Notebook: First Cuts, Bryant's Appeal, More

It was a busy day at the Steelers' South Side training facility as the long preseason draws to a close.

PITTSBURGH -- The tipoff that Ian Wild had been cut occurred in the locker room early Monday as he put his street clothes into a garbage bag.

The announcement came later in the day that he had been cut along with nine other players.

The Steelers started the whittling by making procedural moves with six other players:

* OT Mike Adams was placed on Reserve/PUP and won't be able to practice until six weeks have passed. After Adams begins practicing, the Steelers have three weeks to either activate him or place him on Injured Reserve.

* CB Senquez Golson and PK Garrett Hartley were placed on IR and are out for the season.

* TE Cameron Clear, DE Niko Davis and TE Ray Hamilton were waived/injured and can be placed on IR if they clear waivers.

Cut along with Wild, the S/ILB from Baldwin High, were Fox Chapel's OL Miles Dieffenbach, WR/RS Kenzel Doe, WR C.J. Goodwin, RB Braylon Heard, DE Joe Kruger, DE Joe Okafor, OL Collin Rahrig, CB Jordan Sullen and OT Kevin Whimpey.

All of those players are eligible for the Steelers' practice squad following Saturday's final cutdown.


The league denied Martavis Bryant his appeal of the four-game suspension that was announced (by the media) late last week. The Steelers sent out a statement to express their disappointment in and support of Bryant.

Expected to replace Bryant as the third wide receiver in the opening game will be veteran Darrius Heyward-Bey, the deep threat with four catches for 35 yards this preseason.

Rookie Sammie Coates, the team's third-round pick, is tied for the Steelers' lead with eight receptions and is second with 124 yards, but he's been inconsistent catching the ball and will be eased into the rotation.

Perhaps the biggest beneficiary -- particularly with Goodwin being cut Monday -- could be Tyler Murphy, the quarterback from Boston College who signed with the Steelers as a wide receiver following the draft.

"It's completely new for me," said Murphy. "I'm just trying to take it all in and trying to learn and develop each and every day and just really focus on doing the little things right, pay attention to details."

Instead of jumping right into the position with both feet, the Steelers often used Murphy at quarterback in the spring and throughout the first two weeks of training camp. When he began making catches in practice, Mike Tomlin remarked to reporters how impressed he was with Murphy.

This preseason, Murphy has seven catches for 82 yards, including a 22-yard fourth-quarter touchdown reception that pulled the Steelers to within one point of the Green Bay Packers.

Murphy said he understands the plays and the places he's supposed to be and the blitz "hots" that are so important to quarterbacks.

"It's an opportunity for somebody," Murphy said. "They have to fill that void. That's going to be very difficult to do because Martavis is such a great player. But I'm really not thinking that far ahead. I'm just taking it day by day."

What were his thoughts on Monday?

"Just recovering," he said. "We had a team run. We're going to watch the film, find what I did right and wrong, correct what I did wrong and continue to build upon what I did right and just get ready for tomorrow."

The Steelers practice Tuesday in preparation for Thursday's preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers.


Linebacker L.J. Fort made it past the first wave of cuts, and he could go all the way considering his special-teams performance Saturday in Buffalo.

Fort covered punts and kickoffs from inside positions Saturday and was the first player down the field on three occasions. Two other times he made tackles, although Fort was only credited with one in the game book.

An inside linebacker, Fort said that special-teams coverage has become his strength since not having played special teams at Northern Iowa. He signed with the Cleveland Browns after the 2012 draft and started at linebacker in the opener. He intercepted Michael Vick in that game, and then settled into his niche as a special-teams ace.

"I just played special teams, all four phases, that whole year," said the 6-0, 230-pounder. "It was kind of the thought coming in here, that I was going to be vying for a special-teams spot."

Fort spent time with Denver and Seattle before New England had him in camp for two weeks in August. The Steelers claimed him off waivers two weeks ago. He was asked what happened in New England.

"No clue," he said. "I got there, there were like 11 or 12 linebackers already."

The linebacker competition with the Steelers might be just as fierce.

"I'm not worried about that at all," Fort said. "I just want to go out there and fly around on special teams and see where the chips fall."


Ethan Hemer came from the bottom of the depth chart as an undrafted rookie last year to make the Steelers' practice squad. Now he's the right defensive end on the second-team defense and made a play early in the second quarter that should've given the Steelers the lead in Buffalo. Hemer deflected a pass at the line of scrimmage that popped up as cornerback Brandon Boykin dashed into the flat for the catch. But Boykin dropped the ball and what would've been a touchdown.

"I suppose so, yeah," Hemer said with a chuckle. "That's one of those things where you do what you ask of the defense, you put yourself in a good position and the play comes to you. I was fortunate to be in position to make that play."

Hemer, whose versatility on an ever-changing defensive front might help him make the final roster, was asked if a touchdown might've helped even more.

He just smiled and shook his head.

"I would've been happy for Boykin if he would've been able to catch that," Hemer said. "I came over to him. I picked him up, said 'Let's go. More to play. We've got to get back into it.' That's been the defensive philosophy: get ready for the next play, get ready for the next snap, because there is a lot of football to play. One play doesn't define an individual. You don't let one play define your game or who you are as an individual. You just have to keep working and grinding."


Will Johnson has been told to brush up on his protections as a running back, and he knows what that means.

"This is usually the game where I do running back stuff," Johnson said of the preseason finale. "Usually I get a carry. Just about every year I get a carry in this game."

In his fourth season out of WVU, Johnson has been the fullback who works at tailback just in case of an emergency. This year, with Le'Veon Bell out the first two games, the Steelers have only DeAngelo Williams and possibly Josh Harris.

But Johnson has worked strictly with the tight ends this season. He has yet to line up as a strict fullback this preseason.

"From tight end I just motion back," Johnson said. "I can do that and lead block without a problem."

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