Steelers Notebook: Woodley, Essex ready to march in against the Saints Woodley, Essex likely to start against Saints

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Maybe the Steelers will not need all those replacement parts.

Left outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley and right guard Trai Essex practiced all week while returning from injuries and appear ready to start Sunday night against the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome.

"I took every rep over the course of the week," said Essex, whose ailing ankle caused him to be replaced by Doug Legursky the past four games. "So I'm prepared. I'm good to go."

Woodley exited early from last Sunday's game in Miami with a balky hamstring and gave way to rookie Jason Worlids, who was credited with four quarterback pressures. But Woodley was a practice mainstay Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, when he was listed as probable.

Rookie center Maurkice Pouncey returned to practice Friday after being sick and absent a day earlier.

Still, the starting defensive ends for Halloween seem likely to be Ziggy Hood and Nick Eason because, in addition to the surgically repaired Aaron Smith (listed as out), Brett Keisel is doubtful. Keisel missed Friday to cap off a week on the sidelines and is expected to sit out a second consecutive game Sunday because of his hamstring injury.

Right tackle Flozell Adams, bothered last Sunday by an ankle problem, practiced all week beside Essex and is listed as probable.

The Saints' injury report: running backs Reggie Bush (fibula) and Pierre Thomas (ankle), out; cornerback Jabari Greer (shoulder), doubtful; and cornerback Tracy Porter (knee) and linebacker Scott Shanle (hamstring), questionable.

Extra D-lineman?

Steve McLendon appears to be next in line for defensive line duty with Smith recovering from triceps surgery.

McLendon, a free-agent, first-year player from Troy, was signed off the practice squad and then played against the Titans and Ravens. This 6-foot-4, 280-pound lineman has accumulated one tackle and a fumble recovery, both at Tennessee.

"Coach [Mike] Tomlin told me he's going to ring my bell this week," McLendon said. "My coach [John Mitchell] told me to be ready. He gave me a whole lot of reps this week. And we only have four other D-linemen, so I think I'm going to play."

McLendon also was given special teams duties this week in practice.

Nixing punter tricks

Daniel Sepulveda has attempted one pass in his three NFL seasons, a 32-yarder to Najeh Davenport near the end of 2007. But a fake punt and run up the middle? The way Cleveland's Reggie Hodges shredded the Saints for 68 yards last Sunday?

"I mean, shoot," Sepulveda jokingly groused Friday. "They'll be addressing that this week."

He last ran the ball in a game as a Baylor sophomore in 2004, gaining 5 yards against Texas Tech but falling short of a first down. He "freaked out" and ran once after a bad snap as a Baylor freshman, gaining 6 yards but failing to convert fourth down against Colorado.

"I just want one," Sepulveda said of an NFL chance. "That's all I want."



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