Steelers Notebook: Tomlin hunts for depth at LB
Andre Frazier, sacking Cleveland's Bruce Gradkowski in December, is the top backup at outside linebacker.
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Coach Mike Tomlin has to cut only five players before 4 p.m. Monday, but he needs to make some decisions on the depth at outside linebacker.
He is hoping the next two preseason games, beginning tonight against the Buffalo Bills, will help provide some answers.
Right now, though, he said veteran Andre Frazier is the top backup to James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley at outside linebacker. What's more, he never mentioned Bruce Davis, the Steelers' No. 3 draft choice last year who has been largely indistinguishable.
"I think that Andre Frazier is the leader in the clubhouse with regards to that," Tomlin said, using a golf expression to talk about the five-year veteran from Cincinnati. "He's a veteran football player. He's been around here a long time. I think he's been very consistent in his play.
"Some of the other guys have had up-and-down moments, but they still have a great deal of time to make a statement or state their case. But we do have some question marks in that area."
Davis is battling Arnold Harrison and Patrick Bailey for one or two of the other backup spots. Bailey was the team's rookie of the year in 2008 because of his performance on special teams.
In a poll of NFL scouts, coaches and personnel men conducted by The Sporting News magazine, the Steelers were voted to have the best quarterback and linebacker units in the league.
The only other team to be voted No. 1 in two separate categories is the New York Giants, who had the best offensive and defensive lines in the NFL.
"You have to look at your starter and what he's accomplished, and [Ben Roethlisberger] is very deserving of everything he's doing at this point," said No. 2 quarterback Charlie Batch. "And, as far as veteran experience and potential, we have great potential with Dennis [Dixon] and everything he presents. I would like to think I'd have something to do with that [vote]."
Pro Bowl inside linebacker James Farrior said one of the reasons the linebacker unit is so good is because the players are tough and smart.
"Everybody is working hard," Farrior said. "I don't think anybody works harder than our guys, especially the outside guys. We definitely got playmakers. James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley do such a great job on the outside, and that frees me and [Lawrence] Timmons up a lot. It gives us more opportunities to make plays."
Tomlin said kicker Jeff Reed might not be used tonight because he stepped in a hole and slightly injured his leg before the game at Washington last week. That means free-agent Piotr Czech could handle all the kicking duties against the Bills.
Asked if it was Reed's right leg or plant leg, Tomlin said: "I have no idea. I have a lot of stuff on my plate this time of year. I didn't check which leg."
First Published August 29, 2009 12:00 am