The expected became semiofficial last week when Steelers outside linebackers coach Joey
Porter told reporters that the team plans to start Bud Dupree and rookie T.J. Watt at its outside linebacker spots this season, leaving veteran James Harrison as a backup and a utility player.
Harrison led the Steelers with five sacks last season at age 38. The team wants to see a significant bump in its sack numbers and limit Harrison’s snaps so he can be fresh when needed. Watt is off to a strong start, and with the return of DE Cameron Heyward from a pectoral injury, the Steelers think they’ll have a much stronger defensive front seven.
LB Ryan Shazier returned to practice last week after a foot injury had sidelined him for most of training camp. Shazier has been productive when healthy, and the Steelers need him to play a leadership role after LB Lawrence Timmons departed via free agency.
Vince Williams moves into the starting lineup next to Shazier.
Rookie watch: RB James Conner, who overcame Hodgkin’s lymphoma and a serious right knee injury, broke off runs of 17 and 19 yards and finished with 98 on 20 carries in his Steelers debut Aug. 20 vs. the Falcons. Conner, who played at the Unversity of Pittsburgh, got an ovation when he made his first carry. ... Fourth-round QB Joshua
Dobbs made his second consecutive preseason start, completing 10 of 19 passes for 70 yards with an interception.
Noteworthy: RB Le’Veon Bell remains away from the team because he hasn’t signed his franchise tender. ... The Steelers’ receiving corps got more crowded last week when Sammie Coates was activated from the physically unable to perform list and Mar-tavis Bryant (suspension) was cleared and played Aug. 20.