Notebook: Gardocki in roster fight

LATROBE – The Steelers hope Saturday's preseason opener at Arizona settles a few questions about some of their open positions. They're still looking at free safeties, wide receivers and punters. ... Punters?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to replace 16th-year veteran Chris Gardocki with Mike Barr. The competition's considered even at this point.

"It's been like that for 16 years," said Gardocki. "That's part of it."

Gardocki and the Steelers ranked 29th in the NFL with a net punting average of 34.7. Gardocki was 23rd with a gross punting average of 41.8. He did rank 11th in the league with 33 percent of his kicks downed inside the 20. And he was third in the postseason with a net punting average of 37.2. In the Super Bowl, Gardocki's gross average was 48.7 with a long of 60 yards.

"You're never satisfied. That's when you sort of get complacent," Gardocki said. "But yeah the playoffs went good and we won. That's the important thing. But I did finish off strong."

Gardocki is 36 and Barr is 26. An avid weightlifter, Barr is 6 feet 2, 230 pounds. He's in his third camp with the Steelers after being cut twice.

In 2003 he came out of Rutgers and participated in training camps with the Washington Redskins and New York Jets, but his only professional experience came in NFL Europe the last two seasons. With Frankfurt, Barr's averages last season were 37.8 gross and 34.4 net.


In coming to the defense of struggling rookie Omar Jacobs, fellow quarterback Shane Boyd told reporters, "He's gone from Bowling Green to the Pittsburgh Steelers and facing probably the best defense in the NFL. That adds to it, so I wouldn't use the word struggling against our team."

Boyd faces the first team on occasion and he's impressed by the way they disguise their defenses. "They just work real good together with their blitzes and their looks. They're always in sequence – like a song."

What kind of song?

"Sometimes they'll play a slow song when they're not blitzing, and then they get into some hard rock when they bring the house. They'll switch it up. They're kind of like the XM radio – they've got all types of channels."


Boyd and Jacobs will receive plenty of playing time Saturday against the Arizona Cardinals. Jacobs has admittedly struggled verbalizing and remembering the play call. Boyd was the sixth-ranked quarterback in six-team NFL Europe with a passer rating of 57. He's a veteran of one NFL camp, giving him an advantage now over Jacobs.

"The first thing I want from them is to manage the game," said quarterbacks coach Mark Whipple. "Manage the offense, take control in the huddle, and manage things at the line of scrimmage. Then you want to see them make plays, and most importantly show ball security – take care of the football. [Tuesday] was a good day for both of those guys. They're not going to be perfect, but the effort was good and the big thing is improvement. They've been getting better every day. We've been throwing a lot of things at them like we always do, so we'll see what they can retain and study of the game plan the next couple days and see what they can do."

Can the Steelers afford to carry a project as their third quarterback?

"I don't know," Whipple said. "Some years you can and some years you can't."


Hines Ward tested his hamstring but did not practice. Joey Porter (knee) is expected back today. Mike Kudla was released while sitting out with a hamstring injury.


"Anthony Smith has looked very well," Cowher said of the free safety the Steelers drafted in the third round. "Right now that's as competitive position as we have on the team, that and receiver. But he has done very, very well and I think he's getting more comfortable every day."

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