Pittsburgh Steelers: Team Notes

--Rookie safety Troy Polamalu once cut his hair short by order of his position coach when he was a sophomore at Southern Cal. Today, his long, curly black hair flows out all sides of his helmet.

"Sometimes the hair gets caught up in your chin strap and mouth and it gets annoying," Polamalu said. "I know I would regret it if I cut it, but it is a problem."

--Mark Bruener has started at tight end since his rookie season in 1995. Now he has some competition for that job.

"They brought in Jay Riemersma because they wanted someone to be a threat down the middle of the field," Bruener said. "I think Jay's a great receiving tight end. I think he can bring some great things to our tight end position in our offense. It's just a matter of getting a nice combination of who we have in there and trying to keep the defense on their heels."

Bruener started the first exhibition game.

--Chukky Okobi filled in nicely for Jeff Hartings last season and believes they won't skip a beat if he's in there again.

"I just feel I'm a pretty good player," Okobi said. "I'm as good as Jeff is. Jeff has the upper hand, he's played against a lot of different players than I have. Once I've been in the league eight years, I guess everything will be the same between us."

--Rain and mushy fields have plagued the Steelers through the first two weeks of camp. They moved one practice to a high school field, and two others into a gymnasium.

"I'm not going to bash the fields," Cowher said. "This is the weather we've been dealt with. We've had a lot of rain here. These guys have done as good a job as they can based on what they have to deal with."

--The Steelers' 26-13 loss to Detroit was their first loss in five preseason games against the Lions, dating back to 1963.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "They get personal with trash talking, trust me. I've heard some bad things." -- Wide receiver Hines Ward, on the taste of some conversations on the field with opponents.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

LB Clark Haggans, who had six sacks in his first eight games as Pittsburgh's rush right end in the dime defense last season, has been moved to the left side, where he plays behind Jason Gildon. Haggans had just one-half sack the final eight games. The Steelers will use Joey Porter, Kendrell Bell and rookie Alonzo Jackson as their right rush end.

Antwaan Randle El has been practicing to hold on placekicks and did so in the first exhibition game. Tommy Maddox is the No. 1 holder.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: It was Oliver Ross' job to lose at right offensive tackle, and he seems to be doing just that. Ross has not done well in training camp, and then performed poorly in the first exhibition game in Detroit. His competition, Todd Fordham was doing better, but he also had to fill in at guard because of injuries. Then, Fordham missed some practices when loose cartilage was discovered in his elbow. Still, Fordham is pushing Ross to be NO. 1 at right tackle.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: TE Mark Bruener started and played with the first team through the first quarter against Detroit. He's competing to start vs. Jay Riemersma and Jerame Tuman ... Rookie Troy Polamalu bumped Chris Hope at safety in the dime defense ... No one is stepping up to claim the backup fullback job that is open.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK:
WR Plaxico Burress caught three passes for 45 yards in the first preseason game, and would have had a fourth for a long touchdown if QB Tommy Maddox had not underthrown him. The game capped a good week of practice for Burress, who has vowed to curtail his partying ways and concentrate more on his career.

ROOKIE REPORT: QB Brian St. Pierre had a rough first outing. Chased out of the pocket vs. Detroit, he tried to throw, lost the ball and the fumble was returned six yards for a TD ... Free agent RB Dante Brown, singled out by Cowher as a camp highlight earlier, ran 38 yards for the Steelers' only TD vs. the Lions ... Troy Polamalu is now first team in the nickel and dime defenses ... Jason Armstead (5-8, 156) lined up as the deep man on every punt vs. Detroit. He also returned a kickoff 46 yards.

INJURY REPORT: WR Lee Mays injured his shoulder vs. Detroit and will miss some time this week ... C Chukky Okobi sprained his left ankle vs. Detroit and may miss a week ... Rookie DE Dan Rumishek has a severe ankle injury ... RB Hank Poteat missed the first game with a sprained ankle, but was due to return this week to practice ... CB Hank Poteat (shoulder) was to return to practice this week after missing 10 days ... OG Kendall Simmons was to begin practice this week after missing the first two weeks of camp with diabetes ... QB Tim Levcik, who missed the past week with a torn knee ligament, "is probably a little more than a week away," Cowher said at the end of last week.

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