Hines Ward has a broken nose and was scheduled for minor surgery yesterday afternoon to repair it.
Ward's nose was broken in the Steelers' 27-13 victory against the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday night at Heinz Field.
He did not practice yesterday, watching with a bag of ice on a sore thigh muscle.
Coach Mike Tomlin downplayed the injury during his press conference to the extent that he said Ward could play tomorrow against the Carolina Panthers in the final preseason game.
"Hines is Hines," Tomlin said. "I wouldn't count Hines out."
Tight ends Heath Miller (shoulder) and Jerame Tuman (back) and defensive end Travis Kirschke (unknown) also did not practice.
Tomlin said he will stick with the same starting lineup tomorrow night against Carolina as the one that opened Sunday's game against Philadelphia.
That means the offensive line with Willie Colon at right tackle and Sean Mahan at center and the secondary with Deshea Townsend at cornerback and Ryan Clark at free safety. Those four apparently have won starting jobs after a summer of competition, but Tomlin won't declare as much yet.
"At this point, I'm not interested in making any grand announcements in regards to the lineup," Tomlin said. "I think it would be prudent to continue on. We'll roll with the same lineup that we played with last week. We'll focus on keeping our eyes on Thursday night."
Chukky Okobi, the heir apparent at center when Jeff Hartings retired, said he is not sure what will happen there. He's scheduled to make a $2 million salary but it looks as though Mahan beat him out for the job.
"I'm not reading into anything," Okobi said. "I'm just taking it one day at a time. I'll worry about Thursday and after Thursday, I'll worry about Friday.
"I don't know anything. I know I haven't done anything wrong. I haven't played bad. I missed 10 days with an injury, but I've done absolutely nothing wrong. I've done everything in my power to put myself in the best position. I think I've done a pretty good job."
Would he take a pay cut if they ask him to?
"We'll cross that bridge when we get to it," Okobi said.
A quarterback sneak
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had to sneak around his head coach to get a peak at the Cleveland Browns, the Steelers' first opponent Sept. 9.
Tomlin wants his players to concentrate on their final preseason game against the Panthers and not worry about their first regular-season game.
"I tried to kind of get started on some Browns tape and coach told me don't do it. They'll be there, I guess, when we play them next weekend," Roethlisberger said.
Former coach Bill Cowher was known to devote one training camp practice a week to the first regular-season opponent. Tomlin has refrained from allowing his players to look at the Browns, although he admitted he and his coaches have.
"The reality is we have a game Thursday night," Tomlin said. "I know there's a season about to kick off, I know there's general excitement involved in that. But it's an exercise in mental toughness to be where we are and to respect this process and do what we need to do to prepare ourselves for Thursday night."
Even though it's a meaningless exhibition game in which he said he will play his starters only for one quarter?
At least, Roethlisberger isn't buying it.
"Nothing against Carolina, saying we're overlooking them or anything, nothing like that," Roethlisberger said. "I'm sure a lot of their guys are doing the same thing. It's mostly, for me, I try to sneak up and watch a little Browns tape before practice, just make sure I stay mentally and physically sharp.
"I snuck up to the quarterback room today and watched a Browns tape."
Shrinking strike zone
Defensive end Brett Keisel will appeal the $12,500 fine the league hit him with for hitting Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell above his left knee Aug. 18 in Washington.
"You just kind of explain the situation why you did what you did," Keisel said of the appeals process. "They can either say too bad or we're taking a $1 off. It's up to them.
"My defense is, I was playing ball, he had the ball in his hands and I was trying to make a play for my team."
Quarterbacks can't be hit high, low or late, which makes it more difficult for pass-rushers than it did in previous generations.
"You have to touch their numbers," Keisel said. "It's getting pretty narrow, but that's the way the league is right now and that's what we have to deal with. Waist to shoulders, anything right in there. That's the rule and that's what you have to deal with."
Tomlin challenges Reid
Willie Reid will open as the punt-returner tomorrow night, and Tomlin wants to see him do something with it.
"Absolutely. You know, he put a ball on the ground. We're going to fall short sometimes. how we're going to respond to it is what's going to define us.
"I challenged Willie this morning in front of his peers. that's part of it, man. We'll see what he brings. I expect him to bring it because he's a competitor."
Ed Bouchette can be reached at email@example.com .