NFL Nation: Ramon Foster

Steelers Camp Report: Day 3

July, 28, 2014
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LATROBE, Pa. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of the Pittsburgh Steelers training camp:
  • What a difference the popping of pads makes. The Steelers held their first padded practice of training camp between the rain drops produced Monday by a sobbing sky and everyone, it seemed, turned the intensity up. Way up. You expected to hear new defensive assistant Joey Porter early and often during practice. It was a surprise to see even-keeled defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau also yelling as he did several times during an 11-on-11 drill. Running backs and linebackers collided ferociously during the popular backs on 'backers drill and there was tackling as coach Mike Tomlin had promised. The practice looked totally different from the non-contact drills that the players had taken part in May and June and for the first two days of camp.
  • Rookie Ryan Shazier stood out during the backs on backers drill, showcasing the speed that helped convince the Steelers to take the inside linebacker with the 15th overall pick of the 2014 NFL draft. Everyone was anxious to see Shazier in full pads, and he made a strong first impression, especially when he twice blew past LeGarrette Blount. "He did some nice things," Tomlin said of Shazier. "He was elusive. He was playing to his assets with his speed and agility."
  • Outside linebacker Jason Worilds turned in the play of the day when he intercepted a pass thrown to rookie running back Dri Archer on a wheel route. When asked what was more impressive, Worilds making a play on the ball down the field or his running with the ultra-fast Archer, Tomlin said the interception and laughed. "That's the first time Jason Worilds has caught a ball in any fashion out here in practice. I know he can run. I'm going to paint that ball and give it to him."
  • Rookie cornerback Shaquille Richardson made a diving interception of a Bruce Gradkowski and the defense seemed to be ahead of the offense on the first day of pads and contact. Not that Tomlin saw it that way. "Battles were fought and won on both sides of the ball," he said.
  • Starting running back Le'Veon Bell (hamstring) didn't practice, and Blount, his backup, didn't have his best day. Blount struggled in backs on 'backers and also dropped a pass. Bell is "day-to-day," Tomlin said, after experiencing hamstring tightness on Sunday.
  • In other injury news, rookie linebacker Jordan Zumwalt left practice with groin tightness and wide receiver C.J. Goodwin was held out of drills after landing on his shoulder during practice on Sunday. Ramon Foster will not in camp due to the death of his mother, so Chris Hubbard played left guard with the first-team offense for the second consecutive practice. The players are off on Tuesday and resume practice on Wednesday.
LATROBE, Pa. -- The Pittsburgh Steelers suffered a setback before the start of training camp when free safety Mike Mitchell hurt his groin while working out.

Mitchell
Mitchell, the Steelers’ most significant signing this offseason, and running back Alvester Alexander have been placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.

Alexander, who spent last season on the Steelers’ practice squad, is also nursing an injured groin.

Both can come off the PUP list at any time, and coach Mike Tomlin said the Steelers expect Mitchell to be sidelined for the first week of training camp.

“We’ll monitor him day to day,” Tomlin said late Friday afternoon.

Two Steelers players did not report to camp by the 4 p.m. ET deadline and each was excused by the team. Punter Adam Podlesh is staying with his wife until she gives birth to their child, and starting left guard Ramon Foster is coping with the death of his mother.

Tomlin did not give a timetable for the return of either player.

Tomlin addressed the media after the Steelers’ conditioning test, and he seemed pleased with his first look at the players since the end of offseason practices.

“I like the look in the eye of the group,” the eighth-year coach said, “and the way that they performed at the run test was impressive.”

Also of note from Tomlin’s first news conference of training camp.
  • Tomlin plans on running a physical camp after watching the players take part in non-contact practices during the offseason.

    “I enjoyed the spring and summer, but that’s the spring and summer. Now that we’re here in training camp we’re going to do what we do in this type of setting, which is compete,” Tomlin said.

    When asked if there will be tackling, Tomlin smiled.

    “Absolutely,” he said. “See you on Monday.”

    Monday is the first that that the Steelers are allowed to practice in full pads and hits. The team will conduct non-contract practices on Saturday and Sunday, something that is mandated by the collective bargaining agreement.
  • Tomlin said he won’t take a slower approach to installing the playbook despite the Steelers’ youth, particularly on defense.

