Notebook: Hartwig the man, but not officially

Plenty of news out of Steelers camp on Saturday, following the close loss to the Buffalo Bills.

LATROBE – It was to be the day Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin picked a first-team center, but both he and Saturday's first-team center, Justin Hartwig, said it wasa just another step in the process.

"We're still looking at those guys," Tomlin said of Hartwig and Sean Mahan. "Both guys I thought played well and did a nice job. I think it's important that we get a true evaluation of the position by allowing Justin to continue to work with the first group and get some cohesion things squared away, some communication, some silent-count issues. But I like where both of those guys are. I think we've got two viable options there."

Mahan started the preseason opener and one Steelers personnel man called it "his finest hour." Hartwig played well Thursday night as the second-game starter, but a holding penalty on a 3rd-and-one conversion, a play before an interception, marred the effort.

"I don't know how the official caught that," Hartwig said of an infraction the TV cameras didn't pick up. "I might've yanked him a little bit, but it was in the middle of a big scrum."

THE ELECTRIC HOLMES

Santonio Holmes has caught touchdown passes in each preseason game, and now he's being added to the preseason punt-return battle.

Holmes was told in the spring that he'd return punts this season and he'll get his chance Saturday at Minnesota.

"I grew up in a generation in Virginia where Darrell Green was a situational return man for the Redskins," said Tomlin. "When he went back there, he electrified the crowd. We've got a vision of that developing with Santonio.

"I think he craves that kind of pressure. I think that kind of makes him who he is."

TROY BACK TUESDAY

Safety Troy Polamalu is expected to come off the PUP list to practice Tuesday when the Steelers return to the South Side.

Polamalu, according to Tomlin, "had a nice day running" Saturday, and will run again Sunday before the team breaks camp.

Also sitting out with minor injuries Saturday were LB Patrick Bailey (knee), LB Mike Humpal (stingers), LB Andre Frazier (shoulder), TE Cody Boyd (shoulder), LB Keyaron Fox (back spasms) and DT Scott Paxson (stingers). All are day to day.

Hines Ward missed Saturday's practice to rest a sore ankle and is expected back Sunday. Rookie FS Ryan Mundy (ankle sprain) is out of his protective boot and Tomlin hopes he can play Saturday.

COMING AND GOING

Jon Dekker tore his right ACL and will have surgery next Saturday. He was waived by the team, as was newly acquired DE Kevin Huntley, who failed his physical.

The Steelers signed free agent tight end Lee Vickers (#49), who tried out for the team as a defensive end in 2006, but was waived and spent the season on the Philadelphia Eagles' practice squad. Vickers spent last season with the Baltimore Ravens and played in nine games as a tight end (two starts) and caught two passes for four yards. He was released last week.

The Steelers still have an opening on their roster.

RUCKER UP LATE

Undrafted rookie wide receiver Micah Rucker said Saturday that he hadn't slept since dropping the Hail Mary pass from quarterback Dennis Dixon Thursday night. It would've won the game for the Steelers.

"It's killing me, man," said the 6-foot-7 Rucker. "That's what I've made my name off of. That's why I'm here, to make that catch. I've never dropped that ball."

Rucker said he's caught "a bunch" of Hail Mary passes in his football career.

"I remember one in high school," he said. "I jumped over two people and caught it against my chest and flipped over on my head.

"I don't know, man. I'm just sick about it."


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