AFC North: Darrius Heyward-Bey

PITTSBURGH -- Jordan Dangerfield had been playing in the obscure FXFL before the Pittsburgh Steelers signed him to their practice squad this week.

Now it looks like the former Brooklyn Bolts safety will play in his first NFL game.

Polamalu
The Steelers are down to three safeties on their 53-man roster after they ruled out Ross Ventrone (hamstring) from playing Sunday against the New York Jets.

Troy Polamalu (knee) and Shamarko Thomas (hamstring) have also been ruled out of the 1 p.m. ET game at MetLife Stadium.

The lack of bodies behind starting free safety Mike Mitchell and strong safety Will Allen, who will fill in for Polamalu, makes it likely that the Steelers sign Dangerfield from the practice squad to provide depth and also play special teams.

Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was limited in practice because of a hamstring injury, though he is listed as probable for Sunday along with starting outside linebacker Jason Worilds (abdomen).

Worilds has practiced the past two days after sitting out drills on Wednesday.

Five Steelers have been ruled out because of injuries with linebacker Ryan Shazier (ankle) and cornerback Ike Taylor (forearm) joining Polamalu, Thomas and Ventrone on the list.

My guess is the Steelers waive Ventrone with the intention of bringing him back and sign Dangerfield from the practice squad.

That would leave guard Chris Hubbard and quarterback Landry Jones as the Steelers’ healthy scratches, and either nose tackle Daniel McCullers or wide receiver Justin Brown.

I think Brown would get the nod over McCullers as far as getting a helmet on Sunday, because he can fill in on special teams if needed.
PITTSBURGH -- Is Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown the best player at his position in the NFL?

Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson builds a strong case for Brown, who leads the NFL with 719 receiving yards this season after finishing second in the league with 1,499 receiving yards last season.

Wallace
Brown
Monson calls Brown a "modern day version of Jerry Rice" since he doesn’t have the greatest measurables but makes the game look easy at times because of his innate understanding of it.

The PFF piece is the latest example of Brown starting to get his due as a premier wide receiver. In the past there were questions about whether the fifth-year veteran was a legitimate No. 1 receiver, because he is 5-foot-10 and 186 pounds in a league that covets tall wide receivers.

"From the day I got here he wasn’t a household name other than special teams, and you’ve just seen the guy ascend and put himself up there with the great receivers in the game right now," said Todd Haley, who took over as the Steelers' offensive coordinator in 2012. "He continues to get better, and that’s the exciting thing."

Brown is having an All Pro-caliber season even though no one has emerged as the Steelers' clear cut No. 2 wide receiver, something that would help divert some attention from Brown. Markus Wheaton, who starts opposite Brown, has slumped after a promising start, and former No. 3 wide receiver Justin Brown was a healthy scratch last Monday night.

Wheaton, Brown, Lance Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey and rookie Martavis Bryant are all trying to solidify roles, and for now the Steelers are content to play their receivers -- well, at least the ones not named Antonio Brown -- based on situations.

"You’d love to see somebody jump up and say, 'Hey, we can’t have this guy off the field,' and that’s usually the way it works, so right now we’re kind of in that process and we just need guys to make plays," Haley said. "When your number’s called you need to step up and make the play, and if you don’t there’s some guys champing at the bit to show that they can do it."

The Steelers don’t seem to be in a hurry to set a hierarchy after Brown, the two-time Pro Bowler. It could change on a weekly basis, but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said he doesn’t have a problem with a largely rotating cast at wide receiver.

"We work every day with all of them, so it’s really just knowing who’s out there on a particular play, because each guy may run a route a little bit different," Roethlisberger said. "As long as I know who’s in there as we’re going, I’m fine and I feel confident with whoever’s in there is going to make a play."
PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Steelers are apparently taking a wait and see approach with starting left guard Ramon Foster.

Foster, who missed the Steelers’ 37-19 win over the Carolina Panthers because of an ankle injury, is listed as questionable for Sunday despite practicing all week.

All other players who have been nursing injuries, including rookie running back Dri Archer (ankle), are listed as probable for the 1 p.m. ET game against the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Linebacker Ryan Shazier (ankle) and cornerback Ike Taylor (arm) were ruled out for the game earlier this week.

The guess here is that Foster plays against the Buccaneers and is back in the starting lineup.

Here is my projected Steelers’ inactives list along with Shazier and Taylor.
  • WR Martavis Bryant: The Steelers aren’t going to dress six wide receivers and Darrius Heyward-Bey plays special teams as well as giving the Steelers a deep threat.
  • NT Daniel McCullers: Starting nose tackle Steve McLendon played well in the Steelers’ 37-19 win over the Carolina Panthers, and McCullers is still a work in progress.
  • G Chris Hubbard: The first-year man played seven snaps last week in Carolina but with Foster’s return he is the odd man out along the offensive line.
  • OL Wesley Johnson: The rookie fifth-round pick has yet to dress for a game. As long as the Steelers stay relatively healthy up front they will bring Johnson along slowly.
  • QB Landry Jones: The second-year man won’t dress this season unless there is an injury at quarterback.

