Pittsburgh Steelers: Kelvin Beachum

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers dominated time of possession in the first two quarters of their AFC wild-card playoff game Saturday night against the Baltimore Ravens. Yet they trailed 10-9 at halftime, and their inability to finish conjured up memories of their most recent loss, a 35-32 defeat the visiting New Orleans Saints laid on the Steelers three days after Thanksgiving.

Sure enough, the Steelers are home for the rest of the playoffs, in part because they relied too much on Shaun Suisham's right leg, accurate as it is, early in the game.

Suisham booted three field goals before the Steelers found the end zone on a damp night at Heinz Field, and that proved to be costly in a 30-17 loss to the Ravens. After the Ravens advanced to the divisional round, it was fair to wonder if the outcome would have been different, had star running back Le'Veon Bell been able to play in the third meeting between the AFC North rivals this season.

[+] EnlargeBen Roethlisberger
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarThe inability of Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers to find the end zone early proved costly against their AFC North rival.
Bell, who led the AFC with 1,361 rushing yards, did not play against the Ravens because of a hyperextended right knee.

Not that coach Mike Tomlin would be party to anything that went near that notion, even though a player as dynamic as Bell could have been the difference between the Steelers' scoring touchdowns and settling for field goals.

"We're not going to let that be the story of the game," Tomlin said after the Steelers' first loss in four playoff games against the Ravens. "Somebody goes down, the next man steps up. You move on, and there will be no excuses. We're not going to allow you to push us in that direction. We're not going to lean on that."

Nor should they because the reality is this: The Steelers lost their third consecutive postseason game dating to the 2010 Super Bowl because they beat themselves as much as the Ravens beat them.

Reliable tight end Heath Miller dropped a pass on the Steelers' opening possession that forced a punt when a field goal could've been attempted.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger put a little too much air under a pass to a wide-open Antonio Brown early in the second quarter. That gave free safety Darian Stewart just enough time to push Brown out of bounds before he could get both feet down in the end zone, and the Steelers eventually settled for a short field goal.

Then there were the penalties.

The Steelers had eight of them for 114 yards. To give those figures the kind of context that won't go down well with Steelers fans' Sunday breakfast, consider Pittsburgh had seven penalties for 104 yards in their previous four games combined.

The penalties Saturday ranged from untimely to flat-out stupid.

Shamarko Thomas belted kickoff returner Jacoby Jones, who was going out of bounds early in the fourth quarter after the Steelers had cut the Ravens' lead to five. The unnecessary roughness penalty gave Baltimore the ball at its own 37 instead of its 22-yard line.

A holding penalty against left tackle Kelvin Beachum later in the quarter nullified a 19-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown by Dri Archer.

The fans at Heinz Field howled when Steelers cornerback Antwon Blake got called for pass interference after tight coverage in the second quarter -- and when officials did not throw a flag later in the quarter when Lardarius Webb tripped Martavis Bryant.

Officials ruled the two had gotten their legs tangled, even though Bryant had gotten a step on Webb in the middle of the field.

But just like Tomlin on the Steelers not having Bell, All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey did not want to hear anything about the discrepancy in penalties, even though the Ravens were penalized just twice for 14 yards.

"Officiating happens. We're not blaming officials," Pouncey said. "We just didn't execute. You've got to give [the Ravens] credit, but it sucks, man."

What magnified that feeling even more is the Steelers thought they had the kind of team that could make a run at the Super Bowl, after they won their final four regular-season games to capture the AFC North title.

"This team's not going to be the same next year," Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward said, "and it breaks my heart."
PITTSBURGH -- Strong safety Troy Polamalu and cornerback Ike Taylor are listed as questionable for Sunday night when the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Cincinnati Bengals in a game that will determine the AFC North champion.

Polamalu and Taylor were each limited in practice Friday, and the former ducked out of the Steelers' locker room as reporters started to migrate toward his locker. Will Allen, who played in place of Polamalu last Sunday, said he always prepares as if he is going to start, making this week no different than any other for the 11th-year veteran.

"Hopefully Troy will be ready to go but we'll see what happens," Allen said following the Steelers' final practice of the week. "I'm always prepared, always ready."

