Porter, Staley vow to play in opener

LATROBE – Joey Porter said it wasn't the celebratory practice stomp that injured his left knee Tuesday in practice, but, he said, "It probably didn't help."

Porter has begun a month-long rehab at St. Vincent College, along with running back Duce Staley. The two Steelers limped out of the cafeteria early Thursday morning and into awaiting golf carts, which took them to the first of their post-surgical rehab assignments.

Staley was surprised when asked whether Jerome Bettis would be an effective replacement for him at running back.

"For preseason?" Staley asked with raised eyebrows. "I guess. But I'll be back for the opener. I'm certain of that."

Staley refused to discuss the specifics of his injury, a lateral meniscal tear that was repaired Monday. Porter, on the other hand, discussed his injury in detail.

"It's been bothering me since 2001," Porter said. "I injured it that year and it's locked up on me every now and then. I've learned to live with it."

Porter said he injured the knee early that season, but played through it with the help of the doctors, who drained the knee several times. Porter missed only the meaningless regular-season finale and played in both playoff games that season.

Doctors suggested to Porter he could endure a similar process this season, but he felt it best to have the loose cartilage removed before the season starts. He's also expected back for the opener.

"I have no doubts about that," Porter said. "I'll be back for Tennessee."

Porter aggravated the injury at Tuesday's practice during a one-on-one pass-rush drill. He was matched up against rookie free agent tackle Ulish Booker, and was chided by teammates after Booker held his own against the Steelers' decorated pass rusher. Porter demanded the two players compete again and line coach Russ Grimm acquiesced, as he does when such requests are made.

This time Porter rushed past the hapless Booker and, to celebrate the ease of his victory, leaped high in the air and came down with both feet in a stomping fashion on the chalked zone that designates where the quarterback would be standing in a live drill.

Porter then left the area – as did the rest of the linemen – but did not join teammates in the ensuing team scrimmage. He received attention from trainers and his day was over.

That night, Porter's knee swelled and he underwent an MRI examination Wednesday morning. He underwent surgery that afternoon.

Porter will be replaced by James Harrison, who started four games at outside linebacker last season. Cowher said the team is not looking to sign an outside linebacker, and that he's interested in looking at young players.

The Steelers have been high on one rookie free agent in particular: Andre Frazier.

The 6-foot-5, 234-pounder from the University of Cincinnati is the son of former NFL linebacker Guy Frazier, who played for the Cincinnati Bengals from 1981-84 and the Buffalo Bills from 1985-86.

Andre Frazier was a first-team All-Conference USA defensive end last season. The three-year starter finished his career second on the school's all-time sacks list with 22.5. His most productive season was 2003 when he had 7 sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss and was named the team's most outstanding defensive lineman.

Frazer was also honored for academic excellence at Cincinnati.

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