Notebook: Opportunities at RB

Mewelde Moore's absence Sunday will create opportunities for Isaac Redman and perhaps Jonathan Dwyer. Also in Thursday's notebook, James Harrison had a fine reduced and Brett Keisel a Pro Bowl alternate.

PITTSBURGH – Mewelde Moore missed Thursday's practice with a sore knee and the Steelers don't expect their third-down running back to recover in time to play Sunday in Cleveland.

That'll mean an expanded role for Rashard Mendenhall's backup, Isaac Redman, and will perhaps mean the debut of rookie Jonathan Dwyer.

"Only in emergencies," offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said of Dwyer. "Hopefully the game will play out so we can play him and get him exposed, just in case, for the playoffs."

Otherwise, Arians would prefer Dwyer learn from the sideline. Dwyer was the first of the Steelers' two sixth-round draft choices last April. He'd rushed for 1,395 yards in each of his last two seasons at Georgia Tech, but played fullback in Tech's option attack and came to the Steelers as a novice in the passing game.

"That's the big part," Arians said. "Hey, we know he can run the football. It's protecting the quarterback and all of those things. He's gotten a ton of work this week to make sure that he's ready. If needed, I think he'll come through."

Redman has served as Mendenhall's backup and a short-yardage runner (15 carries for 50 yards) and, while lined up in the slot, grabbed a 9-yard touchdown pass on a hot read to beat the Baltimore Ravens in the Steelers' biggest game this season.

Moore has been the Steelers' predominant third-down back because of his skills in picking up the blitz, but Redman sees this as an opportunity to prove himself in that area Sunday.

"I think I've done a pretty good job with that," he said. "I haven't made any mistakes, and I couldn't say that a year ago. Last year, I had no idea what I was doing, but this year I'm doing well enough that the coaches had me working with Dwyer to help him. Last year, I couldn't even help myself."

"I'm doing better at it," said Dwyer. "It's improving every week. At meetings I'm always asking questions and the other running backs are always helping me out. The three rules for us are: Be productive in the running game, be accountable about ball security, and know what you're doing on blitz pick-up. You do those things and we'll be all right."

Dwyer said he's prepared each week as if he were going to play, and therefore has grown exponentially this season. He said he's also been able to get his weight down near 220 pounds.

"From day one he's come a long way," said Arians. "He's more of a complete halfback rather than just being a running back. He's got a nice skill set to work with. He's got a nice future. But I hope it would come next year, not right away."

LEAGUE REDUCES HARRISON FINE

The NFL on Thursday reduced James Harrison's fine for his hit on Cleveland WR Mohamed Massaquoi to $50,000 from its original $75,000. It was one of three fines reduced by the league Thursday.

PRO BOWL DEFENDERS

The Steelers have allowed the fewest points in the NFL this season, the second fewest yards, and will go down as one of the greatest run-stopping defenses of all time. Yet, only two defenders – Troy Polamalu and James Harrison – were named to the Pro Bowl.

"We've got a couple alternates," said defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. "I think we've got a lot of guys who are Pro Bowl players. Every year some go and some don't, but over the years we've had good representation with our guys and we're proud of that."

Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel are the defense's first alternates. Hampton has been to five Pro Bowls, but this would be Keisel's first.

"I feel like it's been my best year, when I've been out there," said Keisel. "It's been frustrating missing (five) games. That's why I was a little surprised I made it. But it's something you strive to be in this profession. It's tough to make it, especially when you're a 3-4 end in the scheme we play. It's an honor."

The three AFC defensive ends named to the Pro Bowl were Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis of the Indianapolis Colts, and Jason Babin of the Tennessee Titans. The Pro Bowl is played the week before the Super Bowl, so players from Super Bowl teams won't play in the Pro Bowl.

"I'd much rather make it all the way to Dallas than play in my first Pro Bowl, but it's nice to be recognized," Keisel said.

INJURY REPORT

Missing Thursday's practice were Moore, Polamalu (ankle), OT Chris Scott (not injury-related) and DE Aaron Smith (triceps). Rookie DE Jason Worilds (knee) practiced on a limited basis.

Missing from the Cleveland Browns' practice Thursday were DE Kenyon Coleman (knee), RB Peyton Hillis (ribs) and G Floyd Womack (knee). Hillis, the Browns' leading rusher with 1,164 yards, has missed both practices this week.


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