Polamalu (knee) and Taylor (shoulder, forearm) have each missed the last two games.

Taylor said he is "day to day" and added that he will wait to hear from coach Mike Tomlin regarding his role -- if he has one -- Sunday night against the Bengals.

Taylor has not played since giving up an 81-yard touchdown catch to Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green in the AFC North rivals' first meeting. Taylor, who took himself out of that game at the end of the third quarter, said he is fine with giving way to the younger players who have been lining up at cornerback.

"It's like playing quarterback, you've got to be in a groove," Taylor said. "We've been doing good so far so let the young guys roll. [Tomlin] is the head man so the head man makes the last and final decisions regardless of how I feel. That's what they're paying him to do is make executive decisions."

Reserve tight end Michael Palmer (groin) is questionable on the Steelers' final injury report. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum (back), linebacker Vince Williams (ankle) and tight end Matt Spaeth (elbow) are all probable.

The Bengals have had the flu sweep through team headquarters, and that is reflected in their final injury update of the week. Seven players are listed on their injury report because of an illness, including cornerbacks Adam Jones, Terence Newman and Chris Lewis-Harris.

The three are questionable for Sunday along with starting safety Reggie Nelson (illness).

Green, who caught 11 passes for 224 yards and a touchdown against the Steelers at the beginning of the month, is listed as probable despite injuring his biceps last Monday night.

Green was a full participant in practice Friday.
PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Steelers appear to have good health on their side as they try to win their first AFC North title since 2010.

Left tackle Kelvin Beachum (back) and linebacker Vince Willams (ankle) were the only players who sustained injuries of note in the Steelers’ 20-12 win Sunday over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin did not indicate that either injury is serious, and he expects Beachum to play Sunday night against the visiting Cincinnati Bengals.

Tomlin did not mention quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on Monday when he provided an injury update.

Roethlisberger went to the Steelers’ locker room in the third quarter to get his right knee examined by team doctors, but the 11-year veteran returned to the game. Roethlisberger said he was “fine” after throwing for 220 yards and a touchdown against the Chiefs and completing 72 percent of his passes.

“Largely we came out of this game relatively healthy,” Tomlin said Monday at his weekly news conference.

Strong safety Troy Polamalu (knee), cornerback Ike Taylor (forearm, shoulder) and tight end Matt Spaeth (elbow) did not play against the Chiefs because of injuries. All three will be evaluated this week, Tomlin said.

The Steelers (10-5) have clinched a playoff berth. They will win the AFC North and get a home game in the wild-card round of the AFC playoffs if they beat the Bengals.
PITTSBURGH -- Ramon Foster was talking about the success of the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive line when the starting left guard suddenly took a step toward his locker.

“Let me knock on wood here,” Foster said Wednesday while doing just that after the Steelers’ first practice of the week. “We’ve got to keep everybody healthy.”

Good health up front is one of the main reasons why the Steelers’ offense has taken off and is leading the team’s push for its first playoff berth since 2011.

The Steelers lead the NFL in a handful of categories, including total offense (424.9 yards), and just as significant as the balance they have struck offensively is the stability they have enjoyed along their offensive line.

Through 14 games the Steelers have had as many starting combinations (three) on their offensive line as they had centers who started at least one game last season.

Their five starting offensive linemen have missed a total of six games, and right tackle Marcus Gilbert expects to return to the lineup Sunday against the visiting Kansas City Chiefs after missing the last three games because of a high-ankle sprain.

“It feels good to have the guys we started with in there and the guys that have come in have done a real good job too,” said Foster, who missed two games earlier this season because of an ankle injury. “It’s time to make a run and we understand that too. We’ve always said depending on our health as an o-line is how far we’ll go.”

No player epitomizes how different the offensive line is this season because of good fortune and health than center Maurkice Pouncey.

Pouncey tore his ACL early in the 2013 season opener, setting the tone for that game and yet another season in which the Steelers’ offensive line was consistently scrambled by injuries.

The fifth-year veteran has made a full recovery and the athleticism and leadership be provides in the middle of the line is why Pouncey will likely make his fourth Pro Bowl when the teams are announced next week.

