Opening Statement: It's a big week for us, bringing our preseason to a close, finishing up on Thursday night versus the Panthers here at Pittsburgh, at Heinz Field. It's a big week for a lot of reasons. We've got a short week here. It's the last opportunity for a lot of men to make an impression. We're readying ourselves for September football and at the same time, we've got some critical decisions to make about our football team. That being said, we've got all hands on deck this week and guys really wired in and working to take advantage of that opportunity. Carolina's a good team, of course. They're coming off a high performance. They got after the Redskins pretty good in all three phases. Those two running backs that they have are playing good ball, (DeAngelo) Williams and (Jonathan) Stewart. Defensively, their guys up front are playing very well. It's a stiff challenge for us and we look forward to meeting it and all that comes with it when you're talking about the fourth preseason game.
Will you play the offensive line longer than usual because of what you talked about yesterday with cohesion?
No. We're going to play our starters roughly a quarter and generally stick to that plan.
Is there anybody who won't play?
How will you use Troy (Polamalu)?
Troy is going to play with the first unit.
How do you assess the pass rush?
We've got roughly 10 sacks in three games. We've got some guys individually that are rushing well. They haven't played complete games. You envision those guys putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback. I think LaMarr Woodley has created a lot of pressure in the time that he's played, James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, Aaron Smith has two sacks. I like where our pass rush is. When you look at the performance of those men, project it over the course of four quarters, I like where it is.
Do you project that with increased game-planning?
I don't want to make more about what's going on from a lack of game-planning. The same could be said about the people we're playing against. That's just the state of August football. It's about building to a point where you're ready to put complete game plans together in the season. The lack of game-planning won't be an excuse for our lack of performance in the preseason. It is what it is.
But it could be a lot better possibly?
Hopefully it will be.
Do you have any update on Limas Sweed's knee or Ben's (Roethlisberger) ankle?
No. They're day-to-day. It's nothing major, minor injuries. We'll hold Limas a little today. We'll see how he feels after lunch. It's definitely nothing long-term with both of those men.
So the tests on Limas' knee were OK?
Is there any scenario where you would keep four quarterbacks?
We'll cross that bridge after this performance. We'll make any decisions we have to make at the appropriate time. I think we need to gather all of the information based on the quality of play and the health of Charlie in terms of what direction we go on. We'll hold our cards until necessary in regards to that.
Is Charlie's progress where you expected?
It's too early to tell at this point. We'll see.
How did Sean Mahan take the news?
He took it like you would expect a professional competitor to take it. He wasn't necessarily pleased. I'd be disappointed if he took it any other way. But he is a professional. He understands what team football is about. Sean is a guy that's battled the entire time he's been in the league. He's started a bunch in this league. He's always had to compete for those jobs. Some of those battles he's lost and then found his way back onto the field during the time we spent together in the past. It's what this league is about. It's about competing. It's about being ready to answer the call when your number is called. He fits the bill in that regard. And he's like anyone else, he's a competitor. He wants to play and he wants to win.
What's his role?
He's a guy that has position flexibility as a center and guard. We're going to explore him playing some guard. I know that he's a guy that we're capable of winning with if we have to call on him and there's comfort in that.
How will you use your quarterbacks. Will Dennis Dixon play?
Yes he will. We're going to play him and Byron (Leftwich) a bunch.
Will you look at bringing Cody Boyd back at some point?
Potentially. That's what you do when you waive someone injured, you leave the door open for that.
Did he have surgery today?
He did. I think the condition of his shoulder was better than anticipated. However, it would be a little bit of speculation at this point.
Do you have a good sense of the 53 or will the game Thursday determine that?
Most of the time it comes down to about three to five decisions that are 11th hour. I think that will be the case this time around.
Bruce Arians has said he's a three-tight end guy. Is that still the case?
We've got some schematic flexibility to fit what we believe our strengths are. Ideally, you'd like to have a third tight end. We've got some candidates and we'll be watching those guys closely. But that's a position that's still in development.
Might Max (Starks) play some tight end?
Yes, and of course he did that for us some last year.
Are you comfortable where Leftwich is in terms of grasp of the offense?
I think based on what he has done to this point, there is comfort. Every day is so important for him because there have been very few days and opportunities. Thus far, he's taken advantage of that and has been better. He's continued to do that. Thursday night will be a big part of it.
What about the fourth and fifth wide receiver spots?
The known cast of characters, Limas Sweed, Dallas Baker and Willie Reid, those guys have had good moments, they've had moments that are not so good. They're fighting. They're young guys. They make mistakes. Hopefully, they don't make too many. Their talent and pedigree shows up from time to time. That's a hotly contested battle, one that may be waged on Thursday night and ultimately decide how those spots unfold.
How has (Rashard) Mendenhall responded to the Kangaroo Court?
I haven't asked him and I really don't care. I just want him to hold onto the football.
What's going to happen on returns this week?
You'll see quite a bit of Eddie Drummond and Willie Reid in both areas.
Can Eddie Drummond make this team strictly as a return guy?
There's a potential for that. That was our intention when we gave him the opportunity and signed him a few weeks back. His opportunities to impress are dwindling and Thursday night is a big night for him.
What about Santonio (Holmes) on punt returns?
We went into that third preseason game thinking we were going to get him some situational work in the game, which we did. We'll move forward. I'm comfortable with where he is from the ability to field a ball, from a decision-making standpoint. We'll get him ready to roll for the regular season.
Any plans to split Ben out wide again?
I don't know. Come to practice today. We might look at a few things. That's just an element of ball that we're working on. More than anything, it's to spice things up a little bit, make people work and defend it. We've got a few wrinkles out of that look. We might have Willie (Parker) throw the ball. We'll see.