In turn, a smart aleck asked Grimm if it was better than the one he had out there on the practice field Thursday.">
In turn, a smart aleck asked Grimm if it was better than the one he had out there on the practice field Thursday.">

Notebook: Grimm considers options

<b> PITTSBURGH - </b> Russ Grimm is on the Hall of Fame ballot for his work as the left guard for the celebrated Hogs of Washington Redskins fame. He said that, yes, he'd "put it up there with the best" offensive lines of all time. <br><br> In turn, a smart aleck asked Grimm if it was better than the one he had out there on the practice field Thursday.

"I think we've got a bunch of good guys," said the unamused Steelers offensive line coach.

"They're going to play. If we shuffle them around, it doesn't matter. There'll be five of us up front on Sunday."

A shuffle, even a complete makeover, of the Steelers' offensive line has titillated fans this week. Right tackle Todd Fordham has been added to the injury list with a back problem, leaving room for either the backup to move up or for Grimm to undertake an overhaul.

First, there's the backup. Is Mathias Nkwenti ready to take the field for the first time in his three seasons with the team?

"Who still knows? They don't tell me nothing," said Nkwenti, who returned from back spasms the previous day.

"I'm the odd man out. Basically, when my number's called on, it's called on. It can get a lot more technical than it is, but it's just when I'm called on, I'm called on."

Nkwenti has practiced nowhere but left tackle. In preseason, while the right tackles struggled, Nkwenti admitted he considered himself a natural left tackle, even though he played right tackle at Temple. Obviously, the coaches felt the same way and haven't looked at him on the other side.

"I think I can play the right side as well," Nkwenti said Thursday. "But I can understand, in their sense, saying that because of my troubles in the beginning in learning left tackle, and I've finally been comfortable with it and them not wanting to just throw me on the right side."

Isn't it about time to play somewhere? Anywhere?

"By far," he said. "Three years is a lot to sit down. I still make a check, but after awhile you want to feel useful. You want to play. I mean I do love this game, so you want to contribute. You want to be tired at the end of the day. You get used to playing in the preseason, it gets taken away from you and you miss it."

What other options do the Steelers have? Well, left guard Alan Faneca was LSU's back-up tackle throughout his college years. Right guard Kendall Simmons played left tackle at Auburn. "I've been working at left guard and left tackle," Faneca said.

Could he play left tackle in a game?

"I'll pull it off," he said.

Joey Porter was taken out of Denver in an ambulance. Tommy Maddox was simply run out on a rail. Both will return this weekend for Sunday's game against the Broncos.

"I'm going to be where I'm supposed to be at. This is a business trip," said Porter, who was shot in the buttock in the parking lot of a bar on Labor Day.

Will the trip bring back bad memories?

"No. I've been in Denver many times," he said. "It's not like we go out on Saturday nights anyway. I'll go get some dinner in the hotel and then get ready for the game."

Maddox was drafted by the Broncos and spent his first two pro seasons in Denver. As a rookie in 1992, he started four games in place of an injured John Elway and completed 55.5 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and nine interceptions. In 1993, he threw only one pass, out of field-goal formation, and it went for a one-yard touchdown.

Will he look up any old friends?

"I'm more concerned with this team and winning games," Maddox said. "That will be the least of my worries. I've got a lot of good friends there. I hope they enjoy themselves, but I'm there to win a game."

Hines Ward on whether the Steelers should pass more instead of attempting to revive their running game:

"Whatever it takes to win. If we can't run the ball let's go out there and pass it 50 times, or vice versa. Right now we're just not doing a good job in both areas and it's starting to bite us in the butt."

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