Steelers Notebook: Old familiar face joins defense
Defensive end Orpheus Roye listens to defensive line coach John Mitchell yesterday at the final practice at Saint Vincent College. The Steelers signed Roye, a former player for the team, as a defensive end.
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Mike Tomlin said before the draft that his team needed to get younger and bigger on both lines.
Instead, the Steelers are getting older.
The Steelers, with five of their top six defensive linemen 30 or older by the start of the season, added 35-year-old end Orpheus Roye to their collection of graybeards yesterday.
Roye, drafted by the Steelers in 1996, left them to sign with the expansion Cleveland Browns in 2000 as a restricted free agent. He spent the past eight seasons with the Browns, who released him in February to save his $3 million salary and $1.5 million in roster bonuses.
When Roye left the Steelers, Aaron Smith replaced him at left end in 2000 and remains there.
Tomlin called Roye "a veteran defensive lineman, a guy who knows how to play the game, a professional."
"We're able to put him in the mix due to the [knee] injury of Kyle Clement. We'll see what he's capable of doing. He had a very solid workout. He appears to be in pretty good shape. We'll continue over the next couple weeks and see if he can find a seat on the bus, if you will."
Roye will work in with two other veteran defensive ends, Travis Kirschke, 34 before the season starts, and Nick Eason, 29, and a former Browns teammate of Roye's. His signing may signal the disappointment in younger ends such as Ryan McBean and undrafted rookies Martavius Prince and Jordan Reffett.
Roye said he's fully recovered from what he termed clean-up surgery on his knee.
"I know I can help," Roye said. "I've been around for a while. I was used to this defense. I think I can contribute."
Quarterback Charlie Batch returned to the sideline with his right arm in a sling, the result of surgery to repair his broken clavicle. Although he could be healthy in five weeks, Tomlin would not commit to holding a roster spot for him.
"We'll make that decision when we have to," Tomlin said. "Right now we're just evaluating this thing day to day. There are so many things that can happen between now and when we have to make that roster cut that it's a pure waste of time to speculate on those at this point. People could get hurt, so forth and so on."
The Steelers must cut to 75 Aug. 26 and to 53 Aug. 30.
Tight end Heath Miller might feel like the forgotten receiver if he did not know better. Twelve Steelers have caught a pass in two exhibition games, but no pass has gone his way.
"I've been out on some routes," Miller said. "As always, the coverage kind of dictates where the ball goes. It's not like I've taken a lot of snaps so far, so I'm not really concerned about it."
Miller caught 47 passes last season, the most in his three-year career, and has 120 total. Adding rookie wide receiver Limas Sweed, wide receiver Santonio Holmes' continued development and perhaps a better pass-catching third-down back could cut into Miller's numbers.
He sounded unconcerned if it did.
"I think offensively we have a lot of weapons," Miller said. "That's definitely a good thing. If we use everybody and spread the ball around, we'll be that much tougher to defend and that's definitely our goal as an offense."
The Steelers held their final camp practice at Saint Vincent yesterday afternoon. They have off today and resume practices at their UPMC facility on the South Side tomorrow.
Tomlin called the three weeks in Latrobe "a very productive camp" and "we're looking forward to putting this phase of our team-building behind us."
Rookie safety Ryan Mundy came out of the boot that protected his high ankle sprain and ran yesterday. "We'll continue to crawl him back," Tomlin said. ... Fullback Corey Davis became ill and could not finish practice. ... Deshea Townsend took some snaps at safety but remains the starting corner.
First Published August 18, 2008 12:00 am