NFL Nation: Guy Whimper

Ben Roethlisberger’s only completion of the game turned into a highlight-reel play thanks to Dri Archer. The speedy rookie caught a short pass on a well-executed bubble screen and looked every bit as fast as advertised in scooting 46 yards and setting up an early field goal in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 20-16 loss to the New York Giants.

The Steelers could not protect a fourth-quarter lead in losing their preseason opener Saturday night at MetLife Stadium. They haven't won a preseason game since 2012.

Roethlisberger played just one series before giving way to Bruce Gradkowski. The offense couldn’t build on a promising start as the Steelers failed to reach the end zone until they scored a defensive touchdown in the fourth quarter.

The first-team defense gave up a 73-yard touchdown run to Rashad Jennings early in the game but didn’t allow much more in the quarter it was on the field.

Some other thoughts from the Steelers’ first preseason game:
  • Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau had to be furious after Jennings scooted through a yawning gap on the right side of the Steelers’ defense on the way to the game’s first touchdown. Defensive end Cameron Heyward was knocked out of his gap by a pulling guard, leaving a huge hole and resulting in the kind of big play that made it seem like 2013 all over again for the Steelers’ defense. Coach Mike Tomlin was not happy with his secondary on the play as safety Will Allen had a chance to get Jennings on the ground but couldn’t make the tackle. Jennings outraced cornerbacks Cortez Allen and William Gay to the end zone.
  • Sean Spence, playing in his first game in almost two years, looked terrific. Spence, starting for the injured Ryan Shazier at inside linebacker, shot a gap on the first series of the game and forced Giants quarterback Eli Manning to throw a third-down pass into the turf. Spence later stuffed Andre Brown for a short gain on a running play that resulted in a holding call in the Giants. Spence, who has returned from a career-threatening knee injury, had one blemish, an illegal-hands-to-the-face penalty on special teams. But the Steelers couldn’t have asked for more from Spence, who is their third-best inside linebacker and solid insurance in case of an injury to Shazier.
  • Markus Wheaton made a nice grab on a post-corner route and his 28-yard reception was the second-longest gain by the Steelers in their preseason opener. Wheaton, however, needs a blocking tutorial or four from former Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward. Wheaton won’t like seeing his blocking efforts on several plays, including one on a 7-yard run by Tauren Poole. Wheaton didn’t lock up on anyone as Poole broke into the open field, allowing the Giants to minimize the damage on Poole’s run.
  • The first-team offensive line played well in limited action, providing a nice push on the Steelers’ first possession of the game when they ran on the Giants first-team defense. The second-team offensive line really struggled. Left tackle Mike Adams did not help himself, getting overwhelmed several times by speed pass-rushers, including two-time Pro Bowl selection Jason Pierre-Paul. Guy Whimper, playing right tackle, was beaten badly on a passing play in the third quarter and center Cody Wallace was flagged for holding in the same period.
  • Outside linebacker Howard Jones and defensive end Josh Mauro were among the undrafted rookies who stood out. Jones recovered a pair of fumbles, returning one for a 28-yard touchdown. Mauro, playing with the second-team defense, blew up a passing play by bull-rushing a running back into the lap of Giants quarterback Ryan Nassib. He also appeared to hold his ground at right defensive end more often than not.
PITTSBURGH -- Mock drafts have, predictably, been all over the place as far as the Pittsburgh Steelers' first-round pick. Most, however, have them taking a wide receiver or a cornerback No. 15 overall, assuming they don’t try to trade down.

I think those two positions are most likely the ones the Steelers will target with their first pick, though North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron could also be in play if he slides a little in the draft.

Ebron is the No. 1 player at one of the few positions that is not particularly deep, and he would give the Steelers a tall receiver while also filling a long-term need. I think Heath Miller has at least three good seasons left in him, but the Steelers have to plan for the post-Miller years at some point.

If Ebron is still available when they make the first pick, I think they give him serious consideration, especially if a couple of cornerbacks are already off the board, as well as Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans.

