Steelers' Tomlin says Redman, Worilds to start vs. Titans
The Pirates aren't the only team in town hoping to have a solid rotation in September and beyond.
Reflecting depth at some positions — and key injuries at others — the Steelers will start the season Sunday by rotating players at running back, tight end, outside linebacker and defensive end, according to coach Mike Tomlin.
The idea, Tomlin suggested, is to make sure a player such as first-round draft pick Jarvis Jones is on the field frequently at outside linebacker, but that Jason Worilds doesn't sit out too long.
Worilds will start Sunday against Tennessee at Heinz Field but, Tomlin said Tuesday, “Jones is going to play.” He said it emphatically, too.
Former Pro Bowl linebacker LaMarr Woodley rotated off the field on some series during the preseason, something he didn't do in the past, and Tomlin apparently plans to keep doing that.
“When healthy, he's a force,” said Tomlin, who believes occasional time off will help Woodley stay injury-free. “Obviously, he wasn't healthy a lot last year. He has been to this point, so I like what I see.”
Isaac Redman will start at running back despite being limited to two carries in the preseason, but recent addition Felix Jones could end up getting the majority of the snaps. LaRod Stephens-Howling also will be used on third downs and some passing downs.
Felix Jones, traded by Philadelphia on Aug. 23, impressed Tomlin by running for 85 yards in two preseason games although he has practiced only twice.
Jones, Tomlin said, “quickly proved that he can do some positive things.
“Obviously, we're going to spell Isaac,” Tomlin said. “We haven't detailed the rotation or the nature of the rotation at this point. ... We're continuing to get to know Felix. We like his natural run instincts.”
Sounds like the Steelers believe they've got bullpen depth, too.
Rookie running back Le'Veon Bell (sprained right foot) is the only player officially ruled out of the Titans game, though he hopes to return as early as the Bengals game Sept. 16. Bell's return could alter the running back rotation — depending on how healthy he is — because the Steelers were planning to give him a majority of the carries before he bruised a knee and injured his foot.
Tight end Heath Miller is off the physically unable to perform list, but he hasn't practiced since last season and began doing light drills only in the past few days. Neither the Steelers nor Miller are guessing when he might return.
As a result, Kelvin Beachum, David Paulson, David Johnson and Michael Palmer will be used, depending on down and distance and how many tight ends are needed in a formation; the Steelers have used as many as three. Beachum played frequently as a blocking tight end during the third preseason game, when the starters played a half.
“That's going to be a committee-oriented group based on their skill sets,” Tomlin said.
At defensive end, Cam Heyward will be rotated in frequently for Brett Keisel.
“He's going to get a number of snaps,” Tomlin said.
But unlike the rotation at outside linebacker, defensive end Ziggy Hood probably won't come off the field as much.
The rotation won't extend to the secondary, where safeties Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark won't come off, even though rookie Shamarko Thomas enjoyed a strong training camp.