Rocket Love: Molls Getting His Chance

The Steelers' leading tackler this preseason is Dan Molls. On Tuesday, he stepped in, and up, and presented his case.

LATROBE -- With the final week of training camp winding down, Mike Tomlin gave the Steelers' third-teamers his annual reminder that he won't have a third team much longer, and that it's time for them to make their move.

Dan Molls made his move Saturday in the preseson opener, and then he got an opportunity Tuesday to play with the second team after Vince Williams was carted off with a possible concussion.

Just as he did Saturday night when he led the Steelers in tackles, Molls delivered a solid performance. His practice highlight was an impressive leap to bat down a pass by Landry Jones that was intended for a wide-open receiver past the first-down marker.

"I needed a new pair of gloves with a little more stick, and that one might've stuck," Molls said of what would surely have been an impossible interception.

Molls called the plays as the second-team buck inside backer and made a handful of tackles. That was his "MO in college" at Toledo, where as a senior in 2012 he made 166 tackles to lead the nation. He had 422 career tackles.

Saturday night against the Giants, Molls played in 25 snaps and made 9 tackles to lead the Steelers by 3 over picked-on cornerback Isaiah Green, and by 4 over Williams and Jordan Zumwalt.

"I felt real comfortable out there, real confident," said the 6-foot, 238-pound Molls. "I'm starting to really get a hold of things, as far as the system and the scheme goes. It was just natural. And it was great to get out there and play football again."

The Steelers put a draftable grade on Molls coming out of Toledo in 2012, and that's why they scooped him up last January when they signed free agents to futures contracts.

Molls had signed with the San Diego Chargers after the 2013 draft but was cut Aug. 30 and didn't hear from another team until the Steelers called last January. He had been grinding out workouts in the meantime because "It was something I'm passionate about. It's something I've always dreamed about. It wasn't going to just be one and done for me."

Problem is, he joined a team that's been stockpiling linebackers. What was once a weakened position for the Steelers now might be the strongest unit on the team.

Not that Molls is counting heads.

"You can't do that," he said of playing the numbers game. "It'll drive you crazy. I did that in San Diego, so when I came here I told myself to just play and whatever happens happens. All I can do is my best."

Tomlin has taken note. "He's been a hard-working, attentive young guy," the coach said.

Molls, a native the Cleveland suburb of North Royalton, has a chance to become the third Toledo player in Pittsburgh along with Bruce Gradkowski and Lance Moore.

"There's Rocket love everywhere," he said. "I wasn't fortunate enough to play with Bruce or Lance (at Toledo), but I knew them both very well coming in and they were nothing but welcoming and helpful to me when I got here. It is nice. It's nice to have that connection."

NOTES -- OLB Jarvis Jones (groin) was the only player to miss the entire practice, while ILB Ryan Shazier (knee) dressed but participated in individual drills only. ... During practice, the Steelers lost ILB Williams, LG Ramon Foster (knee swelling), FB Will Johnson and CB Shaquille Richardson. The latter two injuries are thought to be minor. ... The Steelers placed punter Adam Podlesh on the Reserved/Did Not Report List after he decided to stay home with his wife, who struggled through the birth of their second child. Tomlin said "We're working with Brad (Wing) and like the work that he's doing." Tomlin added he did not have plans to bring in another punter, but that the plan could change. ... Rookie WR Martavis Bryant came off a shaky preseason performance with a solid Tuesday practice that included a pair of red-zone touchdowns in the final period. Said Tomlin: "He made a couple plays today but we know he's capable of that. I'm looking for him to grow in all areas and have the type of detail in his work where we can rely upon him. Like a lot of young guys, he's moving toward that -- not at a quick enough pace for us; not at a quick enough pace for him. So we'll continue to work."