Steelers Notebook: Safety is slighted by lack of playing time

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Anthony Smith feels slighted. He started 10 games last season after illness struck down free safety Ryan Clark, and he wonders why he likely won't get the job this week.

"Yeah, I'm frustrated," Smith said yesterday. "Playing all those games last year and not getting a chance to contribute, yeah, it's very frustrating."

Clark won't play when the Steelers take on the Redskins in Washington Monday night because of a dislocated shoulder. His season ended after seven games last year after his blood reacted to the high altitude in Denver and his spleen ultimately was removed because of it. Clark has sickle cell trait.

Smith started the next eight games at free safety but was benched in favor of Ty Carter after he allowed one too many deep touchdown passes. He returned to start when Carter replaced an injured Troy Polamalu at free safety, then Smith earned a technical start in the playoff against Jacksonville.

It became obvious that Smith fell out of favor with the coaching staff then, and it was confirmed when he opened this season on the inactive list. He has been relegated to special teams play this season while Carter plays in situation defenses and replaced the injured Clark against New York.

Tomlin said Tuesday that "at this point" Carter will start Monday but that Smith will get a chance to change his mind in practice this week.

"I hope we get a chance to battle it out in practice and they make their decision off of that," Smith said. "Hopefully, that's what it is."

Smith said, "I honestly don't know who's making the decision for me not to be playing."

"You would like to know, but it's just something you can't let hold you back and distract you from going out and performing every week."

Wait and see

Halfback Willie Parker went through a full practice yesterday, but after the experiences of the past two weeks, he wants to see how his left knee reacts before talking about a comeback.

Parker was expected to return to play Oct. 19 but re-injured his MCL in practice that week. He practiced last week but the knee did not respond favorably. He has not played since his injury Sept. 21 in Philadelphia.

"I'll take it day by day," Parker said. "Every time I think I feel good it turns out I don't really feel that good."

Distractions, distractions

Among Ben Roethlisberger's stated concerns about playing the Washington Redskins is their cheerleaders.

That's what he said, anyway.

"I'm not a big fan of playing there because it is loud, they're really good at home and they try to make their cheerleaders stretch in our tunnel before we come out of the locker room. That's just not good," Roethlisberger said yesterday.

The practice by the Redskins cheerleaders was so legendary around the league that when commissioner Roger Goodell sent out a memo to all teams last year banning the practice some dubbed the "Redskins Rule."

"The couple of preseason games I've played down there, we've seen it," Roethlisberger said.

And it's a distraction?

"It can be, let's be truthful. They've done it before. I've heard a rumor that they're not allowed to do it anymore."

Boxer visits

Boxer Roy Jones Jr. paid a visit to old friend Mike Tomlin yesterday, trailed by a camera crew from HBO.

Jones has a Nov. 8 date with Joe Calzaghe for the Ring Magazine light-heavyweight championship at Madison Square Garden.

Tomlin said he met Jones four or five years ago when he was coaching the Tampa Bay secondary.

Jones, 39, has a career 52-4 record and has held various titles in a number of weight classes. His fight against Calzaghe will be produced by HBO for pay-per-view.

Quick hits

Safety Ryan Clark revealed that he was fined $5,000 by the NFL for wearing eye black with the No. 21 etched into it Sunday. Clark said he did it to honor his late Redskins teammate Sean Taylor, who was murdered in his Florida home last year. Clark, who wears No. 25, wears a No. 21 practice jersey in honor of Taylor. Clark said he will continue to wear the eye black with "21" in it. ... Add linebacker LaMarr Woodley (calf) to the injury list. He did not practice yesterday, and neither did Marvel Smith (back spasms) nor nose tackle Casey Hampton (toe) among others.


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