Thursday notebook: Ben out again

Thursday's practice was another recovery day for the Steelers' walking wounded, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

PITTSBURGH – Ben Roethlisberger's sore right shoulder forced the Steelers' quarterback out of his second practice this week, but Coach Mike Tomlin expects Roethlisberger to play Sunday night in Jacksonville.

"He felt better today," said Tomlin. "Like in recent weeks, I think he's going to be fine."

Roethlisberger's throwing shoulder has been sore since Houston Texans defensive end Mario Williams sacked him in the opener. Last week Roethlisberger missed the first practice, but practiced on Thursday. Tomlin said the familiarity with the Jaguars, whom the Steelers played twice in their final 20 days last season, should help Roethlisberger with limited work.

"I imagine that it does," Tomlin said. "But we're a different team than we were a year ago; they're a different team than they were a year ago. Gregg Williams is there as the defensive coordinator; got to acknowledge that. There are some things that are new and different from a quarterback standpoint in terms of preparing for Jacksonville."

If Roethlisberger can't play, former Jaguar Byron Leftwich, who started 44 games before being cut at the end of Jacksonville's 2007 training camp, would step in for the Steelers.

MOORE TO START

Tomlin named Mewelde Moore the starting halfback after Thursday's practice. An off-season free-agent acquisition, Moore said he "was picked up to beat linebackers one-on-one" as the Steelers' third-down back. He did that twice last week late in the game to help the Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens in overtime.

Moore rushed eight times for 13 yards and caught three passes for 37 yards against the Ravens.

A veteran of four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, Moore hasn't started since the 2005 season, when he started eight games. He's made 11 starts in his career and has four 100-yard games. His most productive start was a 22-carry, 122-yard performance at Green Bay on a Monday night.

"I started a couple Monday nights," he said. "Being national and big and everything, this is in the same category as those games. But it doesn't matter if it's a night game or a day game, it's the next game. That's the most important thing."

Moore gives the Steelers a pass-catching threat out of the backfield on all three downs. He'll likely carry that full load since just-signed Najeh Davenport is still working his way into football shape.

"He's been diligent in how he's preparing himself, but he's hurrying up to catch up," Tomlin said of Davenport.

With Carey Davis doubtful with a sprained ankle, and Willie Parker out with a knee injury, and Rashard Mendenhall out for the season on injured reserve, the Steelers' third and final running back is Gary Russell, who was called up from the practice squad this week.

RIGHT GUARD UPDATE

Trai Essex took his turn today, but Darnell Stapleton remains a strong contender to play right guard in place of Kendall Simmons, who was placed on injured reserve with a ruptured Achilles' tendon.

"Darnell's getting more snaps than Trai," Tomlin said. "He's got more recent history at the position, in terms of practice. Trai's been concentrating quite a bit at swing tackle. But both guys will work and we haven't made a final decision. We really don't have to till Sunday night."

X's AND O's

Nick Eason is doubtful with a groin injury. His absence would leave the Steelers with only four available defensive linemen. Scott Paxson and newly signed Jordan Reffett are available on the practice squad. ... Andre Frazier, who suffered a concussion on the opening kickoff Monday night, worked in the non-padded practice and is questionable for the game. ... Bryant McFadden is still the starter at left cornerback over Deshea Townsend, who played Monday and has been practicing.


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