    “We expect those guys to catch up. It’s professional football, they don’t have an academic workload to worry about,” Tomlin said. “Obviously we’re willing to adjust when it’s time to play football in September. It’s just smart football to do what your guys are capable of doing, but as we step into Latrobe we do not have that mentality. We need to see what they’re capable of handling. And in order to so that we’re going to install at our normal pace.”
  • Center Maurkice Pouncey won’t be eased into practice even though he is still less than a year removed from tearing the ACL in his right knee.

    The Steelers gave Pouncey periodic days off during the offseason practices as a precaution, but Tomlin said the three-time Pro Bowler won’t be limited in camp.

    “He’s ready to go,” Tomlin said.
PITTSBURGH -- The tears that made it hard for Maurkice Pouncey to talk Thursday afternoon also cut short what should have been a celebratory news conference.

Emotion choked the Pittsburgh Steelers center, and it emanated from the day last September when a teammate crashed into his right knee and left Pouncey in the kind of pain that made him wonder if he would ever walk well enough to play football again -- or at least at a high level.

What also had to overwhelm Pouncey: Steelers chairman Dan Rooney, team president Art Rooney II, general manager Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin all attended the official announcement of the five-year contract extension he signed nine months after tearing several ligaments in his right knee, including his ACL.

[+] EnlargeMaurkice Pouncey
David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty ImagesMaurkice Pouncey is the only center in NFL history to make the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons.
Their presence as much as the new deal that could be worth as much as $44 million, affirmed to Pouncey that he is a Steeler.

And there is a difference between that and playing for the Steelers.

“It’s true love here,” Pouncey said shortly after the Steelers concluded organized team activities. “I’ll do anything for this team and I’m ready to lead us to where we’ve got to get back to.”

The Steelers concluded that Pouncey is one of the keys to them re-establishing themselves as perennial Super Bowl contenders following consecutive 8-8 seasons.

They made a bold move with the contract that is now the most lucrative for a center in the NFL.

They also made the correct move in locking up Pouncey long-term after the Jaguars had raised the ante at the position by signing Alex Mack to a five-year, $42 million contract (the Browns later matched it to retain Mack).

Pouncey is the only center in NFL history to make the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons. His teammates respect him so much that they voted Pouncey a captain last season, not much more than a month after he had celebrated his 24th birthday. And Pouncey is the kind of player you build around on the offensive line, especially if your goal is to maximize Ben Roethlisberger's remaining seasons as a top-tier quarterback, something that Colbert has stated.

Questions have been raised about Pouncey and whether the 2010 first-round pick is prone to injury. But he had missed just three regular-season games prior to 2013.

And the injuries he suffered in the Steelers’ season opener were a result of nothing more than rotten luck, as friendly fire took Pouncey out after right guard David DeCastro whiffed on an attempted cut block.

The Steelers are obviously comfortable with Pouncey’s injury history as well as where he is from a health standpoint nine months after hurting his right knee. Pouncey’s teammates, meanwhile, were nothing short of ecstatic about his new deal.

And not because Pouncey is likely to pick up the next couple of dinner tabs.

“He worked his butt off so we’re glad to have the team commit to him like that,” Steelers left guard Ramon Foster said. “We’re more excited than he is about it.”

Just not as emotional.

“I was just telling coach (Tomlin) it seems like five years all over again, and I’m ready to start this path and help this team get back to where we need to,” said Pouncey, who turns 25 the day before the Steelers report to training camp. “This is really an awesome feeling and words can’t really say enough about it.”
PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers start another round of organized team activities today.

That means three more full-squad practices this week.

And a leap of faith.

The Dallas Cowboys lost arguably their best defensive player for the 2014 season last week when linebacker Sean Lee tore his ACL. The grim reality that OTAs are fraught with as much risk as they are reward was reinforced by another in a string of unfortunate injuries for Lee.

[+] EnlargeMike Tomlin
Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY SportsMike Tomlin has advised his players to play hard but smart and to stay off the ground during OTAs.
Not coincidentally coach Mike Tomlin addressed the specter of injury before the Steelers' second OTA last Wednesday, a day after Lee got hurt.

"He told us we don't have pads on so we don't need to be on the ground, we don't need to be bull rushing each other and stuff like that," outside linebacker Jarvis Jones said. "Use your hands, run to the ball and keep it clean."

