AFC North: Jason Worilds

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- In stark contrast to Ray Rice's awkward news conference in May, the Baltimore Ravens running back showed Thursday that he finally understood the weight of his actions from the alleged altercation with his then-fiancée in February.

He delivered the correct message, one the NFL failed to do last week with the two-game suspension, by not only apologizing to his wife, Janay Palmer, but also expressing a desire to become an advocate for domestic-violence causes.

Rice was compelling in his contrition, calling it the biggest mistake of his life. He stood in front of the microphone alone, without his wife standing by his side, and took full responsibility for the incident. Perhaps more importantly, Rice actually said the words "domestic violence," which weren't heard in his statement two months ago.

"My actions were inexcusable," Rice said. "That's something I have to live with the rest of my life."

Before anyone pats Rice on the back, this is what he should have said the first time when he broke his silence in May. Instead, Rice nervously fumbled through notes on his phone and apologized to team officials and his sponsors. That debacle of a news conference came across as damage control to his image.

His 17-minute news conference Thursday hit the right tones. He apologized to all women affected by domestic violence. He accepted the blame for losing the respect of fans. Rice came across as genuinely sorry.

"I let my wife down, I let my daughter down, I let my wife's parents down, I let the whole Baltimore community down," Rice said.

Rice's biggest misstep was not talking about what happened in the elevator. He was asked twice about it and declined to answer both times. His stance against domestic violence would have resonated stronger if he had explained his transgressions.

"I'll be honest: Like I said, I own my actions," Rice said. "I just don't want to keep reliving the incident. It doesn't bring any good to me. I'm just trying to move forward from it. I don't condone it. I take full responsibility for my actions. What happened that night is something that I'm going to pay for the rest of my life."

The only way Rice can move forward from this incident and show he's truly sincere is through his actions. It's not by his words. It's not by a hefty donation, which is merely a gesture. It's by proving this will remain a "one-time incident" and by supporting domestic-violence causes.

Thursday represented a small step forward for Rice. But it was an important one.
LATROBE, Pa. -- Pittsburgh Steelers right outside linebacker Jarvis Jones stuck with the Twitter handle SacManJones_29 despite notching just one quarterback takedown during a trying rookie season.

That he still embraces the alias is as close as Jones will come to predicting a breakout season for himself, something the Steelers badly need from their 2013 first-round draft pick.

Jones
“I’m going to do it my way,” Jones said. “Just keep quiet and work hard and produce on the field. I’ve got to live up to my name.”

It is critical that Jones do that since no player’s development on a defense that has gotten profoundly younger is more critical than his.

The Steelers’ defense has to become more opportunistic after forcing just 20 turnovers last season. Jones and left outside linebacker Jason Worilds providing a consistent pass rush would go a long way toward the Steelers taking the ball away more.

It would also help a secondary that has questions at cornerback.

Jones is poised to make a big jump after improving his strength the offseason and significantly raising his comfort level with the defense.

In addition, new defensive assistant Joey Porter, who played right outside linebacker in seven seasons with the Steelers and recorded 60 sacks, is mentoring Jones. And Jones spent the offseason working on his pass-rushing technique with Kansas City outside linebacker Justin Houston.

The two former Georgia teammates are close friends and trained together in Atlanta. Houston has 21 combined sacks in the last seasons -- he had 11 in 11 games in 2013 -- and Jones wants to replicate the success Houston has had since becoming a full-time starter in his second NFL season.

“I’ve been watching a lot of film of him and just watching his hand placement, his steps,” Jones said. “I feel really good about myself and where I’m at right now.”

Jones admittedly didn’t feel good about himself last season while struggling as learned a complex defense on the job and running into left tackles who were bigger and stronger than the ones he had regularly beaten in college.

The 6-2, 245-pounder recorded just one sack after making 28 of them in the two seasons he played for Georgia, and Jones admittedly got down on himself.

“It hurt because I wasn’t productive and I’m not used to being in that position,” Jones said. “Ever since I started playing football I’ve always been successful. It was humbling and it just makes you work harder.”

The Steelers need that work to produce signifcant returns this season.

General manager Kevin Colbert has said the Steelers will only go far as young players such as Jones take them, and SacMan_29 embraces that challenge.

