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Tomlin's take as preseason to open

Posted Aug 9, 2013

Coach Mike Tomlin takes a look at his team as it prepares to face the New York Giants at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Heinz Field:

Q. What is your plan in terms of playing the regulars in this preseason opener?

A. Like always in our first preseason game, we anticipate using these guys for a couple of series, around 10-12 snaps for the first units, but we’re not above identifying some guys within those units to get an extended look. That’s usually the young starters, guys like Jason Worilds, Marcus Gilbert, Mike Adams – all could get an extended look beyond their group.

Q. The secondary, particularly at cornerback, has been banged up. How disruptive has that been?

A. It really hasn’t, not in terms of the work we have done. We haven’t had to scale things back in any form or fashion. What it has done has been to create more opportunities for the healthy ones, and thankfully they’re in good enough shape and condition to take advantage of the extra snaps they have been getting.

Q. Are you in search of someone to emerge as the No. 1 running back?

A. I am, and I truly believe this process of team development will reveal that person to us.

Q. Could Le’Veon Bell be that guy?

A. He’s showing characteristics of that guy to this point. Obviously, we haven’t stepped into a stadium, and that’s what makes what’s going to go on vs. the Giants so vitally important, not only to him but to all of the men who are trying to state a case for themselves.

Q. Your young offensive tackles – Marcus Gilbert at right tackle and Mike Adams at left tackle – is it going to stay that way?

A. It could end up going the other way. We switched it about a week ago now with positive results. We’ll step into the stadium against the Giants with Adams at left tackle and Gilbert at right tackle, and then we’ll base what happens afterward depending on what happens inside the stadium.

Q. Could this offensive line become the best of your tenure as the Steelers coach?

A. I think it has the makings of it, not only because of the pedigree but because of the youth and the upside of the men. I’ve always been one to believe that room for growth is vitally important and creates great optimism. We have a lot of guys who fall into that category.

Q. Is there a timetable yet involving Heath Miller’s return to the field?

A. No, there’s no timetable. When he’s healthy and deemed healthy by our medical experts then he’ll be given the green light to participate. What I can tell Steelers Nation is: he looks pretty good running from a few fields away as we practice. I can’t wait to get Heath back, and I’m sure he’s of the same mind-set.

Q. Heath Miller and D.J. Johnson are on the PUP list. Matt Spaeth is injured. Can you talk about the only other two guys on the depth chart there with NFL experience – David Paulson and Jamie McCoy?

A. They’re not new to us, nor are they new to this situation. We’re called on both guys in the past and they’ve delivered. We’ll expect that moving forward, but more important than that is they are young guys, developing guys, guys who have shown growth in this training camp process. They’re continually evolving, so I’m not going to have a ceiling in my mind in terms of what they’re capable of.

Q. Behind veterans Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, you have a stable of young wide receivers. What can you tell us about rookie Markus Wheaton? Does he remind you at all of Mike Wallace when he was a rookie?

A. I’ve been conscious not to compare him to Mike, because that’s not fair. You have to acknowledge that Mike put up some impressive numbers during his four years here, but Markus Wheaton has the ingredients to be a quality receiver. I’ve really been impressed with his above-the-neck game. For a guy who missed all of OTAs because of circumstance, he’s made very few mistakes in a training camp setting. That shows football intelligence to me, and that’s a great place to start. His physical talents are his physical talents: he’s got great top-end speed; he’s also quick-to-speed; and he’s showing some pretty good route savvy. So we’re optimistic about what he’s capable of being, but I’m going to stop short of comparisons to Mike Wallace, because quite frankly, that’s not fair to him.

Q. What role do you envision for Cameron Heyward this year?

A. I think he’s deciding that with his play. He’s of course capable of being a versatile backup by playing on both sides, but he has displayed that in the past. I know he’s a guy who wants to run out of that tunnel with the first-team defense, and we’re going to give him an opportunity to earn that position.

Q. Based on what you’ve been seeing, is Brian Moorman pushing Drew Butler for the punting job?

A. The competition has been intense. We have to watch it very closely, and it might even get down to a circumstance where we’re counting reps in in-stadium-like situations. But that’s what we came here to training camp for, that’s why we acquired Moorman because we knew he would be stiff competition. We have a great deal of trust in Butler as an emerging player. It’s going to be interesting to watch that battle unfold. I know the running back position battle has received a lot of attention, and rightfully so, but what’s going on at the punting position has been equally impressive to us here in camp.

Q. This is off the subject of the preseason opener, but as a member of the NFL Competition Committee, which of the new rules do you like?

A. I don’t go likes and dislikes. If it’s a new rule, I get about the mind-set of adhering to it. I like some of the points of emphasis in regards to sportsmanship. I think we have to continually clean the game up – the celebrations, the taunting, the things of that nature. We’re ratcheting up the officiating in regards to that, and I think we should. We need to continually present a competitive, clean game to our fans.

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