New gunner's memory just fine

The Steelers brought in two special-teamers this week to help their woeful coverage units. Here's a hard-hitting look at one of them.

PITTSBURGH – You'd think he wouldn't remember; that he only saw it on tape after his headache went away.

But he remembered.

"Oh, I remember," said Corey Ivy, one of the new Steelers. "Fourteen. They brought that up in a team meeting."

Fourteen is Limas Sweed, and Ivy is the guy Sweed lit up with what play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz called "a Hines Ward block" in last year's AFC Championship Game.

Ivy was chasing Heath Miller near the sideline and turned up, only to be met by a load of angry Sweed, who four plays earlier had dropped a touchdown pass and feigned injury, costing the Steelers a timeout in the final minute of the first half.

Sweed was eventually forgiven by fans because the Steelers won the game, but also because of the ferocious block on Ivy. In one of the most physical games ever played at Heinz Field, Sweed's hit was one of the most fearsome.

"We actually had an extra thing going because he went to Texas and I went to Oklahoma, so I really have nothing to say to the guy," Ivy said, before adding: "I'm just kidding."

Ivy was helped off Heinz Field in that game, which turned out to be his last. He signed with the Cleveland Browns a few months later but was cut at the end of camp. He spent the last three months staying in shape and playing golf at home in Florida before the Steelers called. They're in desperate need of a punt gunner and an "L1" – or furthest contain man on the left side of the kickoff cover team.

Ivy finds it humorous that he's not only playing for the Steelers against his former team of three years on Sunday night, but that he'll be working in tandem with Sweed as "hold-up men" – or blockers of punt gunners – on one side of the punt-return team.

"It'll be an OU-Texas combination out there," said the a nine-year NFL veteran who originally signed with the New England Patriots in 1999 as an undrafted rookie out of Oklahoma.

Ivy played in Europe and the XFL before joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2000. He won a Super Bowl ring two years later as a defensive back for then-assistant Mike Tomlin. Ivy left the Bucs for the St. Louis Rams in 2005, and then joined the Ravens in 2006 and remained there until the loss to the Steelers last January.

He was introduced to the team Wednesday morning by Tomlin, who asked Ivy aloud if he knew Sweed.

"I said, ‘Yeah, I've met him before.'"

Sweed and the rest of the Steelers will be happy if Ivy can help the worst Steelers kickoff coverage unit in modern franchise history. The Steelers have allowed an NFL record four kickoff returns for touchdowns and rank 31st, or next to last, in the league with a defensive kickoff return average of 26.9.

Last season, the Steelers were first in the league with an average of 19.1. The loss of punt gunner and "L1" kickoff man Anthony Madison, the leader coverage tackler, is a part of the decline. The 5-9, 180-pound Ivy is the exact size as Madison – now with the Indianapolis Colts – and brings a similar philosophy about playing special teams.

"It's about want-to and being afraid to fail," Ivy said. "You just never want to let down your teammates, let down the organization, your fans, your friends, your family.

"It's not a glory job. On any of the special teams, there's not a position where you can stand out if you're not a returner, so it's a lot of want-to and a lot of dirty work that I consider part of my job description."

If Ivy can help the Steelers get opposing return men to the ground, particularly if they're wearing purple, he'll find plenty of glory in Pittsburgh.

NOTES – Troy Polamalu (knee) did not practice Wednesday, but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger did. Roethlisberger was cleared of concussion symptoms by doctors on Monday. Third-team quarterback Dennis Dixon took the majority of practice reps Wednesday because second-team quarterback Charlie Batch will miss two to four weeks with a broken left wrist. ... The Steelers added former Pitt quarterback Tyler Palko to their practice squad and released rookie nose tackle Steve McLendon.


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