By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers used several offensive line combinations during practice Thursday afternoon, and a rookie is a likely component in them.
It appears that Willie Colon’s left knee is still an issue, so Maurkice Pouncey would be in his spot at left guard and Doug Legursky would be the center. There is still Friday’s a practice, but it doesn’t look good for Colon to play.
“Everybody knows that I’m a better center than I am a guard, so that’s why I switched spots with Pouncey,” Legursky said. “And we all know what kind of athlete he is, so we should be all right.”
Max Starks said he was back to normal Thursday, so he manned the left tackle spot, while Ramon Foster was at right guard and rookie Kelvin Beachum was at right tackle in place of injured Mike Adams (ankle). Beachum was the club’s fourth selection in the seventh round during this year’s NFL Draft.
“I have to go out there and perform to the highest level of my abilities and get the job done whenever I get the opportunity,” Beachum said. “I’ve had a chance to play a few snaps so far, and I’ve done all right. I also had a couple penalties on me. I don’t know about the holding call last week, but it was called.
“And you can’t do that to your offense. That’s really tough to overcome. I think I settled in there a little bit after that, and with a full practice week I think we’ll have a pretty cohesive line. I’m excited to get out there, but in the end it’s all about going out there and performing. (And) when your number is called, you have to be ready for anything.”
Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley also commented on Beachum.
“I think the good thing is that he lined up and played a significant portion of the game last week,” Haley noted. “It’s not a good thing that Mike got hurt, but Beach had to go in and play a number of plays, and a significant amount of those were pass (plays).
“And he held his own. So, he has a full week of practice, getting all the reps, and we need to make sure that we look out for him like we do all those guys on the edge. So, we expect him to get in there and play at a high level.”
An alternate O-line combination had the left side and center staying intact with Starks, Pouncey and Legursky from tackle to center. On the right side, rookie No. 1 pick David DeCastro played right guard and Foster moved to right tackle. It doesn’t appear that DeCastro will play anytime soon, unless he’s forced to, but Haley said one shouldn’t count him out just yet.
“I definitely think that he could be a factor this season,” DeCastro said. “He got a bunch of reps last week in practice, and he got some reps with the pads on Wednesday this week. So, he’ll have another full week of practice, and with every one he gets through in a healthy manor and continues to get stronger and gain confidence is real good.
“So, that new rule, for him to see some light at the end of the tunnel, as opposed to being out for the season basically before it even starts, there would have been nothing to look forward to other than the offseason. So, he really worked hard to get this opportunity. We’ll see how it goes, but at least he’s in a position to take advantage of it.”
While the offensive line’s performance ultimately could determine Jonathan Dwyer’s level of play, the club’s new starting running back has to pass a different test as well to secure his top spot.
“He needs to show that he can take the bulk of the carries without needing a break or taking a few plays off on the sideline,” Haley said. “So, we’ve been excited about what he’s done, but he just hasn’t had to be the workhorse guy here. He’s done well, but he needs to prove that he can be that guy now that he has the opportunity to do it.”
As the Worilds turns
Despite starting just one game this season, Oct. 11 at Tennessee, outside linebacker Jason Worilds has a team-high five sacks, six quarterback pressures, one pass breakup and a fumble recovery. Those are heady stats for a player who has battled a couple of injuries and had limited snaps this season.
“I came back slowly from the hand injury, and I think that was a precaution by the team,” Worilds said. “But I wasn’t complaining about it. I used it to my advantage, to get healthy for the second half of the season, and it’s worked out so far. … It just shows that I’ve been able to take advantage of any opportunity that has been placed in front of me.
“It’s been tough, at times in my career, because I never know what side of the defense I’m going to be playing on from week to week. But that versatility, being able to play both sides, also has made me valuable, I think. And I’m happy to be playing on either side. … I started out on the right, but I played more on the left in college and feel more comfortable there.”
It looks like Worilds should be in his comfort zone, as left-side starter LaMarr Woodley has a left ankle injury that has limited his practice time. Worilds is expected to make his second start this year and many believe he could be James Harrison’s replacement on the right side next season.
“That would be nice, but I’m not looking that far ahead,” Worilds said. “At the end of the day, that’s a coaching decision, but I’ll be ready for whatever they need me to do. I would like to think that I’m capable enough to be a starter, and I’m always ready to step in when they need me.”
After missing seven straight games and two others this season due to a strained right calf, Troy Polamalu practiced two straight days and should start at strong safety against the Ravens.
“I just think that there’s a comfort in having Troy in the huddle,” Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. “Everybody has seen what Troy has done, and everybody has seen where Troy has been. You know that his reputation is not a myth. He has made the plays, so that always has to be a plus for your defense to have him out there.
“I watched him move out there, too, and I think he’s moving real well. So, I think he’ll be able to make his plays. Experience is such a valuable thing, and he’s not going to lose any of that experience because he hasn’t been playing for a while. But I’m sure, if he’s honest, he’ll tell you that it’ll take a while for him to get his complete timing back. But we’re glad to have him back anyway this week.”
Along with Colon and Woodley, NT Casey Hampton (illness) and QB Byron Leftwich (ribs) did not practice Thursday. Roethlisberger and WR Jerricho Cotchery (ribs) were limited, while WR Antonio Brown (ankle), Polamalu (calf) and Starks (back) practiced on a full-time basis.
For the Ravens, TE Ed Dickson (knee), LB Dannell Ellerbe (ankle, knee, finger), WR Jacoby Jones (ankle) did not practice for the second straight day.