Roethlisberger et al Don't Need Work Yet

By Ed Bouchette
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 8 years ago

Good morning,

As we were saying in June . . .

--- The Steelers report to training camp a week earlier than normal because they play a fifth preseason game, the Hall of Fame game in Canton two weeks later. Some believe it’s not fair they have to play an extra game and work an extra week in camp.

It should be an advantage, especially with a young defense they have to try to hone into something better than it was in 2014. No one says they have to work their veteran starters on offense all that time, nor is there a mandate that Mike Tomlin use all of his allotted time starting on Sunday practicing. This is an opportunity for him to work deep into that 90-man roster and ease the others into it the first week.

The game against Minnesota will be broadcast nationally but the Steelers have no obligation to play their stars or even regulars very long. It should be a chance for Landry Jones to show why they should keep him or not.

--- In 1992, Tunch Ilkin did not report to the team until well into training camp because of a contract “holdout.’’ In reality, the contract was done but new coach Bill Cowher and Steelers management agreed that at nearly 35 years old, their Pro Bowl tackle did not need training camp. So they let him “hold out” and rest and not go through the rigors of camp. Tomlin has the opportunity to do basically the same thing with some of his veterans who will report to cam on time, such as Heath Miller, Ben Roethlisberger and for sure James Harrison.

--- This just sneaks up on us: Roethlisberger is the longest-tenured Steelers player on this roster. Harrison enters his 13th NFL season but he spent 2013 with the Bengals and he played in just one game as a rookie in 2002 with the Steelers (and none in 2003). Roethlisberger enters his 12th NFL season, as does safety Will Allen, who has played for other teams.

--- The Steelers did a disservice to themselves and to Jarvis Jones by starting him as a rookie at right outside linebacker in 2013. Incredibly, they started him instead of Jason Worilds. No rookie started at outside linebacker on a regular basis since the 1970s and none in the 3-4 defense other than the answer to a trivia question regarding another Jones – Aaron Jones started the first game of his rookie season in 1988 at outside linebacker, then he moved to right defensive end and started a total of 12 games as a rookie.

The Steelers should have started Worilds and eased Jarvis Jones into the lineup the way they did LaMarr Woodley his rookie season, spotting him in passing situations to let him rush the quarterback. That history lesson is a reason they are more likely to use rookie Bud Dupree the way they did Woodley, by using him in small doses to spell Arthur Moats at left outside linebacker and letting him have a little success before they throw him in fulltime.

--- Yes, the starting lineup on defense appears set entering camp, despite the fact that defense was not very good last season. That does not mean there cannot be good competition at some spots such as cornerback, strong safety and especially nose tackle, where Daniel McCullers has a chance to make his move on Steve McLendon. As it is, there will be five new starters since the end of last season – Jarvis Jones, Moats, Ryan Shazier, Cortez Allen and Shamarko Thomas.

--- Those who thought James Harrison should not be brought back, even as a backup, never offered an alternative. Would they be better off with Harrison among their outside linebackers or Shawn Lemon?

--- When the Steelers attend the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction of Jerome Bettis on August 8, the eve of their game against the Vikings in Canton, only four of his teammates still on the roster will be there: Ben Roethlisberger, Heath Miller, James Harrison and Greg Warren.

--- That’s enough for now. Like some veterans entering training camp, I have to ease back into this thing. First pre-camp chat tomorrow at 1:30, and you can resume sending me questions at