Continuing to grow


It's starting to come together heading into the latter stages of the preseason, for the newer Steelers, for those who would be Steelers and for the Steelers' defense.

"Definitely took some steps," strong safety Shamarko Thomas assessed regarding the Steelers' most recent preseason effort, a 24-19 victory over Green Bay. "The defense as a whole, I feel like, was communicating more, we were on the same page."

The Steelers will be looking for more of the same on Saturday afternoon in Buffalo.

Their fourth of five preseason games offers up another opportunity to demonstrate progress.

"Coach always tells us, 'Put a hard hat on and keep working,'" Thomas continued. "We have a lot of work to do. That's our mentality, keep grinding and working hard."

That mentality paid dividends against the Packers, particularly when rushing the passer.

"Coach Tomlin and our defensive staff put out a challenge for us and wanted to see a pass rush," outside linebacker Jarvis Jones said. "We started off kind of slow but (outside linebacker) James (Harrison) went in and he really amped people up on the sack-safety. Guys just started getting after the ball.

"That's what we have to continue to do, get after the quarterback."

Jones accounted for one of the Steelers' six sacks against the Packers.

So did rookie outside linebacker Bud Dupree.

"I didn't try to think a lot," Dupree explained. "I tried not to worry about what was going on around me too much and just focus on my keys.

"I feel like things are starting to come together a little bit just being patient. I know eventually I'm going to keep getting better and better each week. It's always hard to be patient when you want to be such a big play-maker. Things don't come as fast as you really want them to but you just have to keep working and your time will come."

Work on the practice field likewise paid off for wide receiver Markus Wheaton, who caught his first touchdown pass of the preseason after having hauled in a reception for a two-point conversion on Aug. 14 at Jacksonville.

"We've been doing a lot of red zone work, a ton of red zone work, and that's one of the plays we've been hitting a lot," Wheaton said. "We got the look that we wanted and it was wide open."

Similar results at Buffalo will help continue to build trust between Wheaton and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

"I think it's something that will continue to grow," Wheaton said. "It's something that I try to build every day working with Ben because obviously I need him to trust me. Whether it's third down or first down or third-and-long building that trust is huge for me so I'm going to continue to do that."

Kicker Garrett Hartley is also starting to earn some trust during a preseason that has seen him go 3-for-3 on field goal attempts during his first two games with the Steelers.  

"It helps on game day, putting them through," Hartley said. "But as long as we're getting our work, knowing our ultimate goal and worrying about the process, let the results take care of themselves."

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