The Steelers have eight other picks in the draft, three of which are compensatory selections, including one at the end of the third round. They have a lot of needs -- or as general manager Kevin Colbert would frame it "wants" -- particularly on defense.

Here is my projection of the positions they will address with their nine picks, which is contingent on the Steelers not adding extra ones through a trade.

Cornerback (2): The Steelers could use immediate help here, and they don't have a long-term starter at cornerback after third-year man Cortez Allen. I would be surprised if they don't draft two cornerbacks, with one of them coming in the first three rounds. They drafted two cornerbacks in 2011, including Allen in the fourth round.

Defensive line (2): The Steelers will draft a defensive lineman as early as the second round -- ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has them taking Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix III with their second pick in his latest mock draft -- and they need to take at least one end. The signing of Cam Thomas gives them a player with position flexibility, but the Steelers' need at defensive end is every bit as glaring as it is at cornerback.

Wide receiver (1): No position is deeper in the draft, and even if the Steelers don't address it in the first round, they can still get a good prospect later. The Steelers probably won't get a chance to draft Evans unless they trade up in the first round and Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin may be too much of a risk to take at No. 15. LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. has been linked to the Steelers in various mock drafts, and they could pull the trigger on him if they have him high on their board.

Linebacker (1): The Steelers have to take a player who projects as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme given how thin they are at the position. It will be interesting to see what they will do if Alabama’s C.J. Mosley is still on the board at No. 15. Mosley, who projects as an inside linebacker, may be one of the most NFL-ready players in the draft. “He and (Lawrence) Timmons could be your (NaVorro) Bowman and (Patrick) Willis,” ESPN analyst and former NFL scout Matt Williamson said. If the Steelers take Mosley, they will also draft an outside linebacker later in the draft.

Safety (1): The Steelers have hosted at least three safeties for pre-draft visits, including Louisville’s Calvin Pryor, a projected first-round pick. The signing of Mike Mitchell makes it unlikely the Steelers take a safety in the first round but it wouldn't hurt to add another younger player here. The question is whether it makes sense for them to draft a safety -- or instead sign a couple of undrafted free agents -- if they don’t take one in the second or third round.

Offensive line (1): I don't see this as the need that others do. The Steelers got their upgrade up front when they hired Mike Munchak to coach the offensive line and he has plenty of material with which to work. All five starters return, including Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, who tore his ACL eight snaps into last season. And the Steelers have depth up front after re-signing Cody Wallace and Guy Whimper. The Steelers will probably take a lineman they can develop later in the draft, but I could also see them not drafting one for the second year in a row if they take two linebackers or a tight end.

Running back (1): The Steelers need depth and they could use a speedster to complement Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount. The de-valuing of running backs allows the Steelers to wait until later in the draft to address the position and still get a good prospect. I don't see them taking a running back before the fifth round.

Free-agency primer: Steelers

March, 7, 2014
» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: WR Emmanuel Sanders, DE Ziggy Hood, WR Jerricho Cotchery, DE Al Woods, DE Brett Keisel, S Ryan Clark, RB Jonathan Dwyer, C Fernando Velasco, OT Guy Whimper, C/G Cody Wallace, TE David Johnson, LB Stevenson Sylvester.

Where they stand: General manager Kevin Colbert has said the Steelers may be more active in free agency than in recent years, but don’t expect their philosophy to fundamentally change. The Steelers will focus on their own players and are likely to sit out the first wave of free agency and target midlevel free agents after the marquee names have signed with other teams. Colbert hinted that the Steelers could try to land a potential starter via free agency, and they could use immediate help as well as depth at just about any position on defense. Nothing would help the Steelers more than if they could sign a free agent who will make an impact like Ryan Clark (2006) or James Farrior (2002) did, though they would have to splurge to get a free agent the caliber of Farrior.

