Friday, August 31, 2012

Steelers make roster cuts


The Steelers have placed rookie linebacker Sean Spence on their Reserve/Injured List and released 21 others, reducing their roster to the league-mandated 53 players, the team announced today.

Spence suffered a left knee injury in the Steelers’ preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers and will miss the 2012 season.

Two veterans that have spent time with the Steelers who were released today are offensive lineman Trai Essex and punter Jeremy Kapinos (Waived/Injured List). Essex has played in 76 career games for Pittsburgh (28 starts) while Kapinos has been the team’s punter for most of the past two seasons.

The other 19 players released include defensive backs Damon Cromartie-Smith, Terrence Frederick and Josh Victorian, linebackers Brandon Hicks and Marshall McFadden, defensive linemen Corbin Bryant, Igbinosun Ikponmwosa and Jake Stoller, quarterback Jerrod Johnson, running back DuJuan Harris, wide receivers Tyler Beiler, Toney Clemons, David Gilreath, Marquis Maze and Derrick Williams, and offensive linemen Ryan Lee, John Malecki and Chris Scott.

The Steelers will likely bring Essex back on the 53-man roster after rookie guard David DeCastro is placed on injured reserve using the league's new designation. Essex must first clear waivers.

With the release of Beiler, Clemons, Gilreath, Maze and Williams, the Steelers are carrying only four wide receivers.

Post-Carolina thoughts

I would not want to be making the decisions about who to cut on this roster.

With the injuries and inexperience among the backups, this could be one of the toughest Steelers cuts in some time.

Add in the fact we just don't know what a Todd Haley offense will look like/need from its roster, and you have a lot of unknowns.

Do the Steelers keep two QBs or three?

Charlie Batch put his best foot forward Thursday night, going 11 of 14 for 102 yards and a TD. But Jerrod Johnson also looked good again, going 7 of 10 for 78 yards and a score.

Johnson did make a mistake down at the goal line, waiting too long to call a timeout and costing the Steelers five yards, but he made up for it by zipping a pass for a TD to Wesyle Saunders.

Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich are locks, but who knows what the Steelers do after that.

@ Speaking of Saunders, despite his suspension, his play the last couple of weeks has put him back on this roster.

Saunders has been inconsistent in training camp and the coaching staff wasn't happy with that. But when you see him get open - as opposed to, say Leonard Pope - you see a player who could be No. 2 behind Heath Miller coming back from the suspension.

I'm not quite sure what Pope brings to the table.

@ The Steelers gave Jonathan Dwyer 13 first-half carries to see if he could handle that kind of load.

Could it be that Dwyer will be the starter in Denver, with Isaac Redman playing more of a short-yardage/third-down role? You betcha.

@ I like what I saw of all the Steelers running backs tonight.

Baron Batch showed more cutting ability than he had shown throughout the preseason, while newly signed DuJaun Harris showed a nice jump stop and power.

@ I don't know that Chris Rainey is going to give the Steelers a lot in their base offense as a ball carrier. But as a return man, he's scary dangerous.

@ It appears that rookie Sean Spence's season is over after he suffered a torn ACL and dislocated knee.

Too bad. The kid would have been a special teams ace this season.

The Steelers' special teams coverage units are going to be a problem this season.

@ The Steelers will use the new IR designation on first-round pick David DeCastro. They expect him to be out eight weeks.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mike Wallace has ended his holdout

If you had any question about whether his teammates would welcome Wallace back into the fold, it was answered almost immediately.

No sooner had Wallace reported than he was doing a podcast with linebacker James Harrison. Then, there was Wallace on the sideline during practice, shaking hands with teammates and coaches.

All was forgiven - at least by everyone with the notable exception of Mike Tomlin.

Tomlin talked briefly with Wallace before he spoke to reporters after practice and wouldn't commit to Wallace being ready to play next week in Denver - at least not until he sees him practice.

Wallace, on the other hand, said he should be ready.

Tomlin was downplaying things purposely. He wants to put up a front to show his unhappiness with Wallace's holdout. But the first time Wallace gets into the end zone this season, you can bet Tomlin will be the first guy there giving him a high five.

@ With James Harrison and Jason Worilds coming off the PUP list Tuesday, they will both be back at practice when the Steelers return on Monday.

