Notebook: Return game in shambles

CINCINNATI – After winning Super Bowl XL, the Steelers watched Antwaan Randle El left via free agency and released Quincy Morgan. And their return game has gotten worse each year.

In 2005, the champion Steelers were third in the league in punt-return average and 21st in kickoff-return average. This year, they are 30th with a kickoff-return average of 19.6 and dead last with a punt-return average of 3.8.

The return game has become a glaring weakness with Najeh Davenport running back kickoffs and Santonio Holmes and Mewelde Moore returning punts. Diminutive speedster Jayson Foster was signed to the practice squad, but wasn't activated for today's game.

Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin was asked why his No. 3 receiver, speedy Nate Washington, hasn't been used on kickoffs instead of Davenport, a 247-pound running back who was out of football prior to the Steelers' last game. "He has no experience in regards to that, even at Tiffin," Tomlin said of Washington's college days. "And he's not the biggest framed guy. You don't see a bunch of guys with his stature returning kickoffs."

Washington is 6-1, 185 pounds. Morgan, by comparison, was 6-1, 215 when he played for the Steelers in 2005.


Glenn Holt, by contrast, expects to play today after sitting out practices with a tender ankle. Holt leads the NFL with 28 kickoff returns and is seventh with an average of 26.6.

The Bengals might not be so lucky with their injured kicker. Shayne Graham, who missed last week's game with a groin injury, didn't practice Friday and is again expected to give way today to Dave Raymer.


The Steelers yesterday signed offensive tackle Jeremy Parquet off their practice squad and released defensive tackle Scott Paxson. The move was necessitated by recent injuries to Kendall Simmons and Marvel Smith.

Parquet is in his fourth season out of Southern Miss. He was a seventh-round draft pick by Kansas City in 2005 and released a year later. He signed with St. Louis in 2006 and played in five games before getting his release. He signed with the Steelers late last season and was promoted to the roster for the playoff game, but was inactive.


Troy Polamalu's newest Nike commercial with LaDainian Tomlinson is called "The Destiny" and it traces the two star players from fictional childhoods to a collision on an NFL field.

"I think it's pretty cool," said Polamalu. "It was really fun to do. Well, I shouldn't say really fun, kind of fun to do. For the few seconds of Steeler film that was on it, there was like eight, 10 hours of work. Man, I really respect actors."

How long did Polamalu practice for the big hit with Tomlinson?

"Oh, we didn't touch each other," he said. "We just kind of zoomed by each other and then we sat back and watched the stunt doubles hit each other about 50 times."

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