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Steelers ‘wait and see’ on Polamalu

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PHOENIX — Head coach Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers expect new faces in the same scheme when their defense takes the field this summer.

Tomlin, who replaced defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau with linebackers coach Kevin Butler, said Tuesday there is no certainty safety Troy Polamalu will play in 2015. Polamalu has not retired, and there are no talks about a new deal.

“I think we are all going to wait and see what transpires with that,” Tomlin said at the AFC coaches breakfast at the Biltmore Hotel. “(Owner and chairman) Art Rooney II has released a statement in that regard. So has (general manager) Kevin Colbert. I have nothing of any significance to add.”

The Steelers are not entirely overhauling the usual 3-4 defense LeBeau ran, and Butler might bring a few wrinkles that appear unfamiliar, but Tomlin said the scheme itself will not change radically.

With that in mind, the Steelers could be in the market for help at several positions in the draft. None appear more pressing than pass rushers, and Tomlin said the time might be just right for the Steelers, who have lost LaMarr Woodley (released) and Jason Worilds (retirement) in the past two offseasons.

“There are a lot of edge rushers,” Tomlin said. “If you’re in the edge rusher market, whether you define them as defensive ends or outside linebackers, I think that this draft is rich in that area. I’m still gaining an understanding of some of the other positions. But if you ask me what stands out to this point I’ve seen a lot of capable men in that area.”

Jarvis Jones is widely presumed to be one of the starting outside linebackers for the Steelers but the plan is for Jones to compete with 37-year-old James Harrison. The former undrafted free agent turned Defensive Player of the Year is taking a mentor role with the linebacker group. Harrison was out of football when the Steelers, amidst a rash of injuries, brought him in last season.

“He’s got a unique experience and a unique story and a unique journey. I think that he’s a walking, talking, breathing blue-print for our young guys particularly at the position,” Tomlin said. “Many of which grew up watching him do it for us. I think he’s embracing that. I think he has a level of appreciate for that. I think that it’s his way of giving back to a game that’s been obviously a tremendous blessing to him.”

Worilds was the Steelers’ top pass rusher last season and entering free agency the Steelers were confident he would come back after playing last season on a one-year, $7.5 million contract under the terms of the transition tag. In March, as free agency began, Worilds retired to commit himself to his religion.

“I applaud him for making the decision that’s right for him and I wish him nothing but the best as he moves forward with his new challenges in life,” Worilds said. “I respect his willingness to play or to not play. Not only him but anyone in our game.”


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