Pittsburgh Steelers' projected inactives

September, 21, 2014
9/21/14
12:30
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CHARLOTTE -- The Steelers 46-man roster is a little harder to predict this week with starting left guard Ramon Foster’s status uncertain because of an ankle injury.

My guess is Foster will try to convince the coaches to let him play but Mike Tomlin told the sixth-year veteran late last week that he won’t put him in a position fail.

Playing against a stout Panthers defensive line on a gimpy ankle probably isn’t a recipe for success so I think the Steelers plug in Cody Wallace at left guard and give Foster another week to recover.

Rookie running back Dri Archer won’t play in the 8:30 p.m. game against the Panthers because of an ankle injury and he will join Foster on the Steelers' list of inactive players.

Here are the five other players I expect the Steelers to deactivate tonight.

WR Martavis Bryant: The rookie is healthy but there isn’t a place for him on the game-day roster for the second consecutive game. Darrius Heyward-Bey contributes on special teams, Bryant won’t get the nod over Lance Moore or Justin Brown and the Steelers aren’t dressing six wide receivers.

NT Daniel McCullers: If he was an answer to the Steelers’ struggles on defense the 6-foot-7, 352-pounds man-child would be on the field. McCullers, however, is still learning and probably a long way from playing. That could change, though, if the Steelers continue to give up rushing yards in chunks.

OL Wesley Johnson: If Foster doesn’t play, I think Chris Hubbard gets a helmet over Johnson. The rookie fifth-round pick is more versatile but Hubbard has played almost exclusively at left guard. He could play there if Wallace is needed at center or right guard in the event of an injury.

CB B.W. Webb: There is absolutely no reason the Steelers need to dress 11 defensive backs, something they did in a 26-6 loss to the Ravens. Webb, who played just two special-teams snaps in Baltimore, is the odd man out tonight.

QB Landry Jones: He has yet to dress for an NFL game. There is no reason for that to change tonight.
PITTSBURGH -- Will Johnson said he will be ready if the Steelers need him to do more than just block tonight against the Ravens.

Johnson
Johnson, a fullback/tight end, will serve as the Steelers’ No. 3 running back at M&T Bank Stadium with rookie Dri Archer out because of a sprained ankle.

Johnson played a little bit of running back in the Steelers’ final preseason game, and he carried the ball one time for 6 yards.

Johnson played tailback and defensive back in high school.

“It feels natural," the 6-foot-2, 238-pounder said of playing running back. "If they need me in an emergency situation, I could do it.”

The Steelers could sign rookie Josh Harris from the practice squad to also provide depth behind Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount. My guess, however, is that the Steelers are comfortable with Johnson as their No. 3 running back and won’t add Harris to the 53-man roster.

In addition to Archer, wide receiver Lance Moore won’t play against the Ravens because of a groin injury. Here is my projection of the five healthy players who will be deactivated by the Steelers for the 8:30 p.m. ET game at M&T Bank Stadium:
  • WR Martavis Bryant: The rookie fourth-round pick is listed as probable after coming back from a shoulder injury, but Darrius Heyward-Bey gets the nod over Bryant because the latter plays special teams.
  • G Chris Hubbard: I have the Steelers dressing eight offensive linemen with rookie Wesley Johnson getting the last spot on the game day roster because of his versatility. The last time the Steelers played at Baltimore they barely had enough healthy offensive linemen to finish the game. In a game as physical as this one it will be wise for the Steelers to have an extra offensive lineman active.
  • CB D.W. Webb: He only played a few snaps on special teams against the Browns and will lose his spot to cornerback Brice McCain unless McCain has a setback with his groin.
  • NT Daniel McCullers: Starting nose tackle Steve McLendon is fine after missing some time in the season opener because of a stinger.
  • QB Landry Jones: Has yet to dress for an NFL game and that won’t change unless there is an injury at quarterback.

Observation Deck: Pittsburgh Steelers

August, 28, 2014
8/28/14
10:35
PM ET


PITTSBURGH -- It certainly looked like a fourth preseason game, from the swaths of empty seats at Heinz Field to the uneven play with many starters from each side playing sparingly, if at all.

Carolina parlayed a big pass play into the game’s only touchdown ,and the Panthers beat the Steelers 10-0 Thursday night with the specter of final cuts looming for fringe players on each side.

Landry Jones started at quarterback and completed 14 of 18 passes for 97 yards before giving way to Brendon Kay midway through the third quarter. Jones, a fourth-round pick in 2013, didn’t lead any scoring drives but probably did enough to make the 53-man roster as the Steelers’ No. 3 quarterback.