What to expect: Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, the team's top free agent, is going to command more money than the Steelers are willing to pay. He will almost certainly sign elsewhere, though look for veteran Jerricho Cotchery to re-sign with the team after catching 10 touchdown passes last season. Defensive end Ziggy Hood is likely to sign elsewhere, making it imperative that the Steelers bring back Al Woods. They could also re-sign Brett Keisel for one more season if the two sides can find common ground on compensation. The Steelers have a good chance of signing most of their free agents with the exceptions of Sanders and Hood, and that is how they will add depth to their offensive line. Free agents they could target include former Seahawks defensive end Red Bryant, Dolphins defensive tackle Paul Soliai and 49ers cornerback Tarell Brown. The Steelers met with former Lions safety Louis Delmas last month, but his knee issues may be too much of a red flag for them, and they have since re-signed veteran Will Allen.

A look at the Steelers' free agents

January, 6, 2014
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers have 21 players who are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on March 11th, the start of the NFL’s new year. Here is a quick look at 11 of those unrestricted free agents – and the priority the Steelers should place on re-signing them.

OLB Jason Worilds: The former second-round pick led Steelers with eight sacks and came into his own after a calf injury sustained by LaMarr Woodley provided an opening at left outside linebacker. Priority: Keeping Worilds should be at or near the top of Steelers’ to-do list.

WR Emmanuel Sanders: Showed flashes in his first year as a starter but also was plagued by inconsistency. Priority: Let market determine Sanders’ value and then see if he is worth bringing back.

DE Brett Keisel: Unlikely to return but I think the Steelers should seriously consider bringing back Keisel for one more season if the price is right. Priority: The Steelers can be patient here as Keisel, 35, won’t draw a lot of interest, at least initially, on the free-agent market.

DE Ziggy Hood: Hasn’t lived up to expectations as a first-round draft pick but I wouldn’t call him a bust either. He is one of the tougher ones to call since Hood has been serviceable and is one of three defensive ends who are impending free agents. Priority: Much like Sanders, the Steelers should let the market determine Hood’s value and then see if they are willing to pay it.

S Ryan Clark: He has had a tremendous run in Pittsburgh – and in the NFL in general considering he is still playing 12 seasons after making the Giants as an undrafted free agent. Priority: The Steelers need to get younger in the secondary and that almost certainly spells the end of Clark’s playing days in Pittsburgh.

WR Jerricho Cotchery: Is coming off a career-best 10-touchdown season. Loves Pittsburgh, loves playing for Mike Tomlin and catching passes from Ben Roethlisberger. Is a consummate professional and great locker-room guy. Priority: The Steelers need to make this happen as they should be able to find common ground with Cotchery in terms of bringing the 10th-year veteran back in 2014.

DE: Al Woods: Woods saw the first significant playing time of his career and started a pair of games at nose tackle for the injured Steve McLendon. He can play both end and nose tackle and still has upside. Priority: The Steelers, assuming the price is right, should bring back Woods. I don’t see both Keisel and Hood returning and there is a chance each has played his last game in Pittsburgh. Uncertainty at defensive end beyond Cameron Heyward makes re-signing Woods a key.

RB Jonathan Dwyer: Love him as a No. 2 running back who can be a spot starter if Le’Veon Bell goes down with an injury. The question is will Dwyer seek a larger role elsewhere and will there be much interest in him as a potential starter? Priority: Dwyer is another player whom the Steelers will let test the market and then see if they want to make a run at bringing him back.

C Fernando Velasco: One of the most unsung players of the season, Velasco stabilized the center position following the loss of Pro Bowler Maurkice Pouncey. Ruptured Achilles ended his season after 11 games. Priority: Velasco would be ideal as the first center/guard in reserve, and recent history shows how important depth is along the offensive line. The Steelers should have a good chance of re-signing Velasco because of his injury.

G/OT: Guy Whimper: Proved to be a valuable fill-in and started a game at each guard spot. Whimper would bolster the offensive line depth if he returns. Priority: The Steelers should be able to bring back Whimper, assuming he wants to return, and his position flexibility is a bonus.

