— The Steelers coaching staff felt last year that no off-season due to the lockout really hindered 2010 2nd round pick Jason Worilds who didn’t make that big jump from year 1 to year 2 like the Steelers hope high draft picks do.
This year it’s been another lost off-season for Worild’s who has been sidelined for months due to wrist surgery. Worilds has started camp on the PUP list and is still believed to be at least a good two to three weeks away from being fully cleared.
As good as Chris Carter has looked in camp, there’s no signs right now that he could actually step in for a James Harrison or LaMarr Woodley if the Steelers are hit hard again with injuries at the outside linebacker position. Worilds is a player who needs to take that next step, especially as concerns mount regarding James Harrison. Speaking of Harrison, linebackers coach Keith Butler told David Todd of 970 AM today that he doesn’t expect Harrison back for a couple weeks. “I’m hoping a couple weeks, but I don’t know, ” Butler said. With Worilds and Harrison injured, Stevenson Sylvester is getting some looks at ROLB.
— Despite uncertainty about what the Steelers can get out of Casey Hampton this season who is working his way back from ACL surgery, many inside the organization feel the defensive line will be much improved from last season. Two reasons why is Steve McLendon and 2011 1st round pick Cam Heyward. McLendon has been dominant in camp, is stronger and appears primed to make an impact on the D-line. Meanwhile, Heyward is a player that the coaching staff feels is primed to make that big leap from year 1 to year 2. It won’t happen right away but it won’t be a surprise if Heyward takes Ziggy Hoods starting job at LDE by mid-season. The coaching staff feels Heyward could have a big impact on this defense.
— Todd Haley has done a real good job thus far of patience as the Steelers transition into his offense. While there was all that fuss for nothing months ago about Ben and Haley not meeting for weeks, Haley is doing his part by giving Roethlisberger some free rein with the offense that he also had under Arians, like calling plays on the go.
“Ideally you want the quarterback doing that, and he’s shown a propensity to do that at a high level, ” Haley said. “This is new to him and we’re still working together on it. But, ideally, if you have a quarterback like Ben and like he’s done, when he’s in full control of it, that’s a good situation to be in, because he’s right in the middle of it and sees what’s going on.”
Haley see’s Roethlisberger’s ability to run the no-huddle as a strength that the Steelers need to use more often. Last season it should be noted, a factor the Steelers didn’t use it much under Bruce Arians was because of the constant mix and matching on the O-line. “I could tell through the spring, he’s got his arms around it,” Haley said of Roethlisberger running the no huddle. “He likes it, and you can see his eyes light up when we get into that mode. That’s a sign of a great quarterback, at least the ones I’ve been around.”
— Two notable aspects of the offense to surface so far is a quicker passing game, getting the running backs out in space (which could make Chris Rainey a factor), therefore not relying on the backs to block as much and make them constant options in the passing game. That’s not a surprise based on Todd Haley’s offenses in the past as Chiefs running backs Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster combined for 66 catches in 2010 when Haley had an adequate offense to run. What I hear from those close to the situation that the type of passing game against New England the Steelers used last season that featured Roethlisberger peppering the Patriots with lots of short and intermediate throws, is the type of efficient passing game Haley is looking to evolve here.
— Speaking of Roethlisberger, he told Ed Bouchette of the Post-Gazette that he has a partially torn rotor cuff but that it’s not a big deal. Roethlisberger has been a regular participant in practice and throwing the ball fine.
— The Steelers feel it might be another four to six weeks before they get a good idea on a likely timetable for running back Rashard Mendenhall as speculation right now centers on a return in October or November. Mendenhall says he remains on schedule but won’t hint at a timetable. “I feel right on schedule, ” Mendenhall said today. Any idea what that schedule is, reporter Chris Adamski asked…. “No, none at all, ” Mendenhall said.
— The word on WR Derrick Williams is that the biggest key to him making the team will be whether he can make an impact in the return game. He’s been getting punt return reps.