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Brandon Boykin worked into a rotation Wednesday, but Blake holds spot Thursday

SCI's Jim Wexell has short stories on Blake, Markus Wheaton, Frank Lewis and Troy Polamalu, plus a short-but-concise Steelers medical report.

PITTSBURGH -- A day after the Pittsburgh Steelers used a rotation of their first three cornerbacks, struggling starter Antwon Blake confirmed that he took all of the first-team reps Thursday in what appeared to be a quick victory in the staff's review of his first-team worthiness.

But Blake admitted it meant nothing with a practice remaining today. Even defensive coordinator Keith Butler inferred that there's more reviewing necessary.

"We’re still letting it kind of figure itself out, (Friday) too," said Butler. "We felt like we needed to get some guys some reps and we’ll see what happens when we get to game time. I’m not going to tell you who we are going to start, because I don’t want to tell them who we're starting."

The question comes down to whether the Steelers will keep William Gay outside opposite either Blake or Ross Cockrell when the other team uses three wide receivers, because Gay normally is moved inside on the slot receiver when Cockrell enters the field opposite Blake.

Another slot corner, Brandon Boykin, received first-group reps on Wednesday, but it doesn't appear as if he's in the running for an outside spot. That clue was provided by Butler when asked if opposing teams would target Boykin in the run game.

"They may or they may not," Butler said. "But we’re not going to put him in there when we think they’re running."

Was Blake's physical stature the reason they chose him to play cornerback at the start of the season, even though he too was untested and raw?

"What Blake had shown us in training camp was really a mental toughness type of thing," Butler explained. "He’s in a position right now where he’s never played as many plays as he has this year, and he’s playing a lot on special teams, so that will wear you out. ... Every time they try to go deep you’re running with them. It’s like you’re running 70-yard sprints all the time and then going to special teams and running another 70-yard sprint to cover the kick. So, we have to be smart about that and where we’re playing him and giving him rest. We’ll try to manage that a little bit better than we have."

The guess here -- with the understanding that anything can happen at today's practice -- is that Boykin will receive some of the slot reps in the nickel on game night in order to give Blake some rest for his special-teams work.


Wide receiver Markus Wheaton had a breakout game last Sunday with career highs in catches (9) and receiving yards (201). But the soft-spoken Wheaton wouldn't respond to his quarterback's exhortations to tell the group of reporters around him how great he was.

In that regard, Wheaton's humility is unique among today's wide receivers.

Or even yesterday's.

Wheaton was relayed the story about Frank Lewis, who went on to make the Pro Bowl with the Buffalo Bills after struggling to rise above Lynn Swann and John Stallworth with the Steelers in quarterback Terry Bradshaw's pecking order.

"I wasn't into politics," Lewis once said. "If I had been, I probably would've gotten more attempts because that's what it's all about: The quarterback's got to give you attempts to make catches and plays."

Lewis, a first-round pick by the Steelers in 1971, was eventually given away to the Bills in a lopsided trade in 1978. Wheaton merely smiled at the analogy.

"Everybody's different," Wheaton said. "I'm not going to break out of character. I'm going to be myself. If it's not liked, then it's not liked."

Did he recognize himself in that story?

"I'm not sure," Wheaton said.

Does he think he might have to ask Ben Roethlisberger -- his next-door neighbor in the locker room -- for more passes?

"I definitely bug Ben, just not in that way. I'll just say that," was all the gracious Wheaton would say.


Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, the upcoming opponent and the third 40-something QB in modern history to win four consecutive NFL starts, was asked if he still thinks about the Super Bowl loss to the Steelers back when he played for the Seattle Seahawks.

"It's just one of those games," Hasselbeck said. "I lost my high school Super Bowl to Brockton High School in 1992 and it's a game that you're just disappointed about. I know that game against Brockton we had a lead. We were up 17-0 and we ended up losing 18-17 so it's very disappointing. Going back to that Super Bowl in '06 against the Steelers, I think it's just disappointing. Here you are in the biggest game of your life and we didn't play our best football and lost. So that's just something you've gotta live with."

Does he think about it more as the years go by?

"The thing is, you really want to dislike a team after you lose to them in a game like that. For us in our division for a while it was 'The Greatest Show on Turf.' We didn't really want to like the Rams and then I developed some friendships with guys who were on the Rams. I go back to that Super Bowl, I wanted to really dislike the Steelers and I think it was just a few days later we arrived in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl and just on the beach I came to find out Troy Polamalu's like the nicest guy in the world. I think Alan Faneca's kids and my kids were playing together for hours on the beach. Travis Kirschke and his wife, his wife becomes really great friends with my wife. You almost can't dislike them. I've got a tremendous amount of respect for a lot of the players on the team that we ended up losing to. I think you just get over it and realize that football's more about relationships at the end of the day."

Does he, like everyone else in Seattle, still blame the officials?

"That's even a great example," Hasselbeck said. "I think fans want to pile on Bill Levy or whoever, or the NFL for whatever. I think Bill Levy's a tremendous human being and a great guy and I think he's a good ref. Like I mentioned many times, we all have good days and we all have bad days. Like I mentioned, we didn't have our best day as a team that day executing and playing well, and that's what sports are. It's people who go out and try to do the best that they can."


There's nothing fun about chasing injuries as a reporter. Some players respond; others don't. But here's the checklist from among this week's injured players:

* Roethlisberger practiced full-time both days after suffering a head injury.

Ryan Shazier (concussion) was limited Wednesday but practiced full-time Thursday.

"I got knocked out," Shazier said of last Sunday's game. "There were a few little things I didn't recall. I remember most of the game."

On his two-year plague with injuries: "The more you think about trying to stay healthy, trying to get away from injuries, (the more you) increase the chance you have them. So I'm going to stop worrying about it and go out there and play like I normally play."

Heath Miller (ribs) has missed both the Wednesday and Thursday practices.

"You'll have to ask the coach," he said of potentially playing Sunday night against the Colts.

Martavis Bryant (hip) didn't practice Wednesday and was limited Thursday.

"I'm playing," he said of Sunday's game.

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