Velasco The Veteran Leader

The 2-5 Steelers are on edge, make no mistake, but they remained positive and upbeat about the New England Patriots. Here's Jim Wexell's Wednesday rundown:

PITTSBURGH -- With both guards missing Wednesday's practice, center Fernando Velasco -- the man signed off the street after Maurkice Pouncey went down on opening day -- became the senior leader in charge of the interior of the Steelers' offensive line.

That's according to a senior spokesman in the locker room, the six-week veteran Velasco himself.

"It ain't by choice," said Velasco, who had to guide replacement guards Cody Wallace and Guy Whimper through scrimmages Wednesday.

"My job is to be the best I can be and make sure everybody's on the same page," Velasco said. "Cody and Guy are pros and they do a good job. They know the calls. With all of us it's just a matter of going out there and doing it."

Ramon Foster (concussion) is expected to practice Thursday. David DeCastro (ankle) may not, but he was walking without a limp Wednesday and said, "It feels good," before reporters wanted to talk about his playing chances.

"You guys know I can't talk about that," he said as he moved away quickly, at what appeared to be a promising pace for an injured ankle.


New England coach Bill Belichick isn't well-liked by most reporters, but he always provides interesting answers. Here are three quick-hitters from Wednesday:

* Didn't Heath Miller hurt you the last time you played the Steelers?

"He killed us. I mean, everybody hurt us in that game. There's a long list of guys that hurt us in that game. He was definitely one of them, yeah, absolutely. Thanks for reminding me. I'd forgotten all about it."

* What did you like about Emmanuel Sanders that made you pursue him in the off-season?

"I think Emmanuel has done a good job in the time he has been in Pittsburgh, and he's doing it again this year. He's an outstanding player. The kickoff return against the Ravens was a potentially game-changing play. It was. It set up the winning field goal drive. The play he had last week on the two-point play -- he's fast, he runs well with the ball in his hands, he gets open, he's a hard guy to cover, a hard guy to tackle and has value in the kicking game. I think he's got a lot of things going for him."

* How is Tom Brady playing?

"We're 6-2. The quarterback's job is to figure out a way to make the plays to get his team to win and that's really the bottom line for Tom, me and everybody else. That's what we're here for is to win games. He's doing things to help us win them and that's really our most important statistic. The rest of them are pretty meaningless really. Just the score at the end of the game."


While we're doing that Q&A thing, here's what transpired at the start of a mob interview of Steelers defensive captain Brett Keisel:

Reporter #1: Did you let them have it?

Keisel: Who?

Reporter #1: The team.

Keisel: Um, that's for me and the team.

(Long pause)

Reporter #1: But you did talk about it?

Keisel: That's for me and the team.

Reporter #2: What didn't you talk about?

Keisel: We didn't talk about anything.

Reporter #3: Who's on first?

Keisel: Yeah.

Reporter #1: When did that not occur? Monday?

Keisel: It might not have occurred yet.

Reporter #1: This is great copy so far.

Keisel: (Laughs) This is an awesome sound bite.

Reporter #4: Brett, is there anything you guys can do to start games faster?

Keisel: We're just addressing it. When we go out to the practice field, first period has to be a go-to period. You've got to be ready to go when we step on the practice field. Hopefully that will relate to fast starts in the games.

Reporter #1: Maybe someone should talk to the team about that?

Keisel: Yeah. Someone should.


LaMarr Woodley might never have been as available to the media as he was Wednesday, probably because he had something important to say:

The gap Terrelle Pryor ran through for a 93-yard touchdown run on the first play in Oakland was not his gap.

"My responsibility on that play was to go down and take the running back," said Woodley. "My focus on that play wasn't even to look at the quarterback. It was, if it looks like a handoff, go down and take the running back."

Woodley didn't name names, but others pointed to Lawrence Timmons, the inside backer on that side for that play, as having the gap responsibility.

On a second-quarter play, OLB Jarvis Jones was caught inside by a tight end and lost containment, allowing Darrin McFadden a 19-yard scamper around left end. Jones did recover and run McFadden down, but he was yanked from the game and has subsequently lost his spot at the top of the depth chart to Jason Worilds.

"Yeah, it was probably that one," Jones said. "It's a definite learning curve, man. I think everybody knows that. Before I even got here it's been said that playing Coach (Dick) LeBeau's defense is a challenge. I think I've got to keep chopping wood, stay in the film room, stay in my playbook, just keep learning, man. That doesn't happen overnight. I've just got to stay positive about it and keep learning."

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