Bouncing back from a tough loss compounded by injuries

Let's get behind the scenes with three new Steelers starters

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers were buzzing on the field Wednesday in preparation for what they're calling "Redemption Sunday."

The Steelers, of course, hope to rebound from the 34-3 licking they took last Sunday, and to that end they must also replace a handful of injured starters.

Some of the replacements have done it before. Vince Williams expects to make his 14th start at inside linebacker, this time in place of Ryan Shazier.  And Will Gay expects to slide back into the slot corner position in the liklihood that rookie Sean Davis can't play Sunday night against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The buzz on the field carried over into the locker room as the following players talked about making either their first start or making their return to the field after a three-game suspension.

We'll start with him.

LE'VEON BELL

Ben Roethlisberger hinted before practice that Bell would return in part as a slot receiver to replace Eli Rogers, as one way to put both Bell and DeAngelo Williams on the field at the same time.

"We're not going to take RB off the front of his name and put WR (there)," Roethlisberger added. "But I definitely think he's one of our best receivers."

And Bell's receiving ability was the continued buzz in the locker room after practice.

"Did you watch practice today?" asked Mike Mitchell in response to a question about Bell's skills. "He's a wide receiver for real. No doubt about it. He's a (laughs) he's a receiver. He's a receiver. He's a blessed athlete."

Inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons has covered Bell in practices ever since Bell came into the league some three years, 2,777 rushing yards and 152 receptions ago.

"He's definitely the Marshall Faulk of his generation," said Timmons. "He can carry it between the tackles and catch it outside the box."

His route running?

"Very polished," Timmons said.

Bell explained how he added that kind of polish.

"A lot of it is really natural, just being savvy," he said. "A lot of it is having the best receiver in the league. I've been watching him a lot. I really like watching AB (Antonio Brown), the way he releases, how he gets in and out of his breaks. He's helped me a lot as this process went on. I've been watching it for four years. He's definitely helping me a lot and he probably doesn't even know it. It's not like we went off to the side and did it on our own."

Bell, of course, was excited about the prospect of running the ball again. In fact, his last full game -- his last 100-yard game -- was against the Chiefs on Oct. 25 last year. He rushed for 121 yards on 17 carries, and was knocked out for the rest of the year with a knee injury the following week against Cincinnati.

Considering all the talk about his receiving, will he even get much of a chance to run the ball Sunday night?

"Practice is practice," Bell said. "They like to use me in a lot of situations, and I've just got to be prepared for it."

 B.J. FINNEY

Center Maurkice Pouncey was lamenting the loss of left guard Ramon Foster to a chest injury when he was asked about Finney, the first-year replacement.

"I love B.J.," Pouncey said. "Everyone around here has a great amount of respect for him. He got in there and did a great job last week."

Finney replaced Foster late in the first half Sunday and finished the game. He'll make his first start against a Chiefs team that the Kansas native's family used to cheer.

"My mom and uncle are coming and both were Chiefs fans -- one still is," Finney said. "I'm not letting him wear Chiefs (gear) to the game."

The comment caused reporters to laugh, but emboldened another.

"Aren't you the guy who's famous for crying when they signed you?" he asked Finney of the famous YouTube video.

"I wasn't crying," said Finney.

"You were crying," said the reporter.

"I was emotional but I wasn't crying," said Finney.

"Will you cry this week when you actually start for the Steelers?"

"No. No," said Finney, obviously a good-natured big man. "I'm focused on contributing. I'm focused on my assignments, making sure I don't mess up and cause the offense to have a rift."

JORDAN DANGERFIELD

Shamarko Thomas has apparently been passed by Dangerfield, who's been on the Steelers' practice squad the last two years.

In fact, Dangerfield may have made this team on the final game of the preseason when he led the team in tackles.

"It could've been," said Dangerfield. "Or just being here the past three years. That game probably just topped it off."

Dangerfield confirmed he worked with the first team Wednesday, but wasn't about to assume that meant the safety job is his for Sunday night.

Robert Golden and Davis are most likely out for the game.

"They just said I got the ones and I'm preparing," Dangerfield said. "I prepare as a starter every week anyway. It's going to be the same as every other week."

Dangerfield has always been an explosive hitter, but he felt this preseason he proved he wasn't a liability in coverage.

"Being in the right spot with the zone coverages, having your man in man coverage, being able to run," he said. "First our job is to get the ball back for our offense, so that's the priority."

It's a sign that he's paid his dues.

"Definitely," he said. "I felt like I took the long road. They kept faith in me and I'm thankful for that."

"He's the next man up," was all Mitchell had by way of explanation.

He didn't sound very excited about it, either.

"Man, I got a job to do," Mitchell said. "They could put you out there next to me and I'm going to find a way to feel confident about it. I expect you to be a professional and prepare. I expect the same thing for Jordan."


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