Harrison said today that he feels great. I wouldn't bet on him not playing - at least on a limited basis. Then again, Harrison doesn't do anything limited.

Worilds, meanwhile, has been running a lot and working with team trainers on his conditioning.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Steelers make cuts


The Steelers released 15 players today, reducing their roster to the league-mandated 75 players prior to today’s 4 p.m. deadline.

The 15 players released include linebacker Ryan Baker, defensive tackle Mike Blanc, wide receiver Paul Cox, cornerback Andre Freeman, kicker Daniel Hrapmann, linebacker Mortty Ivy (Waived/Injured List), offensive lineman Kyle Jolly, long snapper Matt Katula, tight end Jamie McCoy, cornerback Walter McFadden, tight end Justin Peelle, safety Myron Rolle, wide receiver Juamorris Stewart, defensive tackle Kade Weston and wide receiver Jimmy Young.

@ In other news, wide receiver Mike Wallace isn't at the team practice facility today. Wallace must wait three days - per NFL rules - before practicing after signing his contract, so he's basically avoiding the media.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Post-Buffalo thoughts

Tough break for the Steelers, who possibly lost rookie David DeCastro for the season with a torn ACL in Saturday night's preseason victory over the Bills.

DeCastro, who started the game at right tackle, regardless of what Bob Pompeani and Edmund Nelson said, was going to be the team's starting right guard in the opener at Denver.

It wasn't even in question and handn't been in several weeks. He had performed that well.

Watching DeCastro's injury several times, it appears he could have been tripped up by right tackle Marcus Gilbert. If that was the case, Gilbert has now taken out two starters this preseason. He fell across fullback David Johnson's legs in the opener, ending his season with a torn ACL.

Ramon Foster will plug back in to the right guard spot, meaning Willie Colon will be the lone upgrade for the Steelers on their line this season.

Colon, by the way, had a tough game against the Bills. He can play better than he did in this one, as he allowed consistent pressure and got pushed into the backfield several times.

@ The news was a little better on Brett Keisel, who left with a slight high ankle sprain.

Keisel will be held out against Carolina Thursday night, but should be ready to go against Denver in Week 1.

@ After a slow start, the offense heated up in the second quarter. The defense did as well.

The defense consistently pressured Buffalo QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, mixing in a number of blitzes this time around.

Did you see Lawrence Timmons level Fitzpatrick in the first quarter on a ball nearly picked off by LaMarr Woodley?

Ouch.

@ That's six interceptions in three preseason games. If the Steelers can carry that over to the regular season, they'll be very good.

@ Mike Adams took a nice step forward at left tackle in this one.

Max Starks played OK for his first time in game action. He'll be the starter, but Adams looked a little more like the future against the Bills than he had in the previous two preseason games.

Look for the Steelers to give him more work at guard moving forward, especially with DeCastro possibly out for the season.

Although, I've got to tell you, you won't see too many 6-8 guards.

But if he's going to be active on game days, he needs to be position flexible, as Mike Tomlin likes to say.

@ The Steelers threw some deep balls in this one for the first time this preseason. It was if they wanted to let Mike Wallace know that the other guys could get deep, too.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Steelers fire Everest

The Steelers on Thursday fired special teams coordinator Al Everest after just two seasons.

The move came as a surprise since the special teams units had performed well under Everest, who took over for former coordinator Bob Ligashesky following a horrendous 2009 season in which the team allowed four kick returns for scores.

Everest will be replaced by Amos Jones, who has been the team's assistant special teams coach since 2007. Jones and head coach Mike Tomlin go way back, having been on the same coaching staff at the University of Cincinnati in 1999 and 2000.


“We are continually evaluating our coaching staff and support staff, and we have decided to go in a different direction with respect to the coaching of our special teams,” Tomlin said in a statement. “I want to thank Al for his contributions and efforts, and I wish him well in the future.”

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Busy day for Steelers

It was a busy day at the Steelers offices.

First, all the TV and radio guys picked up on the stories that Mike Wallace will be reporting soon.

I actually wrote the same thing for Tuesday's Observer-Reporter, but when the Post-Gazette reported on its web site the same thing, suddenly, the world was abuzz.

The best was when I was listening to talk radio on the way home and one of the local sports talk stations said, "The Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette broke the story that Mike Wallace might be returning to the Steelers sometime this weekend."

Think about that statement for a second.

