On the Steelers: Reshuffling the deck
Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey watches a field-goal kick in the second quarter of the Steelers-Redskins game at Heinz Field on October 28.
Receiver Mike Wallace hauls in a pass Wednesday as the team began preparations in earnest for a game Sunday in Baltimore against the Ravens.
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The Steelers lineup is like the weather in Pittsburgh lately, something different each day. One day after coach Mike Tomlin announced a few lineup changes, more were forthcoming, including changes to the changes.
A major face-lift could be in order for their offensive line Sunday when the Steelers play the Ravens in Baltimore. The biggest move would come with Maurkice Pouncey, who is leading the fans' AFC vote to make his third Pro Bowl at center, switching to left guard. That is where Pouncey practiced Wednesday and where he said he will line up Sunday if Willie Colon cannot play because of a knee injury.
"Whatever's for the team," said Pouncey, who has not played guard since his freshman season at Florida. "That's a coach's decision. He asked me to move over to play left guard for this game, and I said yes. If Willie's not playing, I'll play guard."
That would mean Doug Legursky, who started at left guard for the injured Colon in Cleveland, would start at center.
But that's not all. Starting right guard Ramon Foster said he took the bulk of snaps Wednesday at right tackle, one day after Tomlin declared rookie Kelvin Beachum the starter there. It's possible that rookie David DeCastro has looked good enough that he could start at right guard, thus allowing Foster, a former right tackle at Tennessee, to move to right tackle. DeCastro was activated Monday from injured reserve after he went through a full practice last week for the first time since his knee was injured in the preseason.
Max Starks missed practice with what the Steelers said was a back issue, but which Starks said was a day off. He is expected to start at left tackle, which could be the only position on the line not undergoing a change Sunday.
Mike Wallace and Rashard Mendenhall reacted to their changing roles with the Steelers with a collective shrug.
Wallace, the undisputed starter at split end since 2010 and a Pro Bowler in '11, is listed only as a possible starter next to Emmanuel Sanders on the team's official depth chart.
"I don't know, you have to ask Coach T," Wallace said about Tomlin's new depth chart. "I just play. It really doesn't matter. I still have to do what I have to do, regardless of what the situation is. Coach does everything for a reason ... He's the coach, he can do whatever he wants to do."
Mendenhall, a first-round draft pick in '08 who has been the team's starting halfback since '09, was demoted to third-string by Tomlin this week. Tomlin announced that Jonathan Dwyer will start Sunday at Baltimore.
"I'm just going to do whatever I'm asked to," said Mendenhall, who ran for 1,273 yards in '10. "I don't really think much of it. I've been in a lot of positions so I'm just approaching this week as I approach every week."
"Anybody, when you don't produce, is going to be frustrated," said Wallace, second on the team with 47 receptions but still the leader with 572 yards. "I'm no different from anybody else not doing what they expected to do and being frustrated."
Both players are in the final years of their contracts and would become unrestricted free agents in March if they do not re-sign with the Steelers before then. Wallace is playing on a $2.7 million tender as a restricted free agent after he turned down a long-term deal that reportedly averaged around $10 million annually. He did not participate in spring drills nor training camp and signed his tender and reported before the final preseason game.
"I didn't view it as anything," Wallace said of the possible change at his position. "I heard about it from ya'll, I'll just go with it. It's not going to change the way I prepare or anything I do. I'm going to do everything exactly the same way."
He said he's not angry and said there are a lot of reasons for his drop in production.
"I won't bother to get into this or that but there are a lot of things," said Wallace, who acknowledged he, too, is disappointed in the way the season has gone for him.
"It's not the one I expected. I've had two 1,000-yard receiving seasons, so anytime you're still at 500 or 600 yards you feel you're not making enough plays for your team."
Dwyer also took his promotion in stride. He, too, is working on the final year of his contract, but he -- along with backup Isaac Redman -- will be a restricted free agent after the season.
This not only is an opportunity for him this season, but to show the Steelers they can count on him for more in '13.
"Every day you go out and work is a day you can establish yourself," said Dwyer, who rushed for consecutive 100-yard games this season before a thigh injury set him back. "Every day you have potential to impress others.
"What comes with it, you have a lot of responsibility. You have to produce, go out there and make plays for your team. They're depending on you to be the established guy, to get the run going."
• Troy Polamalu, who has missed nine games with a calf injury including the past seven, went through a full practice. Polamalu was not available to talk about it, but fellow safety Ryan Clark said he looked good.
"He practiced like Troy. We'll see on Sunday. He's working really hard to get back. If he can go out and give us two series, we'll be excited."
• Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw some passes but went through a limited practice and he, too, was unavailable afterward to talk about it.
• Backup quarterback Byron Leftwich (ribs) and outside left linebacker LaMarr Woodley (ankle) did not practice. Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (ribs) went through a limited practice.
• Wide receiver Antonio Brown, who has missed the past three games with a high ankle sprain, went through a full practice.
"It's definitely feeling a lot better," Brown said.
• The Steelers added three players their practice squad: Offensive tackle Joe Long of Wayne State, offensive guard Justin Cheadle of California and wide receiver Bert Reed of Florida State.
• Tampa Bay claimed receiver David Gilreath off waivers from the Steelers.
First Published November 29, 2012 12:00 am