Notebook: Old Raiders showing life

<b>PITTSBURGH -</b> Even though the Oakland Raiders released 38-year-old Tim Brown this summer, they are far from undergoing a youth movement on offense. Not with 41-year-old Jerry Rice, 38-year-old Rich Gannon and 32-year-old Tyrone Wheatley still playing flanker, quarterback and halfback, respectively.

But the three old Raiders are still playing well. In fact, a couple of them drew raves from those associated with the Steelers.

Said one scout: "I think (Gannon)'s back to his form from when they went to the Super Bowl, and Tyrone Wheatley is running better than I've ever seen him run. He's a downhill, strong runner who carries a load, and they've been opening up seams for him."

Defensive lineman Kimo von Oelhoffen agreed with the latter assessment.

"Wheatley's the best-looking back I've seen so far - by far," von Oelhoffen said. "He's running hard."

In the preseason, Wheatley rushed for 119 yards on 22 carries (5.4 average). Gannon (81.9 rating) didn't put up quite the numbers that his challenger Kerry Collins (140.4) did, but Gannon showed elusiveness this preseason, as well as an arm strong enough to allow the Raiders to drift away from their dinking West Coast style of the past few seasons.

Gannon injured his shoulder last season and missed the last nine games. He underwent surgery in November and was inspired to come back strong.

"There has been a lot of criticism that has come my way about my age, that I can't play anymore, that I'm washed up, can't do this, can't do that," said Gannon. "I think that type of criticism really forces a player to really re-focus and try to come back with a vengeance and really just try to have a great year."

"He has been unbelievably receptive to what we are doing offensively," said new Raiders coach Norv Turner. "He has done a great job physically getting himself in shape. He's probably 10 pounds lighter than he was a year ago. … So he is going to be very willing to take off and run with the ball when he needs to."

Raiders linebackers Napoleon Harris and DeLawrence Grant both underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in August and are hopeful of playing in Sunday's game at Heinz Field. They are listed as questionable. Back-up defensive tackle Chris Cooper (calf) and back-up linebacker Sam Williams (shoulder) are both doubtful for the Raiders.

Everyone practiced for the Steelers, even inside linebacker Kendrell Bell (shoulder), who is questionable. Cornerback Chad Scott left practice briefly to have his sore thumb examined but returned.

In a late Tuesday move, the Steelers welcomed back quarterback Brian St. Pierre to the practice squad. They also signed linebacker Nathaniel Adibi to the practice squad and released wide receiver Andrae Thurman.

Even though St. Pierre is back with the team, he's not a part of the active roster. Only two quarterbacks are, and one, Ben Roethlisberger, is a rookie.

Does Tommy Maddox have to become the iron man?

"I don't even think about it," he said.

Maddox was asked if mobility or lack thereof is important to staying healthy.

"I don't think it has anything to do with it," he said. "There are a lot of quarterbacks who run out of the pocket and that's when they get hurt. Michael Vick's probably as mobile a guy as you'll ever see in this league and he missed almost all last year, so that really doesn't have anything to do with it."

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