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Steelers' rookies impress in defeat

| Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, 10:57 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers linebacker Jarvis Jones hits the Redskins' Keiland Williams Monday, August 19, 2013, at FedEx Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers receiver Markus Wheaton beats the Redskins' Chase Minnifield in the third quarter on Monday, Aug. 19, 2013, at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.

If the Steelers are rebuilding, they may have many of the tools and parts to get the job done.

On a night when the mistake-plagued Steelers dropped to 0-2 in the preseason with a 24-13 loss to the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field, coach Mike Tomlin watched many of his young players — including first-round pick Jarvis Jones — deliver big plays.

Jones, splitting time with Jason Worilds at right outside linebacker, forced a fumble when he muscled his way into the Washington backfield. He stripped the ball from running back Keiland Williams at the Steelers' 23 where cornerback Ike Taylor recovered.

“I can't explain it,” Jones said of his forced fumble. “It was good timing and good awareness. I used my hands better this game, and I was a bit more physical.

“I'm continuing to watch the older guys to find my role on this team. Obviously, the tempo in practice isn't the same as in a game. The game is slowing down, but I have to continue to understand our system.”

Jones was only one of several rookies to give Tomlin something to smile about:

• Quarterback Landry Jones was 9 of 22 and threw his first NFL touchdown pass — a 10-yarder to Derek Moye.

• Safety Shamarko Thomas forced a fumble and led the defense with a game-high six tackles.

• Wide receiver Markus Wheaton had a game-high three receptions, including a 45-yard catch to set up Moye's score.

• Cornerback Terry Hawthorne performed well on special teams and recovered a fumble.

• Defensive end Nick Williams registered a sack and a tackle for loss to bolster his chances of making the 53-man roster.

“It was great seeing Shamarko and Jarvis making plays,” Wheaton said. “It's great because we feed off each other. I think it excites the veterans when we make plays.”

Receiver Jerricho Cotchery, a 10-year veteran, was pleased with Wheaton's effort. So was safety Ryan Clark, who last week said the third-round draft pick has similar skills to Mike Wallace.

“I appreciate it, especially coming from a guy like Ryan,” Wheaton said. “Then again, I realize I have a lot to build on. I'll use this game to see what I can do to get better.

“It felt good to get that (45-yard) catch. It did a lot for my confidence.”

Landry needed a confidence booster after an erratic week of practice. He continued to struggle with the deep sideline throw, but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger liked most of what he saw of the fourth-round pick from Oklahoma.

“He did a good job,” Roethlisberger said. “There are still things he needs to work on, as we all do.”

Ralph N. Paulk is staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rpaulk@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.

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