“He’s the best center in the league,” Gilbert said. “For him to come out and play the way he’s been playing this year after major knee surgery it’s just unbelievable to see him move around. He holds this line together and he’s the best out there.”

Pouncey, Glbert, right guard David DeCastro and Mike Adams, who has started four games at right tackle this season, were all first- and second-round draft picks by the Steelers from 2010-12.

The Steelers stole starting left tackle Kelvin Beachum in seventh round of the 2012 draft and Foster, who made the team as an undrafted free agent in 2009, is the elder statesman of a young group that is both talented and tighter than frost on a windshield.

“I knew what we had up front, how good we could be, how much they would gel together,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “They feed off each other and the key was just staying healthy. Knock on wood, they can keep staying healthy.”

Foster already took care of that.
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers are in a unique position for roughly half the players on their 53-man roster.

They will play meaningful games in late December -- or at least ones where they don't need a ton of help to get in the playoffs.

The Steelers will clinch a playoff berth if they beat the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday at Heinz Field. That makes this stretch run unique for young players such as running back Le'Veon Bell, left tackle Kelvin Beachum, right guard David DeCastro and outside linebacker Jarvis Jones.

They are among the players who joined the Steelers after 2011, the last time Pittsburgh made the playoffs. More than 20 players on the Steelers' roster have never participated in a playoff game. Only 18 players on the roster have played in a postseason contest for Pittsburgh.

That dynamic in a locker room once brimming with veterans who knew what it took to prepare for and play in games in which the stakes are considerable is not lost on Mike Tomlin.

“I acknowledge it’s been a number of years since we’ve been in a significant chase with a number of our young guys,” the eighth-year Steelers coach said Tuesday. “We’ve got a number of young guys who have played quite a bit of football for us and are playing significant roles for us. Guys like Bell, guys like Kelvin Beachum, guys like Jarvis Jones that haven’t been in this position a bunch.

So I’m watching those guys and watching them closely, and I like the way they’re wearing the urgency of these moments. They’re utilizing it for good. They’re not being consumed by it. They’re staying singularly focused at the task at hand as they should.”

What's interesting to note is that the AFC playoff field could be filled after this week’s games.

The New England Patriots, Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts have already won their respective divisions.

The Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens are also in, according to ESPN Stats & Information, if the Steelers beat the Chiefs, the Bengals beat the Broncos, the Ravens beat the Houston Texans and the San Francisco 49ers beat the San Diego Chargers.
PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger noticed something about offensive line coach Mike Munchak on Wednesday.

“You could tell a little bit that he’s got a little extra in him,” Roethlisberger said.

Munchak wouldn’t be human if he didn’t.

The Steelers visit the Tennessee Titans on Monday night, and it will be a bittersweet homecoming for Munchak.

Munchak spent more than 30 years with the Titans organization as a player and a coach.

The Titans, however, fired Munchak last January after he went 22-26 in three seasons as head coach. The Steelers hired Munchak less than a month later and he’s been shaping what has been an improved offensive line since the offseason.

“He’s done a wonderful job making everyone better,” left tackle Kelvin Beachum said. “Even though he played guard, he’s making the tackles better, he’s making the centers better, making everybody more accountable and just bringing us together as a unit.”

Munchak didn’t just play guard during a 12-year career with the franchise that was then the Houston Oilers. Munchak played it well enough to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Those credentials -- and the years he also distinguished himself coaching the offensive line -- made Munchak one of the Steelers’ most significant offseason additions.

And he's been exactly what the Steelers thought they were getting when they hired him -- from the respect he commands from his players to his making them better by emphasizing fundamentals.

“He’s simplified things, made things very easy, very smooth,” right guard David DeCastro said. “Everyone’s on the same page and that’s what you want, all five working as one. He’s just really brought that together.”

Munchak is not a fiery guy – his temperament is probably closest to DeCastro among the players he coaches – but he knows how to motivate the Steelers’ offensive linemen.

“He has a way of poking at me, finding things to kind of push buttons,” Beachum said. “It’s all in fun and games, but it’s also finding a way to get me better.”

