Paul Ernster is hoping his punts with his new team are much better than the first one he had the last time he was on the same field with the Steelers.
Two days after he was waived by the Detroit Lions, Ernster arrived at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe as the replacement for injured punter Dan Sepulveda, who will miss the rest of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right leg.
"It's an exciting opportunity for me because I've always been a fan of the team and I have a lot of friends who are big fans of the Steelers," Ernster said. "They're really excited."
The Steelers have not placed Sepulveda on injured reserve -- "We will, but there's no hurry," coach Mike Tomlin said -- and he spent part of the morning snapping for kicker Jeff Reed on an adjacent field. Tomlin said Sepulveda is scheduled to have surgery Aug. 6.
- Preseason opener: Steelers vs. Philadelphia Eagles.
- When: 7:30 p.m., Aug. 8.
- Where: Heinz Field.
- TV: KDKA.
Ernster punted for the Cleveland Browns in the 2007 season opener against the Steelers because the Browns regular punter, Dave Zastudil, was injured. And his first punt was a disaster.
Ernster dropped the snap deep in his own territory then got off a punt that traveled only 15 yards. However, there were four penalties on the play, and the Steelers eventually started a drive at the Browns 22, leading to a touchdown.
"It was a tough situation and definitely a little intimidating, running out there in a new environment and against, of all teams, the Steelers," Ernster said. "It was just a mess. It was the first punt and it didn't go too well. It was kind of a disaster."
Ernster lasted only one game with the Browns and was released. He was signed late in the season by the Denver Broncos, for whom he punted in 2006, but was released after he shanked two punts in a 23-3 loss Dec. 23 to San Diego.
Rookie receiver Limas Sweed, the team's No. 2 draft choice, was carted from the field with ice attached to his right hamstring area and did not finish the afternoon practice.
Tomlin said the injury was nothing more than cramps -- the same injury that also claimed free-agent tackle Jeremy Parquet in the afternoon.
Before he left, Sweed made another nice play in practice, catching a pass on a crossing route, breaking a tackle by safety Grant Mason and running down the sideline for a touchdown.
"We took him off to protect him," Tomlin said. "He's a guy who runs all day. He's run a bunch and had some opportunities. The body betrayed him just a little bit."
Inside linebacker James Farrior sat out both practice sessions because of a problem with his hip flexor. He said he will return tomorrow.
Also, left tackle Marvel Smith sat out the afternoon practice with a groin injury and running back Mewelde Moore missed with an illness.
With Farrior out, Lawrence Timmons, last year's No. 1 pick, worked with the first-team defense. Timmons worked in the 'Mack' position usually occupied by Larry Foote, who moved over to play Farrior's 'Buck' position.
Timmons is being given a shot to replace Foote in the starting lineup.
"They've been giving me a lot of time and coach has been patient with me," Timmons said. "Everything has been going well."
Offensive line coach Larry Zierlein tried to downplay the notion that some of his linemen followed the lead of guard Alan Faneca and not what he was trying to teach last season -- a notion advanced by guard Willie Colon.
Colon said Faneca disdained the techniques Zierlein implemented and played more the style he was taught by former offensive line coach Russ Grimm. He referred to it as "sometimes you can't teach old dogs new tricks."
"I don't know about that," Zierlein said. "It was a transition period and anytime you have transition, changing from one technique and one terminology to another, there is bound to be some. Alan's been a great player and a great competitor. He did everything we asked of him.
"It was a transition year. I've been through a lot of transitions and you're always going through things where you're changing styles. It's over and we're getting ready to play this year."
First Published July 31, 2008 4:00 AM