Now, certainly Ed's story was a little more specific than mine, saying that Wallace would report sometime this weekend after the Steelers' game in Buffalo.

But the statement Wallace "might" be in this weekend isn't really breaking news and really isn't what Ed wrote. Wallace might run for president as well - though I doubt it.

It's not a big deal and it's certainly semantics, but I found it funny.

@ The second big news story of the day came once the locker room opened and Max Starks announced he would be working with the first-team offense.

It wasn't a surprise that Starks would be practicing. But putting him out with the ones was certainly newsworthy.

@ After that, it was on to James Harrison, who said he should be ready to go once the regular season opens.

That wasn't surprising either, but Harrison looked fine walking around and was moving with no issues.

@ Finally, running back Issac Redman said his MRI last week revealed his problem wasn't a groin as thought, but a hip issue near his groin.

That seemed to put him a little more at ease and he was back working Tuesday.

@ It doesn't happen often, but while the Steelers were on one field Tuesday, Pitt came out and practiced on the field right next to them - there are five total fields outside at the facility.

This allowed for the Pitt players to get a good look at the Steelers practice when they were on their way out and running back Ray Graham was all eyes as he walked by.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin yelled at him, "Hey, keep your eyes off this practice," or something to that affect, and they shared a smile and a laugh.

Tomlin then said, "I love to mess with the kids."

It gives you a little insight into why Tomlin is so respected. Yes, he's a no-nonsense kind of coach. But he's also not afraid to mix it up a little as well.

@ One other thing caught my eye after practice. Five of the team's tackles - Starks, Marcus Gilbert, Trai Essex, Mike Adams and Kelvin Beachum - were working on their sets after practice with one of the linebackers rushing against them.

The linebacker? Rookie Adrian Robinson.

Robinson goes hard 100 percent of the time and his teammates see that. It's a big reason he's going to make this team.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Initial thoughts from the Colts game

The first-team offense and defense both looked pretty good against the Colts in their first extensive action.

Ben Roethlisberger threw a bad pick and Chris Rainey fumbled - he might be too small for the beating he'll take in the NFL - but, overall, it wasn't a bad showing.

The Steelers came into this game trying to work on their running game a little bit - they wanted to give Willie Colon an opportunity to pull - and were effective doing that.

The defense gave up a drive, but it also put seven points on the board. And remember, they weren't throwing a lot of different stuff at the Colts defensively, so even that one drive might have been avoided in the regular season with an exotic blitz or two.

@ It was a preseason game, so the main thing was to get out of it unscathed, which the Steelers did.

@ Rookie punter Drew Butler didn't have the kind of game he did against Philadelphia, but he was solid, averaging 44.8 yards per attempt.

@ How bout the hands on Ike Taylor?

I've covered Ike since his start here and don't remember him coming out of a break too many times and actually catching the ball.

@ Guys who helped themselves:

David Gilreath led the team with four receptions for 78 yards working against a team that had him on its practice squad in 2011. (Point of interest, Gilreath is sharing a locker with some guy who wears No. 17. Didn't see that player here though).

Jerrod Johnson looked much more comfortable at QB, completing 4 of 5 passes for 65 yards and scrambling three times for 11 more yards. Was poised during the game-winning field goal drive.

Justin Peelle caught one pass for 21 yards and isn't Leonard Pope.

Jonathan Dwyer rushed eight times for 43 yards, including a 23 yarder. Didn't get hurt.

Guys who didn't help themselves:

Kelvin Beachum had two more penalties. I know he's wearing 68, but that doesn't mean he has to play like Chris Kemoeatu as well.

Chris Rainey lost a fumble. That was the knock against him at Florida - too small to play in the NFL - and losing fumbles isn't going to help. He's not in danger of being cut, but he's not helping his cause to be a bigger part of the offense.

Marquis Maze averaged just 1.5 yards on a pair of punt returns. He really needed to do something special and failed to do so.

Leonard Pope completely whiffed on his block on Antonio Brown's touchdown catch and run. Don't know what he brings to the table other than being familiar with Todd Haley's offense.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Steelers make somewhat surprising move

The Steelers on Friday activated a pair of players off the PUP list.

But one of them wasn't somebody many were expecting to be activated at this time.

Rashard Mendenhall and Casey Hampton came off the PUP on Friday, opening the door for both to return to practice on Tuesday when the Steelers return to their facility on Pittsburgh's South Side.