When asked for an example of Munchak’s button-pushing, Beachum smiled.

“I’m going to leave that alone,” he said.

His players will largely do the same with questions about how much it would mean to Munchak for the Steelers to beat the Titans.

“Obviously there’s a little extra motivation,” DeCastro said, “but we’re going to play hard regardless.”
PITTSBURGH -- Observed and heard in the Pittsburgh Steelers' locker room after a 30-23 win over the Houston Texans Monday night at Heinz Field.
  • Timmons
    Linebacker Lawrence Timmons starred, registering a game-high 12 tackles as well as a sack. The eighth-year veteran also turned into an Internet sensation as he was leading one of the Steelers' better defensive efforts of the season. Timmons vomited several times during the game -- video of it quickly made its way to the internet -- though he said he wasn't sick afterward. Timmons said his stomach problems first started after Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick inadvertently kicked him in the stomach. He later vomited after over-hydrating to replace the fluids he had lost after Fitzpatrick kicked him. "Just a little bloated," Timmons said, "but I'm good now."
  • The Steelers scored 24 unanswered points with three minutes left in the second quarter to turn a 13-point deficit into an 11-point halftime lead. Coach Mike Tomlin said the play that led to that barrage of points happened when the Steelers, down 13-0, were facing third-and-10 from their own 14-yard line. Le'Veon Bell caught a short pass over the middle and turned it into a 43-yard catch and run. The Steelers' longest play of the season allowed them to flip the field and get on the scoreboard after a 44-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham. "They were in man-to-man. He won versus a linebacker," Tomlin said of Bell's 43-yard catch. "I think that provided the type of emotion that the group needed."
  • A short week won't help right tackle Marcus Gilbert as he tries to come back from a concussion. Gilbert left the second quarter and did not return. The fourth-year veteran will have to pass a battery of tests before he is cleared to play Sunday against the visiting Indianapolis Colts. Gilbert sustained the only injury of note against the Texans, Tomlin said. Mike Adams replaced Gilbert and played his first extended snaps of the season. The Steelers almost had to replace their starting left tackle, too, during the game. Kelvin Beachum went down with a shoulder injury late in the third quarter but he didn't have to miss any snaps because of the change in quarters. "It was touchy there for awhile," Tomlin said. "We were about to see (center Maurkice Pouncey) at left tackle."
PITTSBURGH – Heath Miller flashed open near the goal line and caught a pass that Ben Roethlisberger floated just enough for Tampa Bay Buccaneers Eric Wright to deliver a crunching blow in the end zone.

 Wright was penalized 15 yards for the helmet to helmet hit, but Miller’s touchdown was negated by an offsetting penalty.

Three plays after Kelvin Beachum's hold wiped out Miller’s first touchdown of the season, the veteran tight end caught a 5-yard scoring pass, holding onto the ball after getting sandwiched by a pair of Buccaneers defensive players.

And what did Miller do after scoring twice and twice paying the price for one touchdown?


Not even a spike of the football.

The 10th-year veteran simply celebrated with his teammates and then jogged to the sidelines even though Miller was obviously pumped -- or at least as pumped as you will ever see Miller, who makes even keel look like an exaggerated zigzag.

If any of his teammates have an inclination to do the kind of celebrating that has them watched by coach Mike Tomlin, they would do well to remember three words: Be like Heath.

And Roethlisberger said that credo extends well beyond conduct after making a big play.

“He’s an example we all should follow, in life and in football, because he’s a class act and someone we all are better to know,” Roethlisberger said of Miller.

David DeCastro agreed.

“I think Ben hit it right on the head. All he does is come in and work hard,” the Steelers right guard said. “Doesn’t say much, leads by example, good family man as well.”

Doesn’t say much would be an understatement.

When asked if Miller ever talks in the huddle, Roethlisberger smiled.

“Very, very rarely,” Big Ben said. “If I call the wrong play, he’ll tell me.”

“He’ll give you a fist pound or ‘Let’s go’ but it’s usually pretty short and sweet,” DeCastro added.

DeCastro said he has never heard Miller curse or trash talk an opponent.

