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Tomlin in no rush to hire new defensive backs coach

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By Scott Brown
Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is moving slowly to fill the lone opening he has on his staff.

Tomlin, who said Monday that he expects all but one of his assistants to return for 2011, has not done much more than "research" in regard to the one hire he has to make during the offseason.

Tomlin has to replace defensive backs coach Ray Horton, who left a couple of weeks ago to become the Arizona Cardinals' defensive coordinator.

"Really, I'm just still in the information-gathering process," Tomlin said yesterday during his first offseason interview. "I'm in no hurry to be honest with you."

A report surfaced last week that Tomlin had formally talked to former Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil about Horton's old job.

"I know that that was reported," Tomlin said, "but I have not interviewed Chuck."

The uncertain labor situation may be one reason why Tomlin is taking a deliberate approach to hiring a new defensive backs coach.

The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) ends after March 3, and if the owners lock out the players most NFL business, including offseason workouts and practices, will be put on hold.

"I want to make sure that we hire the right man," Tomlin said, "and that has no timetable."

Harrison doing well following surgery

Outside linebacker James Harrison underwent back surgery yesterday to correct a herniated disc.

Bill Parise, Harrison's agent, said Harrison is "fine" and added that the four-time Pro Bowler can resume physical activity in about two weeks.

Harrison, Parise said, played most of the season with a herniated disc. Parise said Harrison is expected to be ready for the start of training camp -- assuming the owners and players have come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) by late July.

"Whether or not James is in camp will solely depend on the CBA," Parise said.

Injured Steelers healing nicely

A number of others Steelers have had offseason surgery, including wide receivers Hines Ward (knee and thumb), Emmanuel Sanders (foot) and defensive end Nick Eason (foot).

They are expected to make a full recovery, Tomlin said, as are those that didn't play in 2010 or didn't finish the season.

Offensive tackles Max Starks (neck) and Willie Colon (Achilles) and defensive end Aaron Smith (triceps) are among the veterans that fall into those categories.

"There's nothing that gives us an indication that they're going to be an ongoing issue or problem moving forward in terms of getting in the way of football," Tomlin said.

Tomlin: No regrets on Smith decision

Smith, who missed the Steelers' final 13 games with a partially torn triceps in his left arm, has told Tomlin that he plans on returning for a 13th season.

Smith got hurt last October and the Steelers kept him on their 53-roster with the hope that he might return at some point during the season.

That did not happen but Tomlin said he would "do it again" if presented with the same scenario.

"That's just a level of respect that we have for what he's capable of as a player, and probably equally as important what he is as a man or member of this team," Tomlin said.

Sweed still in Steelers plans?

Tomlin said the Steelers have not given up on wide receiver Limas Sweed, who has seven career receptions and missed last season because of a ruptured Achilles tendon.

The Steelers picked the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Sweed in the second round of the 2008 draft. Since then three other receivers drafted by the Steelers -- Mike Wallace, Sanders and Antonio Brown -- have assumed prominent roles in the passing game.

"His competition is getting stiff," Tomlin said.

When asked if 2011 is a make-or-break season for Sweed, Tomlin said, "I don't live in that world. I'm interested in guys who are capable of helping us win."

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