Sunday notebook:

Notes on Dennis Dixon, Doug Legursky, Maurkice Pouncey and more as the Steelers brace for the Ravens.

PITTSBURGH – Mike Tomlin was hoping he could wait until tomorrow to put Dennis Dixon on injured reserve, but he needs a backup nose tackle today.

So the Steelers on Saturday put Dixon on IR, effectively ending his season, and they signed nose tackle Steve McLendon off the practice squad.

McLendon, who'd replaced Casey Hampton at Tennessee and recovered a fumble, will now replace Chris Hoke as Hampton's backup.

Hoke sprained his knee last Sunday at Tampa Bay and was hoping he could recover for today's game against the Ravens. But the Steelers instead will risk that Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich will come out of the game healthy.

Dixon would've been able to return next month at the latest.

THE KINDA-BIG LEGURSKY

Doug Legursky, at 6 feet 1, looks like "Mutt" next to 6-foot-7 Flozell Adams's "Jeff" along the Steelers' offensive line, but for the second consecutive week Legursky will replace the injured Trai Essex at right guard.

"Casey Hampton said if he was 6-3 he'd be in the Pro Bowl," said Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. "Everybody says he's little just because he's short, but he's 320, 315. That's stature. He has great hand placement and knows how to play the game. He started all those games in college. He's just a good football player."

Arians was asked if Legursky is the kind of guy who won't give the job back.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he's in it for a long time," Arians said.

POUNCEY VS. NTs

For the first time this season, Steelers rookie center Maurkice Pouncey will face a nose tackle in a base 3-4 defense. And the Ravens have several quality candidates in 350-pound Haloti Ngata, 320-pound Kelly Gregg and even 349-pound rookie Terrence Cody.

Cody, a second-round draft pick, hasn't been active yet this season, but Pouncey remembers him from the past two SEC championship games between Florida and Alabama.

Pouncey, Florida's center, was thrown a surprise last year when Alabama switched to a 4-3 and used Cody over the guard.

"But the year before he played a lot more nose," said Pouncey.

And?

"I did good," Pouncey said. "I don't get pushed around."

AARON MIXING IT UP

The Steelers call it their "mixer" defense, when, in third-down passing situations, their front-seven defenders mill around at the line of scrimmage without putting their hands on the ground.

According to Brett Keisel, Aaron Smith was the final convert.

"It's something we finally got Aaron to do, stand up and get his hand out of the dirt," Keisel said. "It was like pulling teeth trying to get him out of his habits."

The scheme has resulted in several big plays for the Steelers. For instance, LaMarr Woodley dropped to intercept Vince Young at a key moment of the Titans' game.

"It's working well right now," Keisel said. "Coach (Dick) LeBeau is a genius when it comes down to these types of things. … That's why it's so important to shut down the run, because then we can do a lot of things in those situations."

Does LeBeau have anything interesting in store for today's game?

"You bet," Keisel said. "We've got some exciting stuff we haven't used yet."

HURRICANE IKE

Cornerback Ike Taylor has been relatively calm since being ejected in the second preseason game for fighting with a wide receiver after the first play. But he says there've been no lessons learned.

"I'd be like to be like that every game," he said. "It's my style, my demeanor. I would like to throw the first punch in every game. I don't want anybody throwing the first punch at me. I don't even ask questions, just shoot first."

Why?

"It's my style of play," he said. "That's what I do."

Has Tomlin tried to change that style of play?

"Nah. He won't ever take that away from me. Never. If he sees that leaving me, he'll know that's not even me."

QUOTABLE

* Steelers cornerback Bryant McFadden on Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin's 4.7 40 time:

"Forty times in football should be null and void. Cornerbacks who think about 40 times are usually getting beat deep."

* Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis on playing at Heinz Field:

"Every time I step on the field, the legends live. I know that mystery you always thought about. You feel that when you go out there. If you are playing the linebacker position and you go out there and you don't feel that, then you haven't kept up with football. I kept up with football. The Steelers have always had a great tradition since the beginning of time."


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