TE Saunders Back, But Not Quite All The Way

Weslye Saunders is back with the team, but he's not quite back on the team. Jim Wexell explains in his Tuesday afternoon practice notebook from this short work week.

PITTSBURGH – Weslye Saunders is mentally and physically fit, and he's on the roster, and he's ready to go.

But he has no idea what the Steelers have in store for him.

"They haven't said a word. Not a word," said Saunders. "I have no clue what's going on."

All the second-year tight end knew was that he was allowed to practice Tuesday for the first time this season, and he did.

The Steelers have a 54-man roster until 4 p.m. Friday to make a decision on Saunders, who was suspended for the first four games this season because he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in the offseason.

The Steelers could activate him before Thursday night's game but would have to release someone and are unlikely to do so.

Saunders spent the past month studying the playbook while he trained in Arizona. He weighs 266 pounds, "as light as I've been since college," he said.

Saunders said he also leaned on Heath Miller throughout the suspension to keep up with the offense's changes.

"I feel like Heath knows everything," Saunders said. "He was the guy I probably talked to the most."


Miller continued his rise up the Steelers' all-time charts with his 41 yards on 4 receptions last Sunday, giving him 4,0134 career receiving yards. He's the eighth player in franchise history to reach 4,000 career receiving yards.

Miller now needs just 3 receptions to pass Louis Lipps and become the franchise's No. 3 all-time leading receiver.

Miller has 356 catches to trail Lipps (358), John Stallworth (537) and Hines Ward (1,000).

In his eighth season, Miller has 19 catches for 170 yards and 4 touchdowns.

The 4 touchdowns are the most Miller has scored in the first four games of any season. His other "quarter-pole" highs are 24 receptions (2009) and 197 yards (2007).


Executing a play instead of spiking the ball to stop the clock has been something upon which Ben Roethlisberger has worked with his receivers over the past couple of years.

But on Sunday he spiked the ball on first-and-goal from the Philadelphia 9 with 23 seconds and a timeout left. The Steelers ended up kicking a 20-yard field goal.

Roethlisberger was asked yesterday about his thought process in such situations.

"It's completely situational," he said. "I can't really give anything away because we have plays involved with that, but sometimes you're just trying to save as much time as you can. When you get down there, the down, having an extra play, doesn't really matter. You want to get yourself in a calming situation if guys are stressed, and guys are running around scatterbrained you want to slow things down. As a quarterback you want to have a feel for that."

Did it factor into his decision-making that Antonio Brown had lost a shoe?

"A little bit, and their guy throwing it," Roethlisberger said. "I just didn't feel like we had the play coming in. It just felt like the right time to slow everything down and regroup."


Missing the Steelers' Tuesday practice were SS Troy Polamalu (calf) and LOLB LaMarr Woodley (hamstring). Limited were ROLB James Harrison (knee), RB Rashard Mendenhall (knee) and ILB Stevenson Sylvester (knee).

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