With starter Oliver Ross having struggled mightily in Monday night's 30-14 loss to the New England Patriots, the Steelers may be inching closer to inserting No. 1 draft pick Kendall Simmons into the starting lineup.
"We'll look at it," said head coach Bill Cowher. "We may make a change; we may not. We'll make a decision by the end of the week."
After saying last week that Ross and Simmons would split time at right guard against the Patriots, Simmons ended up being the lone Steeler player who dressed for Monday night's game but did not play. That could certainly change this week against the Raiders, a team that doesn't do nearly as much pre-snap moving around as the Patriots do.
"Nope, against the Raiders, pretty much what you see is what you're going to get," said right tackle Marvel Smith.
That could make it much easier for the rookie to slide into the right guard position and allow Ross to go back to being the team's equivalent of a sixth man. Offensive line coach Russ Grimm feels Simmons may be ready now, after having a few months to assimilate the team's offense. That learning period is critical for offensive linemen, who need to know almost everything that is happening on the football field on a given play.
"You've got to know the scheme of the play. It's not like telling a guy, 'OK, you block the end.' You have to understand what the running back sees. You have to understand what the defense is as far as a formation. You've got to understand certain tendencies," said Grimm. "Those are the things that give you an edge."
In other news Wednesday, Cowher declared
inside linebacker Kendrell Bell and cornerback Hank Poteat as out for Sunday
night's game against the Raiders.
Bell played just a handful of downs Monday night before re-injuring his left ankle, which he sprained in the team's second preseason game. "We're going to sit him down this week," said Cowher. "It's a long season and I don't want this to go back and forth. So we're going to rest him the next two weeks and hopefully he'll be able to go full speed after that."
The Steelers have their off week after playing
the Raiders, which would give Bell, who was wearing a protective boot on the
ankle, nearly three full weeks to heal.
Rookie Larry Foote will start in Bell's place
against the Raiders, alongside James Farrior.
Also missing practice Wednesday were center
Jeff Hartings and linebacker Joey Porter. Hartings has an MCL sprain, while
Porter has a shoulder injury. Both are listed as questionable on the team's
injury list, but Cowher feels they'll be ready to play Sunday.
"I've done this four or five times before," said Hartings, who missed a couple of plays with the injury Monday night. "So I know this is something I can play through."