Steelers notebook: RB Bell still sidelined by foot sprain
Running back Le'Veon Bell (mid-foot sprain) was the only player to sit out practice Wednesday.
Fullback Will Johnson (hamstring) and outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (chest) were limited participants. Tight end Heath Miller practiced for the first time since injuring his right knee Dec. 23, but he participated in only individual drills. The Steelers haven't said when their 2012 leading receiver can practice.
“Heath is the best tight end in the game,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “We definitely miss him, and we wish him a speedy recovery.”
• First-round pick Jarvis Jones wanted to start his first NFL game but is comfortable coming off the bench. To him, finishing is more important than starting. “It's not how you drive, it's how you arrive,” he said.
• Last year's first-round pick, right guard David DeCastro, was only a few weeks into rehabilitating a preseason knee injury a year ago. He doesn't often show emotion, but he is excited about his first NFL season opener; his only 2012 playing time came late in the season. “It's a whole different feel this year,” he said. “(I'm) more prepared and more comfortable.”
• Center Maurkice Pouncey, guard Ramon Foster and DeCastro are among those encouraged by the offensive line's adoption of the outside zone-blocking scheme. DeCastro estimates the Steelers used it on slightly less than half the plays during the preseason. “We feel good about it,” he said. “We'll see how it goes on the field.”
• Running back Felix Jones was a first-round draft pick by Dallas, but he has fought for playing time throughout his career, beginning at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, where he played with two other future NFL players. He began his Arkansas career as a backup to star Darren McFadden. “You've got to seize those opportunities,” he said. “When you've got the ball in your hands, you've got to make the best of it.”
• The Steelers are 6-0 in home openers under Mike Tomlin and 10-0 since 2003. … Roethlisberger begins the season with 191 touchdown passes, second in team history to Terry Bradshaw's 212. Roethlisberger had five TD passes in his last home game against Tennessee, in 2011. … Felix Jones ran for 109 yards in his only previous game against Tennessee, with Dallas in 2010. … Titans kicker Rob Bironas, once with the Steelers, has 214 field goals since 2005, second only to David Akers' 228. … New Steelers kicker Zoltan Mesko speaks four languages.
• Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was the first to flash the Pirates' Zoltan sign to new punter Zoltan Mesko. And, yes, the former Patriots punter knows what it means. Turns out, he's always liked Pittsburgh black and gold even while growing up in suburban Cleveland. “It's pretty funny. The fourth or fifth grade, I went into a Wal-Mart and purchased a Steelers jacket,” Mesko said. “But I didn't know the emblem, the symbol, I didn't know what it stood for. So I was walking on the streets of Cleveland, getting (angry gestures).” Now he'll get a whole different set of signs.
• Just another game? Not to Ben Roethlisberger. As he starts his 10th NFL season, he has begun to realize how important the season opener is. “You have to approach the first game and every game like it's the biggest,” he said. “I think the thing about the first game of the year is it sets the tempo. It usually should set the tempo.”The Steelers lost a fourth-quarter lead during their 2012 opener in Denver, setting the tone for an 8-8 season in which they lost six times after leading.