Can these reserves crack lineup?

Can these reserves crack lineup?

LATROBE – On the record, Steelers coaches stand by their starting veterans until the day they replace them in the lineup. Off the record, insiders are bubbling about a handful of reserves who have a chance to crack the lineup. Let's explore this topic without a notepad or microphone and go off the record, taking these surging young reserves one at a time:

• HEATH MILLER – The rangy tight end proved he can block at this level, and he obviously has more speed than veteran starter Jerame Tuman. But the consensus is that Heath Miller has made Tuman a better player and there's no reason to make the change now. One source expects that when Miller shows off his receiving skills in a game, the public will clamor for him to be made the starter, but Tuman knows the offense, has good hands and is a veteran who deserves to win all ties. He would have to fall clearly behind Miller, and that isn't happening right now.

• CEDRICK WILSON – While Cedrick Wilson stood out over Antwaan Randle El during the Hines Ward holdout, nobody's in a hurry to name Wilson the starter at split end. In fact, Randle El is the starter right now and the coaching staff believes it can afford both players a full slate of preseason games before naming the opening-day starter.

• IKE TAYLOR – He's presently the rage of camp because of his acrobatic interceptions, blazing speed and suddenness in the run game. However, Willie Williams is still playing well, according to those who watch tape. Williams is said to have played a flawless opening preseason game mentally and still has enough speed to play the corner. Coaches are considering Ike Taylor right now, but would like to see some consistency. They know he has a tendency to become satisfied when things are going well, so coaches will monitor Taylor in the next two preseason games before making the move.

• JAMES HARRISON – One source feels he's the No. 3 linebacker on the team, ahead of both Clark Haggans and Larry Foote. He also feels James Harrison could play either outside or inside backer, but probably won't because of the opportunities he'll have to play even if he's not the starter. Another source loves Harrison's ability, but said a move is not imminent. He did promise that Harrison will see plenty of playing time, proving Source No. 1 correct.

• BRETT KEISEL – See JAMES HARRISON above, because Source No. 1 believes Brett Keisel should start, although the source doesn't give Keisel quite the edge over the current starter that he gives Harrison. Source No. 2 loves the improvement Keisel has made since last year, but again doesn't see a move being imminent and promises that Keisel will receive plenty of playing time in the Steelers' rotation and on passing downs. With Kimo von Oelhoffen a possible injury scratch on Saturday, one coach said Travis Kirschke and Keisel would split time with the first team, but admitted he's more excited about Keisel's potential this season.

• WILLIE PARKER – He isn't too close to cracking the starting lineup, but coaches aren't about to seal him into any particular niche as a running back. Right now they're considering him as a potential third-down back, but believe he can become a 3-down back. To that end, they'll give him the full gamut of activity Saturday night. Of those listed here, Willie Parker is the longest shot to start this season, but nobody's willing to close the door on this speedster's chances.

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