Sports

Steelers Practice Notes – February 3

By Peter King, Pro Football Writers of America
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FORT WORTH (PFWA) - With no change in the injury situation to two prominent starters, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger stole the show at the Steelers’ second practice of Super Bowl week at Texas Christian University Thursday, throwing red-zone touchdown passes on four straight plays on a sharp afternoon.

The Steelers worked mostly on nickel and red-zone offensive and defensive situations for exactly two hours in the Sam Baugh Indoor Practice Facility on the TCU campus. For the second straight day, defensive end Aaron Smith, idle since Oct. 24 with a torn triceps, was limited in practice and didn’t play in any scrimmage work, while center Maurkice Pouncey (high ankle sprain) wasn’t present. He was inside the Horned Frogs’ training room getting rehab on the right ankle. Coach Mike Tomlin said he didn’t know if Pouncey would practice Friday, but said time is growing short for the rookie center to prove he can be mobile enough to play in Sunday’s game against Green Bay.

“It’s getting to be the witching hour for Maurkice,’’ Tomlin said after practice. “He’s going to have to show us something very soon.’’

Roethlisberger, preparing to play his third Super Bowl in his seventh NFL season, showed Tomlin something throughout practice—that he’s ready to play. “I thought he had a good day,’’ Tomlin said. “I thought it was a good day of preparation overall.’’

Spreading the ball around well to all his receivers, Roethlisberger hit Mike Wallace, Hines Ward, Heath Miller and rookie Emmanuel Sanders for touchdowns on the 80-yard indoor practice field. Roethlisberger was sharp on other series Thursday as well.

“I’m glad we were sharp, but I’m not sure it really means anything for the game,’’ Tomlin said. “I’ve seen us practice great on Thursday and play poorly on Sunday, and then I’ve seen us practice not worth anything Thursday and then come out and play great.’’

The first-team defense was on its game too, with safety Ryan Clark picking off two balls and corner Ike Taylor and safety Troy Polamalu intercepting one apiece against scout-team quarterbacks Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch.

TCU football coach Gary Patterson was in attendance, with a couple of his assistants and a few players from his Rose Bowl championship team. “To have the Steelers out here at our facility is awesome and great for our program,’’ Patterson said, watching the early stages of practice from the sidelines. “A lot of their guys have picked up our [Rose Bowl] trophy and been impressed with it.’’

“I have great respect for the TCU program and what they’ve been able to build here,’’ Tomlin said.

The TCU campus was closed for a third straight day due to the ice storm that hit north Texas Tuesday, and temperatures again were frigid. The wind-chill temperature on campus this afternoon was 10 degrees, compared to 16 degrees back at the Steelers home in Pittsburgh. So the indoor practice facility was a must. Whereas Tomlin’s Steelers practiced outside at the University of South Florida for all four practices before the Super Bowl two years ago, it’s apparent that all four of their practices this time around will be held indoors, as will Sunday’s game. The retractable roof at Dallas Cowboys Stadium will be closed for Super Bowl XLV.

The Steelers will hold two more practices before Sunday’s game: Friday at 11 a.m. at TCU, emphasizing goal-line and short-yardage plays as is customary with a Friday practice, and a short walk-through practice on Saturday at 10 a.m. Tomlin said he expected both workouts to be inside the Sam Baugh facility.

The Steelers will have curfew each of the next three nights leading up to the game, Tomlin said. Following their Saturday workout, the team will relocate from their downtown Fort Worth hotel—19 miles west of the site of Sunday’s game—to a secret hotel, as is customary for most teams the night before the Super Bowl. Tomlin did the same thing the night before the Steelers beat Arizona two years ago in the Super Bowl.