Steelers notebook: Feeney has history with Western Pa.
Travis Feeney knew about Joey Porter’s demeanor, knew about his Super Bowl playing history and about how “stacked” the Steelers defenses that Porter helped lead were.
What the Steelers’ sixth-round pick didn’t know about his new position coach is that he grew up less than an hour from where Porter did in Southern California.
University of Washington alum Feeney, whom the Steelers drafted as an outside linebacker, also did not know exactly where in Pennsylvania his father grew up.
So he asked him — while at a party in his Richmond, Calif., home and on a conference call with Pittsburgh reporters for the first time.
“Brownsville, Pa.,” Feeney said.
“We went there when I was about 13 years old. My dad showed me where he used to live.”
Feeney still has family in Pennsylvania, which is part of what made him so excited to be drafted by the Steelers. Another reason was he’d resigned himself to being an undrafted free agent. Feeney thought someone was “messing with” him when coach Mike Tomlin called to tell him he was picked.
After receiving word, how did he feel?
“Freakin’ awesome,” Feeney said.
No left tackle depth chart yet
Offensive line coach Mike Munchak said the depth chart at left tackle has “not even been discussed yet.”
Incumbent starter Kelvin Beachum left via free agency, leaving Alejandro Villanueva, who started the final 10 games last season after Beachum suffered a torn ACL, and newly-signed Ryan Harris.
“Obviously, Villanueva is the one that’s most familiar with the position coming in,” Munchak said. “That won’t mean a whole lot. Harris is new to the offense. He just got a Super Bowl ring (with Denver), so he brings a lot of experience to the room also. We have a lot of good problems to have.”
Veteran Mike Adams also returns to the tackle depth chart after spending all of 2015 on the physically unable to perform list because of back surgery.
“He’s working with the players; we’ll see how he develops,” Munchak said. “Any time with injuries, there’s always uncertainty, but we missed him last year. Hopefully, he will be contributing this year.”
Brown to stay on punt returns?
Special teams coach Danny Smith had seventh-round pick Demarcus Ayers rated as the top punt returner in the draft. But he cautioned, “We’re not ready to give this kid the position by no means.”
Smith emphasized, “You want to put the best player there.”
Of course, the best player there for the Steelers has been one of the NFL’s best receivers, Antonio Brown. But with Brown entering his seventh season and coming off a concussion, putting an All-Pro at risk returning punts is less than ideal.
To prove how difficult it is to remove Brown from the duties, Smith relayed the reactions of himself and Brown after the Steelers acquired veteran Jacoby Jones last October.
“We went with the Jacoby Jones Experiment,” Smith said, “and at that particular time we made the decision to make the change. After the meeting, Antonio Brown came into my office very distinctly and said, ‘Danny, I don’t like it.’
“My honest comment was, ‘AB, I don’t like it either, but that’s what we’re going to do.’”
Jones lasted four weeks on the job before being benched following multiple fumbles and no big-yardage returns.
“I’d love to have Antonio Brown back there,” Smith said. “What we do with it, we will see as the season progresses.”
Not quite a Steeler yet
The affable Smith, in the context of discussing punt returners, was asked about receiver Eli Rogers, who spent last season on injured reserve after being signed as an undrafted free agent.
“Eli Rogers is in the mix,” Smith said. “Eli Rogers is in the building. Eli Rogers has a pair of Steelers shorts, so he thinks he is a Steeler, but I have yet to see him in a game.
“He’s a suspect at this time. We’ll see.”
General manager Kevin Colbert has spoken highly of Rogers, who was impressive during training camp.
10 free agents sign
Three defensive lineman and two tight ends were among the 10 undrafted free agents the Steelers signed not long after the completion of the seventh round. The defensive linemen are Giorgio Newberry of Florida State, Devaunte Sigler of Jacksonville State and Johny Maxey of Division II Mars Hill University.
David Reeves (Duke) and Jay Rome (Georgia) are tight ends. Running back Christian Powell (Colorado), linebacker Tyriq McCord (Miami, Fla.), receiver Canaan Severin (Virginia) and punter Will Monday (Duke) also were signed.
The Steelers did not sign a quarterback. Colbert said there would be quarterbacks at next weekend’s rookie minicamp on a tryout basis — either rookies or veterans.