S Will Allen: The veteran rejuvenated his career after re-signing with the Steelers following his release by the Cowboys. Allen played significant snaps as a third safety in the quarter package and was a core special-teams player. Priority: Allen wants to return and I think there is a good chance that the Steelers bring him back for another season because of their comfort with him and his ability to play special teams.

Rest of the free agents: RB LaRod Stephens-Howling, RB Felix Jones, WR Plaxico Burress, TE David Johnson, TE Michael Palmer, C Cody Wallace, LB Stevenson Sylvester, LB Jamaal Westerman, P Mat McBriar and LS Greg Warren.
PITTSBURGH -- It is too early to tell whether rookie running back Le'Veon Bell will be able to play Sunday after suffering a concussion in the Steelers’ 22-20 loss to the Ravens last Thursday night.

Whoever gets the bulk of the carries against the visiting Dolphins will run behind an offensive line that has been scrambled by more injuries.

The Steelers barely had enough offensive linemen to practice on Monday, and Guy Whimper said he played left tackle for the first-team offense with Kelvin Beachum out because of a knee injury.

The Steelers are already on their third center with Cody Wallace taking over for Fernando Velasco, who suffered a season-ending Achilles. They will also start their third different left tackle this season if Beachum is unable to play Sunday.

The Steelers will start their sixth different offensive line combination in the 1 p.m. game against the Dolphins.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Whimper said of the injuries that have decimated the Steelers’ offensive line. “This is crazy. It’s another obstacle we can get over, but we’ve just got to stick together as a unit.”

Whimper has started a game each at both guard positions and also played right tackle. The eighth-year veteran is in line to start against the Dolphins if Beachum and offensive tackle Mike Adams (ankle) are unable to play

Beachum and Adams, along with starting right guard David DeCastro (ankle) were among the four offensive linemen who left last Thursday night’s game with injuries.

“This year’s been kind of unusual in that way,” Wallace said of the injuries, “but we’ve had guys that have stepped in and done a good job of filling those roles.”

Wallace hopes to do the same when he makes his first career NFL start, and he won’t be the only lineman who benefits from the extra day of practice the Steelers get this week since they played last Thursday.

Center Eric Olsen, who signed with the Steelers to provide depth, practiced with the Steelers on Monday. Olsen spent Thanksgiving with his family, and the Steelers called him late Friday morning.

By the afternoon he was on a plane to Pittsburgh, and Olsen has since been in cramming mode as the third-year veteran learns a new offense.

“They’re trying to ease me in and come up for air so to speak.” Olsen said. “Luckily for me football’s football, so it’s coming along. I’m going to catch up as fast as I can.”

Steelers could be down three starters

November, 15, 2013
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers may be without three starters Sunday when they host the Detroit Lions for a 1 p.m. game.

Outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley (calf), defensive end Brett Keisel (foot) and left guard Ramon Foster (ankle) all missed practice Friday for the third consecutive day.

Woodley is listed as doubtful on the Steelers’ injury report though the seventh-year veteran is holding out hope of playing against the Lions.

“There is a great chance,” Woodley said of playing. “Two days left [to heal].”

Keisel, who is battling plantar fasciitis, and Foster are listed as questionable but each is also a long shot to suit up against Detroit.

Guy Whimper said he practiced all week at left guard with the first-team offense and is preparing to start on Sunday. Ziggy Hood will start in place of Keisel if the latter can’t go.

Among the Steelers listed as probable are left tackle Kelvin Beachum (hip), right guard David DeCastro (ankle), right tackle Marcus Gilbert (ankle), center Fernando Velasco (knee), offensive tackle Mike Adams (ribs) and tight end Heath Miller.

Six offensive linemen are listed on the Steelers’ injury report but Foster is the only one expected to miss Sunday’s game at Heinz Field.

Rookie safety Shamarko Thomas (ankle) had been ruled out for the game earlier this week.

David DeCastro still out for Steelers

October, 31, 2013
PITTSBURGH -- Injuries decimated the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive line in a 21-18 loss at Oakland.