No Steelers player battling for a roster spot made a particularly compelling argument to stay with the team beyond 4 p.m. ET Saturday, the NFL deadline for finalizing 53-man rosters.

Brad Wing looked like he was on his way to nailing down a roster spot after pinning the Panthers deep in their own territory several times. Then the Aussie unleashed a 25-yard clunker, something that will make the coaches ponder whether Wing is consistent enough to be trusted.

Players such as Wing have made their final argument as far as making the team.

The Steelers’ coaches and front office personnel will meet on Friday to start paring down the roster and could make some cuts then, with the rest coming on Saturday. The Steelers have to cut 22 players to get to the 53-man limit by late Saturday afternoon.

Some other thoughts from the Steelers’ fourth preseason game:
  • It was a very nice bounce-back game for starting outside linebacker Jarvis Jones after the second-year man struggled a week ago in Philadelphia. Jones made his presence felt early against the pass and the run, and the Steelers coaches had to love his hustle after a snap sailed over the head of Panthers quarterback Derek Anderson in the second quarter. Anderson tried to pick the ball up, and when he couldn’t get a handle on it Jones made a diving recovery. He then got up and started to rumble downfield, drawing a personal foul penalty when former Steelers center Fernando Velasco dragged Jones down by his hair. Jones recorded three tackles, including one for a loss, and the fumble recovery before calling it a night.
  • If the Steelers only keep five wide receivers Justin Brown might be headed back to the practice squad. The wide receiver who created such a buzz during offseason practices caught five passes for 32 yards in four preseason games despite playing more snaps than any other Steelers skill player. Hard-charging Darrius Heyward-Bey caught six passes for 44 yards against the Panthers and solidified his spot on the 53-man roster even if the Steelers only keep five wideouts. His speed and experience -- and his production in the Steelers' final two preseason games -- will make Heyward-Bey too difficult to cut
  • David Paulson and Rob Blanchflower needed to beat Michael Palmer for the No. 3 spot at tight end, and neither was able to do it. Palmer had a couple of nice blocks early when the Steelers were able to run the ball, and the fifth-year veteran is solid on special teams. He solidified his spot on the 53-man roster, and Blanchflower looks like a strong candidate for the practice squad.
  • Cornerback Antwon Blake had played well before getting beat badly on a 53-yard catch by wide receiver Philly Brown, setting up the Panthers’ only touchdown. Blake will make the Steelers as a core special-teams player but Brice McCain has clearly established himself as the No. 4 cornerback assuming the groin injury he suffered against the Panthers isn’t serious.
  • The Steelers showed an interesting defensive look late in the second quarter. Josh Mauro, Roy Philon, Daniel McCullers and Ethan Hemer were up front with Vince Williams and Terence Garvin as the only linebackers in the game. However, Shamarko Thomas played close enough to the line of scrimmage that it looked like the Steelers had their big nickel package on the field with four down linemen.
Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin praised Darrius Heyward-Bey on Tuesday and said he particularly likes what the veteran wide receiver has done on special teams.

That clinches it for me: the Steelers will keep six wide receivers when they finalize their 53-man roster at the end of the week.

Heyward-Bey
Look for Heyward-Bey to join Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Lance Moore, Martavis Bryant and Justin Brown in making the team.

Heyward-Bey, who signed a veteran minimum contract with the Steelers in March, had a quiet training camp in part because he missed significant practice time after sustaining a concussion.

Heyward-Bey flashed in the Steelers' 31-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday, catching three passes for 54 yards and a touchdown.

"He's done some really good things of late, after he came back from his concussion," Tomlin said. "I'm just as pleased with he's providing us from a special teams standpoint as I am what he's doing at wide receiver. I really like some of the things he's shown us in the kicking game, some things that, quite frankly, I didn't know he had in terms of his willingness and ability to cover punts, his willingness and ability to block for punt returners. It's attractive."

Here are some other takes from Tomlin's news conference:
  • Tomlin said running backs Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount will play Thursday night against the visiting Carolina Panthers. The eighth-year coach has not ruled out playing any of his starters even though quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said on Monday he does not expect to play in the Steelers' final preseason game. "If they need to work they're going to get it, whether it's individual or collective," Tomlin said of the game against the Panthers. "That's just my approach to preparation."
  • Defensive end Brett Keisel, who re-signed with the Steelers last Wednesday, will play against the Panthers. And Tomlin strongly hinted that Keisel will play an extended numbers of snaps on Thursday. "I'm interested in taking him to the deep end of the pool to see if he can swim a little bit," Tomlin said. "We'll see how he does."
  • Tomlin said third-string quarterback Landry Jones will play extensively against the Panthers and may start the game. Jones might be battling for a roster spot after playing poorly in an Aug. 16 game against the Buffalo Bills and not getting any snaps last Thursday night in Philadelphia. When asked what he needs to see from Jones, Tomlin said, "Just consistent, above the line play in all areas. That's about as straight of an arrow as I can fire."
  • The Steelers do not plan on bringing in another punter against the Panthers. Brad Wing has been the team's only punter since the start of training camp with Adam Podlesh out because of a family issue. Wing's net punting average in three games is only 35.8 yards, but Tomlin gave him a vote of confidence. "I like what Brad has done," he said.
PITTSBURGH – Ben Roethlisberger does not anticipate playing in the final preseason game Thursday night, and he has this message for fans who are still apoplectic from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ loss in their third preseason game: Take a deep breath.