“We understand that we’re a young group so we’ve really got to take the initiative of being physical, taking advantage of us being together,” Jones said of a defense that has eight projected starters who are 27 years old or younger. “We’re a lot younger than they’re used to seeing. We’ve got to gain our respect from everybody, even our teammates.”
LATROBE, Pa. -- The Pittsburgh Steelers might be "open for business," as general manager Kevin Colbert put it Monday, but there are several constraints when it comes to signing some of their own players to new long-term deals.

The Steelers have a little less than six weeks to get signings done because they don't negotiate contracts once the season starts. Colbert said they have less than $6 million under the salary cap, but the reality is the Steelers don't even have that much money to spend on new deals.

They will have to retain a healthy surplus to be used on signings during the season with the inevitability that some of their players will end up on the injured reserve list at some point.

Worilds
One way in which the Steelers could shore up a critical position long term and also create immediate cap room is by signing outside linebacker Jason Worilds to a long-term contract.

Worilds' cap hit this season is $9.754 million since he signed the one-year contract the Steelers offered him when they used a transition tag on the fifth-year veteran to keep him from becoming an unrestricted free agent.

The Steelers could significantly lower Worilds' 2014 cap hit by signing him to a multiyear contract, which would allow them to spread the signing bonus over the length of the deal.

Colbert said Worilds is among the Steelers players who are candidates to receive a new contract, and Worilds has said that he wants to stay in Pittsburgh.

How much the Steelers are willing to give the player who finally came into his own in the second half of 2013 remains to be seen. Colbert said the Steelers won't be leery of making a significant investment in Worilds even though the 2010 second-round draft pick has yet to produce at a high level for an entire season.

"That's what our job is … to try to predict future success," Colbert said. "It's no different [when] you draft a player out of college and he gets a substantial amount of money in the first round and he's never played a down. A lot of what we do is taking calculated risks."

The risk with Worilds is overpaying a player who has 18 sacks in four NFL seasons -- and getting burned like the Steelers did by the six-year, $61.5 million contract they gave LaMarr Woodley, whom Worilds has replaced at left outside linebacker, in 2011.

The question the Steelers have to answer is whether they have to see more from their top pass-rusher before signing Worilds to a lucrative long-term deal.

Steelers Camp Report: Day 3

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
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LATROBE, Pa. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of the Pittsburgh Steelers training camp:
  • What a difference the popping of pads makes. The Steelers held their first padded practice of training camp between the rain drops produced Monday by a sobbing sky and everyone, it seemed, turned the intensity up. Way up. You expected to hear new defensive assistant Joey Porter early and often during practice. It was a surprise to see even-keeled defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau also yelling as he did several times during an 11-on-11 drill. Running backs and linebackers collided ferociously during the popular backs on 'backers drill and there was tackling as coach Mike Tomlin had promised. The practice looked totally different from the non-contact drills that the players had taken part in May and June and for the first two days of camp.
  • Rookie Ryan Shazier stood out during the backs on backers drill, showcasing the speed that helped convince the Steelers to take the inside linebacker with the 15th overall pick of the 2014 NFL draft. Everyone was anxious to see Shazier in full pads, and he made a strong first impression, especially when he twice blew past LeGarrette Blount. "He did some nice things," Tomlin said of Shazier. "He was elusive. He was playing to his assets with his speed and agility."
  • Outside linebacker Jason Worilds turned in the play of the day when he intercepted a pass thrown to rookie running back Dri Archer on a wheel route. When asked what was more impressive, Worilds making a play on the ball down the field or his running with the ultra-fast Archer, Tomlin said the interception and laughed. "That's the first time Jason Worilds has caught a ball in any fashion out here in practice. I know he can run. I'm going to paint that ball and give it to him."
  • Rookie cornerback Shaquille Richardson made a diving interception of a Bruce Gradkowski and the defense seemed to be ahead of the offense on the first day of pads and contact. Not that Tomlin saw it that way. "Battles were fought and won on both sides of the ball," he said.
  • Starting running back Le'Veon Bell (hamstring) didn't practice, and Blount, his backup, didn't have his best day. Blount struggled in backs on 'backers and also dropped a pass. Bell is "day-to-day," Tomlin said, after experiencing hamstring tightness on Sunday.
  • In other injury news, rookie linebacker Jordan Zumwalt left practice with groin tightness and wide receiver C.J. Goodwin was held out of drills after landing on his shoulder during practice on Sunday. Ramon Foster will not in camp due to the death of his mother, so Chris Hubbard played left guard with the first-team offense for the second consecutive practice. The players are off on Tuesday and resume practice on Wednesday.
LATROBE, Pa. -- The Pittsburgh Steelers have not ruled out bringing back defensive end Brett Keisel or outside linebacker James Harrison.

