The preseason is winding down and the regular season is so close you can taste it. Tastes like various meats and cheeses washed down with a cold beer, doesn’t it? Yeah it does. While the Steelers prepare to put their final preseason game together in Carolina on Thursday, here’s what’s being said around the block.
Tomlin Press Conference
Tomlin gave his usual Tuesday press conference previewing the Steelers game against the Carolina Panthers. Tomlin listed Jarvis Jones, Le’Veon Bell, Heath Miller, and Isaac Redman as the only players who are definitely out Thursday night. Tomlin said that he hopes to get an extended look at Landry Jones during the game and also noted that LaRod Stephens-Howling will return to the lineup and see action against the Panthers. Obviously, the Steelers are looking to improve on their Special Teams performances so far in the preseason. The Special Teams has played, well…special, but not in a good way. With a blocked punt, field goal, and a 109-yard touchdown return allowed as some of the greatest hits of the Steelers Special Teams so far, there’s only one way to go from here and that’s up. Tomlin also noted how he liked what he saw from putting in all-purpose player Kelvin Beachum in the blocking tight end spot. Clearly he read Dom’s post from last week on the very same subject. You can listen to Tomlin’s full presser here.
Heath Miller close to returning
We’ve heard so many teases about Heath Miller’s progress so far this preseason, haven’t we? Tuesday afternoon during Tomlin’s presser, he brought up Miller as an inactive player for the game but in a manner that suggests he might return to the active roster soon, as Ray Fittipaldo of the PPG reports. Tomlin’s comments on Heath Miller’s progress were encouraging.
“He’s doing great. He really is. We’ll look more hard-core at him when we get back from Carolina, obviously, but the fact that I mentioned his name would give an indication that things are progressing and progressing nicely.”
Miller himself isn’t offering any indication on how soon he might get back into some action but all signs are pointing to him being removed from the PUP list before the start of the regular season. I think that it’s important to remember that the Steelers tried a similar plan last year with Rashard Mendenhall, taking him off of the PUP before the start of the season, but not putting him into the games until further down the road. Miller wouldn’t be able to practice with the team or do anything outside of rehab-like training while still on the PUP. Once he’s removed he can do more in practice to really test where his knee is at. That’s what taking him off of the PUP really would be about, not necessarily putting him out on the field right away, but getting him some more action in practice. I wouldn’t expect to see Miller return to the field till after the Steelers return from their bye. That’s my prediction.
Ryan Clark is upset with the NFL
Alan Robinson of the Trib reports how Steelers outspoken safety Ryan Clark is “disgusted” with the NFL now that they have come out saying they are going to explore whether to legislate low hits on players. The NFL has already increased just about everything they can to penalize, in an attempt to prevent, hits to players’ heads. Now with the highly debated hits so far in the preseason to players like Miami’s TE Dustin Keller and Minnesota’s DT Kevin Williams, the NFL might be looking at hits to the legs as well. This doesn’t sit too well with Clark.
“I’m so disgusted with the NFL right now about those situations. If an offensive player makes enough stink about something, they’ll change it. If you start penalizing guys or fining guys a lot for hits up top, guys go to the other extreme. Guys know there is no way possible I’m going to get fined if I go low. And I said it; it’s going to be one or other. Guys are maybe going to hit up high and maybe risk a concussion or hurting a shoulder. And if you get hit low, the season is going to be over (with a knee injury).”
Obviously, if you start fining and flagging players for going low or going high you’re putting defensive players at an awfully big disadvantage. Soon, you’ll hear about players getting fined for hitting the other players in the gut too much so the middle will be ruled out as well. At that point, Clark suggests that the players just wear flags and we end it all. That will be a sad, sad day.