Steelers' Plan Falling Into Place

PITTSBURGH – Max Starks returned to the lineup yesterday. Mike Wallace will join it next week. Jeremy Kapinos will fall in about then. And James Harrison and Casey Hampton expect to be there for the opener.

It's all beginning to fall into place for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"We have a pretty good plan going here, and it's coming together," said Kapinos.

What is the plan?

"Man," said Hampton, "you know Mike T don't want us telling what the plan is."

Is it a good plan?

"Yeah," said Hampton. "It's a pretty good plan."

Any plan that has a starting left tackle, a legitimate deep threat, a nose tackle, a punter, and a top-shelf pass-rusher coming back into the fold is a good plan.

Here's the breakdown:

• Wallace, according to "a source" at a Pittsburgh metro paper, will report to the team sometime this weekend, sign his tender, and practice next week in time for the fourth and final preseason game. Or, what Ike Taylor predicted here last week.

"When he get here," Taylor said with a chuckle yesterday, "I'm going to show y'all the Café Davio tab on Twitter. That's when y'all know he here."

• Starks moved right into his old left tackle spot Tuesday to put the last piece of Todd Haley's first offensive line in Pittsburgh into place. But, there's concern that Starks is being rushed a bit.

"This quickly in the preseason? It wasn't in my mind," admitted Starks. "The regular season was my goal. But I'm happy to have made it this far, and now actually put everything to rest."

Brett Keisel ran past Starks easily in his first one-on-one rep, but Starks rebounded to stonewall Keisel the next rep and Starks finished the practice without incident. The trainers will monitor his next-day recovery for the more revealing information.

• Kapinos reported to camp July 25 and ran the conditioning drill, but two days later missed his first practice with "back discomfort." Two weeks ago, the veteran punter had back surgery and is on schedule to play in the fourth preseason game.

"I hit some balls (Tuesday) and I felt really good about it," Kapinos said. "I hit balls yesterday and every day gets better. Today from yesterday, I feel 150 percent physically better. I feel like I'm going to be there. We've got a pretty good plan."

• Harrison expects to be back for the opener. He explained the status of his knee in this quick Q & A:

Q: Did you have any setback during camp?

A: Well, just actually getting out there and doing field work, cutting. It blew back up, so I couldn't delay it any longer.

Q: Is that what happened before minicamp?

A: Yeah. Got two days of practice in and started cutting on it.

Q: So cutting will be the big thing when you go back out there?

A: Yeah.

Q: Did this surgical procedure take care of that?

A: Yeah. They say it should. Only time will tell.

• Hampton suffered a torn ACL last Jan. 8 and was activated off the PUP list late last week. He expects to be on the field in Denver Sept. 9.

"I should be," he said. "That's my plan."

Hampton said he needs some conditioning work, and expects to split time with current replacement Steve McLendon in games.

"Just rotate," Hampton said. "I definitely have to get in better shape, stuff like that. But we would definitely be rotating."

It's likely Hampton would play the nose in the base defense and McLendon would play the nickel and dime packages.

• As for the running backs, the near future is a mixed bag of news. Rashard Mendenhall is off the PUP list, but not expected to play until October. He was activated in order to get into football shape. Isaac Redman returned to practice Tuesday and said his injured hip was feeling much better.

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