The Steelers could have suffered something similar to the deflating loss the Cowboys are dealing with during their first voluntary practice a week ago.

Center Maurkice Pouncey, practicing for the first time since tearing his ACL last September, locked onto rookie inside linebacker Ryan Shazier during a running play. Pouncey drove Shazier back before the Steelers' first-round draft pick threw off the block and sent Pouncey sprawling to the grass.

Pouncey bounced up immediately and told Shazier, in so many words, to chill. But that play could have turned into another cautionary tale about OTAs had Pouncey reinjured his rebuilt right knee or accidentally taken out a teammate when he fell to the ground.

"Sometimes when guys get pulled to the ground or fall to the ground other guys around you are going to trip over you," veteran tight end Heath Miller said. "You want to try and control what you can control but at the same time there's certain things that are out of your hands."

The collective bargaining agreement that went into effect in 2011 minimized the risk of OTAs by limiting the number of voluntary practices that teams are allowed to stage. Teams are only permitted 10 OTAs as well as one mandatory minicamp, though they are still allowed extra practices if they have a new head coach.

OTAs serve a purpose even if injuries sustained during the practices are magnified and seemingly senseless. They give the players a chance to practice together during the offseason and are particularly helpful to free-agent signees and rookies who are learning a new system.

And, to be fair, players can get injured working out on their own. They can also just as easily blow out a knee in a non-contact situation as they can while locked up with another player or getting tangled up in a pile of bodies.

Tomlin, as other coaches around the NFL do, regularly emphasizes the importance of playing hard but also smart during OTAs. He also reinforces an important message when it comes to the voluntary practices.

"You can't make the team right now is what he says, which is true," left guard Ramon Foster said. "He gives us rules. There will be no fighting out here, no jersey pulling. Protect our guys. We try to keep the guys off the ground."

Players are inevitably going to hit the ground given how fast the game is even with the participants only wearing a helmet, jersey and shorts and not engaging in contact drills.

That is why there is an element of luck when it comes to OTAs as well as a leap of faith by everyone involved in them.

"You start thinking about (getting hurt) and you start playing slow and you can't be yourself, you can't make plays," Jones said. "You start playing slow and now you're getting in other people's way and that could create injuries. If it happens, it happens, you've just got to deal with it. Hopefully all of us can stay healthy throughout these practices."

Offensive line could become a strength

December, 17, 2013
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PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers' offensive line has been beaten up in more ways than one ever since Mike Tomlin took over as head coach in 2007.

Could the oft-maligned unit become a reason why the Steelers win next season? Don't scoff.

David DeCastro has emerged as a Pro Bowl-caliber guard this season. Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey is expected to return in 2014 from a torn ACL. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum has played well enough that the Steelers may not have to target the position with their first pick in the 2014 NFL draft.

[+] EnlargePittsburgh's offensive line
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarThe Steelers have a strong offensive line to build upon if they can ever stay healthy.
“The biggest problem with the offensive line,” former NFL scout and ESPN analyst Matt Williamson said, “is they can't ever start the same five guys.”

Injuries have long been the X factor along the offensive line and any optimistic forecast for its future has to come with the caveat that the Steelers, for whatever reason, cannot stay healthy up front.

Assume for the sake of argument that the line isn't as wracked by injuries next season as it has been in recent years. DeCastro, Pouncey and left guard Ramon Foster would give them a strong interior around which to build.

That is especially true in the case of DeCastro, whom Williamson said has already established himself as one of the top five or six guards in the NFL.

“He doesn't have a major weakness,” Williamson said. “He can run the power stuff. He can pass block. There's a lot to like about him.”

Williamson echoed similar sentiments about Beachum, who took over at left tackle after the fourth game of the season and has earned glowing praise from offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

The 6-3, 306-pound Beachum is not a prototypical left tackle, and teams generally find protectors for their quarterback's blind side near the beginning of the draft not the end of it.

But Beachum, a late seventh-round pick in 2012, is proving to be the exception to several rules.

“I'm starting to come around on him,” Williamson said. “He might he good enough and he seems to be getting better.”

The 2014 draft is supposed to be deep at offensive tackle, and if the Steelers use their first pick on a potential franchise left tackle, Beachum would still have a key role on the team -- whether he serves as a super sub who can play all five positions or bolsters the line at another position.

