LATROBE — Ryan Clark said he has “begged” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin “all offseason” to play in the opener in Denver, but Clark says the coach won’t listen.
“Heck, he wouldn’t let me play in a playoff game there,” Clark said. “He won’t let me play this one, either.”
Clark, of course, has health issues that are severely aggravated when playing in high elevation. He’ll give way once again to Ryan Mundy, who replaced Clark at free safety in the playoff game last year and was one of the stung and stunned defenders walking off the field after Tim Tebow’s 80-yard touchdown pass in overtime.
Mundy, nor anyone else, was back to help cornerback Ike Taylor wrestle Demaryius Thomas to the ground as the Broncos’ wide receiver took a slant over the middle for the score.
“I was in position for the called defense,” said Mundy. “I was supposed to be at the line of scrimmage for run support and that’s where I was. But they had a good call for the defense that we had. We had run that defense numerous times throughout the game. They had run like 23 out of 26 times on first down, so they had a good call on.”
The Steelers called an inverted cover-2 and cornerbacks Taylor and William Gay were supposed to back off the line prior to the snap and an inside linebacker was supposed to drop a few steps into the passing lane. None of the three players did as expected, but many still point the finger at the free safety.
“Do I get frustrated sometimes? Maybe a little bit but I don’t let it bother me,” Mundy said. “I know I have the confidence of my teammates and my coaches. Like I said, I’m excited about what the future holds.”
What the future holds this time is Peyton Manning at quarterback for the Broncos and not Tebow.
“It’s going to be a big challenge for our defense,” Mundy said. “We have high goals as a secondary. It’s going to be a good start for us.”
LINEBACKERS SHUFFLED: Tomlin has promised to shuffle the lineup at times this camp, and Tuesday afternoon it was the linebackers’ turn. Lawrence Timmons and Larry Foote switched spots inside with Timmons setting the defense as the buck and roaming from sideline to the backfield to make tackles on Jonathan Dwyer and John Clay respectively during team scrimmages.
The outside backers at the end of the day were Stevenson Sylvester and Chris Carter. The former replaced LaMarr Woodley in the third and final team scrimmage.
Not that Woodley was hurt. He was again unblockable when pitted against tight end David Johnson during the competition segment. Woodley threw Johnson to the ground on all three reps.
NEWCOMER ALERT: The Steelers added wide receiver Paul Cox out of Jerry Rice’s old school Mississippi Valley State. In four collegiate seasons, Cox caught 92 passes for 1,701 yards (18.5 avg.) and 13 touchdowns. His senior numbers were 38-641-3. He was signed after the draft by the San Diego Chargers but released last week.
Cox is listed at 6-5, 205, but one scout measured Cox at a fraction under 6-4. The Steelers cut OT Bridger Buche to make room for Cox, who was issued No. 81.
INJURIES: MILLER RETURNS: Heath Miller returned to practice after missing a couple of days with a sore ankle. He only participated in individual drills, but easily shot to the top of the performance list at a position the team considers thin.
Leonard Pope and Weslye Saunders worked with the first team in scrimmages.
Punter Jeremy Kapinos remains out with back spasms, while rookie cornerback Terry Carter missed with a hamstring strain.
Right tackle Marcus Gilbert banged up some fingers late in practice and was replaced by right guard Ramon Foster, who was also working as the second-team right tackle Tuesday.
Tomlin said the team will activate safety Damon Cromartie-Smith off the PUP list on Wednesday.
ONE-ON-ONES: The Oklahoma drill, an oldie but goodie, was introduced to the wide receivers and defensive backs, and a war almost broke out between the sides.
With the receiver blocking the defender to give room for the runner, Derrick Williams and Andre Freeman began fighting and Clark jumped in to rip off Williams’s helmet. After the next snap, Antonio Brown and Ike Taylor got into a scrap.
In the line wars, centers Maurkice Pouncey and Doug Legursky stopped two days of abuse and finally slowed down nose tackles Steve McLendon and Alameda Ta’amu a bit. Pouncey split with McLendon, while Legursky did a better job with Ta’amu, even though Legursky did sail his first snap well over the head of the quarterback.
In the rookie watch, David DeCastro managed to win only one of three reps against Al Woods, and Mike Adams was 0 for 2 against Cameron Heyward in The Buckeye Battle.