“The preseason is just that, it’s getting a chance to look at things, different reads, move guys around to see where guys can be best fit,” the Steelers quarterback said early Monday afternoon. “I don’t want to call it preseason practice, but it kind of is. We stayed healthy and that’s the most important thing.”

It is also not something to be taken lightly considering the St. Louis Rams won’t have starting quarterback Sam Bradford as they try to make a move in the NFL’s toughest division this season.

Bradford tore his ACL for the second consecutive year and already has been lost for the season.

Roethlisberger
His injury is one of a number of ones that has occurred to high-profile players, and it reinforces what Roethlisberger said about the preseason: The most important thing is making it through the four-game schedule relatively unscathed from a health standpoint.

That priority is why a lot of the Steelers starters figure to join Roethlisberger in watching Thursday when the Steelers and Carolina Panthers play in a 7:30 p.m. ET game at Heinz Field.

As bad as the Steelers played in a 31-21 loss on Thursday night in Philadelphia, the risk/reward factor when it comes to the final preseason game tilts heavily toward not exposing starters to injury.

It will be interesting to see how much work some of the wide receivers get against the Panthers.

Lance Moore, who missed the Eagles game with leg tightness, has one catch for 6 yards in the preseason. Justin Brown, meanwhile, has just three catches for 15 yards after starring in offseason practices and the first part of training camp.

With rookie Martavis Bryant coming along but not showing yet that the Steelers can count on him heavily at the start of the season there are questions at wide receiver after Pro Bowler Antonio Brown.

Or are there?

“I’m very confident,” Roethlisberger said of his wide receivers. “I like where they are I think they’re competing with each other every day and even last game seeing [Darrius Heyward-Bey make that great play, running by people, getting his feet down in the back of the end zone. I missed Justin on a play but he’s doing some really good things both in the run game and the pass game. I’m not concerned with our receivers right now.”

Observation Deck: Pittsburgh Steelers

August, 21, 2014
8/21/14
11:00
PM ET

PHILADELPHA -- Steelers coach Mike Tomlin suddenly has a lot more to worry about than his top two running backs facing citations for marijuana possession.

The Steelers' third preseason game turned out about as well as the infamous car ride that landed Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount in trouble and in unflattering headlines a day earlier.

The Steelers struggled in every aspect Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field, and they were dominated when it mattered most in a 31-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles, crisper and more physical than their in-state rivals, raced to a 17-0 halftime lead when starters from both teams were in the game, and it could have been worse for the Steelers.

Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles just missed on a few throws that would have netted big gains, but he still completed 19 of 29 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown before calling it a night.

Ben Roethlisberger played two series in the second half, and he salvaged something from an otherwise forgettable night by leading a six-play, 79-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter.

Roethlisberger, who struggled with his accuracy and threw a bad interception in the first half, capped the drive with a 27-yard touchdown pass to tight end Heath Miller.

That march wasn't nearly enough to offset the ineptitude that the Steelers showed at times in all three phases of the game.

Some other thoughts from the Steelers' third preseason game:
  • Blount's play, ironically enough, was among the few positives that the Steelers could take away from the thorough beating they received from the Eagles. Blount, who alternated with Bell, rushed for 32 yards on seven carries and showed the nifty footwork that is unique for such a big back. Bell started the game and Blount also played on the first series.
  • If the preseason is any indication, the Steelers still haven't fixed a run defense that yielded 115.6 rushing yards per game last season. The Eagles repeatedly gashed the Steelers in the running game even though LeSean McCoy played just two series because of a thumb injury. The Eagles have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, but Tomlin won't be happy with how they pushed around the Steelers. Defensive end Brett Keisel, who re-signed with the Steelers on Wednesday but didn't play against the Eagles, should help the defensive line. Improvement must be made across the board.
  • Wide receiver Justin Brown has faded and his hold on a roster spot should be tenuous after he failed to catch a pass despite getting extended work with the first-team offense as the No. 3 wide receiver. Brown, playing in place of Lance Moore, drew Roethlisberger's ire early when he ran a comeback route and had a pass sail over his head. The 2013 sixth-round pick was later flagged for offensive holding. In three preseason games Brown has three catches for 15 yards. Darrius Heyward-Bey, meanwhile, caught a 33-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
  • The Steelers didn't sustain a lot of injuries, but the two that were announced are worth watching. Linebacker Sean Spence left the game in the third quarter with a right knee injury and outside linebacker Jason Worilds didn't play again after hurting his right knee in the same quarter. Worilds may have been the Steelers' best defensive player before getting hurt. Of course that's not saying much considering that the Steelers gave up just under 500 yards of total offense.
  • There has to be some concern over Shaun Suisham, who has already missed two field goals in the preseason, the same number he missed all of last season. The 10th-year veteran has also missed a 33-yard extra point in preseason play.

