Steelers notebook: Rookie QB Jones to get extended look
• Landry Jones, it's your turn. The rookie quarterback, uneven to date in the preseason, will get most of the playing time Thursday at Carolina, in part to guarantee that Ben Roethlisberger and backup Bruce Gradkowski will be healthy going into the season. “I feel a lot more comfortable now than I did at the beginning of training camp, just from a reps aspect,” said Jones, who is 14 of 31 for 159 yards this preseason. “I'm getting a lot more reps and I'm able to practice more.”
• Coach Mike Tomlin said the starters will play varying levels depending on what backups he wants to see. He did not define playing time for any starters, including Roethlisberger. He also called his offense a “group in development” but said he is pleased with the rapport developing between Roethlisberger, Gradkowski and the wide receivers, who are in mostly new roles.
• Heath Miller (knee) remains unable to practice but Tomlin said “things are progressing nicely” with him. Neither the Steelers nor Miller are hinting when the Pro Bowl tight end might return from a serious injury that occurred Dec. 23 and involved three ligaments. “I have no clue,” Miller said. “It's still the same thing, (I'm) trying to get better every day.”
• Left guard Ramon Foster believes the offensive line has mastered the zone blocking techniques installed this season to create more outside running room, despite the constant rotation of running backs behind them. ”This is something we wanted to get down,” Foster said. “Everybody is committed to it and (now) it's just making it official in Week 1.”
• Before training camp started, defensive end Brett Keisel challenged some rookies and younger veterans to seize roles and prove they belong in the league. “Markus Wheaton, Shamarko Thomas, Jarvis (Jones) is playing well,” said Keisel, referring to specific players. “Even the young guys in starting roles, Emmanuel Sanders, Steve McLendon, guys that I was referring to — yeah I think they've accepted the challenge.”
• If Isaac Redman is going to run his way into Steelers' opening day lineup, he'll have to do it in practice. Redman (pinched nerve) and rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones (AC sprain) will be held out of the preseason finale Thursday in Carolina. Jonathan Dwyer, Felix Jones and LaRod Stephens-Howling will get carries as the running back competition plays out. “I would like to be the starter. I would like to have the opportunity to distance myself away from the competition,” said Redman, who has had only two preseason carries. “But it's tough to do that when you're not on the field (and) not playing.”
• The Steelers don't like Roethlisberger improvising too much because it increases his risk for injury, yet such a play yielded a TD pass to Dwyer against the Chiefs on Saturday. Roethlisberger is hinting he won't cut down on his playmaking. “It's worked so far for me,” he said. “I've been semi-successful in my career. I'm just going to continue to keep doing what I have to do to win games.” Center Maurkice Pouncey said the offensive line doesn't mind adjusting on the fly. “You don't want to take away the things he's good at,” he said. “If he can still move around and run and throw the ball down the field, let him do it.”
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