“He doesn’t need to,” DeCastro said. “He lets his pads do his talking.”

Indeed, Miller caught a career-high 10 passes for 85 yards and the touchdown in the 27-24 loss to the Buccaneers. The sequence in which he got belted twice while making end zone grabs showed why Miller is so trusted by his quarterback.

“He’s mentally tough, he’s physically tough. He gives everything he has every single day, in meetings, in practice and the game,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s what makes him so special and what makes it an honor to play with a guy like that.”
This is the fifth in a series that takes a post-training camp look at every position. Next up is offensive tackle.

Players on the roster: Marcus Gilbert, Kelvin Beachum, Mike Adams, Guy Whimper, Wesley Johnson, and Emmanuel McCray.

Projected starters: Gilbert and Beachum. Both had good camps, Gilbert in particular. Adams never mounted a challenge to either player, and the 2012 second-round draft pick finds himself battling Whimper for the swing tackle position.

Projected number on 53-man roster: Four. Adams is safe and he should beat out Whimper for the job of No. 3 tackle. Whimper and Johnson are likely battling for one roster spot. Whimper has the edge in experience, and he has position flexibility. Johnson’s versatility is his biggest asset and the Steelers may want to develop the player on whom they used a fifth-round draft pick in May.

Rookie watch: Johnson lined up at tackle, center and guard in camp. The 6-foot-6, 297-pounder played center in the limited snaps he received in the preseason opener last Saturday night. Johnson struggled at times at left tackle in camp, and he may need a season to get stronger. Right now, I have him on my projected 53-man roster though he is going to have to show the coaches something in the final three preseason games.

What we learned in camp: Adams is a good run-blocker but his pass-blocking skills continue to lag behind what is clearly the strength of his game. That the Steelers have already settled on Gilbert and Beachum, a seventh-round pick in 2012, as their starters reflects a significant gap between their top two tackles and Adams. Gilbert, who dropped a little weight so he could move better, had a really good camp and established himself as the right tackle of the future as well as the present. The Steelers are expected to sign Gilbert, who is in the final year of his contract, to a long-term deal before the start of the regular season. Beachum is solid at left tackle and the Steelers can win with him protecting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's blind side.

He said it: “He’s obviously not the prototype, height -- he’s probably tired of listening to all that crap -- and the bottom line is results and we’ll see. I think you see the stuff he can do that a lot of tackles can’t do with his quickness and the way he can recover if he does get in trouble. He’s got a lot of great traits and his work ethic is big time. It’s very hard to outwork him.” – Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak on Beachum.
LATROBE, Pa. -- Mike Munchak gave Mike Adams solid marks for his play in the Steelers’ first preseason game but also acknowledged that the third-year offensive tackle is in a different battle than had been expected when training camp opened.

Adams has been playing left and right tackle in camp and is vying with Guy Whimper for the job of No. 3 tackle with Kelvin Beachum and Marcus Gilbert entrenched as the starters.

“They’re obviously competing for the swing spot right now right now with the two (starting tackles) playing as well as they are right now,” said Munchak, the Steelers’ first-year offensive line coach. “We’ll just kind of see what happens.”

The question moving forward is whether the two are battling for a roster spot after Adams entered camp hoping to challenge Beachum or Gilbert for a starting job.

Munchak will lobby for the Steelers to keep nine offensive linemen on their 53-man roster, but they might only go with eight as they did last season. Given some of the other positions where the Steelers are deep, such as inside linebacker, they might keep an extra player there rather than at offensive line, where the five starters are already set, barring injury.

Cody Wallace is probably a lock for one of the three guaranteed reserve spots up front as the swing interior lineman. And rookie Wesley Johnson probably makes the 53-man roster if the the fifth-round draft pick plays well in the final three preseason games because of his versatility and standing as a player the Steelers can develop.

If that leaves Adams and Whimper battling for a final spot, Adams clearly has the edge even though he has struggled in camp. The 6-7, 323-pounder simply has too much potential, and the Steelers aren’t going to give up on a second-round draft pick after just two seasons unless Whimper clearly outplays him.

