Notebook: New right tackle

<b>PITTSBURGH – </b> The Steelers had a new right tackle Monday, but that doesn't necessarily mean Todd Fordham will be the team's opening-day starter.

Fordham filled in Monday for Oliver Ross, who injured his left ankle in Thursday's preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys. Steelers Coach Bill Cowher said Ross is "probably questionable right now" for Friday's preseason finale at Carolina.

"We're cautiously optimistic," Cowher said. "We'll see how he feels the next couple days."

Ross has struggled at times this preseason at right tackle in place of Marvel Smith, who moved to the left side to replace Wayne Gandy. Cowher has said repeatedly that the position is open, but Fordham hasn't played much more than a couple series with the first team. Cowher was asked if he had a starter at the position as of Monday.

"Today it's Todd because Oliver can't go," Cowher said. "When we make a final decision I'll let you guys know."

Cowher was asked to judge their performances Thursday.

"They both did some good things," he said. "We certainly have a better feel for Oliver at this point after three games. He's had a lot more reps out there than Todd has, so we'll get a good chance to look at him in this game and then we'll make a decision the week of the Baltimore game."

Ross joined running back Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala (hamstring) and tight end Jerame Tuman (groin) on the sidelines Monday. Cowher said the latter two players are "probably more on the doubtful side than they are on the questionable side" for Friday's game.

The Steelers must make three more cuts by 4 p.m. Tuesday to get down to 67 players. The league mandates that all teams cut to 65 by the deadline, but NFL Europe players are exempt until the final cut. Steelers defensive lineman Jabari Issa and offensive guard Mike Cook played in NFL Europe.

"We had a chance to get a full workout in [Monday] and get another day of evaluation and then we'll make a decision," Cowher said. "The decisions we made on Friday were pretty clear cut. From here on out they're not going to be easy."

Alonzo Jackson played more with the first-team dime defense Monday than he has in any previous practice. It may be due to his productive game last Thursday when Jackson had two sacks and forced a fumble on each play. The second-round rookie linebacker from Florida State now has half of the Steelers' four preseason sacks and has forced their only turnover in three games.

"He's getting acclimated to the speed of the game," said Cowher. "The things he's been doing rushing-wise in college, you're not going to be able to do at this level and I think he's starting to get a feel for it. He's worked through training camp; he's getting more comfortable out there in the dime package. Here's a guy who I think can be a contributor for us as he continues to grow."

Jackson explained how he was able to strip the ball twice.

"I was reaching for the quarterback's shoulder to snap him down or something. If I reach for his shoulder and can't get his shoulder, I get his arm. If I can't get his arm, I get the ball, the thigh, the foot, the shoelaces, anything. I'm trying to get something. It just so happened I got the ball twice."

Jeff Reed missed his first field goal in five preseason attempts when his 36-yard attempt flew over the top of the right upright against Dallas. Reed didn't blame the officials, nor could he blame Heinz Field, which has a reconditioned playing surface

"You don't think about what surface you kick off of. That's when you screw up mentally, but I think it's wonderful right now," he said.

Reed also likes his new holder, Antwaan Randle El.

"He's getting a lot better so we'll see what happens. He and Tommy [Maddox] are both great holders, so I'm just ready to do what I have to do."

Jim Wexell

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