The Steelers are coming! The Steelers are coming!
And Browns coach Hue Jackson might not be done tinkering with the starting offensive line.
Jackson shocked everyone early in camp when he uprooted Joel Bitonio from left guard because he felt he was the best option at left tackle. Jackson surprised again Friday when he said the situation on the left side of the line was “fluid,” just a little more than a week before Pittsburgh visits for the season opener Sept. 9.
The most likely switch would be inserting undrafted rookie Desmond Harrison at left tackle and shifting Bitonio back to guard, where he played the first four years of his career.
The organization has been impressed by Harrison, who started his college career at junior college, transferred to Texas and finished at West Georgia last season after two years away from the game.
“I want to look at everything and make sure I put the best five guys out there based on all the information, preseason games, practices and what I think is best for our football team,” Jackson said. “So I’m just evaluating it all.”
Rookie Austin Corbett, the No. 33 pick in the draft, would head to the bench in this scenario. He was moved up to the first team at left guard as part of the Bitonio move and played a ton in the preseason, receiving mixed reviews.
“I am completely satisfied with him as one of the top offensive linemen on our football team,” Jackson said of Corbett. “We are just going to continue to look at everything.
“I think that he has done some good things. I have always said from Day 1 that we are going to play the best five guys.”
An unsettled line so close to the season seems less than ideal.
“No. I don’t have a concern about it that way,” Jackson said. “I feel pretty good about where we’re headed.
“I think you guys are asking for concrete answers today and I’m not ready to do that. I feel good about where we are and where we’re headed and the players that we’ve got playing there. We’re not turning in the lineup cards today or to say who’s starting or anything like that. I just want to make sure that this is a decision, when it’s all said and done, that I’m good with it all and that I’m not going to change two days from now or three days from now.”
The Harrison-Bitonio and Bitonio-Corbett combinations are the obvious options. The commonality is Bitonio, arguably the team’s best lineman after the retirement of 10-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas in the offseason.
“Whether Joel’s playing tackle or guard, one thing we do know, he’ll be out there,” Jackson said.
Harrison (6-foot-6, 292 pounds) is extremely athletic and has 34-inch arms, but making him a starter would require a leap of faith.
He played in seven games off the bench at Texas in 2013, then missed the entire 2014 season after he was suspended twice reportedly for multiple failed drug tests. After two years away from the game, he started nine games at West Georgia.
The Browns could be considering adding a left tackle or left guard through a trade. Another sleeper possibility is Earl Watford at left guard with Bitonio remaining at tackle. Watford, 28, signed Tuesday after being cut by the Bears. He’s made 21 starts in the NFL.
“Obviously we think he’s a talented player or else we wouldn’t have put him on the team,” Jackson said. “We think he gives us some more versatility, another proven player. I think you can never have too many good linemen that have the potential to play.”
Watford played one series at right guard Thursday in the preseason finale vs. the Lions.
“What Earl showed me yesterday is he’s a veteran player,” Jackson said. “He’s been here for all of a day and a half. He walked in there and played some snaps. I didn’t want to play him too much. I just wanted to make sure that I could see something on tape and have him feel comfortable with his teammates and have him contribute a little bit, and we’ll find out even more about him this week as we get ready for the Steelers.”