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Rookie taking first-team reps this week

Also, Friday is Decision Day for Dupree, and a look into the reasons Terrelle Pryor isn't lining up opposite Antonio Brown these days.

PITTSBURGH -- James Harrison probably won't be the only change to the starting defensive lineup Sunday in Cleveland. The Steelers are also expected to start rookie Sean Davis at strong safety.

That, of course, depends on whether Davis can hold on to the first-team position at which he's worked this week in practice.

Davis confirmed that he's been working solely with the first team this week, but wasn't ready to announce himself the starter on Sunday.

Davis had been rotating series with Rob Golden the last two games and called that "an open competition."

Here's how defensive coordinator Keith Butler explained the rotation last week:

"Mentally you rarely see Rob G. out of position. There's something to be said for that. Plus, he talks a lot. The guy alerts people to a lot of things, so it's hard to replace that, even though you've got somebody maybe a little bit better physically (in Davis)."

Davis played 43 of the 65 defensive snaps Sunday and made six tackles. He also committed the critical facemask penalty on the penultimate play of the fatal Cowboys final series.

For the season, Davis has 26 tackles and one pass defensed.

Sunday's start would be Davis' third of the season but first at strong safety. His earlier starts were as the slot cornerback.


No Martavis Bryant.

No Markus Wheaton.

No Darrius Heyward-Bey.

Sammie Coates is working without two fingers.

So, opposite Antonio Brown, the Steelers are using Cobi Hamilton, he of the six practice squads before making his NFL debut this season in Miami.

And between Hamilton and Brown are first-year slot receiver Eli Rogers and four tight ends trying desperately to replace Heath Miller.

It's little wonder Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley lamented his team's 0-for-4 showing in two-point conversions Sunday, among other offensive miscues against the Cowboys.

"I don't think I've had a year in my 20 years when I've had this many receivers in and out of the lineup," Haley said.

So, why, he was asked, didn't the normally outside-the-box thinking Steelers take a chance on 6-4 1/2, 223-pound former quarterback Terrelle Pryor when he was available as a wide receiver in 2015?

"That's really a question for Kevin (Colbert)," Haley said of the Steelers GM. "There are lots of things floated to me, but how things turn out I don't have anything to do with."

Pryor, a former Parade National Player of the Year at nearby Jeannette High School, who used his 4.33 speed as a read-option quarterback at Ohio State, and who washed out as a quarterback with four NFL teams, turned to receiver with the Cleveland Browns in the summer of 2015. He was cut in September of 2015 but re-signed with the Browns last December and caught a 42-yard pass against the Steelers.

This season, Pryor's emerged as a legitimate threat. He's caught 51 passes for 627 yards (12.3 avg.) and four touchdowns.

Pryor said the only time he's ever heard from the Steelers was when he met with Mike Tomlin before the supplemental draft in 2011.

"We talked about them possibly drafting me," Pryor said. "I just told them it's pretty close to home and I played quarterback. I didn't really feel comfortable playing there at quarterback because of all the people I know, people knew me. It could get messy and the focus can't be there, so I kind of told them as much as I wanted to play, because obviously it's a great organization, but at the same time it probably wouldn't have worked out because there would've been a lot of focus issues."

Pryor was drafted in the third round by the Oakland Raiders and beat the Steelers as a quarterback in 2013 with the help of a 93-yard touchdown run, the longest run by a quarterback in NFL history.

Was that the most satisfying play of his pro career?

"Nah, I don't think so," Pryor said. "I'm gonna make one this weekend that's going to be real satisfying."


Bud Dupree said he'll be told Friday by the team whether he'll be activated for Sunday's game in Cleveland.

Dupree has been on Injured Reserve since the start of the season and was designated for return last Wednesday. The Steelers had 21 days since then to activate him. Today could be that day.

"I'm good," said the outside linebacker who's recovered from a sports hernia. "I'm not behind in my conditioning level. Being on the field doing all this stuff is good for me."

Dupree confirmed that he took three reps with the first-team defense on Thursday. The rest of his work, he said, was with the scout team.


Cameron Heyward (pectoral) is out for the season, and Heyward-Bey (foot) will be out for some time. He's off crutches but still relies on a walking boot at times. All DHB would say about the injury is that he hopes to return before the end of the season.

Also missing practice Thursday were Wheaton (shoulder), RB DeAngelo Williams (knee) and S Shamarko Thomas (groin).

The only Browns starter to miss the two practices this week was LT Joe Thomas (knee). Browns CB Joe Haden was limited Thursday with a groin injury.


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