Hampton's activation wasn't a surprise. Though he had offseason surgery to repair his ACL, the team expected him to be ready for the opening of the regular season, at least on a limited basis.

But Mendenhall was a different story. Though he was, by all accounts, ahead of the curve in his recovery from a torn ACL,

The team had continued to say that it expected him to open the season on the PUP, meaning he would be out the first six weeks.

Now, he will have to open the season on the 53-man roster.

The Steelers obviously feel Mendenhall is ready, or they wouldn't have activated him. But he's also not ready to shoulder a full load.

The issue, in my eyes, is that once the season begins, there really is no easing a player back into practice. Either you're ready to go or you're not. In-season practices are used to get ready for the next opponent, not get somebody ready to return to the field.

So the Steelers activated Mendenhall now to give him a couple of weeks of training camp.

Also at issue are the injuries to the other running backs on the roster. Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer have both been banged up.

Probably more so in the case of Dwyer, the Steelers are sending a message that they're not happy with the status quo.

What does this mean for the roster? Hampton was considered a given to take a spot on the 53-man roster. Mendenhall was not.

The guess here is that the team either goes with four receivers - including Mike Wallace, who should report any day now - and use Chris Rainey and Heath Miller in certain situations, or go with two tight ends and use Will Johnson or Jamie McCoy as an H-back type.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cutting not the problem

Cutting this year's roster for the Steelers won't be the problem. Stopping, however, will be.

The Steelers are solid with their front-line talent.

But the retirements and releases of a number of veterans during the offseason have left this team with very little depth - at least not as much as in previous years.

Here's how I see the 53-man roster breaking down now that we're through three weeks of training camp:

QB (3)
Ben Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich, Charlie Batch - Jerrod Johnson can go on the practice squad. The team likely won't cut Batch because he's been such a good soldier over the years.

RB (5)
Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer, Baron Batch, Chris Rainey, Will Johnson - I wouldn't be surprised to see a veteran added here after other teams start cutting guys loose. All of the backs except Redman have practice squad eligibility. Rashard Mendenhall goes on the PUP.

WR (5)
Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery, Tyler Beiler - Wallace will rejoin the team before the start of the season. Beiler has been the best of a ho-hum bunch. Toney Clemons or Marquis Maze or both to the practice squad?

Offensive line (9)
Max Starks, Willie Colon, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert are your starters. Mike Adams, Ramon Foster, Doug Legursky and Trai Essex are the backups - When camp began, the team was concerned that rookie Kelvin Beachum would look so good they wouldn't be able to sneak him onto the practice squad. That won't be a problem after his play against the Eagles. Rookie Ryan Lee could also head to the practice squad.

Tight end (3)
Heath Miller, Leonard Pope, Jamie McCoy - Wes Saunders only shows up sometimes. Add that to his pending suspension and there's no reason for him to make the roster. Pope could be pushed off by new signee Justin Peele, but it will be tough since Peele will only be here a few weeks. McCoy makes it because of his ability to play some fullback. Will Johnson isn't much of a blocker at this point.

Defensive line (7)
Brett Keisel, Steve McClendon, Ziggy Hood, Cam Heyward, Casey Hampton, Al Woods, Alameda Ta'amu - With Hampton unlikely to be ready for the opener and Ta'amu not ready for prime time, Woods makes it because they will need five linemen heading to Denver. I don't think Hampton goes on the PUP.

Linebacker (9)
James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons, Larry Foote, Jason Worilds, Chris Carter, Stevenson Sylvester, Brandon Johnson, Sean Spence - It's a tough cut. Adrian Robinson goes to the practice squad

Defensive back (9)
Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Ike Taylor, Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen, Curtis Brown, Will Allen, Ryan Mundy, Robert Golden - Only four corners? Why not. Walter McFadden and Terrence Frederick aren't the players that Golden is and if you're down to your fifth corner, you're screwed anyway. Plus, since Clark won't play in the opener, they'll need and extra safety.

Specialists (3)
Shaun Suisham, Greg Warren, Drew Butler - Butler is winning the punting job by default over injured Jeremy Kapinos. Plus, he's actually kicked pretty well

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Moving along

The Steelers on Tuesday activated Max Starks from the PUP list, meaning he will likely be ready to start the season at left tackle for them - at least that's their hope.

