Notebook: Nkwenti injury helpful?

<b>PITTSBURGH - </b> Wednesday may some day be looked back upon as the day Mathias Nkwenti finally helped the Steelers. <br><br> Nkwenti, a third-year pro with no playing experience, suffered back spasms and had to leave Wednesday's practice. With Marvel Smith already injured, the Steelers gave other players repetitions at different spots along the line in case one of the two remaining tackles - Todd Fordham and Oliver Ross - becomes injured in Sunday's game.

Those tackles are career backups but have been forced into the lineup this season because of Smith's shoulder injury and the lack of a replacement for Wayne Gandy, who left via free agency last off-season.

The Steelers are in the midst of their worst season running the ball since Chuck Noll began coaching in 1969, and the tackles have received the brunt of the blame. The Steelers, however, hadn't felt the need to try other players to tackle until yesterday.

"We're just looking at different combinations," said Coach Bill Cowher, who wouldn't go into detail.

Reporters are barred from disclosing details about practice.

Chad Scott missed Wednesday's practice due to the death of his mother last Friday. Scott handled the arrangements for the funeral, which took place Wednesday. He's expected to be back at practice today.

"He's been great," said Cowher. "He's a rock, very impressive."

Jay Riemersma missed last Sunday's game with a shoulder injury and is listed as questionable for this week's game in Denver, but he practiced Wednesday.

"We held him out of some of the hitting," Cowher said. "Hopefully he'll be able to do more tomorrow. But he looked good."

Cowher said he wouldn't upgrade Riemersma until "I see him hit someone. I don't want to keep going up and back."

Any other thoughts on practice?

"It was a good practice," Cowher said. "We know what we have to do. There's a little sense of urgency. We've got to give ourselves a chance, take it one play at a time and see what happens."

Joey Porter responded angrily to printed reports he'd said "take off the shackles" while being miked during Sunday night's game by ESPN.

"Nope. Never said anything like that," Porter told a group of reporters Wednesday. "I might have said it's about time I got some action, because I didn't make a tackle until the second quarter because they weren't running the ball my way. But I never said nothing about taking no handcuffs off. Who wrote that in the paper anyway?"

One reporter raised his hand, but that reporter was close to the truth. A replay of the comment proved Porter, after Cleveland quarterback Tim Couch ran the opposite way for a touchdown, said "Take off the handcuffs" while heading toward the Steelers' sideline.

Safety Russ Stuvaints has been re-signed to the practice squad at the expense of linebacker James Harrison, who was released for the second time this year.

Stuvaints, a strong safety from McKeesport, had originally been released from the practice squad Sept. 30 to make room for offensive tackle Morgan Pears.

Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe on the effects of Denver's thin air on opponents: "People say it's all in your mind. No, it's not in your mind because I remember the first time I came out here. My nose started bleeding. That wasn't in my mind. It wasn't my mind telling me, 'OK, your nose is going to bleed.' That actually happened. I can just imagine if you have not ever been out here before and you have not played at this altitude before and try to get a long drive sustained. You will notice it."

Steel City Insider Top Stories