General manager Kevin Colbert declined to talk about specific players Monday morning when asked if Keisel is on the Steelers’ radar. But Colbert said, “We haven’t eliminated anybody from consideration because we don’t know what’s going to happen before the season. Even into the season there’s been times when we’ve brought back veteran players due to injury. If we have eliminated a player we always tell [him] don’t keep us in your thought process, if you have an opportunity don’t wait for us, something along those lines.”

Keisel
Keisel
Harrison
Harrison
Keisel and Harrison, who played for the Bengals in 2013 after nine seasons with the Steelers, would like to return to the team. And I have Keisel on my latest projected 53-man roster.

It makes all the sense in the world for the Steelers to bring Keisel back.

He could play in a rotation at left defensive end – I’m not sold on Cam Thomas there – and serve as a perfect bridge between second-round pick Stephon Tuitt’s rookie and second seasons. There are a lot of people with football expertise who think Keisel can still play, even though he turns 36 in September, and he would be a great mentor for the younger defensive ends like Tuitt and Brian Arnfelt.

The Steelers don’t have to be in a hurry to bring back Keisel, who is keeping himself in shape and doesn't need training camp at this point of his career. That will give them time to take an extended look at what they have at defensive end and help them decide whether to bring back Keisel.

I like Keisel’s chances of returning to the Steelers a lot better than I do Harrison coming back for a second stint in Pittsburgh.

The five-time Pro Bowler would have to be content with a really limited role with the Steelers set with their top three at outside linebacker in Jason Worilds, Jarvis Jones and Arthur Moats.

For fans who have asked about Harrison returning so he can help the younger players at outside linebacker, the Steelers added that mentor last February when they hired Joey Porter as a defensive assistant.

One injury, of course, could change everything in regard to the Steelers and Harrison. But if the Steelers stay relatively healthy at outside linebacker, I don’t see him returning to Pittsburgh.

Camp preview: Pittsburgh Steelers

July, 17, 2014
Jul 17
10:00
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NFL Nation’s Scott Brown examines the three biggest issues facing the Pittsburgh Steelers heading into training camp:

Continued growth on offense: The Steelers averaged 26.6 points in winning six of their final eight games last season, and the foundation is in place for them to build on that. It all starts with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who didn’t miss a snap last season and is still in the prime of his career. Roethlisberger never looked more in control than when he was running the no-huddle offense, something the Steelers did frequently in the second half of the season. The offseason practices were critical for Roethlisberger and new wide receivers (Lance Moore) and younger ones (Markus Wheaton) to work together in the no-huddle offense. Roethlisberger said the Steelers will add to their no-huddle playbook during the offseason and training camp before picking the best plays. He must be in sync with the wide receivers; Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery must be replaced for the no-huddle attack to hum again. Repetitions during training camp and preseason practice are critical, especially because the players will be in pads and hitting one another. That means the Steelers’ wide receivers especially have to stay relatively healthy during the most important time for team building, developing a rapport with Roethlisberger and earning his trust.

Getting after the quarterback: The Steelers managed just 34 sacks last season, their lowest total since 1990, and they must get more production from their outside linebackers. Jason Worilds supplanted LaMarr Woodley at left outside linebacker the second half of last season and led the Steelers with eight sacks. Worilds, hampered by a nagging calf injury during offseason practices, has to show that he can be a pass-rushing force for more than half a season. The former second-round pick has no one blocking his path to the field with Woodley now in Oakland. Jarvis Jones has to justify the Steelers using the 17th overall pick of the 2013 draft on him. The former Georgia All-American managed just one sack as a rookie but has improved his strength both physically and in regard to his grasp of the playbook. Jones also has Joey Porter mentoring him, and the Steelers will give Jones every opportunity to succeed. Depth is a concern at outside linebacker, so in addition to providing a consistent pass rush, Worilds and Jones have to stay healthy. If general manager Kevin Colbert is looking to add depth, Steelers fans will be quick to remind him that James Harrison is only a phone call away. What would most help the defense, however, is if Jones can provide the same kind of pass rush that Harrison supplied from the right side of the Steelers’ defense when Harrison made the Pro Bowl in five consecutive seasons.

