Steelers Notebook: Baker's stock on rise

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The rise of Dallas Baker continues.

After beating out former third-round choice Willie Reid for the final receiving spot on the 53-man roster, Baker has moved past rookie Limas Sweed and will be the No. 4 wide receiver for the regular-season opener Sunday against the Houston Texans.

It has been quite a surge for Baker, a seventh-round pick in 2007 who spent last season on the practice squad.

"There's really no secret formula -- we acknowledge guys who have been productive," coach Mike Tomlin said. "He's produced this year."

Baker had eight catches and a 14.3-yard average in the preseason -- second to Reid -- but the coaches like his size (6-3, 208) and ability to make big plays. He has shown more consistency and production than Sweed, who has been plagued by drops, and also has proven he can play in the slot in passing situations.

"Quite simply, he's been productive," Tomlin said. "You look at his production last preseason, it was next to nothing. [This year] he caught balls -- critical balls, a variety of balls -- and shown he's capable of playing in the slot."

McHugh won't face Texans

Sean McHugh, signed two days ago as the third tight end, will not play against the Texans -- and not just because he hasn't practiced with his new teammates because of an ankle injury.

Tomlin said McHugh, who spent the past three seasons with the Detroit Lions, will be given another week to learn the offense.

"He could probably fight through it if he were capable of playing, but he's not ready from an assignment standpoint," Tomlin said.

"We'll let him be all eyes and ears ... and get started fresh with him next week."

Meantime, outside linebacker James Harrison went through an entire practice and was pronounced "fine" by Tomlin. Harrison left practice early Wednesday and had his shoulder wrapped afterward.

Posthumous tributes

The Steelers will honor three members of their football family who died this year -- Dwight White, Ernie Holmes and broadcaster Myron Cope -- in a pregame ceremony featuring an organized Terrible Towel hold.

Fans are being asked to get to their seats early to participate in the ceremony. There will be a video tribute to each, followed by a moment of silence and a holding of the Terrible Towel.

Country music star Charlie Daniels will sing the national anthem.

Stapleton makes hit

Last year, it was Chukky Okobi. This year it was Sean Mahan. For a guy who wasn't even drafted, Darnell Stapleton sure has been running off a lot of centers. That is testament to what the coaches think of the 6-foot-3, 305-pounder from Rutgers.

"I think they have pretty good confidence in me to play guard and center and be a versatile backup," said Stapleton, a rookie free agent in 2007.

Stapleton appeared in only two preseason games as a rookie because of injury, but he impressed the coaches enough that the Steelers released Okobi, a seven-year veteran, in the final cut.

This year, after newcomer Justin Hartwig beat out Mahan, the starter last year, the Steelers traded Mahan to Tampa Bay and made Stapleton the backup.


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