The play of DeCastro and Beachum this season is the biggest reason for optimism for the offensive line, and Mike Adams still has time to develop into a long-term starter up front, whether it is at left or right tackle.

Injuries can scramble the offensive line throughout the season as the Steelers well know. But the investment they have made in their line in recent drafts could really start to pay off next season.

If the group can stay relatively healthy.
PITTSBURGH -- Mike Tomlin gave the Steelers' Plan C at center a vote of confidence during the part of his weekly news conference not devoted to sideline interference.

Ben Roethlisberger did the same a day later.

And the Steelers quarterback relayed an illuminating story of what happened when he conducted something of a background check on Cody Wallace, who will make his first NFL start Sunday against the visiting Miami Dolphins.

Roethlisberger did some early homework on Wallace on the plane ride home from Baltimore last week, shortly after he learned that starting center Fernando Velasco had been lost for the rest of the season because of a ruptured Achilles tendon.

“I checked with the other linemen, asked them what they think about Cody, does he know [the offense]? And every single person said the same thing: ‘He's a really smart player, there will be no issue, he'll be good to go,'” Roethlisberger said on Wednesday. “When I've talked to him I've had that same confidence in him that he'll be ready to rock with it.”

He better be.

The Steelers don't have time for the 6-foot-4, 300-pound Wallace to get up to speed, given their precarious situation.

They need to win out to extend their season beyond December -- Roethlisberger said he is treating every game now like a playoff contest -- and their ability to run the no-huddle offense effectively will go a long way toward the Steelers running the table.

As banged-up as the Steelers' offensive line is, one thing that doesn't appear to be a concern is how the middle of it will fare with Wallace.

“He's prepared for this week in and week out whether he's been starting or not,” left guard Ramon Foster said. “His time has come right now. He knows everything that's going on. He'll just have to get the game speed down if anything.”

Wallace said he is confident his conditioning level is such that he will be able to handle playing an entire game. The fourth-year veteran is also comfortable working with Roethlisberger, and the biggest thing for those two this week is making sure they get the snap exchange down.

“He walks into our [meeting] room from time to time and bounces some things off of us to make sure it all sounds good to us so we are all on the same page,” Wallace said. “I think I will be fine out there.”

So does Tomlin.

“I have no problem in expecting Cody Wallace to play winning football for us at the center position,” the seventh-year coach said, “because he's going to practice and prepare all week.”

Woodley, Keisel questionable for Sunday

November, 22, 2013
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PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers could again be without two defensive starters Sunday when they visit the Browns.

Defensive end Brett Keisel (foot) and outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley (calf) have been officially listed as questionable for the 1 p.m. game.

Keisel
Keisel
Woodley
Woodley
Each was listed as limited participants in the Steelers' final practice of the week. Keisel, who is dealing with plantar fasciitis, said he wanted to test his injured foot after not playing in the Steelers' 37-27 win over the Lions last Sunday.

"I did enough to where I'm engaging with an offensive lineman, putting weight on it, moving laterally, all of the things you need to do on Sunday," Keisel said. "I don't know if [the injury] can get worse or not. It's just one of those things you are going to have to deal with and go out work."

Keisel and Woodley are likely to be game-time decisions.

The Steelers will get one starter back barring a setback as left guard Ramon Foster fully practiced Friday for the second consecutive day. Foster, who did not play last Sunday because of a sprained ankle, is listed as probable for the Browns game along with center Fernando Velasco (knee) and left tackle Kelvin Beachum (hip).

Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders also appear to be good to go after getting knocked out of the Lions win with a foot injury. Sanders practiced all week and was a full participant in drills the last two days.

The only Steelers players that have been ruled out for Sunday are safety Shamarko Thomas (ankle) and linebacker Stevenson Sylvester (hamstring).
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley did not practice Thursday, sitting out drills a day after he took part in them on a limited basis.

Woodley
Woodley
The Steelers are hoping both Woodley and defensive end Brett Keisel play in Cleveland, a week after each missed the team’s 37-27 win against the Lions.

Keisel has yet to practice this week, making Friday a critical day for the 12th-year veteran. He and safety Shamarko Thomas (ankle) were the only Steelers who didn’t practice on Thursday.

