Notebook: Offensive line shuffles once more

<b>PITTSBURGH - </b> Marvel Smith was happy to return to the Steelers' lineup Wednesday, but one of his teammates might even be happier. <br><br> "It's definitely good to see Marvel back," said Alan Faneca. "It doesn't do anything but make us stronger."

Sure, Faneca's pleased the Steelers' line is back in place, but he's more than happy to return to left guard, where he's forged an All-Pro career. Faneca has played left tackle the last five games, but returned to his old spot upon Smith's return.

"It all comes back so naturally for me because I've been playing it so long," Faneca said. "Now I guess I can say I'm a proven back-up left tackle. I'm there if they need me in the future."

Smith is still listed as questionable with a pinched nerve in his shoulder and neck area. It's kept him out of all but three plays of the last seven games. The Steelers were 1-6 during that time.

"I never thought it would take this long, that the season would almost be over," said Smith, who had never missed time at any level of football because of an injury. He doesn't see a problem knocking off the rust.

"No. I know the offense. That's not going to be a problem," he said. "My strength is coming back for the most part to where it was. I'm just happy to be able to get out there and play some football."

It's been a difficult season for Jeff Hartings and his injured left knee, so the center was asked if he plans to return next season.

"Ummm, yeah," he said. "I think right now, the way I'm looking at it is I'm on Vioxx and Tylenol to get through it, but I'm having a lot of fun because it feels good. I love playing football and this is the best I've felt since my first half of the first year here. I'm having fun and I'm comfortable so I'm definitely thinking that next year looks good."

Hartings has been helped by new rehab techniques. Early in the season Hartings was commonly described as "playing on one leg" by game announcers.

"I think since camp that that might be the case, but if they've been watching I don't think they can say that anymore," Hartings said. "I probably did feel that way for about two or three games and then I think the rehab kind of caught up with me and I've learned how to take care of myself. Now I see myself doing things that I wasn't doing for, really, about the last year and a half. The level of fun that I'm having playing, despite the losing, has been very encouraging."

Guard Keydrick Vincent (groin), halfback Jerome Bettis (shoulder), tight end Jay Riemersma (sternum) and wide receiver Antwaan Randle El (toe) missed Wednesday's practice for the Steelers.

Riemersma is listed as doubtful for Sunday's game at Cleveland. Vincent and cornerback Dewayne Washington, along with Smith, are questionable. Listed as probable are Bettis, wide receiver Plaxico Burress (shoulder), linebacker Clark Haggans (ankle), safety Mike Logan (foot), Randle El and tight end Jerame Tuman (shoulder).

Wide receiver Hines Ward practiced Wednesday even though he was still feeling the effects of a head-first collision with the ground that forced him to miss a few plays Monday night.

"My tongue's swollen. I can't eat certain foods," he said. "Injuring your neck and biting your tongue at the same time, it's hard man. I've been fairly injury-free in my career, but the one time I hit my neck I felt it shoot all the way down through my back. I was really scared for a minute.

"I don't know if you've ever bit your tongue, but that was my first time and it hurt. I never wore a mouthpiece, and I don't intend to, but the way I landed … I was reaching for the ball and my momentum just took me into the ground and I couldn't stop myself. My head stopped me and I ended up biting my tongue."

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