For the second week in a row, Willie Parker's good intentions were countered with a bad case of reality.
Parker, a two-time Pro Bowl running back, did not practice yesterday and is not expected to play in tomorrow's 4:15 p.m. game against the New York Giants at Heinz Field.
Parker, who is listed as doubtful, is one of four starters not expected to participate against the reigning Super Bowl champions.
Defensive end Aaron Smith was excused from practice for the third day in a row because of personal reasons, and coach Mike Tomlin said "it's questionable" if he'll play against the Giants.
Tomlin said left tackle Marvel Smith, who has not practiced in two weeks because of back spasms, will not play. He will be replaced by Max Starks.
The other is wide receiver Santonio Holmes, who is being disciplined after being stopped by police with marijuana in his car. He will be replaced by Nate Washington.
The team has not disclosed the reason for Aaron Smith's absence and the players have been told not to discuss it, respecting Smith's family privacy.
"He has our complete and full support," Tomlin said. "He's going through a time right now."
Parker, who has missed the past three games with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee, went through an entire practice Wednesday with the intention of returning against the Giants. But, when his knee began bothering him again, he was limited in practice Thursday and stood on the sideline yesterday in the final full workout of the week.
It was a similar situation a week earlier when Parker returned after an open week and practiced Monday, hoping to return against the Cincinnati Bengals. But he stepped in a hole during an individual workout Tuesday and aggravated his sprained knee.
That means Mewelde Moore, who has rushed for 219 yards and scored three touchdowns in the past two games, will make his third consecutive start against the Giants.
"Mewelde has given us a great two ballgames," said offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. "That's nothing but a blessing. There are things he does well that we don't want to take out of the game plan."
With Holmes out, Washington will make his seventh NFL start and get a chance to make even more plays like the 48- and 50-yard touchdown catches he has made the past two games.
Washington is typically the backup to Hines Ward at flanker, but he is the team's fastest receiver and will move to split end to replace Holmes.
"It's a good opportunity to show what I've done the past couple weeks isn't a fluke and that this Nate Washington, the one they know now, is here to stay," Washington said.
Holmes' absence also means Limas Sweed, the team's No. 2 draft choice, will split time with Dallas Baker as the third wide receiver. Baker did not play in Cincinnati because of a sprained shoulder, allowing Sweed to play in his first NFL game.
But Baker has practiced all week and will play against the Giants.
"Dallas and Limas will share the load and, quite frankly, we'll go with the hot hand," Tomlin said.
The Steelers and Heinz Field management are warning fans to watch out for counterfeit tickets when making a purchase from scalpers for the Giants game.
The Steelers are recommending that fans purchase tickets only from authorized agents.
"We have received information that indicates we can expect some scalpers to be selling counterfeit tickets to [the] game," said Steelers spokesman Dave Lockett.
"It is hard to tell the difference between some counterfeit tickets and the real thing, so the only way to be sure is to only buy tickets from authorized agents."