Improving their run game and rushing defense: The Steelers struggled running the ball and stopping it in 2013. Both still matter, even at a time when NFL teams are slinging the ball early and often and using the pass to set up the run. Le’Veon Bell should improve on his 3.5 yards per carry in his second season, and the Steelers have improved their overall talent at running back. LeGarrette Blount is a significant upgrade over Jonathan Dwyer and third-round pick Dri Archer is a burner who gives the Steelers a home-run threat in the backfield. The Steelers should significantly improve on the 86.4 rushing yards they averaged in 2013. Not as certain is whether the Steelers will be appreciably better in stopping the run after yielding 115.6 rushing yards per game last season. Nose tackle Steve McLendon has gotten bigger and appears ready to assert himself this season, but defensive end opposite Cameron Heyward is a question mark. First-round pick Ryan Shazier should be an upgrade at weakside inside linebacker, but he will inevitably endure some rookie struggles, even if he is ready to start this season. Everything with the Steelers’ defense starts with shutting down the run, so it has to do a much better job this season.
PITTSBURGH -- The offense and defense traded big plays Wednesday in the Pittsburgh Steelers' second minicamp practice of the week.

Ben Roethlisberger threw long touchdown passes to Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton during a two-plus hour practice, but the Steelers' defensive backs also had their moments on a hot and humid day that it made it feel like training camp.

Starting cornerbacks Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen each intercepted Roethlisberger. Allen had a pair of picks while inside linebacker Sean Spence returned an intercepted Landry Jones pass for a touchdown.

Practice concluded with rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant showcasing his speed by blowing past the Steelers' defensive backs and hauling in a long touchdown pass from Jones.

That play, free safety Mike Mitchell said, ultimately allowed the offense to get the better of the defense, though it was close.

"They ended with a high note," Mitchell said. "It would have been nice to knock that ball down but we're battling. I think we've been playing really good in the secondary as a unit. We're all kind of learning each other's strengths and what each other likes to do. We're getting better."

Also of note from Wednesday:
  • Justin Brown continues to get work with the first-team offense, and the 2013 sixth-round pick stood out during a 7-on-9 pass drill. Brown caught a long pass from Roethlisberger and then capped the drive with a short touchdown reception.
  • Roethlisberger is optimistic Dri Archer will help the offense but he isn't sure how the Steelers will deploy the fleet-footed rookie. Archer, Roethlisberger said, has been splitting time between playing running back and wide receiver. The third-round draft pick has also been among the players who have fielded punts during offseason practices. The Steelers are hoping to get more out of Archer than they did Chris Rainey, a fifth-round pick in 2012 who lasted just one season in Pittsburgh. "Is he a better runner than Rainey?" Roethlisberger said. "We won't really know until we get some pads on and get on the field."
  • Outside linebacker Jason Worilds, who practiced on a limited basis of a lingering calf injury, is a good example of how much younger the Steelers have gotten on defense in recent years. Worilds turned just 26 in March, but he is one of the more experienced players on the Steelers' defense. "I'm one of the elders in the room now," Worilds said. "It's an interesting role to be in. I'm just helping some of the younger guys, making sure they know how to go about being a professional and taking care of themselves."
PITTSBURGH -- The most interesting sequence of the Pittsburgh Steelers' organized team activities took place late Wednesday morning.

Rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier made a breathtaking interception during an 11-on-11 drill, leaping high to pick off a Bruce Gradkowski pass and drawing oohs for the display of athleticism.

And the action was just getting started.

Defensive end Cameron Heyward and rookie center Wesley Johnson started fighting at the end of the play and it took coaches and teammates to break the two apart. Heyward was still fuming at the end of the 11-on-11 drill, though it is not clear what set him off.

The Steelers' next-to-last OTA session produced its share of good catches but none beat Shazier's after he dropped into coverage. Gradkowski tried to throw a pass over the first-round pick's head, but Shazier snagged it out of the sticky air after making a standing leap.

“He has a high vertical because I was right behind him,” Steelers free safety Mike Mitchell said. “I was coming from the backside hash(mark) so I was just tracking the ball and then I saw it get snatched out of the air and I said, 'Wow.' He's a rookie but I came over to him and said, 'Good play young fella.'"

As for Shazier's take on the play, he said, “I had a zone drop and I just dropped over top and just read the quarterback's eyes and I knew he thought he could get it over me. I just jumped up and did what I could. Any time you can get a turnover that helps the offense get more points.”

