Game day notebook

Here's one final look at the prep for Sunday's game between 2-0 teams Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh:

After playing in weather conditions one writer described as "Africa hot" last Sunday in Nashville, the Steelers are prepared for similar conditions, and again they'll be wearing their black jerseys.

The weather forecast for Tampa today is 87 degrees with 65 percent humidity for a heat index of 95 degrees. The readings were similar in Nashville.

"I think as long as you rest up and hydrate and do the things you're supposed to do, it shouldn't be that bad," said Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith. "I think sometimes it has a worse effect if you have to practice in it every day. You never get to bounce back."

Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman was asked if he and the Bucs enjoy the heat.

"I don't know if enjoy is the right word, but we definitely embrace the heat," he said. "It's hot but it gives us an advantage. When the heat index is over 100 and it's a smoldering day, we're use to it so I think it gives us a bit of an advantage. But I definitely look forward to the second-half-of-the-season games."

"I don't mind going to Tampa," said Smith. "It has a special place in my heart. I'm sure we'll reminisce some, but it's like that at every football stadium, when you think about what you did the time before."

The Steelers, of course, won Super Bowl XLIII the last time they visited Tampa.


The Steelers may be without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but the Bucs lost a key defensive player this week when free safety Tanard Jackson was suspended for the rest of the season by the league.

An opening-day starter his rookie season in 2007, Jackson tied Aqib Talib for the team lead with 5 interceptions last season, and Jackson returned 2 of those interceptions for touchdowns.

The opening will be filled by rookie Cody Grimm, who played linebacker during his career at Virginia Tech. Grimm is the son of former Steelers O-line coach Russ Grimm.

Bucs coach Raheem Morris explained his decision to Tampa reporters.

"You watch the kid go out there and perform and then you put him in different situations that you didn't see him in college and he performs the way he has so far. He's been a student of the game," Morris said. "The limited amount of errors that he has made as a rookie, it gives you a great feel about him. I want to see him go out and play."


Grimm won't be the only rookie in the Bucs' starting lineup. Also in the starting lineup are the 2010 draft's third overall pick DT Gerald McCoy, fourth-round pick WR Mike Williams, and undrafted P Chris Bryan.

The Bucs also start second-year players WR Sammie Stroughter, QB Josh Freeman, DE Kyle Moore, and DT Roy Miller.

At an average age per player of 26 years and 18 days, the Bucs have the second-youngest roster in the NFL behind the Carolina Panthers. Morris, 34, is the NFL's youngest coach.


Ruled out of the game by the Steelers are Dennis Dixon (knee) and Trai Essex (ankle). Charlie Batch will replace Dixon at quarterback and Doug Legursky will replace Essex at right guard. Listed as probably by the Steelers are: NT Casey Hampton, LG Chris Kemoeatu, LT Max Starks and WR Hines Ward.

Tampa Bay lists center Jeff Faine (calf) as questionable, but he returned to practice Friday and expects to play. Also questionable are reserves RB Kareem Huggins (groin), LB Niko Koutouvides (ankle), and CB Myron Lewis (knee). Probable Bucs are TE Kellen Winslow (knee), QB Josh Freeman (right thumb), and RB Cadillac Williams (hamstring).

The game did not sell out by the 1 p.m. Thursday deadline and will be blacked out from TV in the local area.

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