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Still Steel? Pittsburgh has new look

The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH -- Fresh off only their third winless preseason in 48 years, the Pittsburgh Steelers open the regular season at Heinz Field on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans with an identify problem.

What and who are these guys, particularly on offense? There, Ben Roethlisberger still will set up in the pocket and despite the best efforts to keep him there, he may have to continue to run around and make plays at age 31.

Roethlisberger was on the run much of the preseason as his reconstructed offensive line still looked as if it had work to do, particularly at the two tackles where a pair of recent second-round draft choices, Mike Adams on the left and Marcus Gilbert on the right, endured shaky preseasons.

As a whole, Pittsburgh had a shaky preseason. Coach Mike Tomlin's teams had never lost more than one exhibition game in his previous six years as coach. Not only did they go 0-4, they looked terrible doing it. The first team offense scored just one touchdown and that came on a broken play in which Roethlisberger scrambled to his left, bought time and threw across field to halfback Jonathan Dwyer.

"Hopefully, it's reflecting of guys who don't belong and we'll correct that over the next 48 hours," Tomlin said before he cut down to his 53-man roster.

And while the Steelers and offensive coordinator Todd Haley again wanted to concentrate on improving their ground game this summer and find their horse, they have no clear-cut starter. Rookie Le'Veon Bell was supposed to be that man, but he's nursing a right foot injury that could keep him out several games.

The runner who was listed as co-starter, Isaac Redman, played only in the first game and carried only twice. He had a shoulder injury but still could start against the Titans.

The Steelers' most intriguing halfback is veteran Felix Jones, the first-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 2008. The Cowboys did not try to sign the oft-injured back when he became a free agent, the Eagles signed him for one year and then traded him to the Steelers last week.

One day later, Jones ran eight times in the third preseason game. And in the final game against Carolina, he sealed his spot on the roster, knocking off last year's leading rusher, Dwyer, who was waived. Jones ran 14 times vs. Carolina for 56 and flashed some of the talent he had displayed early in Dallas.

"I thought Felix Jones helped himself," Tomlin said. "His pedigree showed, his natural run instinct showed."

It's entirely possible that this offense that so wanted to improve its ground game under an edict by team president Art Rooney II, installed an outside zone blocking scheme to help that along and then drafted Bell in the second round will open the season with a two-team castoff as its starting halfback.

As it is, 75 percent of the four Steelers halfbacks are new to the team - Jones, Bell and LaRod Stephens-Howling, signed as a free agent.

--The Sports Xchange team correspondents contributed to this report.

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