But the Steelers’ starting front five could be intact Sunday when the team visits New England for a 4:25 p.m. ET game.

“I expect all guys to get back, especially (David) DeCastro who has been busting his tail in rehab,” starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert said. “He’s walking a lot better.”

DeCastro has yet to practice this week because of a right ankle injury he sustained in Oakland. The Steelers’ starting right guard is expected to try and practice on at least a limited basis Friday. Starting left guard Ramon Foster is on track to play in New England after leaving last week’s game with a concussion.

Foster was a full practice participant on Thursday though he will still need to pass mandated concussion tests before he is cleared to play against the Patriots.

Guy Whimper, who also left the Raiders game with an injury, practiced Thursday for the second consecutive day. Whimper, who hyperextended his left knee in Oakland, and Cody Wallace will be the guards if DeCastro is unable to play at New England and Foster suffers a setback and is also not able to go.

Whimper will likely start at right guard if DeCastro is the only lineman who can’t play against the Patriots.

DeCastro and cornerback Curtis Brown (coach’s decision) were the only players who didn’t practice on Thursday.

Wide receiver Markus Wheaton (finger) was the only player who was limited in drills.

Wheaton has missed the last three games after having surgery to fix a broken pinkie on his right hand, and he is unlikely to play at New England.

David DeCastro questionable for Sunday

October, 29, 2013
PITTSBURGH -- The offensive line could be intact Sunday when the Steelers visit the Patriots.

Left guard Ramon Foster has been cleared to return to action after getting knocked out of the Steelers’ 21-18 loss at Oakland with a concussion. Right guard David DeCastro left the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury, but coach Mike Tomlin has not ruled out the second-year man playing in the 4:25 p.m. ET game at Gillette Stadium.

Guy Whimper, who took over at left guard after Foster left the game, is OK after hyperextending his knee against the Raiders.

If DeCastro is unable to play at New England, Whimper or Cody Wallace would likely start at right guard. Tomlin strongly indicated that the Steelers will not move Kelvin Beachum from left tackle and start Mike Adams there if DeCastro is sidelined on Sunday.

“We like what Beachum’s doing at left tackle, but we’ll deal with that as it comes up,” Tomlin said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “We’re still not resigned to the fact that DeCastro’s not going to play [against the Patriots]. We’re going to give him an opportunity to do so.”

In other injury news, rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton is getting his broken right pinkie evaluated by doctors, and Tomlin had not ruled out his return this week. Wheaton, the team’s third-round draft pick last April, has missed the past three games.

Inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons is still working through a broken left hand, but Tomlin doesn’t expect it to limit him this week. Nose tackle Steve McLendon is also expected to be fine after the Steelers sent him home on Monday because of an illness.
PITTSBURGH -- Steelers fans aren’t the only ones who second-guessed Ben Roethlisberger’s decision to use a timeout late in a 21-18 loss to the Oakland Raiders.

Roethlisberger said he should have saved the timeout and taken a delay of game penalty when it became apparent that the Steelers would not get the play off in time.

The Steelers scored a touchdown on the drive but they had to attempt an onside kick -- the Raiders easily recovered it -- because there were less than two minutes left in the game and they only had two timeouts.

“Hindsight I shouldn’t have done it,” Roethlisberger said on 93.7 The Fan during his weekly radio show. “I’ll take the blame for that. I won’t make that mistake again.”

Roethlisberger and the Steelers visit the Patriots Sunday, and the 10th-year veteran said he doesn’t know who will block for him in New England. Left guard Ramon Foster (concussion), right guard David DeCastro (ankle) and backup lineman Guy Whimper (knee) all left the Oakland game with injuries.

Coach Mike Tomlin will provide an injury update at his weekly news conference at noon on Tuesday, and Roethlisberger said it is mystifying how wholesale injuries across the offensive line are a recurring theme for the Steelers.

