Steelers notebook: No immediate changes planned with tight ends

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Word of caution: Do not expect the Steelers to go out and sign a veteran tight end like the Baltimore Ravens did with Dallas Clark.

The recent spate of injuries at the position has left the Steelers with David Paulson as their No. 1 tight end, and that is not about to change soon.

The Steelers are not planning to add a tight end other than players such as Michael Palmer and Nathan Overbay to their roster because they plan on getting Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth and David Johnson back at various points this season.

Miller remains on the physically-unable-to-perform list after having offseason surgery to repair three ligament tears in his knee, including the anterior cruciate ligament. The Steelers have not set a timetable for his return, but he appears to be on a schedule similar to the one Rashard Mendenhall was on in 2012 when he came back from offseason ACL surgery.

Spaeth, re-acquired in free agency to be Miller's backup, had surgery Monday to repair a Lisfranc sprain in his foot -- an injury that will keep him out at least eight to 10 weeks.

"We'll keep him alive and see what the timetable is for him," coach Mike Tomlin said. "I'll probably get more clarity with that over the next couple weeks."

And Johnson, who missed all last season after tearing his ACL in training camp, is also on the PUP list after having arthroscopic surgery less than two weeks ago to clean up some cartilage. Johnson, though, said he expects to return soon and hopes to play in one of the preseason games.

"I should be back in a few weeks," Johnson said. "The rehab, everything, is going real good. I should be back real soon. Right now, I'm just working as hard as I can to get back in and help everyone out."

If all goes according to plan, the Steelers will take Miller off the PUP list before the start of the regular season and have him practice for three weeks before activating him and deciding when to let him play in a game. If they do not take him off the PUP list before they finalize their 53-man roster, Miller cannot return until the seventh week of the regular season.

The Steelers did that last year with Mendenhall. They took him off the PUP list in training camp, but he didn't play until the fourth game against the Philadelphia Eagles. The team also had a bye week in between.

This year, the Steelers bye comes the week after their fourth game in London against the Minnesota Vikings. So it is conceivable Miller will return at least by the Oct. 13 game against the New York Jets, if all goes well.

Not blaming Wheaton

Inside linebacker Stevenson Sylvester is not blaming rookie receiver Markus Wheaton for the right ankle injury he sustained Saturday night in the preseason opener against the New York Giants.

Wheaton was trying to avoid a player on the ground when he jumped over the player and tumbled into Sylvester's leg after the play.

Sylvester, entering his fourth season as a backup, said the injury is not serious and expects to be back by the end of the week.

"I understand his position because I've been in the same position," Sylvester said. "It's hard to get out of the way. He's hustling, he's a gunner and he was getting double-teamed, too, and, sometimes, you run as hard as you can to get away from some of those guys. I got up and soon as I looked to my right somebody came into my leg."

Quick hits

Two rookie draft choices -- cornerback Terry Hawthorne (No. 5) and defensive end Nick Williams (No. 7) -- returned to practice after being out with injuries. They took part in individual workouts but not team sessions. "That's encouraging," Tomlin said. "They don't have a chance to make the team if they're not on the field, so good for them." ... Rookie running back Le'Veon Bell, who did not play in the preseason opener because of a sore knee, took part in a full practice. "He was good enough to work [Monday], and he did," Tomlin said. ... Wide receiver Plaxico Burress had surgery Monday to repair his torn rotator cuff and is expected to be miss the remainder of the season. Tomlin, though, said, "That's speculation, but I always hold my thoughts and comments [until] I get the official word from surgeons. I haven't had that yet." ... First-year offensive tackle Justin Cheadle was injured early in practice and carted from the field. Tomlin said he did not know the extent of the injury. ... The Steelers are off today and will resume practice Wednesday. The "night" practice begins at 5:25 p.m., not 3 p.m., and is open to the public.

Steelers - mobilehome

Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com and Twitter @gerrydulac.


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