Marvel Smith out; Ross remains in

Bill Cowher won't make any lineup changes with his Steelers this week, although one has been made for him. <br><br> Left tackle Marvel Smith, who aggravated his shoulder injury and left Sunday night's game after the first series, has been ruled out of Sunday's game at Denver. It leaves a beleaguered offensive line without many options after yet another dismal performance.

"We're looking at all our options right now," said Cowher. "That's the most important thing for us to do. We'll go into this game and play the best two guys we have out of the three we have left."

Two of those three, Todd Fordham and Oliver Ross, haven't shown much during their time at right and left tackle, respectively.

Last week, Fordham allowed Courtney Brown to rip the ball from quarterback Tommy Maddox's hands on the Steelers' third offensive play. The recovered fumble put the Browns in position to take a 10-0 lead.

The previous week, Ross was responsible for the safety against the Tennessee Titans that was the turning point of a game the Steelers were leading by 10-0.

Those are only two plays amid the sluggish performances of each player. The cumulative effect has been the weakest rushing attack in Cowher's 12 seasons as coach and a passing game that doesn't have the time to look deep. Without Smith, the only other tackle on the roster is Mathias Nkwenti, who's been deactivated before all but two games throughout his three-year career. Cowher was asked for the reasons why Nkwenti hasn't received any playing time.

"Everyone just needs an opportunity," Cowher said. "I don't know if anything's really held him back. It's just being able to do things on a consistent basis and developing the trust of the coaches to be able to put him in there. A lot of times you can only base that on what you see and the amount of repetitions they get. When one player goes down, though, that can create a golden opportunity for another player."

Smith has a pinched nerve in the back of his left shoulder. He played with the injury early in the season, but the condition deteriorated significantly. Smith lost all of the strength in his left hand and had to sit out the game against the Titans two weeks ago.

Nkwenti, the back-up left tackle, didn't get the call against the Titans. Instead, the back-up right tackle, Ross, was moved over and Nkwenti didn't play a single snap, even though the Steelers trailed by 30-13 throughout the final 12:46.

A right tackle at the University of Temple, Nkwenti remained on the left side throughout the entire preseason, too, even as the tackles on the right side foundered.

"He would be just on the left side. That's where we've kept him. That's where he's worked since he's been here," Cowher explained at Tuesday's press conference.

Cowher is hopeful Smith can return after the Denver game. Because of a bye week, the Steelers won't play again until Oct. 26.

"We're hopeful that in two weeks he'll be able to get all of his strength back and a lot of it will subside," Cowher said. "I think it's more of an inflammation of a nerve right now and he probably just needs some time off."

The only other injured starter is tight end Jay Riemersma, who missed last Sunday's game with a shoulder injury. He's listed as questionable for the next game.

"Barring any setback, we're hopeful he'll play," Cowher said. "He was close by game time but just was not able to function. He'll do some things [Wednesday] and we'll possibly upgrade him by the end of the week."

Cowher also listed safety Chris Hope (groin) and linebacker Clint Kriewaldt (knee) as probable. "Basically, outside of Marvel, we're pretty healthy," Cowher said. "We recognize the stiff challenge going up to Denver this week with them coming off a tough loss in Kansas City. They're a good football team. They played very well in that game. They won everything but the score. It'll be a big challenge for us."

Steel City Insider Top Stories