Steelers notebook: Receivers Moore, Bryant miss practice again
Wide receivers Lance Moore (groin) and Martavis Bryant (shoulder) missed practice again Thursday, decreasing their chances of playing Sunday. Justin Brown — cut last season — likely would replace Moore as the slot receiver. Darrius Heyward-Bey could get more snaps, as might starter Markus Wheaton.
“Maybe I can stay on the field a little more because of it,” Wheaton said.
Also out were CB Brice McCain (groin) and OL Cody Wallace (finger).
• James Harrison, the five-time Pro Bowl linebacker and former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, will officially announce his retirement Friday at the Steelers’ South Side offices. Harrison, 36, left the Steelers after being unable to renegotiate his contract last year and played in Cincinnati. He recently met with the Arizona Cardinals, but could not work out terms.
• Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is certain the Steelers will see Browns rookie QB Johnny Manziel on Sunday. “It’s not a magic wand he’s waving. He’s creating plays out there,” he said.
• Linebacker Sean Spence “got a little scare” when he bruised a PCL two weeks ago, but he’s now healthy and ready to make the NFL debut he has awaited since 2012. He missed two seasons with a major knee injury. “I’m very excited. … It’s a very big deal,” Spence said.
• Offensive coordinator Todd Haley is “excited about the (running backs) group and what they’re going to show” — even if they didn’t show much during the preseason. The Steelers’ 19.5 rushing attempts per game were the fewest in the league. “Le’Veon (Bell) at this time last year wasn’t ready. LeGarrette (Blount) has toted the ball for a high average (4.7 ypc) in this league. We’re excited for when Dri Archer gets his backfield snaps,” Haley said.
• Mike Mitchell, the safety who specialized in causing turnovers last season in Carolina, said veterans are more than ready for the season to start. He realizes the value of the preseason, but said, “These are the games that count, the games that matter.”
• Like Ben Roethlisberger, Archer played college football at a MAC school (Kent State) in Ohio. But unlike the Ohio-native quarterback, Archer is from Florida, so opposing the Browns in his first NFL game isn’t anything special to him. “There are a lot of Browns fans there (in Kent), but that’s about it,” he said.
• If there’s one gadget play the Steelers never run, it’s the fake punt. Since Bobby Joe Green’s 37-yarder in 1961, their longest run by a punter was Craig Colquitt’s 17-yarder in 1980, according to Pro Football Reference’s database. But might it be something to watch for? Brad Wing had a 52-yard fake punt touchdown run against Florida called back by his own taunting penalty as an LSU freshman in 2011. “We’ll see, we’ll see,” Wing said with a smile when asked Thursday whether he might take off on a fake at some point in the future. This is the second time in three years the Steelers are starting a season with an untested punter. Drew Butler punted in 2012 but was cut last year. For now, fake punts are way in the back of Wing’s mind. “I got through it (last weekend’s cuts), and I’m still here — and now it’s a matter of staying here,” said Wing, a former first-team All-American who averaged almost 45 yards in two LSU seasons. “And doing what’s required to make sure I stay here.”
• Rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier isn’t just an NFL player, he plays one on TV. He appeared in a cameo role on the FXX comedy “The League” on Wednesday, playing himself in a fantasy draft sequence. Teammate Stephon Tuitt and NFL players Taylor Lewan, Carlos Hyde and Mike Evans also were in a segment shot after minicamp ended in June. “It was fun having those guys out there,” Shazier said. “It was pretty cool … and pretty funny. I watched it, and it’s a pretty funny show.” Shazier wouldn’t mind doing similar work in the future.
— Alan Robinson