Woodley 'Still in Play' for Thursday

Mike Tomlin held his weekly press conference a day early due to the Steelers' Thursday night game against the visiting Cleveland Browns. Here's what went down:

LaMarr Woodley played in only two series Sunday after missing the previous three games with a hamstring injury. However, the Steelers' left outside linebacker "is still in play" for Thursday night's game against the Cleveland Browns, according to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.

"I don't know if you want to characterize that as a setback at this point," Tomlin said of Woodley's early exit Sunday. "The week will provide that information for us. He felt something and he was mature enough to not do any further damage to it."

Tomlin explained that Woodley was on a short leash, or "a pitch count," anyway upon his return from the injury that knocked him to the ground while blitzing New England quarterback Tom Brady on Oct. 30. "Obviously he didn't log enough time for that to become an issue," Tomlin said.

In other injury news from the Steelers' 35-7 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, right guard Ramon Foster, who left the game with a sprained left ankle, is questionable for Thursday night. Tomlin also said that special-teams captain Arnaz Battle and rookie reserve linebacker Chris Carter will remain out Thursday with hamstring injuries, and that No. 4 running back Jonathan Dwyer was visiting the doctor Tuesday because of a "foot issue."

Tomlin also said that No. 3 nose tackle Chris Hoke was visiting a doctor today to examine his neck because of back-to-back "stingers" suffered earlier in the season. But that injury is not the reason Hoke has been inactive the last six games.

KEY TO TACKLE PUZZLE

Tomlin was talking about the Browns' defense, and in particular their left defensive end Jabaal Sheard, a rookie from Pitt, when Tomlin may have provided a hint to the Steelers' future puzzle at the offensive tackle positions.

"We've got to do a good job against Sheard," Tomlin said. "It's going to be a big challenge for Marcus Gilbert, one that he better quickly establish himself with because if he's going to continue to be our right tackle he's going to continue to see Sheard, because he appears to be a mainstay for those guys."

Of course, Gilbert had been considered the Steelers' left tackle of the future since being drafted in the second round last April. He's been playing right tackle since Willie Colon was put on injured reserve after the opener.

Colon, of course, is in the first year of a five-year contract that included a $6 million signing bonus. Will Colon move to guard upon returning next season? Will the Steelers re-sign left tackle Max Starks, who's playing with a one-year contract? Tomlin's comment indicates that both questions could be answered in the affirmative.

BALLAD OF CURTIS BROWN

Steelers third-round pick Curtis Brown made two more special-teams tackles Sunday to maintain his team lead with 12. Tomlin was asked about the rookie cornerback at Monday's press conference.

"He's got a different sense of urgency than most," Tomlin started. "His hair's on fire. He competes when he's in position to make plays; he competes when he's in less-than-ideal position. He's an exciting young guy, not only because of what he's doing on teams, but generally if a guy plays with that kind of urgency and that kind of production on special teams, it's a window into what he may be capable of doing at some point on offense or defense.

"We're excited not only about him, but we're getting similar efforts and contributions from (fourth-round pick) Cortez Allen as well."

Allen is the Steelers' No. 4 cornerback and enters the field in the dime defense (on Sunday in place of free safety Ryan Clark). Brown has yet to play cornerback for the Steelers. Both rookies are the team's punt gunners.


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