Notebook: Fu won't lay down

<b> LATROBE – </b> After Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala pulled his hamstring while covering the opening kickoff, the Steelers' injury-plagued running back found a quiet place on the bench, put his face in his hands and didn't move for a good quarter of football. <br><br> With NFL officials these days, that's a very long time.

"Words can't explain the way I felt," said Fuamatu-Ma'afala. "But I've got to move forward. I've always been a guy to bounce back and I'm not about to lay down now."

Fuamatu-Ma'afala did some fast walking Monday in an attempt to get his range of motion back, "but it's locked up," he said.

Coach Bill Cowher said Fuamatu-Ma'afala's injury was the most severe suffered by a member of the team Saturday night against the Philadelphia Eagles, and that he'll miss Thursday night's game against the Dallas Cowboys and is questionable for the preseason finale at Carolina.

Tight end Jerame Tuman injured his groin Saturday and will miss Thursday's game. Cowher said there's a good chance linebacker Jason Gildon will miss the game as well.

"Jason is probably going to be a game-day decision and I'll be leaning towards resting him," Cowher said. "He aggravated it on the FieldTurf over at Penn-Trafford last week. He had some cleats on and they were grabbing pretty good. He had a little bit of fluid and it's already subsiding a little bit."

The only other player to miss Monday's practice was quarterback Tim Levcik with a knee injury.

After a second loss in two preseason games, some expected Cowher to make lineup changes Monday, but the only new face was right guard Kendall Simmons, who took all of the first-team reps as he continues to cope with diabetes.

As planned, center Jeff Hartings also returned to practice with his sore knee. Jay Riemersma, who started at tight end but was judged to have blocked poorly Saturday, joined Mark Bruener in the double tight-end formation to start practice. The tailback was Jerome Bettis.

The only other change occurred on the second-team defense, where Hank Poteat replaced Chidi Iwuoma at cornerback.

After facing a pair of quick rhythm passing teams, the Steelers are enthused about facing the Cowboys on Thursday.

"The Cowboys ran the ball pretty well last week," Cowher said. "Maybe we'll get our first taste of someone coming in and trying to run the ball. I know when Baltimore comes in here it's going to be Jamal Lewis left and Jamal Lewis right and we've got to prepare for it."

Cowher was asked if he'll approach the third preseason game with his typical urgency.

"We'll see how the first half goes, and we may play them a little longer in that fourth game, too," he said. "I may reassess the fourth game more than I reassess the third game. We'll have plenty of time to rest. I just want to make sure we have a good feel about ourselves when we go into the season."

Didn't Cowher stress the fourth game last year?

"Yeah, and I felt pretty good going into the season," he said. "We just went up and turned the ball over a bunch of times."

Antwaan Randle El on being the third-team quarterback: "I think at some point they'd give me a chance, but don't quote me on that."

Mathias Nkwenti on playing right tackle: "Nobody's talked to me about anything."

Todd Fordham on donating time to the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank: "Anything you can do to help the community is well worth it."

Reporter to Todd Fordham: "If you want to help this community, play right tackle."

Jim Wexell

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