That didn’t happen in the Steelers’ 20-16 loss to the New York Giants last Saturday night.

Both played extensively with Adams logging a team-high 51 snaps and Whimper playing 43 snaps. Adams received high marks from Pro Football Focus and Munchak said he did well after some early technique issues.

“The more he played the better he played,” Munchak said of Adams. “I thought it was a good, solid start for him. He’ll continue to get better at what we’re doing.”
LATROBE, Pa. -- A snapshot from the Pittsburgh Steelers' final practice of the week on Thursday offered a tidy summation of Mike Adams' training camp.

[+] EnlargeMike Adams
Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY SportsOne goal for Mike Adams during the preseason is to work on his consistency, says Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak.
Adams, playing right tackle during an 11-on-11 drill, got bull rushed by outside linebacker Jason Worilds. Worilds, the Steelers' best pass-rusher, drove the 6-7, 323-pound Adams back so fast that the play never had a chance.

The sequence added to Adams' struggles and reinforced the perception that Kelvin Beachum and Marcus Gilbert are safe as the Steelers' starting tackles.

The challenge the Steelers are hoping Adams creates for a starting job up front has yet to materialize, and the third-year man has seemingly lost ground instead of closing it since the Steelers reported to training camp two weeks ago.

To be fair, Adams has been alternating between left and right tackle since the Steelers will need him to play both if he doesn't beat out Beachum or Gilbert. Also, the competition for jobs doesn't really start until Saturday night when the Steelers visit the New York Giants for the first exhibition for each team.

"What he needs to do is continue to work on his consistency, push (Beachum and Gilbert) and when he plays to play well," Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak said. "Put it in our court how we want to handle it, who are the best five or the best six or the best seven."

It would be charitable to put Adams among the Steelers' best seven offensive linemen through the first 11 practices.

And what has to be disconcerting to the Steelers is the 2012 second-round pick has not shown improvement despite rebounding nicely after losing his starting job at left tackle last season and working with Munchak, who is as good an offensive line coach as there is in the game.

"I think now he's locked into what he needs to do," Munchak said. "He's a young player that has, you hate to use the word potential because obviously it's there, but it's just a matter of can we get it out. Can he do it on a consistent basis."

If anyone can unlock Adams' potential it is Munchak, and the former still has plenty of opportunities to show the Steelers he can be a starter at this level -- or at least a solid No. 3 tackle who can also play tight end in the offense's jumbo package.

I don't believe Adams is in any danger of not making the 53-man roster. But he clearly has to show more if he is going to be a viable contributor this season and a part of the Steelers' long-term future.

Mike Tomlin has eye on running backs

August, 3, 2014
LATROBE, Pa. -- The Steelers have speed, power, versatility and seemingly everything at running back. Except for room.

That isn’t stopping coach Mike Tomlin from looking at the unheralded backs in camp who are trying to join Le'Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount and Dri Archer on the 53-man roster.

 Tomlin divvied up the five carries in the goal-line drill on Saturday among Tauren Poole, Miguel Maysonet and Josh Harris. Tomlin bypassed Bell, Blount and Archer for the drill because he wanted to provide goal-line chances for the other running backs on the roster.

“What better way to get to know those guys than to put them in a situation like that and give them an opportunity to show what they’re capable of?” Tomlin said. “I think one thing the National Football League proves to us is that backs explode onto the scene every year. They come in different forms, free agents and so forth.”

