PITTSBURGH -- As the Pittsburgh Steelers embark on the second half of the season, the presence of a couple of new players adds to the fresh outlook.
Bud Dupree practiced for the first time since early in training camp and said, "I felt good. I feel fresh. My body feels good. The pads don't feel too heavy."
Dupree of course is the 2015 No. 1 draft pick who figures to help the Steelers pass rush at outside linebacker/defensive end.
Dupree missed most of the spring, summer and the first nine weeks of the regular season with a sports hernia that wasn't operated on until September. He's back and has 21 days to be activated. He doesn't expect to be activated for Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys but "probably next week."
On Wednesday, Dupree said he worked with the scout team, and that "I'm going to go with the defense and gets some defensive plays tomorrow."
The other player is 6-6 tight end Ladarius Green, who confirmed he was involved with the first-team offense at Wednesday's practice and is improving on a daily basis since beginning practice two days following the New England game.
Green has until next Tuesday at 4 p.m. to be activated or left on the PUP list for the remainder of the season, but it appears he'll be activated for Sunday's game. Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday that Green has "done some nice things. He’s proven his health. He’s in the process of proving his overall level of conditioning."
The quote was relayed to Green on Wednesday and he said, "Wow, I didn't hear it, but that's good he said that. It might mean I have a chance to play."
Green hasn't played since last Christmas Eve when he injured his ankle and subsequently underwent surgery. He caught 37 passes for 429 yards and 4 touchdowns for the San Diego Chargers last season.
"It's been so long. It's going to be exciting," Green said. "There will be nerves, of course, but it's going to be more exciting than anything."
"Another weapon," said Ben Roethlisberger. "A guy who can stretch the field, who’s played the game of football before, who shows some speed, a big body. One of those guys we just talked about who can help in the middle of the field, so, (I'm) excited for the opportunity to work more with him and to see what he can bring to this offense."
MIDDLE OF THE FIELD
Roethlisberger said he needs tight ends and slot receivers "when they take away A.B. (Antonio Brown) and take away the outside deep balls."
The player who grabbed that opening in the second half in Baltimore was Eli Rogers. The first-year slot receiver caught six passes for 103 yards during the Steelers' attempted rally.
"I thought he did some really good things," said Roethlisbergber. "I thought his conditioning looked better. I thought his route running was better. He made some plays down the middle of the field for us when they were taking away the outsides, and that’s what we need and that’s what we expect from him."
It was obviously Rogers' best half of the season, and also his best game. The highlight was a 30-yard catch on third-and-21 in the fourth quarter.
"Yeah, the middle was open. It was open all game," said Rogers. "But that was a perfect pass. I ran a perfect route, kind of widened the safety a little bit, and he hit me right in the window and I made a great catch."
Rogers elaborated on what Roethlisberger meant by his improved conditioning.
"Just not showing signs of fatigue," Rogers said. "Before I always felt I was in great shape, but to him, being in great shape, even when you have a little wind, is not even showing any sign of fatigue. I think he's speaking in that regard. He doesn't want to see it. So, he didn't see it, and on top of that I was making plays for him. With me going fast like that and him not seeing anything, it let him know I'm in shape."
It's becoming known as "The Riverdance," that jig-like soccer maneuver Chris Boswell tried -- and failed -- to execute during the Steelers' onside kick attempt Sunday in Baltimore.
Boswell attempted to strike the ball with his left foot after faking with his right, but it hit his right calf and fell harmlessly off the tee.
It looked silly but the Steelers had the play set up for success with four men on the right side compared to the Ravens' three. And Boswell confirmed that he executed the play successfully 11 consecutive times at last Friday's practice.
"Yeah, we stayed out extra, just like we always do," Boswell said. "Just didn't do it in the game."
Boswell is well regarded by the coaching staff, even more so after he walked into the meeting room Monday and accepted blame for the team's loss.
"I didn't give them a chance to recover it at all, so I didn't do my job," he said on Wednesday. "That's what I'm here for. I'm here to give them a chance. I don't take what I do lightly, so not giving them a chance is very big to me."
Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was on crutches with a walking boot on his right foot. He suffered a sprain Sunday and missed Wednesday's practice along with center Maurkice Pouncey (thumb), running back DeAngelo Williams (knee) and safety Jordan Dangerfield (groin). Pouncey hopes to practice Thursday.