Trying Their Best To Praise Titans QB

Some Steelers were truthful about quarterback Jake Locker's youthful struggles. Others just praised him for his running skills.

PITTSBURGH -- Jake Locker was telling reporters in Tennessee how well he thought the Steelers' defense communicates.

At about the same time, some of those players were communicating to the media what they thought about Locker, the Titans' quarterback.

The results were mixed.

"I don't think much of him," said free safety Ryan Clark. "And I don't say that in a mean way. Locker still worries you. He has injuries. They say he's not healthy. They're switching coordinators.

"I feel like he's athletic. I feel like he's talented. But that hasn't shown up on the fields. I'm just hoping it stays like that one more week."

Cornerback Ike Taylor didn't want to give anything more than the equivalent of Locker's name, rank and serial number.

"Strong arm, very mobile, the future for the Tennessee Titans," said Taylor.

Locker was a 55 percent passer in college, a 52 percent passer as a rookie, and a 56 percent passer as a first-year starter last season. Former Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart, knocked for his accuracy, was a 56 percent career NFL passer.

Does Locker have issues with accuracy?

"The balls I've been seeing that he's thrown have been very accurate," Taylor said. "I don't see no inaccuracy with Locker."

No controversial quotes either?

"Not at all," Taylor said with a grin. "Going into the game I'm not taking him for granted."

Locker, the No. 8 pick of the 2011 draft, has never played against the Steelers. Last year Matt Hasselbeck stepped in for the injured Locker and led the Titans to a 26-23 win. In 2011, Locker was the only Titan to sit on the bench throughout a 38-17 Steelers win.

But a handful of Steelers played against Locker during his four-year run as the University of Washington quarterback.

"I almost picked him off," said former Syracuse safety Shamarko Thomas. "Almost. I dropped it. I had it and then the corner came and tried to get it out of my hand. I was mad. I was mad at my cornerback."

Washington won that 2010 game, 41-20. Another Steelers safety, Robert Golden, played for an Arizona team that beat Washington two out of three times.

"Yep, I picked him off," Golden said with a laugh. "I gotta throw that in there. He's a good quarterback though, a good, mobile quarterback. He pretty much is going to scramble and if he doesn't find anybody open he's dangerous on his feet. I know the guys know that and we're definitely practicing for that."

In 2007, when Locker was a freshman, Ohio State freshman Cameron Heyward "got a few hits on him," Heyward said. "He didn't have a very good game, but not a lot of people did that year."

Ohio State went on to the National Championship game that season. The 33-14 win at Washington helped the Buckeyes get there.

"That offense revolved around him," Heyward said. "Now he's got a back like Chris Johnson, a good offensive line, some really shifty and big playmakers at wide receiver. The sky's the limit for their offense."

But, the big question mark is Locker, who's seemingly the only unproven performer on the Titans' offense.

"Yeah, to this point," Heyward said. "It takes a great deal to learn, but I think he's done a great job so far. You look at the end of last season, they really got it clicking a little bit between him and Chris Johnson. We definitely have to read our keys. They're going to involve that zone option, get him out on the roll with the misdirection throws. We really have to be on our Ps and Qs."

While Locker did improve his career completion percentage to 55.5 last season, his career passer rating dipped to 78.4 as he quarterbacked the Titans to 4 wins and 7 losses. Those four wins came against teams with a composite won-loss percentage of .297.

Locker's never won an NFL game against a team with a winning record, but Locker appears to have improved. He completed 67 percent of his passes this preseason, with a passer rating of 93.8. Yet, the Titans were still 1-3.

"I don't see that much difference," Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said of Locker's preseason compared to last season. "I looked at every game he played in last year. And he played a lot in the preseason for a starting quarterback. They were getting him off of that first year. He missed some games his first year so I would say he played at least 8 quarters in the preseason, at least half the preseason he was in there. He's a special athlete and they're going to use him the way they use him."

NOTES -- Tight end Heath Miller (knee) again took part in individual drills. ... Fullback Will Johnson (hamstring) could only participate in individual drills Thursday. He had hoped to scrimmage but now said there's "a good possibility" he'll miss Sunday's game. ... RB Le'Veon Bell (foot) sat out Thursday's practice in street clothes.


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