“It seems like our offensive line gets hurt more than any other team’s and I don’t know why,” Roethlisberger said. “It’s kind of just freaky things. Is it bad luck? It seems like it happens all of the time. I’ll go in tomorrow and find out who’s healthy enough to go this week and who’s going to be at what spots and move on from there.”

Locker Room Buzz: Pittsburgh Steelers

October, 27, 2013
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Observed in the locker room after the Pittsburgh Steelers21-18 loss to the Oakland Raiders:

Taking the blame: Give Shaun Suisham credit for one thing: the veteran kicker at least answered questions after his two misses from inside of 35 yards cost the Steelers dearly. “We would have won the football game today if I was better,” said Suisham, who entered the game 14-of-14 on field-goal attempts and made a 47-yard before his two misses.

On the mend: David DeCastro, on the other hand, did not feel like talking and cut a postgame interview short after just two questions. DeCastro’s pain emanated from more than just the Steelers’ loss. The right guard hurt his right ankle in the third quarter and did not return to the game. He and Guy Whimper (knee) are slated to get MRIs after the Steelers return to Pittsburgh.

Demoralizing loss: He had almost a hurt look in his eyes and his voice was softer than usual, which is saying something for strong safety Troy Polamalu. It was also telling about the number of opportunities the Steelers squandered in falling to 2-5. “I guess maybe that makes it more disappointing,” Polamalu said. “They made more plays, their defense played better than we did.”

Rapid Reaction: Pittsburgh Steelers

October, 27, 2013

OAKLAND, Calif. -- A few observations from the Pittsburgh Steelers' 21-18 loss to the Oakland Raiders at Coliseum.

What it means: The Steelers’ season is back on life support after everyone, as coach Mike Tomlin might say, had their hand in the pile in the team’s third consecutive loss in Oakland. The defense allowed a 93-yard touchdown run by Terrelle Pryor on the first play from scrimmage. The Steelers' offense managed just 3 yards shorter than Pryor’s jaunt, the longest run by a quarterback in NFL history, through the first two quarters. The special teams were simply awful, and Tomlin did not put on a clinic, either, as the Steelers fell to 2-5.

Stock watch: The good times for kicker Shaun Suisham and the Steelers’ offensive line lasted exactly one week. Suisham, the reigning AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, missed a pair of field goals from inside of 35 yards after making his first 15 kicks to start the season. The gaffes turned out to be huge after the error-prone Raiders insisted on keeping the Steelers in the game. The offensive line, meanwhile, is all beat up after starting guards Ramon Foster and David DeCastro left the game with a concussion and ankle injury, respectively, and did not return. Guy Whimper, who replaced Foster at left guard in the first half, was also knocked out of the game when he injured his left knee.

Inconsistency still an issue: Zoltan Mesko's days in Pittsburgh could be numbered. Mesko bobbled a snap that was partially blocked in the first quarter and set up the Raiders’ second touchdown of the season. He managed just a 30-yard punt near the end of the half and received an earful from Tomlin after he walked to the Steelers' sideline. Tomlin said last week that Mesko needed to eliminate the “junior varsity” punts from his game and become more consistent. Mesko was really good at times against the Raiders -- his 56-yard punt in the third quarter pinned the Raiders inside their 1-yard line -- but there was no middle ground for the punter who was already on shaky ground.

Next up: It doesn’t get any easier for the Steelers as they visit Tom Brady and the New England Patriots next Sunday in Foxborough. Brady rallied the Patriots from a 17-3 halftime deficit in a 27-17 win over the Dolphins on Sunday as New England improved to 6-2. The Steelers haven’t been good enough on the road -- or good enough period -- to think they can hand the Patriots their first home loss in five games.

Locker Room Buzz: Pittsburgh Steelers

October, 20, 2013
PITTSBURGH -- Observed in the locker room after the Pittsburgh Steelers' 19-16 win over the Baltimore Ravens.