Also of note from the Steelers' ninth OTA session:
  • Outside linebacker Jason Worilds, who is nursing a calf injury, did not practice again but he did some work on the side. Cornerback Ike Taylor was a no-show for the second consecutive day. Wide receiver Markus Wheaton fielded punts and caught passes after practice but he did not take part in 11-on-11 drills. Not sure if there is some kind of injury issue but it appears Wheaton has been limited to drills in which he doesn't have to do much running.
  • Justin Brown has been getting extensive work with the first-team offense. The Steelers' sixth-round draft pick in 2013 showed why on Wednesday. Brown made a difficult touchdown catch in a seven-on-nine drill, outfighting two defenders for the ball in the corner of the end zone. More on Brown's development in a post that should go up later today.
  • Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount lined up together in the backfield though only for a couple of snaps. Look for the Steelers to try and find ways to get the two on the field together in different packages this season.
PITTSBURGH -- Jason Worilds has always been polite and accommodating with the media. But the Steelers' outside linebacker showed a joking, playful side following an offseason practice that is not always apparent during interviews.

When asked how many sacks are possible this season after he finally broke out in 2013, Worilds did some quick -- and let's just say optimistic -- calculating in his head.

"Four hundred," he said.

[+] EnlargeJason Worilds
Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesThe Steelers used the transition tag on Jason Worilds, who's now playing under a one-year, $9.754 million contract.
Worilds then laughed along with the reporters who had gathered around him at Heinz Field.

A brief interview on Tuesday may have offered a portal into a more relaxed, more self-assured player. Not coincidentally Worilds finds himself in the unfamiliar but welcome territory of knowing that he is going to start next season.

The 6-foot-2, 262-pounder had been a backup who played both right and left outside linebacker in his first three seasons before another nagging injury sidelined LaMarr Woodley in 2013 and provided an opportunity for Worilds.

Worilds did so well playing left outside linebacker that the Steelers kicked Woodley over to the right side of the defense after he returned briefly from a calf injury. Then they picked Worilds over Woodley in March, opting to use a transition tag on the former and release the latter.

Worilds now finds himself as the leader of a young and largely unproven group of outside linebackers.

The fifth-year veteran has practiced only one time during organized team activities (OTAs) because of a calf injury. But that is just a precaution -- and it doesn't change the fact that Worilds is entrenched at one of the most important positions on the Steelers' defense.

“It's a good feeling to have that security,” said Worilds, who led the Steelers with a career-high eight sacks last season.

Whether Worilds will have long-term security in Pittsburgh remains to be seen.

The Virginia Tech product signed the one-year, $9.754 million contract that the Steelers had to offer after they used a transition tag on him and there are no guarantees after this season.

The Steelers would love to reduce Worilds' cap hit this year by signing him to a long-term contract. But they have to weigh that desire with how much they are willing to invest in a player who has 18 career sacks and has yet to perform at a high level over an entire season.

Worilds, a second-round pick in 2010, left no doubt that he wants to get a deal done that will keep him with the Steelers well beyond this season.

“You put so much time and effort with these guys,” he said. “You want to be there for the duration of your career so that would be extremely significant.”

When asked if he thinks it will happen, Worilds said, “You hope so. It's one day at a time. I think if I continue with that approach everything will fall into place.”
PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers again worked on their no-huddle offense Thursday, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger appears to have more peace of mind about the attack than he did a couple of weeks ago.

“I think everybody’s doing a good job and that we can get back on track pretty quick,” Roethlisberger said following the Steelers’ final practice of this week.

Roethlisberger
Roethlisberger expressed some reservation about the no-huddle offense at the start of organized team activities. He said how much the Steelers use the attack that worked so well for them last season would depend on how quickly the new wide receivers became comfortable with it.

So far, so good on that front, said Roethlisberger, who added that the Steelers have worked more on their no-huddle offense in OTAs than they have in past years when it comes to the voluntary practices.

“I think it’s something that we’ve realized what we can be and what we did last year,” Roethlisberger said on one of the nicest days of the year in Pittsburgh. “We’ll use it more. I don’t want to call it our base offense but I think you’ll see more of it so I think it was important for us to get in it early and often.”

Roethlisberger, running the no-huddle offense at the end of practice, led the Steelers on a scoring drive that he capped with a short touchdown pass to Antonio Brown. It was a good way for the first-team offense to end practice, especially since Will Allen had stopped an earlier drive when the veteran safety intercepted a Roethlisberger pass along the left sideline.

