The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

August 25, 2013

STEELERS NOTEBOOK| LaRod optimistic, but frustrated by injury

Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — LaRod Stephens-Howling hopes he’s shown enough in training camp to make the Pittsburgh Steelers squad, but the Greater Johns-town graduate definitely would like to get back on the field.

Stephens-Howling sat out the Steelers’ 26-20, overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday night at Heinz Field. It was the second consecutive game that he was sidelined by a knee injury that he said is improving.

“It’s definitely tough,” Stephens-Howling said. “You want to put as much good film out there as you can, and I feel like I haven’t been getting a lot of film lately because I’ve been sitting out. I can’t wait to get back.”

Stephens-Howling, who spent his first four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, feels like he has a good chance of making the Steelers’ 53-man roster in his firsrt  season with his hometown team.

“I feel I do, but I need to put some more film out there,” he said.

Stephens-Howling is likely to be a third-down back for the team, which drafted Le’Veon Bell to supplement a position that lost Rashard Mendenhall in the offseason. But Bell and Isaac Redman also sat out Saturday night’s game, giving Felix Jones, who was acquired from Philadelphia last week, a chance to play. He carried eight times for 29 yards against the Chiefs.

“It’s been rough,” Stephens-Howling said. “We’ve had some guys dropping down, but that’s part of your position. You’ve got to pick up where the next guy left off. We’re trying to stay strong.”

Stephens-Howling is hoping to play in the Steelers’ final preseason game on Thursday night at Carolina.

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First things first: The Steelers’ first-team offense ended its touchdown woes – sort of. Ben Roethlisberger’s 13-yard scoring pass to Jonathan Dwyer marked the top unit’s first touchdown of the preseason. Of course, enthusiasm over it was tempered a bit by the fact that the Steelers only needed to drive 21 yards for the score, thanks to a turnover on downs by the Chiefs.

Roethlisberger was 13 of 19 for 166 yards to go along with the touchdown and had a quarterback rating of 113 before being replaced by Bruce Gradkowski to start the second half.

“We did some nice things,” Tomlin said of the first half. “We’re a juggling catch away from it being a very productive half offensively. I’d like to see us win the line of scrimmage more definitively. Not enough in terms of the running game to talk about at the half, but a decent start.

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Not so special: Pittsburgh’s special teams continued to struggle. Shaun Suisham had a 52-yard field goal attempt blocked and Kansas City’s Knile Davis returned a kickoff 109 yards for a touchdown. New special teams coach Danny Smith has seen his unit give up a blocked punt in the preseason opener against the New York Giants and have limited success in the return game.

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Back-ing up: Rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones got more playing time with the first-team defense on Saturday night. Fourth-year man Jason Worilds, who is looking to take over the right outside linebacker spot left open by the departure of James Harrison, got the start, but quickly gave way to Jones.

The first-round pick has looked solid this season and played on the right side for a few possessions before getting some time on the left side by spelling starter LaMarr Woodley there.

Jones had a fourth-quarter interception wiped out by a pass interference penalty on Josh Victorian.

Jones was injured on the play but left the field under his own power. The Steelers reported that he had a chest injury and was questionable to return. He did not play in the closing minutes or overtime.

“Jarvis Jones is being evaluated with an upper body injury as we speak,” Tomlin said in his postgame press conference.

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Just for kicks: The Steelers punting battle could go to the final week of the preseason. Brian Moorman handled the punting duties in the first half, with two attempts for a 36-yard average. One of those was downed inside the 20. Drew Butler had three punts in the second half with a 49-yard average – including one that went for 53 and two inside the 20.