Steelers Camp Report: Day 7

August, 2, 2014
8/02/14
7:15
PM ET
LATROBE, Pa. – A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Pittsburgh Steelers training camp:
  • The offense and defense battled to a draw in one of the most anticipated drills of training camp. The offense scored three touchdowns in six attempts from the 1-yard line in the goal-line drill. Ben Roethlisberger threw an easy touchdown pass to tight end Matt Spaeth off play-action to start the drill. The play call didn’t sit well with the defense and might have contributed to cornerback Ike Taylor and LeGarrette Blount later jawing at each other from across the field. Tauren Poole and Josh Harris each scored on 1-yard runs, but the defense held its own, stopping three runs other short of the end zone. Inside linebacker Vince Williams blew up Poole short of the end zone, putting an exclamation on an impressive day. Williams had delivered a monster hit earlier in practice when he obliterated running back Miguel Maysonet in an 11-on-11 drill.
  • Rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant had his best practice of training camp. The fourth-round draft pick made a handful of difficult catches. None were more impressive than when Bryant twisted his body while on the run to catch a Bruce Gradkowski pass that had sailed behind the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Bryant in the end zone. “He’s a big, so we expect him to consistently make big-guy plays,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of Bryant. "I’m interested in him developing a complete game.”
  • Tempers flared again a day after the first fight of training camp broke out and nearly turned into a brawl. Outside linebacker Chris Carter and left tackle Kelvin Beachum had to be separated at the end of one play during a red-zone drill. Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey and nose tackle Hebron Fangupo went at it during goal-line drills and punches were thrown before the two were separated.
  • Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey missed his second consecutive practice after sustaining a concussion last Thursday and linebacker Jordan Zumwalt remains out with groin tightness. Tomlin gave tight end Heath Miller and nose tackle Steve McLendon the day off in part so he could look at some of the younger players at those positions. Safety Mike Mitchell did some work, Tomlin said, and he might be close to returning. Mitchell, who signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Steelers in March, has been on the physically unable to perform list since reporting to camp with a groin injury.
  • Rookie running back Dri Archer showcased his speed in one-on-one passing drills. Matched up several times against Lawrence Timmons, Archer made an over-the-shoulder catch after separating from Timmons on a wheel route. Earlier in the drill, Archer caught a pass in front of Timmons, stopped and then ran right past him.
  • The Steelers practice Sunday and Monday from 2:55 to 5:30 p.m. ET. The players are off on Tuesday and practice will resume on Wednesday.

Steelers Camp Report: Day 1

July, 26, 2014
7/26/14
8:10
PM ET
LATROBE, Pa. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Pittsburgh Steelers training camp.
  • Martavis Bryant broke inside as a pass sailed over his head during the Steelers’ first practice of training camp. “Don’t come in that way!” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger yelled Saturday afternoon to the rookie wide receiver. Roethlisberger proceeded to gesture to Bryant how he should have retraced his steps and run back toward the quarterback instead of cutting toward the middle of the field. No other sequence better epitomized how hands-on Roethlisberger was with a young receiving corps that has to replace two of its top three wideouts from last season. Expect the on-field instruction and dialogue with his receivers to continue during camp and throughout the preseason. “He has full control over the whole team, really, and he doesn’t take that lightly,” veteran tight end Heath Miller said of Roethlisberger. “He takes a lot of pride in that. He’s the unquestionable leader of this team.”
  • The wide receivers looked really good as a group during the first practice. The caveat, of course, is that the Steelers won’t hit or wear pads until Monday. But the wide receivers drew oohs and aahs from fans who watched from the hillsides or the bleachers at Chuck Noll Field. Darrius Heyward-Bey made an over-the-shoulder grab of a Roethlisberger deep ball during a seven-on-seven drill. Justin Brown made a leaping catch of a pass that Roethlisberger delivered with some serious heat. Markus Wheaton made a handful of nice catches. Wheaton and Antonio Brown were the starters at wide receiver when the Steelers went 11-on-11 and Lance Moore was the No. 3 wide receiver.
  • Roethlisberger wore No. 99 for the first part of practice in honor of his former teammate and good friend Brett Keisel. Keisel, who played for Pittsburgh from 2002-13, remains unsigned and is hoping to return to the Steelers. “That’s my boy,” Roethlisberger said. “We were suitemates, he’s been one of my closest friends, been in my wedding. I miss him.” The Steelers could bring Keisel back if it is determined that the defense misses player who started the previous eight seasons at right defensive end. Cameron Heyward played mostly at right defensive end during the Steelers’ first practice. Cam Thomas, Brian Arnfelt and Stephon Tuitt all received repetitions with the first-team defense at left defensive end.
  • Coach Mike Tomlin started to address the one injury that occurred during the Steelers’ first practice when he realized he had referred to center/guard David Snow by the wrong name. “I call him Jon Snow because I’m a ‘Game of Thrones’ guy,” Tomlin said of the popular TV series. David Snow suffered an ankle or foot injury on Saturday, though Tomlin said he did not know the extent or severity of the injury. Other than Snow’s injury, Tomlin said, “We got through [practice] pretty clean and I liked the effort.”
PITTSBURGH – Derek Moye spent all of last season on the Steelers' 53-man roster and two of the wide receivers ahead of the Penn State product signed with other teams during the offseason.

