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Steelers notebook: Redman expects plenty of work — if he produces

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Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, 7:42 p.m.

Steelers running back Isaac Redman said if offensive coordinatorTodd Haley likes what he sees, he expects to get plenty of work in the season opener against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday at Heinz Field.

“If they (coaches) don't like what they're seeing, they'll get someone else in there or throw the ball,” said Redman, who started the first three games last season while Rashard Mendenhall recovered from a knee injury.

“We plan on running the ball. They (Titans) are pretty much pass-rushers, and fall into the run. So, we feel as if we can take advantage of that.”

• Rookie running back Le'Veon Bell (foot) will not play. The second-round draft pick sustained a right foot injury at Washington three weeks ago.

• Pro Bowl tight end Heath Miller is listed as doubtful. Miller, who came off the physically-unable-to-perform list last week, continues to recover from knee surgery but was limited in practice Friday.

• FullbackWill Johnson (hamstring), rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones (chest) and defensive end Brett Keisel (not injury related) are listed as probable. Johnson and Jones both participated in practice without restrictions while Keisel was limited. “I did everything I could but I didn't get any team reps, except on special teams,” Johnson said. “I haven't been ruled out of the game, so physically I think could play. I don't feel any restrictions, so I'm just waiting for the green light.”

• SafetyTroy Polamalu said it's a challenge facing running back Chris Johnson in the season opener. “It's always our No. 1 goal to stop the run, but we'll have our hands full against one of the elite running backs in the NFL,” Polamalu said. Johnson had a relatively solid game in the Titans' 26-23 victory in Nashville last season. He rushed for 91 yards on 19 carries against the second-ranked run defense in the AFC in 2012. “He's somebody capable of hitting a home run with every carry,” Polamalu said.

• Wide receiverAntonio Brown admits there's a huge chip on the Steelers' shoulders. “We see this as a fresh start,” he said. Brown is appalled because of the expectations have been lowered for the six-time Super Bowl champions. “Everybody has something to prove,” he said. “Collectively, we feel we have to get off to a good start.”

• Rookie safety Shamarko Thomas is excited for his first regular-season action. “In my first (preseason) game I was nervous just trying to get a tackle,” he said. “Troy (Polamalu) and Ryan (Clark) told me to slow the game down and read my keys. The next game I came up with big-time plays.” Thomas will begin his career chasing one of the best running backs in the NFL in Chris Johnson. “If I read my run keys, I believe I can make some plays in the backfield.”

• Polamalu, Ike Taylor, Lawrence Timmons and Larry Foote all used special teams to establish themselves. Even though two rookies, linebacker Jarvis Jones and Thomas, are expected to see action on defense, Polamalu said a window into their future will be how well they perform on special teams.

“You can look at the young, and sort of tell how good the defense is going to be in the future by how well the special teams play,” said Polamalu, who was inserted into the starting lineup his second season in 2004.

“It's definitely important, considering that (Brett) Keisel, Ike, Larry and James Harrison were all dominant on special teams our early years. I think if our defense is going to continue to be good, these younger guys have to dominate on special teams.”

Of course, the special teams struggled for much of the preseason. But Polamalu expects better things from the younger players during the regular season.

• Admittedly, rookie Jarvis Jones was somewhat disappointed in not being penciled in as the opening-day starter at right outside linebacker. That was his competitive instincts rising to the surface. Now, he readily accepted his role behind starter Jason Worilds.

“Starting is great, so when I get my chance I'll take full advantage of it,” said Jones, who is listed as probable for Sunday's game against Tennessee. “Right now, my role is to fit in where I can.

“This is a big game for me, but I'll try to be humble yet excited. I want to make as many plays as I can to give the team a chance at winning.”

Jones acknowledges he is feeling nervous as kickoff nears. This, of course, comes from an SEC All-American who played before 93,000 at Georgia in his first game as a freshman. “I have to keep myself together, and take care of business. I remember we had 50,000 people at my first spring game, so I'm used to feeling excited.”

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