Notebook: Ilkin An Ideal Candidate

PITTSBURGH – Tunch Ilkin hasn't been offered the job as the Steelers' offensive line coach, but would be an outstanding choice says colleague and former teammate Craig Wolfley.

Wolfley is a former offensive guard for the Steelers. He played on the same line with Ilkin, a Pro Bowl tackle, for 10 years and was Ilkin's roommate. They're now radio co-hosts for 970 AM and work game broadcasts together for the Steelers Radio Network.

With Steelers line coach Sean Kugler taking the head coaching position at his alma mater, the University of Texas El-Paso, the position will be open next week.

"Sean was a guy who was big on zone-blocking schemes," Wolfley said. "I think maybe you head in a different direction with a guy like Tunch Ilkin, who harkens back to the days of yore."

Bill Cowher once offered Ilkin the position, but Ilkin declined in order to spend more time with his family. But with his wife's passing this year, and his children in college, the time could be right.

"The problem with that is he is my radio partner and I would hate to see that happen," Wofley joked. "But at the same time he's a guy who's a very capable coach who has some real ideas about run-blocking and more of a man-blocking scheme ... a real emphasis on getting back to rolling over the front foot and coming off the ball."


Heath Miller and Maurkice Pouncey were the only Steelers named to the Pro Bowl yesterday.

Pouncey, the center, was named for a third time but will play for the first time.

"It's awesome," Pouncey said. "This time is going to be a little more stressful because I finally get to go to it. The first time we were in the Super Bowl (XLV) and last year I didn't get to go because of offseason surgery. It means a lot to take my family to Hawaii and spend some vacation time and then get the chance to play in the game with so many great players."

Miller, of course, won't be able to play. He and Ike Taylor and Baron Batch were placed on injured reserve yesterday and replaced by tight end Jamie McCoy, safety Damon Cromartie-Smith and linebacker Marshall McFadden.

Miller will undergo surgery today on his the torn ACL and MCL in his right knee. His PCL is damaged but "that will heal on its own," Miller said.

Miller is also expected to win the team's MVP award after an early Thursday vote.

"It would be humbling," he said. "But the overriding factor is the disappointing season and not doing what we set out to do."

The Steelers also signed cornerback Walter McFadden and wide receiver Bert Reed to their practice squad.


Everybody wants to talk to Casey Hampton this week, perhaps his final one with the Steelers.

Hampton's played well, particularly in the second half of the season, but the 35-year-old's contract is up after Sunday's game and his backup at nose tackle, Steve McLendon, is ready for a promotion.

Hampton wouldn't talk about a possible extension, or "something I have no control over," but did give an assessment of how the Steelers ended up playing a meaningless finale.

"I think early in the season you can't give away games you're supposed to win," he said. "I think that comes back to bite you at the end of the day. Every team's banged up; not making any excuses for things like that. You've got to win those games early that you're supposed to win so later on you can afford to drop a game or two when your health isn't there and guys aren't full strength."


Ben Roethlisberger said he intends to work diligently with offensive coordinator Todd Haley in the off-season, and also expressed disappointment over his fourth-quarter performances this season.

Roethlisberger couldn't drive the Steelers late in either of the last two games, both three-point losses.

"I don't think there's a rhyme or reason why. It just was a year where I wasn't (successful)," Roethlisberger said. "I don't think there's any reason to go panic. I've been pretty good for eight years doing it and had one not-so-good year at it. I felt like I played pretty good football other than those situations. There's not going to be any panic. I know that this offseason, when it gets here, will be a focus on striving to get better."


Both of Cleveland's quarterbacks – Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy – missed Wednesday's practice with shoulder injuries. The starter was Thad Lewis, who has yet to play in an NFL game and was just promoted off the Browns' practice squad.

"I was with him in St. Louis," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. "He came from Duke University. He did some good things for us in the preseason. We had an opportunity to pick him up here. I jumped on it. I'm glad he's here. I trust him. He has a live arm. He's a good athlete. He's a smart football player. He's been around what we do enough where I think he can go in there and be able to execute."

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