Steelers notebook: Worilds gaining confidence
Linebacker Jason Worilds said he was more at ease Monday in the second preseason game. He admits he forced things in the preseason opener against the Giants when a roughing-the-passer penalty cost him nearly $16,000.
“It felt good getting those reps the first two games,” said Worilds, who started three games last season. “The more I'm in there, the more confident I get. I'm happy where I'm at in the preseason, but I can be better.”
Worilds will continue his battle with first-round pick Jarvis Jones for the starting right outside linebacker job. Safety Ryan Clark said it probably won't matter who gets the starting nod.
“They both are talented, and they want to play,” Clark said. “We can be successful on defense with either one of those guys playing.”
• Cornerback Cortez Allen continues to improve but was hesitant to say whether he'll play Saturday against Kansas City. “I'm getting better. Everything feels good, and every day I'm testing it more,” Allen said. “I can't put a number on it, but I feel confident in my ability to be back soon. At the end of the week, I'll know where I'm at.”
• Running back Isaac Redman still is suffering from a pinched nerve. But he returned to practice Thursday and said he hopes to be ready to play Saturday. Jonathan Dwyer, who stepped in Monday after rookie Le'Veon Bell went down with a foot injury, is hoping to atone for a lost fumble. “I did OK minus the fumble,” he said. “I have to show more energy and take my game to another level. I'm as mad about the fumble as anybody, so I have to learn from it, not dwell on it.”
• Coach Mike Tomlin said he has given the OK to several players with minor injuries to practice. Among them is running back and kickoff return specialist LaRod Stephens-Howlings, who has an MCL strain.
• The Steelers were first in the AFC against the run last season but gave up 146 rushing yards to the Redskins, though only 19 in the first half. Linebackers Lawrence Timmons and Larry Foote aren't overly concerned. “Our defensive line has done a good job of establishing control of the line, so we'll do a good job against the run,” Timmons said. The Redskins led the league in rushing in 2012, and the Steelers will face another run-oriented team in Kansas City.
• Tomlin said there's an edge in practice. Guard Ramon Foster said the team's uninspired performance has created a sense of urgency. “We've done some things that are uncharacteristic of us,” he said. “We aren't angry, but we want to be on all cylinders. We know we are better, so we're practicing like it. It'll show up in the game.”
• Ryan Clark insists he's never felt better. In fact, his wife believes he's getting younger. “I've found a way to be in better shape every year,” he said. “My wife messes with me because she calls me Benjamin Buttons. I'm not getting any younger, but if something happens, the defense will still perform well.”
• A must-win preseason game? There's no such thing, but Tomlin appears more than eager to shed the winless label his team is carrying.
The Steelers are 0-2 after not previously losing more than one game in any preseason under Tomlin.
“Even though it's the preseason, it's important to us (to win) and significant,” he said Thursday. “You step into stadiums with the intent of winning, and we haven't done that. So there's a little edge to our preparation (for Kansas City on Saturday).”
Ben Roethlisberger, entering his 10th season, hasn't heard many coaches talk about the importance of winning games that don't count.
“You want to win every game you go play, but that being said, the ones that start in a couple of weeks are a little more important,” he said.
The Steelers last went winless during the preseason in 2006; they went on to start the season 2-6 and miss the playoffs during coach Bill Cowher's final season.
• Clark and Ike Taylor praised rookie receiver Markus Wheaton during training camp, with Clark saying Wheaton already possesses skills Mike Wallace lacks. Add Roethlisberger to the Wheaton fan club. The quarterback's assessment of his new target? “He wants to be great.” Receivers coach Richard Mann said recently that Wheaton often has mistake-free practices, and Roethlisberger agrees. “You don't see him make the same mistake twice. So when you tell him something, he works at it,” Roethlisberger said. “To me, that's big when it's a new guy, a young guy. If they make the same mistake over and over again, it means they're not focused and not working at it.”