Foote returns to Steelers practice
By Scott Brown
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
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• Larry Foote practiced for the first time since hurting his knee in an Aug. 23 preseason game, and he said he expects to play Sunday when the Steelers open the regular season against the visiting Texans. "I took that brace off, so it felt good," the starting inside linebacker said Monday after practice. "The next step is with the pounding and see how (my knee) reacts to that. But for the most part, it feels good." Foote got a scare when he injured his knee in the Steelers' 12-10 win over the Vikings. "Dr. (James) Bradley come out there and said I tore my ACL," Foote said. "He was poking on it. But when we got to the sideline, he said he didn't know for sure." Foote, who is trying to hold off the emerging Lawrence Timmons at right inside linebacker, said he would have played Sunday had there been a game.
• The Steelers will have to contend with one of the top pass rushers in the NFL when the Texans visit Heinz Field on Sunday. Defensive end Mario Williams tied for third in the NFL with 14 sacks last season. Williams, the first overall pick of the 2006 draft, emerged as a dominant pass rusher after a disappointing rookie season. "He reminds me a lot of (Panthers) defensive end Julius Peppers," said Steelers running back Willie Parker, who was a teammate of Peppers at the University of North Carolina. "He's pretty athletic. You have to know where he is at all times."
• The Steelers, or at least Parker, is taking a different approach to helping rookie running back Rashard Mendenhall work through his fumbling problems. "We're going to get it off his mind," Parker said of his protege. "Just don't even bring it up when we're around him. That's the way I'm going about it." The Steelers used the opposite strategy after Mendenhall lost two fumbles in an Aug. 23 game.
The veterans had him carry a football around at all times, and Mendenhall had to pay $100 to anyone that knocked it loose from his grasp.
Mendenhall lost a fumble in the Steelers' 19-16 win over the Panthers last Thursday, but he wasn't seen carrying around a football in the locker room before or after practice yesterday. "He's thinking about it way too much instead of going out and playing the game," Parker said, on why he won't address the fumbling issue with Mendenhall. "When you think about fumbling, obviously it's going to happen."
• He may have won one of the final spots on the 53-man roster, but Dallas Baker didn't exactly have to sweat it out. Coach Mike Tomlin told the second-year wide receiver Friday that he had made the Steelers. "That helped," Baker said, "because I was kind of on edge, wondering." Baker beat out Willie Reid, a third-round pick in 2006, for the final opening in the Steelers' wide receiving corps. He spent all of last season on the practice squad.
3 -- Kicker Jeff Reed's rank on the Steelers' all-time scoring list
616 -- Career points by Reed, who was voted captain of the special teams yesterday
3 -- Sacks Troy Polamalu had against the Texans in 2005, the last time the Steelers played them
5 -- Consecutive regular-season openers the Steelers have won
Scott Brown can be reached at [email="firstname.lastname@example.org"]email@example.com[/email] or 412-481-543