Moye
Despite this, it is hard not to wonder if Moye actually lost ground in his bid to make an impact this season. Moye, as it turns out, will have a hard time simply making the team again because of the crowd that the Steelers have at wide receiver.

They signed veterans Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey in March and drafted Clemson’s Martavis Bryant in the fourth round. The Steelers also saw 2013 sixth-round pick Justin Brown, who spent last season on their practice squad, make a significant jump during offseason practices.

So where does all of that leave Moye? Pretty much in the same position as last season when the former undrafted free agent had to play his way onto the 53-man roster.

“That’s the way it is,” Steelers wide receivers coach Richard Mann said. “He knows that. Each time he gets on the field he gets better. He has a chance.”

The good news for Moye, who caught just two passes for 25 yards and a touchdown last season, is that the competition at wide receiver won’t really start until Monday when the Steelers wear pads for the first time.

Also, the 6-foot-4, 210-pounder made the team last season after entering camp as a long shot. There is no reason to think Moye can’t do it again with another strong camp and playing well in the preseason games.

Here are four other players who also need to flash during training camp.

OLB Chris Carter. The Steelers’ lack of depth at outside linebacker gives the 2011 fifth-round draft pick an inside track to making the 53-man roster. But Carter is vulnerable because he played primarily on special teams in three seasons and has yet to record a sack for the Steelers. Carter received praise from linebackers coach Keith Butler during offseason practices. He has to show the Steelers during camp that he can play extensive snaps at outside linebacker in the event of an injury.

TE David Paulson. He has just 13 catches for 153 yards in two seasons and Paulson isn’t going to make the team as a blocking tight end. The 2012 seventh-round pick has to show he can become a bigger part of the passing game as he is a prime candidate to fall victim to a numbers crunch. The Steelers return four tight ends from last season and they added to the position by drafting Rob Blanchflower in the seventh round and signing Eric Waters as an undrafted free agent.

DE Nick Williams. Williams did very little during offseason practices because he was still recovering from a knee injury he sustained almost a year ago. The Steelers like Williams’ potential but the 6-4, 309-pounder needs to get on the field during camp and get as much work as possible at a position that is hard for young players to master. The Steelers, meanwhile, need an end to emerge from a young group that includes Williams, Brian Arnfelt and undrafted free agent Josh Mauro.

P Brad Wing. His talent is undeniable and the Steelers think he has matured since going undrafted out of LSU in 2013 and failing to make the Philadelphia Eagles’ team last season. That he is a lefty helps – coach Mike Tomlin seems to prefer those kinds of punters – but Wing has to beat out veteran Adam Podlesh, who signed a one-year contract with the Steelers in April. Since Podlesh has a track record in the NFL Wing will have to clearly outplay him in training camp and preseason games to make the team.
PITTSBURGH -- There is a reason, beyond the headaches that accompanied his production and flashes of greatness, the Pittsburgh Steelers have no interest in bringing back Santonio Holmes.

They simply don’t need the 30-year-old wide receiver, who won the MVP Award in their last Super Bowl victory but has been plagued by injuries in recent seasons.

[+] EnlargeLance Moore
Keith Srakocic/AP PhotoWide receiver Lance Moore, an eight-year veteran who signed with the Steelers this offseason, brings his 4,281 yards and 38 TDs to Pittsburgh.
Consider what offensive coordinator Todd Haley said last week about the Steelers’ receivers.

“It’s as deep a group as I’ve been around from top to bottom,” Haley said near the end of offseason practices. “I think some guys that are pretty good football players probably won’t make the team.”