Left guard Ramon Foster (ankle) is on track to play Sunday after practicing fully on Thursday. The same is true of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (foot), who has practiced both days this week.

Also participating fully in practice on Thursday were tight end Heath Miller, center Fernando Velasco (knee) and left tackle Kelvin Beachum (hip). Linebacker Stevenson Sylvester (hamstring) was limited.

Tight end Matt Spaeth practiced for the first time since suffering a Lisfranc injury in early August. Spaeth has been on the short-term injured reserve list, and the Steelers have three weeks to add the seventh-year veteran to their 53-man roster or put him on injured reserve.

“Didn’t do a lot, but did a little bit of everything,” Spaeth said. “It felt good to be back.”
PITTSBURGH -- Coach Mike Tomlin is optimistic that the Pittsburgh Steelers will get three starters back for their 1 p.m. ET game Sunday at Cleveland.

Outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley (calf), defensive end Brett Keisel (foot) and left guard Ramon Foster (ankle) will be limited in practice this week, but Tomlin said he “anticipates” all three returning to action against the Browns.

None of the three played in the Steelers’ 37-27 win against the Lions last Sunday.

Tomlin is also hopeful wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders will be able to play Sunday despite a foot injury that knocked the fourth-year veteran out of the Lions game.

Sanders will try to practice on a limited basis on Wednesday.

“He’s feeling much better than he was on Sunday,” Tomlin said.

If Sanders is unable to play, a combination of Jerricho Cotchery, Markus Wheaton and Derek Moye will replace him.

Safety Shamarko Thomas (ankle) and linebacker Stevenson Sylvester are doubtful for the Browns game, Tomlin said.

Left tackle Kelvin Beachum (hip) and center Fernando Velasco (knee) are among those who will be limited in practice, but each is expected to play in Cleveland.

Tight end Matt Spaeth is getting his foot evaluated Tuesday, and he could try to practice this week. Spaeth is on the short-term injured reserve list because of a Lisfranc injury.

Steelers could be down three starters

November, 15, 2013
11/15/13
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PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers may be without three starters Sunday when they host the Detroit Lions for a 1 p.m. game.

Outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley (calf), defensive end Brett Keisel (foot) and left guard Ramon Foster (ankle) all missed practice Friday for the third consecutive day.

Woodley is listed as doubtful on the Steelers’ injury report though the seventh-year veteran is holding out hope of playing against the Lions.

“There is a great chance,” Woodley said of playing. “Two days left [to heal].”

Keisel, who is battling plantar fasciitis, and Foster are listed as questionable but each is also a long shot to suit up against Detroit.

Guy Whimper said he practiced all week at left guard with the first-team offense and is preparing to start on Sunday. Ziggy Hood will start in place of Keisel if the latter can’t go.

Among the Steelers listed as probable are left tackle Kelvin Beachum (hip), right guard David DeCastro (ankle), right tackle Marcus Gilbert (ankle), center Fernando Velasco (knee), offensive tackle Mike Adams (ribs) and tight end Heath Miller.

Six offensive linemen are listed on the Steelers’ injury report but Foster is the only one expected to miss Sunday’s game at Heinz Field.

Rookie safety Shamarko Thomas (ankle) had been ruled out for the game earlier this week.

Upon Further Review: Steelers Week 10

November, 11, 2013
11/11/13
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PITTSBURGH -- A review of four hot issues from the Pittsburgh Steelers23-10 win over the Buffalo Bills:

[+] EnlargeJerricho Cotchery
Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY SportsSteelers wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery catches a touchdown behind Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore during the second quarter of their Week 10 game.
It's a start: The Steelers improved to 17-2 against rookie quarterbacks since 2004, and EJ Manuel averaged less than four yards per passing attempt. Manuel's inexperience and the fact he was playing in his first game in five weeks because of a knee injury precluded the Steelers' players from saying the defense is back after giving up 610 total yards the previous week at New England. “No offense [to the Bills], but they have a quarterback who hasn’t had the opportunity to play in awhile,” Steelers free safety Ryan Clark said. “I think they played extremely vanilla and didn't allow him to do much so we needed to stop the run and that was the first step toward getting back, but we have a long way to go.”