In the meantime, the Steelers will continue to work Marcus Gilbert at LT as their emergency plan with rookie Mike Adams out with a knee injury.

Starks won't fully practice until Friday and won't see action against Indianapolis in their preseason game Sunday. But expect him in the lineup when the Steelers travel to Buffalo Aug. 26.

@ Running back John Clay apparently tore his quad muscle at practice Sunday and was waive/injured Tuesday.

With the roster space, the Steelers added former Houston Texans running back Jay Ford, a 5-10, 238-pound fireplug.

Ford looks like a fullback, though I can't find a lot of background info on him.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Eventful weekend

It was an eventful two days for the Steelers as they began their final week of work at Saint Vincent College.

First, due to a knee injury to second-round draft pick Mike Adams suffered in the preseason opener against Philadelphia, the team had to shuffle the deck with its offensive line.

Adams, who is expected to be out a week or so, had started against the Eagles at left tackle. With him out, the Steelers slide right tackle Marcus Gilbert over to left tackle.

That allowed them to keep rookie David DeCastro at right guard - where he will stay - and put Ramon Foster at right tackle.

With Willie Colon back at left guard, the Steelers' starting offensive line for their second preseason game will look like this from left to right: Gilbert, Colon, Maurkice Pouncey, DeCastro and Foster.

It will likely stay that way until Max Starks is ready to come off the PUP list, at which point, he will move to left tackle, sliding Gilbert back to the right side.

Starks is expected to be activated within the next two weeks after having offseason knee surgery.

@ With Isaac Redman (groin) and Jonathan Dwyer (shoulder) sitting out practices, the Steelers got more bad news at running back Sunday, when John Clay went down with a hip injury.

Already thin with Rashard Mendenhall on the PUP list, that left the Steelers with just Barron Batch, Chris Rainey and Will Johnson - now the starting fullback following David Johnson's season-ending knee injury against the Eagles - to carry the football.

That didn't work out so well in Sunday's goal-line drills as the Steelers tried to pound the ball into the end zone with Batch (210 pounds) and Rainey (178).

Rainey scored once by leaping over the top of the line, but the defense had the better of it overall.

@ For the second time in this training camp, Antonio Brown and Ike Taylor got into a fight, this time during a red zone drill.

This one got a little more heated than their previous dust up last week as the two continued to jaw at each other after practice.

Don't expect any long-lasting effects, however.

Brown and Taylor are both competitors and neither wants to give an inch. And they've been going against each other on a daily basis now for three weeks. It can get a little irritating.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Post-Eagles thoughts

I liked Todd Haley's approach to this game with his first-team unit.

With a pair of rookie offensive linemen starting, he had Ben Roethlisberger throwing screen after screen. It allows the rookies to get their feet wet while also protecting the franchise quarterback.

Plus, the Steelers have really been working hard on their screen game. Might as well try it out and see if it works. It does.

@ Speaking of those rookie linemen, I'd give David DeCastro a C-plus for his first game. Mike Adams, meanwhile, gets a D.

DeCastro wasn't overwhelmed and was OK in pass protection for the most part. Adams did a good job in run blocking, not so much in pass protection when his guy came with a speed move.

Adams left early after suffering a slight knee injury. He's expected to be OK.

A bigger issue was the play of Marcus Gilbert at right tackle. Hard to believe he started a whole season in 2011 after looking as bad as he did against the Eagles.

@ The news was not as good for fullback/tight end David Johnson. Johnson suffered a torn ACL and is out for the season.

Johnson was injured when Gilbert was being thrown into the pocket for about the fifth time on the opening drive.

With Johnson down, the Steelers are left with Will Johnson at fullback. Look for them to bring somebody else in, or at least take a look at Jamie McCoy at fullback as well.

@ Of the young receivers, Marquis Maze showed some moves as a return man - though he had a couple of nice punt returns called back due to penalties.

Tyler Beiler also made a nice adjustment on a back shoulder throw from Jerrod Johnson for a 30-yard gain as well.

Other than that, however, it was continued blah.

I felt bad for Johnson, who was playing behind a shoddy third-team offensive line with receivers who couldn't get open.

He's looked better than what he showed against the Eagles.

@ I really thought Adrian Robinson and Myron Rolle helped themselves among the bubble guys. Both were very active.