Haley tempered his assessment of the Steelers' wide receivers with the acknowledgement that the current group has yet to show what it can collectively do in pads.

And, of course, everything looks better in June when every team is still undefeated and pass-rushers are wearing shorts and are prohibited from hitting quarterbacks.

But Haley’s comment about the overall quality of the Steelers' wide receivers resonates even at this time of year because of his resume.

He coached the wide receivers in Dallas and Chicago while climbing the coaching ladder, and the Arizona Cardinals had arguably the best wide receiver tandem in the NFL in 2008 when Haley was their offensive coordinator. Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin helped the Cardinals to their first Super Bowl appearance and nearly led them to an upset of the Steelers in Tampa.

Whether the potential Haley sees in the Steelers' wideouts translates into production, one season after the loss of Jerricho Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders, who combined for 1,342 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns in 2013, remains to be seen.

Here are a few things to like about the Steelers’ wide receivers following organized team activities and minicamp:

  • Lance Moore, who signed a two-year, $3 million contract in March, stood out as much as any player during offseason practices. The former Saints wide receiver proved to be a quick study while learning a new offense, and he could put up big numbers if opposing teams pay too much attention to Pro Bowler Antonio Brown. Moore reminds me of Cotchery in the sense that he is a pro’s pro.
  • Markus Wheaton still has a ways to go to win the starting job held down by Sanders last season, and that is a good thing. Wheaton had a solid offseason, but he will have a lot of competition during training camp. Justin Brown, who stood out during offseason practices, will be among those who push Wheaton. The 6-3, 209-pound Brown spent all of last season on the practice squad, but wide receivers coach Richard Mann said, "He’s just a different guy. He understands the concepts. He’s smoother. His body language is different.”
  • The Steelers have so much depth at wide receiver that Darrius Heyward-Bey, the seventh overall pick of the 2009 NFL draft, will have trouble making the team. Heyward-Bey has to be consistent catching the call during training camp. But if he does that and makes the team, he would become a nice player to have as a No. 4 or No. 5 wide receiver. "He has the speed. He has the talent,” Mann said. Hopefully we will put him in a position to succeed with his speed and smartness, and we will take advantage of what he does best.”

Plenty is still unknown about the wide receiving corps. What exactly will the Steelers get out of Martavis Bryant this season? Is Wheaton ready to emerge as a significant contributor after catching six passes for 64 yards as a rookie? Will Brown build on his strong offseason and make a serious push for a roster spot?

These are among the questions that won’t be answered until after the Steelers report to training camp on July 25.

As Mann said, “When we start playing tackle, we will figure out what we have.”
PITTSBURGH -- A month into free agency few could have expected the Steelers to be as active as they have been in reshaping their roster. They have signed more than 10 free agents, including seven from other teams.

The Steelers are around $300,000 under the salary cap and are done signing players for now, having shifted their focus to the draft. With free agency having slowed to a crawl following a furious spending spree, let’s take a closer look at the outside free agents that the Steelers added with ESPN NFL analyst and former NFL scout Matt Williamson weighing in on each player:

Mitchell
Mike Mitchell

Position: S

Age: 27

Ht/Wt.: 6-0, 210

Deal: five-year, $25 million contract with $5.25 million guaranteed

2013 statistics: Set career-highs in tackles (66), interceptions (4), sacks (3 1/2) and forced fumbles (2) for the Panthers, blossoming after leaving Oakland for Carolina.

Skinny: The Steelers signed Mitchell to take over for Ryan Clark at free safety and get younger in the secondary. Mitchell prepares and plays with an edge. Next up for one of former Raiders owner Al Davis’ most infamous drat picks is proving those wrong who say his breakout season had more to do with the talent around Mitchell than his growth.

Matt Williamson’s take: “I think the arrow is very much going up on him because he’s big and fast and now he knows how to play the game. I think he’s a better coverage player than he is a run defender. I think he’s going to be your deep centerfield more often than not and let Troy (Polamalu) do his thing. Tackling is one thing he needs to work on but he can blitz.”

Thomas
Cam Thomas

Position: DL

Age: 27

Ht/Wt.: 6-4, 330

Deal: two-year, $4 million contract with $1 million guaranteed

2013 statistics: Recorded 23 tackles while starting 10 of 16 games at nose tackle for the Chargers and also made his first career interception.

Skinny: The Steelers signed Thomas to provide depth at nose tackle and defensive end. The player known as “Baby Zilla” could get an opportunity to start at the defensive end spot opposite Cameron Heyward depending on the players that the Steelers draft or sign in free agency.

Matt Williamson’s take: “I thought it was a decent pick up. I think he’s versatile enough to play any of their defensive line spots as is (Steve) McLendon. They certainly need d-line help but it’s not like boy they have to get a Casey Hampton or boy they have to get a (Brett) Keisel. It’s giving them more options going into the draft and he’s young, big body, fits the mold of what they want from that position.”