Sleeper hold: Jerricho Cotchery tied his career high for touchdown receptions in a season when the 10th-year veteran hauled in his sixth scoring catch late in the second quarter. Running what he called a “fall-asleep fade,” Cotchery delayed his release and caught Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore peeking into the backfield. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger put enough touch on the pass for the touchdown that snapped a 3-3 tie. “It was a great call by [offensive coordinator Todd] Haley," Cotchery said. "He went into the archives for that one and pulled it out at the right time.” According to Cotchery, it was a play Haley had used when he coached the wide receivers for the Bears from 2001 to '03. "It's something that we’ve been working on," Cotchery said. "We executed it well."

Key to victories: Roethlisberger always talks about how important balance is to the Steelers' offense, and the math backs him up. In the Steelers’ three wins, they have run the ball 51.1 percent of the time. In six losses they have run the ball just 30.5 percent of the time. The Steelers established the run early against the Bills and rushed for 136 yards on 4.1 yards per carry. Roethlisberger, meanwhile, had fewer passing attempts (30) than Steelers rushing attempts (33). "I thought we were able to find a rhythm and establish the running game and convert on some third downs," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.

OL sustains another injury: The Steelers lost another offensive lineman to injury when left guard Ramon Foster hobbled off the field early in the third quarter after hurting his ankle. Safety Shamarko Thomas (ankle) and outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley (calf) also left the game with injuries and did not return. Tomlin said all three were evaluated after the game but he did not have any information beyond that. Woodley said his injury was not serious. "I'll be good to go," he said.

Rapid Reaction: Pittsburgh Steelers

November, 10, 2013
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PITTSBURGH -- A few observations from the Pittsburgh Steelers' 23-10 victory against the Buffalo Bills at Heinz Field:

What it means: The Steelers kept their season from spiraling out of control by beating up on the Bills in a stadium that had more than a few empty seats. As cathartic as the victory proved to be a week after the Steelers were humiliated in New England, there isn’t anything to suggest it is anything more than a Band-Aid. The Bills (3-7) were awful, and the Steelers (3-6) need to string at least three victories together before there can be any talk of them as plausible playoff contenders, as mediocre as the AFC North and the conference is.

Stock watch: Yes, the Steelers weren’t exactly facing Jim Kelly and the K-Gun offense, but the defense needed to play well in the worst way, and it did for the most part during a cold, drab day at Heinz Field. The Steelers used a familiar formula -- stopping the run and not letting a young quarterback beat them -- a week after arguably the worst defensive performance in franchise history. C.J. Spiller never got out of neutral, and the Bills were just 3-of-14 on third-down conversions. The Steelers improved to 17-2 against rookie quarterbacks since 2004, the year Dick LeBeau returned for a second stint as the team’s defensive coordinator.

Walking wounded: It wouldn’t be a Steelers game without an injury sustained by at least one of the offensive linemen. Left guard Ramon Foster left the game with an ankle injury early in the third quarter and did not return to the game. Starting outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley (calf) and reserve safety Shamarko Thomas (ankle) also left the game with injuries.

Hardly a clinic: Somewhere Drew Butler is laughing. Zoltan Mesko, too. The punters ushered out of Pittsburgh by coach Mike Tomlin probably couldn’t have done worse than Mat McBriar in his first two games with the Steelers. McBriar, signed after Pittsburgh waived Mesko two weeks ago, had punts of 27 and 36 yards in the first quarter and was a major reason the Steelers were unable to flip the field.

No regrets: The Steelers were reminded that it could be worse when it comes to their punting situation. Brian Moorman couldn’t beat out Butler in training camp -- Butler was later dumped for Mesko -- and he didn’t do much of anything for Buffalo against the Steelers. Moorman nearly kicked a ball into the stands when the Bills were hoping they could down a punt deep inside Steelers territory. He later kicked a low line drive that Antonio Brown returned 24 yards and led a 4-yard touchdown run by Le'Veon Bell.

Next up: The Steelers and their defense face what should be a considerably sterner test next Sunday when the Detroit Lions visit Heinz Feld for a 1 p.m. ET game. Matthew Stafford is the kind of passer who can carve up the Steelers’ secondary if he gets time in the pocket. Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, meanwhile, is a bigger matchup problem than polka dots and stripes.

