled with multiple special teams errors that included a blocked punt and a fumbled punt, LaRod Stephens-Howling will return kickoffs and rookie Markus Wheaton will return punts Monday — a possible regular-season preview.
Asked if he needs to see cleaner special teams play Monday, Tomlin said, “absolutely.”
Tomlin wouldn't say if he will incorporate so much live tackling into future training camps, saying it was appropriate this summer for a team with many rookies looking for jobs.
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.
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