PITTSBURGH – The Steelers won’t just have new starters at defensive end and left tackle Sunday when they face the Jets in New York.
Apparently, a starting cornerback spot is also up for grabs.
With Cameron Heyward settling in at defensive end in place of Ziggy Hood, William Gay has worked with the first-team defense this week as the Steelers (0-4) prepare to face the Jets (3-2). Pittsburgh also is inching closer to making a decision whether it will be Kelvin Beachum or Levi Brown at left tackle in place of Mike Adams.
According to defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, Gay, who made two starts this season when Cortez Allen was out with an ankle injury, could be back in the starting lineup with Allen playing only on obvious passing downs.
“They are all going to play,” said LeBeau. “Gay will play a lot.”
Allen suffered a sprained ankle in Week 1 and missed the next two games before returning for the a 34-27 loss against Minnesota in London. He missed a critical tackle against wide receiver Greg Jennings following a short catch, then missed him again, just before Jennings finished off a 70-yard catch-and-run.
“I don’t know that (the injury) totally affected him physically but maybe his timing a little bit,” LeBeau conceded. “We all have to go through those things when we are coming back. He had a long spell in there that he was out.”
Brown was acquired last week in a trade with Arizona and has been sharing time with Beachum working with the first-team offense. Adams started the first four games at left tackle.
A seven-year veteran with 79 regular-season starts, Brown was surprised when asked if he and Beachum rotating Sunday might be an option. The Steelers rotated Beachum with Adams and Gilbert at offensive tackle the past three games.
“Really? I did not know that,” Brown said. “I’ve never been in a situation like that before. I would expect that if I do start, there won’t be a rotation, but I guess that is an option. That hasn’t been expressed to me. I imagine they’ll make a decision one way or another.”
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would like to know sooner rather than later what the plan is at left tackle.
“I think it’s important for those guys up front,” Roethlisberger said. “I would like to know before Sunday morning, but you have to have faith in whoever is out there, whether it’s Kelvin Beachum, Levi, Mike Adams.”
If Brown starts, it will be the second time the Steelers have added a lineman and started him with only one week of practice under his belt. Center Fernando Velasco was signed in the aftermath of Maurkice Pouncey suffering a torn ACL in the regular-season opener and started the following Monday at Cincinnati.
“He told me he was in the same situation,” Brown said. “He’s got a couple of weeks under his belt now. It’s OK for him.
“He’s a center. It’s probably more difficult for him because he has to make a lot more calls. It’s still difficult, no matter what position you’re in.”
The Steelers have been impressed with Brown’s ability to learn the offense, but they’ve continued to get Beachum work at left tackle, just in case.
“He’s doing a good job,” offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. “There is some carryover for him, I think. Not a ton, but he’s a smart guy and is trying to get himself ready to go.”
Brown said the biggest issue is not learning the terminology and plays, but rather picking up on Roethlisberger’s cadence and what he would need to know if the Steelers use a no-huddle offense.
“Some of the things, obviously, are not going to be realistic to game time. The scout team tries to simulate that, but they’re not the Jets,” Brown said. “There’s quite a few plays and calls and adjustments similar to offenses that I’ve been a part of before. It’s really just getting the new terminology, learning plays that are totally new and going out and not having to think about it.
“The toughest things are two-minute situations, no-huddle calls. Yu have to know colors and numbers and things like that, what they mean and how to execute.”
Odds and end zones
The Steelers placed safety Damon Cromartie-Smith on waivers and signed veteran Will Allen, who was with the Steelers from 2010 through 2012 before signing as a free agent with Dallas. The Cowboys released him this week. ... Tight end Heath Miller was given the day off from practice. ... Guard Ramon Foster (chest) was a full participant.