David DeCastro still out for Steelers

October, 31, 2013
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PITTSBURGH -- Injuries decimated the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive line in a 21-18 loss at Oakland.

But the Steelers’ starting front five could be intact Sunday when the team visits New England for a 4:25 p.m. ET game.

DeCastro
“I expect all guys to get back, especially (David) DeCastro who has been busting his tail in rehab,” starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert said. “He’s walking a lot better.”

DeCastro has yet to practice this week because of a right ankle injury he sustained in Oakland. The Steelers’ starting right guard is expected to try and practice on at least a limited basis Friday. Starting left guard Ramon Foster is on track to play in New England after leaving last week’s game with a concussion.

Foster was a full practice participant on Thursday though he will still need to pass mandated concussion tests before he is cleared to play against the Patriots.

Guy Whimper, who also left the Raiders game with an injury, practiced Thursday for the second consecutive day. Whimper, who hyperextended his left knee in Oakland, and Cody Wallace will be the guards if DeCastro is unable to play at New England and Foster suffers a setback and is also not able to go.

Whimper will likely start at right guard if DeCastro is the only lineman who can’t play against the Patriots.

DeCastro and cornerback Curtis Brown (coach’s decision) were the only players who didn’t practice on Thursday.

Wide receiver Markus Wheaton (finger) was the only player who was limited in drills.

Wheaton has missed the last three games after having surgery to fix a broken pinkie on his right hand, and he is unlikely to play at New England.

David DeCastro questionable for Sunday

October, 29, 2013
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PITTSBURGH -- The offensive line could be intact Sunday when the Steelers visit the Patriots.

Left guard Ramon Foster has been cleared to return to action after getting knocked out of the Steelers’ 21-18 loss at Oakland with a concussion. Right guard David DeCastro left the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury, but coach Mike Tomlin has not ruled out the second-year man playing in the 4:25 p.m. ET game at Gillette Stadium.

Guy Whimper, who took over at left guard after Foster left the game, is OK after hyperextending his knee against the Raiders.

If DeCastro is unable to play at New England, Whimper or Cody Wallace would likely start at right guard. Tomlin strongly indicated that the Steelers will not move Kelvin Beachum from left tackle and start Mike Adams there if DeCastro is sidelined on Sunday.

“We like what Beachum’s doing at left tackle, but we’ll deal with that as it comes up,” Tomlin said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “We’re still not resigned to the fact that DeCastro’s not going to play [against the Patriots]. We’re going to give him an opportunity to do so.”

In other injury news, rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton is getting his broken right pinkie evaluated by doctors, and Tomlin had not ruled out his return this week. Wheaton, the team’s third-round draft pick last April, has missed the past three games.

Inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons is still working through a broken left hand, but Tomlin doesn’t expect it to limit him this week. Nose tackle Steve McLendon is also expected to be fine after the Steelers sent him home on Monday because of an illness.
PITTSBURGH -- Steelers fans aren’t the only ones who second-guessed Ben Roethlisberger’s decision to use a timeout late in a 21-18 loss to the Oakland Raiders.

Roethlisberger said he should have saved the timeout and taken a delay of game penalty when it became apparent that the Steelers would not get the play off in time.

Roethlisberger
The Steelers scored a touchdown on the drive but they had to attempt an onside kick -- the Raiders easily recovered it -- because there were less than two minutes left in the game and they only had two timeouts.

“Hindsight I shouldn’t have done it,” Roethlisberger said on 93.7 The Fan during his weekly radio show. “I’ll take the blame for that. I won’t make that mistake again.”

Roethlisberger and the Steelers visit the Patriots Sunday, and the 10th-year veteran said he doesn’t know who will block for him in New England. Left guard Ramon Foster (concussion), right guard David DeCastro (ankle) and backup lineman Guy Whimper (knee) all left the Oakland game with injuries.

Coach Mike Tomlin will provide an injury update at his weekly news conference at noon on Tuesday, and Roethlisberger said it is mystifying how wholesale injuries across the offensive line are a recurring theme for the Steelers.

“It seems like our offensive line gets hurt more than any other team’s and I don’t know why,” Roethlisberger said. “It’s kind of just freaky things. Is it bad luck? It seems like it happens all of the time. I’ll go in tomorrow and find out who’s healthy enough to go this week and who’s going to be at what spots and move on from there.”

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