Talkative Mike Tomlin reveals Steelers' decisions

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A candid Mike Tomlin opened the new season by revealing a number of personnel decisions that included his choice not to start rookie Jarvis Jones and that committees will man halfback and tight end.

Tomlin, who often avoids specific answers on personnel at his news conferences, outlined many Tuesday. Among them:

• Jason Worilds will start at James Harrison's vacated spot at right outside linebacker, but "Jones is going to play." On the left side, LaMarr Woodley will come out at times as the Steelers rotate those three at outside linebacker.

Tomlin said when Woodley's healthy, "he's a force. Obviously, he wasn't healthy a lot last year. He has been to this point, so I like what I see."

• Isaac Redman will start, but the other two healthy halfbacks, LaRod Stephens-Howling and Felix Jones, also will get their chances.

"We haven't detailed the rotation or the nature of the rotation at this point. But, obviously, we're going to have some guys in uniform that we believe are capable of helping us that have a unique skill set."

Look for Stephens-Howling to be the primary back on third downs and Felix Jones to work in more with Redman.

"We're continuing to get to know Felix," Tomlin said. "We like his natural run instincts."

• Tomlin agreed with rookie halfback Le'Veon Bell that he might return by the second game as he overcomes a foot injury.

"He probably can be characterized as out this week, not necessarily from a health standpoint, but young guys like him have to practice in order to be able to participate. At the very best, he would be a partial participant this week."

• Matt Spaeth was placed on injured reserve/designated to return, which leaves the Steelers with four listed tight ends along with offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum, who will play that position on occasion. Tomlin said he does not have a timetable for Heath Miller's return but said while he is out a host of others will take his place.

"That's going to be a committee-oriented group based on their skill sets. I think that's an appropriate way to do it."

Besides Beachum, he mentioned David Johnson, David Paulson and Mike Palmer.

• Defensive end Cameron Heyward, the team's first-round draft pick in 2011, won't start but he will be used in passing situations (and likely subbing for Brett Keisel on the right side).

"We feel very good about Cam Heyward. I think he's had a very good preseason and training camp. We're going to feature him in some sub-package football. You'll see him out there in the game. He's going to play in a manner in which he's played in the past. He's going to get a number of snaps."

• Stephens-Howling and Felix Jones will be deep kick-returners.

• Antonio Brown will return punts again along with rookie receiver Markus Wheaton. In the past, Tomlin has used a veteran to return punts from deep in Steelers territory and worked a younger player -- Brown at one time -- into the punt returns.

• Tomlin gushed about his new punter, Zoltan Mesko, signed Monday after New England cut him. Mesko also will hold for placekicks.

"He is a high-pedigree guy, one that was highly regarded out of Michigan, a fifth-round pick. He's a long guy, a left-footer. He is no stranger to the elements, having kicked in New England in the professional ranks and at the University of Michigan in college. He is an Ohio native. All those things were attractive to us. We are excited about getting him into the fold."

• The Steelers added cornerback Antwon Blake, also signed Monday after Jacksonville cut him, primarily because of his special-teams play.

"He's made some quality plays for those guys down there last year."

• Another player added since the cuts to 53 Saturday, Cody Wallace, was signed primarily because the Steelers coaches liked his ability at center.

"This is a guy who was a three-year starter at Texas A&M as a center and has been in the league with several different teams in that capacity. He's a sharp guy, he's got good quickness. We believe he's going to be a positive asset to our group."

He is one of only three backup offensive linemen.

• Wide receiver Kashif Moore was signed to the team's practice squad.

• Spaeth, who had surgery on his foot to repair a Lisfranc injury, can begin practicing six weeks from now if he's ready. He can come off injured reserve as soon as eight weeks from now. Once he starts practicing, the Steelers will have 21 days to decide whether to add him to their 53-man roster or keep him on injured reserve.


For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at Ed Bouchette: and Twitter @EdBouchette. First Published September 4, 2013 4:00 AM


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