Steelers Throw Jones into the Fire

First-round pick Jarvis Jones received some first-team reps to start the OTA week. Brett Keisel talks about how Jones performed in today's practice report.

PITTSBURGH – It may have been BYU Day down on the South Side yesterday – with the BYU coaching staff in town to study the defense, Brett Keisel standing up and flexing his leadership, and newcomer Loni Fangupo finally getting noticed – but let Steelers OTA No. 4 be remembered as the day first-round draft pick Jarvis Jones took his first reps with the first team as the blind-side pass-rusher.

"I just told him run to the ball. That's our thing," said Keisel, who played next to Jones at defensive end.

"He looked good out there. They had a couple runs right at us and he held his ground."

Jones wasn't promoted, nor was Jason Worilds or Adrian Robinson demoted. But the coaching staff sprinkled Jones in with the first team throughout the practice, and then tested him.

Jones, of course, says playing OLB in the Steelers' 3-4 scheme isn't going to be nearly as easy as playing OLB in the University of Georgia's 3-4.

"It ain't, man," he said. "No, no, it ain't no cakewalk, ain't going to be no cakewalk. I understand that I played a 3-4 in college, but here it's more complex. It's a pro defense and I've got to adjust to it; I've got to learn it. I'm thankful for the coaches and the players here who are willing to help me."


Keisel put in a full day at the South Side. Before his morning workout he met with the defensive coaching staff of his alma mater, BYU, and then after lifting he riled the troops with his late-practice orders to "Finish strong!"

Keisel then stayed late after practice to work on technique with a couple of rookie defensive ends – Nick Williams and Brian Arnfelt – and then made his rounds with the media. That was all before team meetings. And if Steelers fans had their way, the 34-year-old Pro Bowler would've hit the front office later in the day to talk about a contract extension.

"Well, it is my last year on my contract," Keisel said. "I'm kind of looking at where it could potentially be my last year. I don't know. I'm going to go through the season and see what happens. If it is, I want to go out with another ring. That's my focus.

"I'm not really worried about if this is my last minicamp, or if this will be my last training camp. I'm just enjoying still being here and enjoying still being able to compete."

Keisel was asked why he seems to get better each year.

"My dad would say ‘genetics,'" he said with a laugh.


The other BYU alum with the Steelers, Fangupo, the 324-pound nose tackle who's fighting for scraps with Alameda Ta'amu behind Steve McLendon and Al Woods, made himself noticed Tuesday by running down scrambling quarterback Bruce Gradkowski at the sideline and past the line of scrimmage. Fangupo showed excellent speed for such a big man on the play.

"That's what these guys gotta do," Keisel said. "He's doing really well. He's come in in shape, he works hard, he's figuring out the playbook, which takes some time. But they've gotta do stuff like that. They've gotta do stuff to single themselves out on a daily basis, make the coaches go, ‘Who was that? Who did that?,' something to put themselves out there a little bit rather than standing in the back of the line, waiting for something to happen."

Is Ta'amu, who normally stands in the back of the line, listening?


Starting safeties Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu missed practice – probably the first of the remaining OTAs for Polamalu – and were replaced by Robert Golden and Damon Cromartie-Smith.

Coach Mike Tomlin was asked which replacement was the strong safety and which was the free safety.

"Honestly, there is no difference anymore," Tomlin said. "Box safeties have been extinct in this league for about 10 years now. With the way everyone's spread out in this league, both safeties have to play and cover like free safeties."


* QB Ben Roethlisberger on the growth of Todd Haley's offense: "This year, more of us know what's going on so we can coach each other up, and instead of having questions and going to coaches to get answers, we now can say we need to do this or need to do that. To me that is the biggest difference and improvement I see."

* WR Plaxico Burress on resuming his career with Roethlisberger: "The beautiful thing about him is that you can sit down and have a conversation about football and what he's seeing versus what I'm seeing. A lot of the quarterbacks in this league aren't able to do that. We can see the same thing full speed and we can come to the sideline and talk about it and make those adjustments. That's what makes him an elite quarterback."

* NT Steve McLendon on the kind of player he wants to be: "I want to be powerful and strong like Casey (Hampton). I want to be smart like Chris Hoke. I want to be quick and fast like Jay Ratliff for the Cowboys."

* WR Emmanuel Sanders on his evolving view of Haley: "He just wants to get it right. He's not too big on control. He just wants to be on the same page and wants to win. He's a winner. As a coach, he's laid-back. He just wants his guys to work hard, continue to dig in, and stay focused on the race."

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