Notebook: Simmons never felt better

<b>LATROBE -</b> It was a snapshot worth saving, a picture of five happy men playing as one.<br><br> "I thought our offensive line played well as a unit," said offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. "I thought they were physical. I thought they came off the ball."

The Steelers didn't beat the Detroit Lions on Saturday, but the Steelers' offensive line beat them up. Kendall Simmons led the way. The right guard showed he's indeed over the rookie mistakes of his first season and the affects of diabetes in his second.

"I felt good, real good," said Simmons, the third-year right guard. "I think it was willing and wanting to get it done and just feeling good, not worrying about nothing. I wasn't worrying about the plays or being confused. I just wasn't holding anything back and just played the best I could."

Simmons' best included "three or four" plays in which he pulled out in front of a running play. On one, Simmons blocked a Lions defender in the throat to clear the path for running back Duce Staley.

"I got him. I got him pretty good," Simmons said. "Those are the kind of pulls you want to get every time. You don't get 'em every time but when you do get 'em you know you got 'em good when their head kind of snaps back."

Simmons was tired after the 14-play drive, but it was a good tired, not the sick kind of tired he felt last year as he dealt with the onset of diabetes.

"Me and Alan (Faneca) normally laugh at each other when a pulling play's called because we know that person's going to come back either tired or he's going to come back with a little grin on his face because he really got someone," Simmons said.

Was Whisenhunt testing Simmons' endurance by calling his number so often on that first drive? "No. It just worked out that way," Whisenhunt said. "A lot of times it depends on where the hash is. Alan has obviously done a very good job of that over the last couple years and it's nice to see Kendall get in there and have some success with it."

The Steelers' opening drive ended at the Detroit 8 when Staley fumbled. Whisenhunt was asked if Staley was known as a fumbler during the previous seven seasons in Philadelphia.

"Not to my knowledge," Whisenhunt said. "I think Duce has been very protective of the ball. And it was one of those things. The helmet hit the ball and I don't think there's much you can do in that situation."

Whisenhunt was asked if there was an excuse for Dante Brown, who fumbled later in the game on what appeared to have been a clean hand-off exchange from quarterback Brian St. Pierre.

"I think it was a little bit of the exchange and he was trying to see the hole and make a cut," Whisenhunt said. "There's no excuse. We can't do that, especially in our territory like that. But he ran hard after that. The thing I liked best about Dante from that standpoint is he didn't let it get him down or effect how he continued to play in the game."

Brown's fumble led to a Lions touchdown, but on the next series Brown scored on a 22-yard run.

After a fine rookie season, Brett Keisel missed all of 2003 after undergoing shoulder surgery. He came back to training camp this year and started slowly. But judging by the amount of pressure Keisel put on the Lions' quarterbacks Saturday night, the rust is coming off.

"It's not off all the way," he said. "I still have got a lot of improving that I need to do, but it's coming. I did feel a little slow to start camp. My reaction wasn't as quick as I wanted it, but it's coming along really well."

Does the 285-pound back-up defensive end expect to resume his role as special teams wedge-buster?

"Probably," he said hopefully. "When I get on the field I'm happy."


Linebacker Kendrell Bell missed practice after taking an injection in a sore shoulder and he isn't expected back until Wednesday. He had an MRI done and the results were negative. Cornerbacks Deshea Townsend and Chad Scott are due back at practice either today or Wednesday. Guard Alan Faneca was still sore from Saturday's game and was given Monday off. Also missing practice with minor injuries were Adrian Ross, Nathaniel Adibi and Terry Fair.

Chris Hope and Jerame Tuman returned to practice, as did another familiar face. Steelers radio analyst Myron Cope, who missed the preseason opener with a throat, was stationed along the sideline yesterday in a folding chair.

"Myron's questionable for the game," said Cowher. "I told him until he gets off that cart he's questionable. Hopefully we'll get him back in a week or two."

Russell Stuvaints on being hit Saturday while covering a kickoff: "I had a nice hit on the opening kickoff, but then a little later in the game I was a little dizzy from a hit by the goal line. I got kneed in the helmet. I was still dizzy and then got hit pretty good on the next kickoff. I shouldn't have gone back in so soon, but I didn't want to show any weakness."

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