Here are some other odds and ends:
  • Saturday probably can’t get here soon enough for the players. Three fights have broken out in the last two practices and the players, who have drilled four consecutive days in pads, are undoubtedly tired of hitting one another. They get to line up against a different opponent Saturday night when they visit the New York Giants in the first preseason game for each team. The first fight of camp happened Friday night when Vince Williams wrestled Bell to the ground during the ’back on backers drill and Blount jumped on Williams nearly touching off a brawl. Tomlin said after that melee that fights can be used as a teaching tool by the coaches. “At times, you’re going to feel like you’re wronged, but at the same, time you’ve got to keep your wits about you because we step into stadiums with one goal in mind, and that is to win,” Tomlin said. “Obviously 15-yard penalties and things of that nature don’t help with that cause. When do you get an opportunity to talk about that except in training camp settings when tempers run a little hot?”
  • Mike Adams isn’t making much headway in his bid to crack the starting lineup after losing his job at left tackle after four games last season. The third-year man has struggled at times during one-on-one pass-rushing drlls and Kelvin Beachum, who replaced Adams at left tackle last season, has been solid. Adams has been playing both left and right tackle. On the right side of the offensive line Marcus Gilbert has looked really good after dropping 10 pounds so he could move better. “Marcus is balling,” Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey said. “He’s having an excellent camp so far. He had an excellent OTAs. Hopefully he can come out there and be one of the best tackles in the NFL.”
  • Rookie inside linebacker Ryan Shazier, a first-round draft pick in May, has generated a lot of buzz through the first week of practices. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is also pleased with what he has seen from outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, who was the Steelers’ first-round pick in 2013 and managed only one sack as a rookie. “He’s grown in leaps and bounds,” LeBeau said. “It’s not a stretch to say that. He’s talented or we wouldn’t have taken him in the first round. He’s getting to where he can apply that talent.”

Steelers Camp Report: Day 7

August, 2, 2014
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' mail: Dri Archer's role

July, 25, 2014
Training camp start starts today as the Pittsburgh Steelers have to report to St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, by 4 p.m. ET. A run test is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET, and the Steelers will hold their first practice of 2014 on Saturday afternoon.

This is the final offseason mailbag and during camp I will post a mailbag on Tuesdays since the players are off that day. Send questions to @ScottBrown_ESPN with #steelersmail.

And away we go...

@ScottBrown_ESPN: Chris Rainey, the player with whom Archer is most comparable because of his speed and versatility, averaged just over five touches per game in 2012. Almost half of those (39) came on kickoff returns, and Rainey averaged only 2.5 touches per game on runs or receptions. I think Archer is a better player than Rainey and that the Steelers will try to utilize him more than they did Rainey. The rub, however, is this: the Steelers are significantly better at running back than they were the one season Rainey played with the team. Rashard Mendenhall missed the first 10 games of 2012 while he was still recovering from a torn ACL, and the Steelers leaned heavily on Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer that season. Archer has stiffer competition than Rainey did for carries with Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount ahead of him on the depth chart. I’d like to think that the Steelers will get Archer the ball eight to 10 times a game, but that depends a lot on him and the progress he makes during training camp.

@ScottBrown_ESPN: I’m with you regarding Lance Moore. He looked really good during offseason practices, and he is such a solid player and one of those guys who just knows how to get open. I don’t see much of a difference between the No. 2 and No. 3 wide receivers since the Steelers will use a three-wideout formation frequently. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Moore gets the majority of the snaps opposite Brown when the Steelers use only two wide receivers. Markus Wheaton will be given every opportunity to win a starting job in camp but it won’t be given to him. If he stays healthy I think he will emerge this season and become a big part of the passing game. Wheaton wants to be great and he has the physical talent to succeed at this level.

@ScottBrown_ESPN: I will get a better read on that Friday or Saturday after we get a chance to talk to Kelvin Beachum. I would imagine his confidence level is high, and not just because he played well in the 11 starts he made at left tackle last season. Beachum is an incredibly hard worker and is very studious. He is mindful that his technique has to be a strength since he is not a prototypical left tackle, and I guarantee you he will be nothing but prepared once he gets to camp. One thing I really like about Beachum: He is not assuming the starting job at left tackle is his even though he enters camp as the No. 1 left tackle. He knows he still has to win the job and welcomes the competition for it since it will only make him better. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t win the starting job, and if I’m the Steelers I let Mike Adams compete with Marcus Gilbert for the starting job at right tackle.

@ScottBrown_ESPN: I think we will see a different player. As much as Jarvis Jones played in 2013 it took him a while to figure out just how to line up properly, and he admittedly spent most of his rookie season thinking instead of reacting. His confidence level should be much higher going into this season and he should play faster given his comfort level with the defense. How much of a jump he makes in sacks after notching just one last season remains to be seen. Joey Porter, who will mentor Jones, went from 2.5 to 10 in his second NFL season. I think the Steelers will be happy with seven or eight sacks from Jones as long as he puts consistent pressure on the quarterback.
PITTSBURGH – This is the second of two posts recapping the Pittsburgh Steelers' offseason in the words of the coaches and the players.

