|Steelers have depth, and youth, at linebacker|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 16 August 2008 13:58|
After three Pro Bowl appearances, Joey Porter was cut two years ago, and starter Clark Haggans left as a free agent after last season.
Pittsburgh spent its top two picks in last year's draft on linebackers - Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley were Mike Tomlin's first selections as coach - and then drafted two more linebackers this year in third-rounder Bruce Davis and sixth-rounder Mike Humpal.
That has created a logjam at the position with veterans Larry Foote, James Farrior and James Harrison returning as starters.
``I think that's awesome,'' Tomlin said. ``We've got a good group of guys working there. We've got some tough decisions to make at that position, not only in terms of who makes the team but in how we sort it out. Those are good problems to have.''
For a franchise that boasted Hall of Famers Jack Lambert and Jack Ham in the 1970s and prides itself on defense, linebacker remained the glamour position.
Eleven different Pittsburgh linebackers have made the Pro Bowl since Bill Cowher took over as coach in 1992, making 20 different trips to the game in those 16 seasons.
``We know we have to uphold the tradition around here of all these great linebackers that have come through here,'' Farrior said. ``We've got to hold up our end of the bargain.''
This season Woodley and Timmons are featured. Woodley is taking over at left outside linebacker for Haggans, and Timmons is pushing Foote at right inside linebacker.
``I think, athletically, they have a chance to be good Steeler linebackers,'' defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. ``We like what we have seen from those young men.''
Notes:Wide receiver Hines Ward did not practice Saturday. He twisted his ankle in Thursday's preseason game against Buffalo, but Tomlin said he should practice Sunday. ... Safety Troy Polamalu is close to finally being able to come off the physically unable to perform list and could practice by Tuesday. ... Starting wide receiver Santonio Holmes will also see more action in the team's preseason game at Minnesota on Saturday. He'll get a chance to return punts. ... The Steelers signed tight end Lee Vickers to replace Jonathan Dekker, who will miss the season after tearing his right ACL against Buffalo. Vickers takes the roster spot of Kevin Huntley, who was claimed off waivers by the Washington Redskins after failing his physical with the Steelers. Dekker, who will have surgery next week, was on the Steelers practice squad the past two seasons and played the final five games of last season. He was placed on the waived/injured list.