Woodson Comeback On Hold

Any hopes the reeling Cowboys (2-3) had of being helped this week by the return of safety Darren Woodson were quickly dashed Monday.

Coach Bill Parcells said the 13-year veteran, who underwent back surgery in July and was placed on the physically unable to perform list before the season, is not ready to go.

Per NFL rules, players placed on PUP must sit out the first six weeks of the season. The team then has three weeks to return the player to practice.

Once a player returns to practice, the team has 14 days to make a final decision on whether to put him on the active roster or keep him on PUP.

While Woodson acknowledged initially targeting his return for this Sunday's matchup against the Packers since this was officially the first week he could return to practice, he too says he's simply not ready to go.

"I am feeling pretty good," Woodson said. "But I am not going to lie and say I am at my best right now. I am not 100 percent. I am not full speed. It was my goal to come back this week. I just haven't reached that goal yet."

Although fourth-year safety Tony Dixon has played solidly in his stead, Parcells hopes to get Woodson's leadership back on the field at some point this season.

Woodson is also hopeful of returning to the lineup and helping out a struggling Cowboys defense that has gone from being the league's best in 2003 to 15th through six games in 2004.

However, Woodson said his health is most important. His rehab was set back by a problem with a sciatic nerve, causing weakness in his right leg. He has yet to run full speed, and he still walks with a limp.

"I want to play," Woodson said. "At the same time I have to walk right. I am not walking right right now. When I get to the point where I am walking right and I am running 100 percent then I will take the next step. Right now I am not healthy enough to walk without a limp. If I get past that I will see what happens."

* CB Terence Newman was repeatedly picked on by the Steelers. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers threw in Newman's direction on nearly half of their completions. Newman had 12 tackles, eight on pass plays.

On Pittsburgh's first drive of the game, Plaxico Burress caught a 32-yard pass on Newman, who was also flagged for a 5-yard facemask penalty. The next play was a Hines Ward 15-yard catch with Newman defending to set up first-and-goal, and two plays later Burress caught a 5-yard touchdown pass on Newman to tie the score 7-7.

Ward caught six passes on Newman, four going for 11 yards or more. Burress' three receptions with Newman defending were for 32, 13 and 5 yards. Newman also had an illegal-contact penalty in the third quarter.

* DE Greg Ellis' sixth sack of the season was briefly in question. In the second quarter, Ellis took down Ben Roethlisberger just as the quarterback was throwing the ball away.

The officials ruled Roethlisberger down with a 7-yard loss, crediting Ellis with the sack and making the Steelers settle for a 51-yard field goal.

Ellis, a seventh-year defensive end who twisted his right ankle late in the game, has a sack in four consecutive games, which ties his career best. He had a career-high eight sacks in 2003.

* P Mat McBriar's 58-yard kick in the second quarter went five yards farther than his previous season long. McBriar was averaging 37.8 yards per punt going into the game. He had punts of 40, 58, 51 and 52 yards Sunday.

McBriar's 50.3 average gross average was a single-game career high and the best gross punting average for the Cowboys since Toby Gowin averaged 53.3 Oct. 24, 1999 against Washington. McBriar's net average was 45.0 Sunday.

* CB Tyrone Williams started at right cornerback and finished with four tackles and a sack for minus-three yards. He is the third starter at the right cornerback, following Pete Hunter and Jacques Reeves. Hunter is out for the season and Reeves has been benched. The Cowboys hope Williams can keep the job for a while. He will start a second straight week Sunday against the Packers.

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