Here is what the coaches said during the offseason practices.

“They’ve done a nice job but you can convince yourself of anything this time of year. I’m not interested in telling a story to myself. This isn’t football. It’s football-like and it’s a great opportunity to improve and learn and develop, gain cohesion and understanding. That’s what this is about as opposed to evaluating performance.” – coach Mike Tomlin on the progress the Steelers made during offseason practices

"I don’t like to play rookies because defensive football there’s two things that can get you beat. One of them is missed tackles. The other one is mental mistakes. Normally when you try to learn this defense it’s going to take you a little while to do it. He understands concepts and picks things up a little bit easier than most rookies. I think Lawrence Timmons will help him and some of the other guys will help him learn to run this defense. We don’t have a choice whether we can play him or not. We’ve got to play him and we’ve got to be faster and we’ve got to win.” – linebackers coach Keith Butler on rookie inside linebacker Ryan Shazier

“He’s a stud. Really nobody was happier when Coach Tomlin, Kevin Colbert and Mr. Rooney were able to pull off getting him to come on board. He’s a great teacher. He’s great at what he does, the best in the league in my opinion. He seamlessly transitioned into our staff. We’ve all hit it off.” – offensive coordinator Todd Haley on the addition of offensive line coach Mike Munchak

“I think he’s been doing a great job. He’s doing good at something on both sides as a third tackle pushing Marcus [Gilbert], pushing [Kelvin] Beachum. And for a coach that’s a great thing to have because those guys understand that we have some good talent at that position. Then two, I think it’s a matter of him getting [better], but I think all three of them have gotten better. A lot of it is going to depend on the consistency when we get to training camp and then when you get in the preseason games to have the best guys out there playing. Obviously they all can’t play so someone is going to be sitting so that’s the hard part about this..” – Munchak on Mike Adams and the Steelers’ situation at offensive tackle.

“I can’t see myself putting on s suit and tie and sitting behind a desk for eight hours. That would just drive me crazy. I need the smell of the grass. I need to be out here on a football field. I feel like I’m at my best when I’m out here. Even though I can’t play anymore I still feel like I have a good opportunity to help kids who want to get there.” – new defensive assistant Joey Porter on pursuing a career in coaching

“Mike Mitchell is very fast and a good, solid tackler. An excellent blitzer actually. I looked at quite a bit of his tape during the free-agency period and you had to look pretty far to find any weaknesses.” – defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau on the Steelers’ new starter at free safety.

“We feel like he can be our ace in the hole, or the joker, since we can use him in various positions. We can move him around. We can utilize his running ability as a running back and his receiving skills. I think it’s up to Coach Haley and the offensive staff to put him in places where he can succeed. I think he’s going to be a weapon for us.” – wide receivers coach Richard Mann on rookie Dri Archer’s versatility

“Obviously Dri Archer is going to be a big factor. He has a lot to learn, a lot to work on and he does and he will. His speed speaks for itself but there will be a big pool of numbers and again you can never have enough of those kind of guys. We have more to choose from than we’ve had in the past. That’s a great situation to be in.” – special teams coordinator Danny Smith on the Steelers’ pool of potential kick returners

"It’s as deep a group as I have been around, from top to bottom. I think some guys that are pretty good football players probably won’t make the team. A guy like Lance Moore has come in and as advertised is a smart, sharp guy that has picked things up pretty quick. Then you have some guys like Markus Wheaton and Justin Brown that have been here, and you can see that they now have a year under their belt. They have a different confidence level in what they are doing and what we are doing.” – Haley on the Steelers’ wide receivers

Arthur Moats has done a good job for us and Chris Carter’ has had a good offseason for us so we’ll see when we get to camp. Things usually iron themselves out when we get to training camp and we’ll have a better understanding of where we stand when it comes to depth.” – Butler on the Steelers’ depth at outside linebacker