“I thought it was a good play and Will came and picked it off,” Roethlisberger said. “We’re not going to score on every series that we go no-huddle.”

Also of note from Thursday’s OTA session:
  • Roethlisberger didn’t bite when asked about the six-year, $110 million contact that quarterback Colin Kaepernick signed with the San Francisco 49ers. “Congratulations to him and his family and the 49ers franchise,” Roethlisberger said. “We’re on opposite sides of the coast. I’m over here just worried about being a Steeler and that’s all that matters with me. It’s just about getting better out here with these guys.” Roethlisberger has two years left on his contract – the same number he had left on his rookie deal when he signed an eight-year, $102 million contract in 2008. The Steelers are expected to sign their franchise quarterback to a new deal at some point though nothing is imminent.
  • Center Maurkice Pouncey and wide receiver Markus Wheaton were among the players who didn’t practice on Thursday. Fullback Will Johnson was out of the walking boot he wore Wednesday but he watched practice on Thursday, as did tight end Michael Palmer. Outside linebacker Jason Worilds, who is nursing a calf injury, spent part of the practice riding a stationary bike.
PITTSBURGH -- The number that Arthur Moats wore in Buffalo meant enough to him that it became a part of his Twitter handle.

But it also belonged to former Pittsburgh Steelers great Mike Webster.

Moats
When it came to picking a number after he signed with the Steelers, Moats wanted to respect Webster by staying away from No. 52 but also embrace the expectations that come with another number.

He did both by settling on No. 55, something Moats did after taking to Joey Porter, who is the most accomplished player in Steelers' history to wear that number.

"He said, 'Can't just anybody wear the number,' " Moats said with a laugh. "He's cool with it. Us having that conversation and being able to talk about it, I definitely felt comfortable with it."

The Steelers hope Moats becomes comfortable with more than just the number he will wear in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers signed Moats to a one-year, $795,000 contract in March to provide depth at outside linebacker, and it only took a week of organized team activities to show how thin they are at the position.

Starting left outside linebacker Jason Worilds has been sidelined since hurting his calf in the first voluntary practice of the offseason. Taking his place on the first-team defense has been Moats, who is still learning a new defense. He started 12 games at inside linebacker last season for the Bills.

That Moats has been running with the first-string defense is more a commentary on the Steelers' depth at outside linebacker than it is his skills. And Moats played outside linebacker in high school and college before playing both inside and outside for the Bills, so there is a level of comfort for him there.

Moats' ability to play inside and outside is something the Steelers coveted when they pursued the fourth-year veteran after he became an unrestricted free agent.

"That was some of the things that me and [coach Mike] Tomlin talked about through the free-agency process, me having that versatility, being able to play both sides," said Moats, a sixth-round pick by the Bills in 2010. "His thing was he wanted me to come in and at least learn outside first and see what I could do there, especially since that's where my roots are since high school, college and the beginning of my career."

Moats isn't moving from outside linebacker anytime soon.

The Steelers appear to have plenty of depth inside with the addition of first-round pick Ryan Shazier and Sean Spence giving every indication so far that he could help the defense this season.

Meanwhile, there isn't a lot of depth at outside linebacker, a position the Steelers didn't address in the draft.

Moats and Chris Carter, who is still looking for his first career sack, are the most experienced players behind Worilds and starting right outside linebacker Jarvis Jones.

Moats will gladly stay put, especially since the position he is playing should give him plenty of opportunities to work with Porter.

Porter, who joined the Steelers as a defensive assistant in February, ranks fifth on Pittsburgh's all-time sacks list with 60. But it wasn't just the sheer number of sacks Porter piled up that captivated youngsters like Moats when they were growing up.

"He kicked that dirt up on you," Moats, 26, said with a laugh. "A couple of times I was watching him on TV and he was so fired up about to fight people. That's what we need. I feel like getting that type of mindset definitely helps us out."
PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger missed the Steelers’ first organized team activities (OTAs) session of this week because of a family obligation. It is not known if Roethlisberger will attend the voluntary practice on Wednesday.

Strong safety Troy Polamalu continues to stay in California to train, and the eight-time Pro Bowler isn’t expected to attend offseason practices until minicamp in a couple of weeks, which is mandatory.

Not that Steelers fans should be worried about Polamalu’s absence, said his teammate of 11 seasons.

“He’s probably somewhere up in the mountains with the monks praying,” cornerback Ike Taylor said. “When he comes back he’s going to be Jesus on the field.”