Oh so close: Mike Tomlin didn’t hide his displeasure about the late kickoff return for a touchdown that was called back after Emmanuel Sanders stepped out of bounds at the Steelers’ 37-yard line. Sanders, who brought a deep kickoff out of the end zone, came within inches of successfully staying in bounds along the Steelers sideline and scoring. What upset Tomlin is that the call could not be reviewed per NFL rules, which seems silly considering the impact the play had on the game and how close it was. “I’ve got to go back and look at it,” Sanders said when asked if he stayed in bounds. “I saw it on the replay board. It seemed like I tiptoed the boundary but it was so close.”

A new wrinkle: The Steelers ran the Wildcat offense four times with rookie running back Le’Veon Bell taking a direct snap from center. Bell, who ran three times out of the formation and once handed off to wideout Antonio Brown, said the Steelers had not practiced the Wildcat until last week. That’s right, the Steelers did not work on the Wildcat in any of their offseason practices or during training camp, which is why the Ravens didn’t expect it. “I’m comfortable with it,” said Bell, who ran the Wildcat at Michigan State and played quarterback at high school. “We can get better at it.”

Injury update: Steelers outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (concussion) didn’t dress even though the rookie passed an imPACT test on Friday. Tomlin said renowned concussion doctor Micky Collins expressed reservations about Jones playing against the Ravens following a check-up on Saturday. “We didn’t second-guess it,” Tomlin said. “We moved on. It is my assumption that he’ll be ready to go next week.” Right tackle Marcus Gilbert aggravated a quadriceps injury early in the game and did not return. Tomlin opted for Guy Whimper over Mike Adams at right tackle because the latter had figured prominently into the Steelers’ plans to use a lineman as an extra tight end, and the coach did not want to disrupt that.

Welcome back: James Farrior, a stalwart on the teams that won a pair of Super Bowls and played in three of them from 2005 to 2010, shared a long hug with Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. The former linebacker caught up with different teammates in the victorious locker room and said he is plenty busy even though he is no longer involved with football. Farrior and his wife have 12-week-old twins and are raising them in Houston. Since she works, Farrior, who retired in 2012 after the Steelers released him, is now a full-time dad. His smile suggests he is loving every minute of it.

Steelers' Ramon Foster 'day to day'

October, 7, 2013
PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers limited starting left guard Ramon Foster in practice Monday, and Foster said he will know more about his availability for Sunday's game by the middle of the week.

Foster is nursing a pectoral strain, an injury he sustained in the Steelers’ Sept. 22 loss against the Bears and aggravated a week later in a loss to the Vikings.

“It was fine with the little stuff that I did,” Foster said after the Steelers’ first practice following their bye. “It’s just got to day to day and see how it is on Sunday. I think it’s a pain tolerance thing right now and how much you can do with it.”

The left side of the Steelers’ offensive line is in flux with Foster’s injury and the demotion of tackle Mike Adams.

Levi Brown, acquired from the Cardinals last Thursday, said he took first-team reps at left tackle with Kelvin Beachum in his first practice with the Steelers.

The Steelers could plug in Beachum, their most versatile lineman, at left guard if Foster is unable to play Sunday against the New York Jets. If Foster plays when the Steelers visit the Jets for a 1 p.m. game coach Mike Tomlin has the option of using Beachum or Brown at left tackle or some combination of the two.

Guy Whimper is also a possibility at left guard if Foster is out Sunday and the Steelers want to keep Beachum at left tackle.

One player already out for the Jets game in East Rutherford, N.J., is rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton.

Wheaton broke his right pinkie in the Steelers’ Oct. 30 loss to the Vikings, and the injury required surgery. Wheaton said he won’t get stitches removed from his hand until next Monday. After that, he said, the Steelers will have a better idea of when he can return.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (finger), tight end Heath Miller (knee) and running back Le’Veon Bell are all expected to play against the Jets despite not practicing last week.

Bell said he could have practiced last week but the Steelers held him out of drills because of the bye.

Coach Mike Tomlin will give an injury report Tuesday at his weekly news conference.
Popular thinking in Jacksonville is that the presence of No. 2 overall pick Luke Joeckel at right tackle will have a direct bearing on tight end Marcedes Lewis.

