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Tuitt's Return Big for Steelers

Stephon Tuitt is healthy, and salty, while Ladarius Green is on the verge of playing against Miami. These nuggets and more in today's Steelers notebook.

PITTSBURGH -- Stephon Tuitt wouldn't get specific about the injury that's kept him out of all but one series the last three games, calling it only "some stuff going on in my knee and my ankle."

"But I'm feeling pretty good," he said after his first full practice since he left the Bengals game. "Everything's a go right now."

Tuitt is obviously a key to stopping a Miami Dolphins rushing attack that was responsible for beating up the Steelers 30-15 on Oct. 16.

That game marked the NFL emergence of 6-0, 229-pound running back Jay Ajayi.

Up until halftime of the Week 6 game, Ajayi, since being drafted in 2015, had rushed 122 times in the NFL for 355 yards at 2.9 yards per carry.

But in the second half against the Steeler he exploded for 153 yards on 14 carries to finish with 204 yards. He then became the fourth NFL back ever to rush for back-to-back 200-yard games the following week, and then the fourth NFL back to rush for three 200-yard games in one season.

In the last 11 games of the season, Ajayi rushed for 1,155 yards to finish with 1,272 yards, the third-highest total in team history.

Ajayi is now the target of a Steelers defense that was not only embarrassed that week, but also last week by the Cleveland Browns.

To that end, Tuitt's return will be a plus.

"That's a slap in the face, especially here," Tuitt said of Ajayi's game. "We don't really let that happen. We're still salty about it."

It was only the sixth 200-yard rushing performance against the Steelers dating back to Steve Van Buren in 1947. It was the first since Fred Taylor rushed for 234 in 2000.

No wonder the saltiness lingers.

"A lot of people have a disappointed taste in their mouth from that game," Tuitt said. "They made great plays and they capitalized. When you go to a place and you're not ready to play, that's going to happen. But this should be a different game. We should go in ready to play. It should be a phyiscal game. They'll give us their best shot. It'll be a fun game."


Ladarius Green was also a full participant at Wednesday's practice. The tight end who missed the last two games with a concussion is on the last step of the concussion protocol.

His return to football-specific activities was Step Four, and if he doesn't encounter recurring signs and symptoms he'll be examined by an independent neurological consultant for clearance to play Sunday.

Steelers tight ends combined to catch only three passes for 24 yards in the previous game against the Dolphins. Before leaving his last game following a blow to the head, Green had five catches for 72 yards.

Other recovering players who put in a full Wednesday practice were WR Sammie Coates, CB Justin Gilbert and TE Xavier Grimble.

Out were OLB Anthony Chickillo (ankle), S Robert Golden (ankle), DE Ricardo Mathews (ankle), RB DeAngelo Williams (not injury related) and ILB Vince Williams (shoulder).

Out for the Dolphins were QB Ryan Tannehill (knee), S Bacarri Rambo (chest) and CB Byron Maxwell (ankle).


Le'Veon Bell chuckled when asked if he enjoyed his week off.

"I wouldn't say I had a week off," Bell said. "I still worked out a lot. I didn't necessarily take a lot of reps in practice. But it felt good not to play in the game, not to get hit and tackled and things like that. My body feels real good, so going into the playoffs I see why Coach T decided to sit me down. Obviously it's for this reason here. You see a guy like David Johnson get hurt the last game of the season, it kind of makes you realize 'Man, it was kind of good I didn't play.'

"I'm glad I'm able to play in this football game. It should be fun."

Mike Tomlin rested Bell, Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger, among others last Sunday, giving what's undoubtedly the league's best set of triplets their first playoff game together.

Bell was injured for each of the Steelers' last two playoff appearances and comes into this game with 1,268 yards rushing (4.9 avg.) and 616 yards receiving (8.2 avg.) in 12 games. His average of 157 yards from scrimmage per game is the third-highest average in NFL history behind Priest Holmes (163.4) and O.J. Simpson (160.2).

"This is my first playoff game in my fourth year in the league so I'm obviously going to be excited and anxious," Bell said. "I'm going to be pumped, and I need that. I need to keep my energy up and have my teammates feed off my energy, let them know how important this game is to me, not just those guys and the fans and all Steeler Nation, but to me, for real. I know how important this game is to me, so I obviously want to go out there and show some people what I can do."


Maurkice Pouncey was talking about the Dolphins offensive line being young and up-and-coming and he was asked if he sees some of them in his team's line.

"Absolutely," Pouncey said. "Mike Pouncey's down there. I see a lot of them in us."

The Pounceys, of course, are identical twins and play the same position, center. But Mike Pouncey has been out of the Dolphins lineup since being placed on injured reserve Dec. 13 with a hip injury.

The three-time Pro Bowler played only five games this season, and one was in the 222-yard rushing performance against the Steelers.

"When he's not playing on the offensive line, I don't know, they're just not the same to me," Maurkice Pouncey said. "Their guys are not the same without Mike out there. Honestly, Mike just brings that type of energy to the team. He's a player that really cares. You can see it when he's out there playing."

Former Steelers third-round draft pick Kraig Urbik replaced Pouncey.

What's Mike saying these days?

"Just the obvious," Maurkice said. "He ain't really gonna say much, and honestly I don't even ask him much because I know the things he's going through. I just try to stay positive. We just talk about fun things. When you're on IR, you don't want to talk about football."


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