Also of note from the Steelers' fourth OTA session:
  • Taylor rejoined his teammates on Tuesday after spending last week training in Florida. Running back Dri Archer also took part in OTAs for the first time on Tuesday. Archer, the Steelers’ third-round pick last month, missed the first three voluntary practices because of an illness and his participation in an NFL Players Association event in Los Angeles, which was mandatory. “I took my playbook [to Los Angeles], still studied,” Archer said. “I’m a little behind.”
  • Tight end Matt Spaeth was a full participant in practice on Tuesday after working off to the side during OTAs last week. Outside linebacker Jason Worilds did some running on Tuesday after missing the final two practices last week because of a calf injury.
  • Tempers flared between linebacker Vic So’oto and rookie guard Will Simmons during practice and the two had to be separated. Coach Mike Tomlin tells his players not to fight during practice but the occasional skirmish is inevitable. “When you step on that field, you just feel the testosterone coming off the grass,” Taylor said. “We’re territorial people and you have to be that way on the field.”
PITTSBURGH -- Cornerback Ike Taylor and running back Dri Archer are among the players practicing today in the first of the Pittsburgh Steelers' organized team activities this week.

Taylor didn't take part in the three OTA sessions last week because he was training at Tom Shaw Performance Camp at Walt Disney World. Archer, the Steelers' third-round pick, missed the three voluntary practices because he was sick and then had to attend a mandatory NFL Players Association event in Los Angeles.

Tight end Matt Spaeth, who worked out on the side last week, is also practicing while outside linebacker Jason Worilds has been doing some running on the side. Worilds hasn't practiced since last Tuesday.

Strong safety Troy Polamalu isn't at OTAs, and the eight-time Pro Bowler isn't expected to practice with the Steelers until mandatory minicamp in a couple of weeks. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger isn't practicing with the team Tuesday after taking part in all three OTA sessions last week.

The Steelers will hold two more voluntary practices this week and then wrap up OTAs next week with four practices.
PITTSBURGH -- Heath Miller is many things.

Keisel
Keisel
Revealing during an interview is not one of them.

But the Steelers tight end may have provided a hint on Brett Keisel’s future Thursday after Miller talked about what it’s like to be one of the longest-tenured players on the team.

Miller was reflecting on when he was one of the younger players on the Steelers and looked up to veterans such as linebacker James Farrior and defensive end Aaron Smith, who each played long after their 30th birthday.

Then he said, “Keisel’s not here right now and he was well into his 30s last year.”

"Not here right now" implies that Keisel will be back with the Steelers at some point.

I could be reading too much into Miller’s comment, but it dovetails with the sense it makes for the Steelers to bring back Keisel for another season.

First and foremost, there is no clear-cut starter at defensive end opposite Cameron Heyward.

Cam Thomas has been working with the first team during OTAs, but the Steelers signed the former San Diego Charger to serve as a swing man who plays both defensive end and nose tackle.

Rookie Stephon Tuitt should figure into the mix at right defensive end but it may not be realistic to expect the second-round draft pick to develop quickly enough to start next season.

And who better to mentor Tuitt than Keisel, who also could play in some sort of rotation at right defensive end.

The timing for re-signing Keisel is right as the Steelers will receive more than $8 million in salary-cap room on Tuesday from releasing outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley in March.

Stay tuned on this front.

Also from the Steelers’ third OTA session:
  • Strong safety Troy Polamalu, cornerback Ike Taylor, outside linebacker Jason Worilds and running back Dri Archer were among those not in attendance on Thursday. Center Maurkice Pouncey did not practice but that probably resulted from the Steelers not wanting the Pro Bowler to push himself too much in his return from a torn ACL.
  • Antonio Brown said he is willing to return punts this season but it sounds like a duty the Pro Bowl wide receiver wouldn’t mind passing off to one of his teammates. The Steelers have had a handful of players fielding punts during OTAs, including Lance Moore and Martavis Bryant. When asked if that means he will be replaced in that role, Brown smiled. “They say that every year and I’m back there, so we’ll see,” the fourth-year veteran said. “I’ll let Coach [Mike Tomlin] decide.”
  • Miller, who is going into his 10th NFL season, said he has not put a timetable on how much longer he wants to continue playing. The Steelers signed Miller to a three-year contract in March. “I just want to play as long as my body will allow me to,” he said, “so we’ll see where that takes me.”

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