Moore
Lance Moore

Position: WR

Age: 30

Ht/Wt.: 5-9, 190

Deal: two-year, $3 million contract with $645,000 million guaranteed

2013 statistics: Caught 37 passes for 457 yards and two touchdowns while starting five of the 13 games he played in his final seasons with the Saints.

Skinny: The Steelers moved quickly to fill their opening at No. 3 wide receiver after Jerricho Cotchery signed with the Panthers. They landed Moore, who was a 1,000-yard receiver in 2012, and had some other good seasons in New Orleans. Moore, like Cotchery, knows how to get open and has reliable hands. He is a little younger than Cotchery but isn’t as effective as Cotchery is in the red zone. Eight of Cotchery’s 10 touchdown receptions last season were from inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.

Matt Williamson’s take: “I think having a veteran in that room is really important, but I just wish he was a bigger guy. Cotchery was a pretty good red zone weapon where now they’re extra small at receiver. Moore had a bad year last year. He didn’t play much because of injuries but the few seasons before that he was a good player. He was always very reliable.”

Moats
Arthur Moats

Position: LB

Age: 26

Ht/Wt.: 6-2, 250

Deal: one-year, $795,000 contract with $65,000 guaranteed

2013 statistics: Played in every game last season, starting 12 at inside linebacker, and recorded a career-high 54 tackles.

Skinny: This under-the-radar signing could turn out to be a significant one for the Steelers. Moats will provide depth at outside linebacker and play special teams. He also could get a shot at challenging Vince Williams for the starting job at left inside linebacker, though Moats has said the Steelers will first try him at outside linebacker.

Matt Williamson’s take: “He’s unique. I can’t really come up with a guy off the top of my head in the league who can play all four linebacker spots at a 3-4. They’re very different skill sets. At a minimum he’s your fifth linebacker. He’s a very good special teamer. He’s still really young.”

McCain
Brice McCain

Position: CB

Age: 27

Ht/Wt.: 5-9, 187

Deal: one-year, $795,000 contract with $65,0000 guaranteed

2013 statistics: Started a career-high four games for the Texans and recorded 32 tackles with an interception and seven passes defended.

Skinny: The Texans cut ties with McCain after opposing teams picked on the fifth-year veteran a good bit last season. The Steelers only had three other cornerbacks with significant NFL experience before signing McCain so he gives them some insurance and will be plenty motivated to bounce back from a rough 2013 campaign.

Matt Williamson’s take: “He’s a fourth or fifth guy that plays sparingly and might not even make the team if they draft one or two (cornerbacks) that are real impressive. He has at least played a lot of snaps in this league. He’s good enough to get on the field but bad enough to get burned when he’s on there and he’s little. He’s the (signing) I’m least excited about.”

Williams
Blount
LeGarrette Blount

Position: RB

Age: 27

Ht/Wt.: 6-0, 250

Deal: two years, $3.85 million, with $950,000 guaranteed

2013 statistics: Rushed for 772 yards and seven touchdowns and averaged 5.0 yards per carry while emerging as the Patriots’ best back by the end of the season. Blount went off in a Patriots playoff win over the Colts, rushing for 166 yards and four touchdowns.

Skinny: The Steelers were looking for a proven back to provide depth and injury insurance behind Le'Veon Bell and they found a young one at a reasonable price. If Blount can shoulder some of the workload at running back that should keep Bell fresh throughout the season and perhaps add some seasons to his career.

Matt Williamson’s take: “If you watch SportsCenter and watch his highlights you think he’s better than he is. There’s times that he doesn’t play as big and strong as he really is. If there isn’t a hole there he doesn’t make his own, but he is powerful and I think he’s got really good feet. He doesn’t really offer anything in the passing game but the best thing is he’s better than (Jonathan) Dwyer and (Isaac) Redman. They upgraded there.”

Heyward-Bey
Darrius Heyward-Bey

Position: WR

Age: 27

Ht/Wt.: 6-2, 219

Deal: one-year, $795,000 contract with $65,000 guaranteed

2013 statistics: Played a career-high 16 games, starting 12 of them, and caught 29 passes for 309 yards and a touchdown in his only seasons with the Colts.

Skinny: The seventh overall pick of the 2009 draft has never lived up to expectations with suspect hands often neutralizing his unique blend of size and speed. Heyward-Bey gives the Steelers a bigger wide receiver and one who is still young enough to have some upside. If he doesn’t work out the Steelers took virtually no risk in signing Heyward-Bey

Matt Williamson’s take: “Highly unreliable and it really only comes down to drops. He drops so many passes. It wasn’t his fault that he was the seventh pick of the draft and didn’t live up to it. Nobody thought he should be (picked that high) except for Al Davis. He may not even make the team.”

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