The team got poor play from Cameron Bradfield and Guy Whimper on the right edge of last year’s offensive line, which meant Lewis, a solid blocker, was held in to help far more often than was ideal.

Joeckel will be a far steadier player. That should free Lewis up to be a target more often for quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne.

[+] EnlargeLuke Joeckel
AP Photo/John RaouxThe Jaguars have Luke Joeckel, left, slotted at right tackle, which should free up tight end Marcedes Lewis to run more pass routes.
“You like to think you can block these guys by yourself, one-on-one, every play,” Joeckel said. “But you’re going against some of the best athletes in the league and if you’re having trouble, there are protections set up to get help from Marcedes and the other tight ends. It’s something that’s part of the game now because the pass-rushers are so good and so athletic.

“So I accept the help whenever I can get it. Everyone needs help sometimes and it is a big help when they are able to do that for us. But we’ve got to have the mindset that we’ve got to be able to block guys one-on-one to get more guys out for routes.”

At Texas A&M, Joeckel was very close friends with Jake Matthews. Matthews will now flip from right tackle to left tackle for the Aggies and figures to be a high draft pick next year.

Jake Matthews' father, Bruce Matthews, is an Oilers-Titans Hall of Fame offensive lineman who now coaches the Titans' offensive line. (Here are his thoughts on Joeckel after the draft.)

Joeckel got to talk football with Bruce Matthews during A&M spring practice as Joeckel watched his twin brother, Matt, and Matthews watched his son.

“I had a chance to talk to him about what to expect, he knew the schedule and all that stuff, he had a lot of good tips about what I need to be ready for and was a big help that way,” Joeckel said.

I wondered if Bruce Matthews told Joeckel that there will come a time that such advice gets cut off, considering the Jaguars and Titans play in the same division.

“I hope he keeps giving me advice when he can,” Joeckel said. “I’ll probably have to ask Jake to ask his dad now, that’s probably the route I’ll have to use.”
A day after coach Mike Tomlin took the Pittsburgh Steelers to Dave and Busters to build some team unity, the Steelers will play the not-so-fun game of musical chairs along the offensive line.

With right tackle Mike Adams expected to be out until training camp after being stabbed last weekend, the Steelers' lack of depth on the line is going to be magnified over the last two weeks of offseason workouts. Pittsburgh has two choices to replace Adams, and neither are great options.

The Steelers could turn to Guy Whimper, a free agent from the Jacksonville Jaguars who was signed last month. Whimper has experience with 22 starts over six seasons, 15 of those in 2011. But it's not exactly good experience, especially from the quarterback's perspective. He led the NFL in sacks allowed in 2011 with 14, and gave up four sacks in six starts last season.

If Pittsburgh doesn't want to go with Whimper, the other choice is Kelvin Beachum, a seventh-round pick from a year ago. Beachum is the best option at right tackle, a spot where he started the last five games for the Steelers last season. But moving Beachum to right tackle would hurt the interior of the line. Beachum has been working this offseason on becoming the top backup at guard and center after Willie Colon was released and Doug Legursky wasn't re-signed.

Outside of Whimper and Beachum, the Steelers are extremely inexperienced on the offensive line. Only one other backup, John Malecki, has played in an NFL game, and he's only played in one. The rest of Pittsburgh's depth is made up of two practice squad players from a year ago (Justin Cheadle and Joe Long) and five undrafted rookies (Joe Madsen, Nik Embernate, Mike Golic, Mike Farrell and Chris Hubbard).

And unlike last year, the Steelers can't call on their fallback option, Max Starks. He signed with the San Diego Chargers two weeks ago.

Tomlin said Adams is expected to come back by training camp in late July, although the team is "taking it day by day."

"They're expecting six weeks or so," Tomlin told reporters Monday. "He's going to go through a couple of weeks of inactivity until he can proceed with the next step, but obviously the next step for him is getting out of the hospital. We expect that to come within the next 24 hours, and he'll proceed from there."