Robinson has been a guy who has shined throughout camp, while Rolle had been pretty quiet until the game against the Eagles.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

What, who I'll be watching in the first preseason game

The Steelers will play their first preseason game at Philadelphia Thursday night, and there's going to be plenty of notable action on the field.

Here are a few of the things and players I'll be watching in this one:

@ How does the new offense look under Todd Haley?

Traditionally, teams don't show a whole lot in the preseason. But the Steelers haven't had a completely new offense in Pittsburgh in quite some time.

To this point, the Steelers offense has featured more intermediate passes and throws to the running backs. We'll see if that carries over to the games.

@ How do the rookie offensive linemen look?

I've found it interesting that so many people have said that David DeCastro has been a bust in the first two weeks of training camp. That's ridiculous.

I've seen countless rookies take some time to get accustomed to the speed and power of the NFL. DeCastro has as well. But Maurkice Pouncey struggled with one-on-one matchups in his first camp as well. Then, when he got into game action, it was obvious he was a player.

The other side of the DeCastro coin is that Ramon Foster is having a very solid camp.

There was a big difference between DeCastro beating out Foster and Mike Adams pushing Trai Essex aside.

@ Does Cortez Allen take advantage of Keenan Lewis' shoulder injury?

Allen will likely start with Lewis being limited with the shoulder injury. If he can hold up in coverage against DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, it will go a long way toward winning a starting job.

@ Who will step up at free safety?

To this point, Ryan Mundy has been so-so. The same goes for veteran Will Allen.

I'm anxious to see what a young kid like Robert Golden can do in game action. There's a spot to be won there behind Ryan Clark.

@ Will any of the receivers behind Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery show anything.

It's been up and down throughout training camp for the receivers behind those three.

At this point, I'd say Derrick Williams and Tyler Beiler have been the most consistent, but that's not saying much.

@ Can Chris Rainey win the starting return job.

Rainey is fast, but can he consistently catch punts? He flubbed one in practice on Tuesday, which has to be a concern. This is, after all, a kid that fumbled six punts in college.

I'm not as concerned about him as a kick return guy, but if he can't field punts, that's a problem.

Marquis Maze will also be given a chance. It's big for him because he hasn't shown a lot as a receiver.

@ Keep an eye on rookie punter Drew Butler, the son of former Bears kicker Kevin Butler.

Butler is the only healthy punter in camp right now with Jeremy Kapinos dealing with back issues.

Kapinos has gotten more surly as camp has gone on because Butler has looked pretty good. But can he do it on the big stage?

If so, Butler could win the job.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Tuesday news and notes

Rookies Mike Adams and David DeCastro will get the starts at left tackle and right guard, respectively, against the Eagles.

Adams will start because he's been better than Trai Essex at left tackle. DeCastro will be in there because Willie Colon is out with a sore ankle and Ramon Foster has shifted over to left guard.

I keep on seeing that Adams and DeCastro have been disappointing. I haven't seen it that way. In fact, let's wait until they play a couple of preseason games before we pass any judgment.

After all, Maurkice Pouncey didn't win the starting job until that third preseason game.

@ Cam Heyward is also out for Thursday's game, though I haven't been able to get to the bottom of why.

Heyward practiced Sunday and appeared fine. Then, he wasn't around on Tuesday.

@ It appears Cortez Allen will start in place of Keenan Lewis.

Lewis has been battling through a sore AC joint in his right shoulder, but it appears the team won't let him test it in a game.

Allen, by the way, has been the better of the two at training camp. Both, however, will see plenty of playing time, regardless of who wins the starting job.

@ I have really liked what I've seen of first-year quarterback Jerrod Johnson.

The big guy (6-5, 251) is extremely light on his feet and throws a nice ball.

He got a chance to run the two-minute offense Tuesday and didn't disappoint, leading his unit to a score on a pass over the middle to Derrick Williams. It was a nice throw and catch and I could see Johnson beating out Charlie Batch for the No. 3 job.

@ Tyler Beiler had a couple of nice catches on Tuesday and could be making a case for himself to stick on this roster.

With Mike Wallace still holding out, there is room for at least two of the "other" receivers in this camp to make the roster.

Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that the group has been inconsistent behind the top three, but Beiler is probably the most consistent of the group.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Steelers release first depth chart

The Steelers on Monday released their first official depth chart of the season as they prepare for Thursday's preseason opener in Philadelphia.

