He didn't exactly say, "Joey who?"
Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau did strongly endorse the player that is expected to replace Joey Porter at right outside linebacker.
"I don't expect us to miss a beat with James Harrison in there at the outside 'backer," LeBeau said Saturday at Steelers minicamp. "Any games that he's played our defense has not missed a beat, and he's always been a contributing factor to that, so I have every confidence in the world in him."
Harrison has been a solid reserve and a superb special teams player for the Steelers, and the 6-foot, 242-pounder has the nasty disposition that is required of a linebacker.
"He's not Joey Porter," veteran inside linebacker James Farrior said, "but he's a great player. We're not expecting any kind of dropoff. He's going to do good things out there."
One thing the Steelers have to like about Harrison: The fourth-year veteran is not assuming anything, including replacing the departed Porter.
That is not surprising, considering Harrison was cut several times by the Steelers -- he was released by other teams as well -- prior to the 2004 season.
LeBeau, for one, doesn't seem to have any doubts about Harrison not only winning the starting job but playing at a high level at Porter's old position.
"I think he'll do a great job there," LeBeau said.
No double-duty yet
Sean Mahan has played exclusively at guard during the first two days of minicamp, but he is still expected to compete for the starting job at center.
Mahan, the Steelers' only significant free-agent signing this year, has not lined up at center simply because the Steelers want to avoid system overload.
"At some point we'll cross-train him," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "There's going to be some position flexibility with him. That's part of what attracted us to him."
Mahan started 28 games at guard the previous two seasons for the Buccaneers but made eight starts at center for Tampa Bay in 2004.
Chukky Okobi has been playing center with the first team, but Mahan also could see some action at the position today and certainly will line up there when the Steelers hold another minicamp May 11-13.
Sidelined ... sort of
Punter Chris Gardocki spent the first two days of minicamp as more of a coach than anything else.
The 17-year veteran hasn't done any kicking because he has what Tomlin called a minor back problem.
Gardocki, Tomlin said, has been helping Mike Barr, who is the only other punter on the Steelers' roster.
"We know what (Gardocki) can do," Tomlin said. "He's been there, done that."
Gardocki's hold on his job appears to be tenuous.
The Steelers made a contract offer to restricted free agent Andy Lee last month, but the 49ers matched it. They could take a punter late in next week's NFL draft or sign an undrafted free agent to compete with Gardocki and Barr.
Tomlin hasn't ruled out the Steelers re-signing running back Verron Haynes, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last October in a game at Oakland. Haynes had been the Steelers' third-down back before tearing his ACL. The Steelers released him last month. ... The Steelers conclude minicamp today. They will hold a morning practice at their South Side facility.