ShareThis Page

Steelers notebook: Limited practices to fix problems

| Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, 8:21 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers quarterback Bruce Gradkowski practices Thurday, Aug. 15, 2013, at St. Vincent in Latrobe.

Backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski said the Steelers have plenty of practice time to cure their problems, such as their 1-for-13 conversion rate on third down and 95 yards in penalties against the Redskins on Monday night at FedEx Field.

In reality, they don't.

They have only two full practice days this week — Wednesday and Thursday — before playing the Chiefs on Saturday at Heinz Field. Next week, they practice only Monday and Tuesday before playing at Carolina on Aug. 29, two days after they must cut their roster to 75 players.

Poor grades

How badly did the offensive line perform against the Redskins?

According to Pro Football Focus, which breaks down each player's performance in each game, right guard David DeCastro graded out the best among the starters.

Center Maurkice Pouncey, left tackle Mike Adams and right tackle Marcus Gilbert graded out poorly.

Among the backups, NFL veteran Guy Whimper also drew poor grades.

Tomlin not impressed

Coach Mike Tomlin wasn't about to heap faint praise on rookie quarterback Landry Jones, who threw a touchdown pass to former Penn State receiver and Rochester graduate Derek Moye in the second half.

Asked if it was the best he's seen Jones look, Tomlin said, “I haven't seen much of Landry Jones, so that would be a stretch of a statement.”

Jones struggled frequently during training camp practices at St. Vincent.

Telegraphed play?

The Redskins apparently deciphered the Ben Roethlisberger screen pass intended for Jonathan Dwyer that outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan jumped to intercept and returned 22 yards for a touchdown.

“I could kind of tell by the way the tackle was setting and by the way the back had a wider path when he was coming out of the backfield,” Kerrigan said.

He also said linebacker London Fletcher alerted the defense by yelling, “Screen, watch the screen.”

Uneven special teams

Tomlin wasn't entirely happy with his special teams, even though they avoided the mistakes (blocked punt, muffed punt) of the Giants game.

“There was some negative there, too, a few potential breakout punt returns,” Tomlin said.

“(Tight end) Mike Palmer did a good job in two instances getting the guy on the ground, but we had some unblocked guys down there who didn't make plays.

“Obviously, unblocked men that are vying for jobs have got to make tackles.”

Throwing the flag

Tomlin plans to bring in officials this week so that mistakes that would result in penalties during games are flagged.

“I think defensively and offensively we need to practice the way we need to play,” safety Ryan Clark said.

“Clearly we aren't practicing within the rules enough to go out and implement it on the field. Coach Tomlin is turning over every stone for this team to get better. And, in the end, if we don't perform, it's going to be on us.”

Unchanged depth chart

The Steelers didn't make changes on their depth chart Tuesday, perhaps because it was compiled only a few hours after the Monday night game and before the coaching staff evaluated player performances.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.