There were a few surprises on the list, including holdout wideout Mike Wallace still being listed as No. 1 ahead of Emmanuel Sanders at receiver.

It was likely a measured move by the Steelers to show Wallace that - at least right now - there are no long-term hard feelings regarding his holdout, which will reach its third week on Wednesday.

We could see a change in that moving forward.

Rookie offensive tackle Mike Adams is still listed behind Trai Essex at left tackle on the depth chart despite the fact that Adams has been used ahead of Essex on the field the past three days.

Sanders, meanwhile, is listed as the team's No. 1 return man ahead of rookie Chris Rainey.

Defensively, because the guys on the PUP list aren't listed, Chris Carter is the starter at right outside linebacker, ahead of rookie Adrian Robinson. On the other side, it is veteran Brandon Johnson listed as second behind LaMarro Woodley.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Feisty play continues

Friday night's practice at Latrobe Stadium was highlighted by a second round on backs/tight ends on backers drill.

David Johnson and Barron Batch were the clear stars for the offense - with Johnson drawing praise after practice from head coach Mike Tomlin.

Batch didn't win his matchups as decisively as Johnson, but after a poor showing the first time the Steelers did these drills, he showed some real toughness and a willingness to finish blocks.

Isaac Redman has a groin injury and did not take part, joining LaMarr Woodley, James Harrison and Jason Worilds on the sidelines for this one.

Heath Miller also did not take part.

Defensively, Lawrence Timmons still brings the noise in this drill.

@ Ben Roethlisberger was held out tonight, as was Brett Keisel. Both were just given the night off.

@ Talked to Joey Porter during practice. He said his wife really likes Pittsburgh and has him looking for a house back here.

Porter would also like to get into coaching.

@ Cam Heyward and rookie Mike Adams had some Ohio State on Ohio State violence after Adams pancaked Heyward in a team drill.

Heyward apparently took offense to Adams going for the kill shot and the two squared off and started swinging.

Willie Colon stepped in to break it up, but then also started swinging at Heyward.

@ Speaking of Colon, he got rolled up in a team drill - right before the fight - after Ramon Foster tossed someone into the back of his leg, tweaking his ankle.

It was a scary moment for Colon, who is coming off an Achilles' injury.

He went a few more plays, then shut things down.

Foster moved over to left guard and rookie David DeCastro took over at right guard.


Thursday, August 02, 2012

Thursday news and notes

We might have seen a changing of the guard at cornerback Thursday in the final two plays of practice.

Working in the two-minute offense to close things out, Ben Roethlisberger lofted a 36-yard TD pass down the sideline to Antonio Brown, who got behind Keenan Lewis - the current frontrunner to start opposite Ike Taylor.

On the very next play, Cortez Allen, who along with Curtis Brown is fighting to unseat Lewis, leaped over rookie receiver Tony Clemons to pick off a Byron Leftwich pass along the sideline, showing the athleticism that has the coaching staff so excited about him.

Lewis has been battling a shoulder injury - and had to briefly leave practice Thursday after jacking up wideout David Gilreath at the line of scrimmage - but Allen's athletic ability is hard to overlook.

Coming out of the Citadel, Allen was supposed to be a project. At this point, the former fourth-round draft pick looks like the second coming of Ike Taylor - with hands.

@ LaMarr Woodley sat out practice again today and as a result, the linebackers vs. tight ends running drill was a walkover for the tight ends - who to this point have looked like five guys named Moe.

Jamie McCoy continues to shine in the one-on-one blocking drills, but until he lines up against Woodley, James Harrison or even Jason Worilds, we'll withhold judgement.

On the defensive side, the only linebacker who flashed was Adrian Robinson, a rookie out of Temple.

After beating pretty much everyone the team put in front of him, Robinson drew what Mike Tomlin called, "Varsity reps" against David Johnson.

Robinson also looked good there.

Mind you, Heath Miller has not been participating in these drills for the tight ends.

@ A moment after being chastised for not being physical enough on a stunt, rookie nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu brought the pain in a collision with Ramon Foster. That was 700 pounds of human being ramming into each other there and was not for the faint of heart.

Cam Heyward looks like a beast in those drills.

He jacked up Trai Essex so hard on a bull rush that it's possible Essex' ancestors felt it.