Steeler Notebook: Essex, Stapleton get first crack at RG job
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Trai Essex and Darnell Stapleton will compete in practice this week to start at right guard, and coach Mike Tomlin has no plan to move Willie Colon there any time soon.
Those plans, though, are open to discussion based on how Essex and/or Stapleton perform.
"Ask me again tomorrow," Tomlin said.
There has been a clamor since last season for the Steelers to put Colon at guard and put Max Starks back at right tackle, where he started for the 2005 and 2006 seasons.
"Not at this point," Tomlin said of that possible move. "But, again, I don't want to close the door on anything. I think it would be prudent for us to weigh all our options, and I'm sure we will."
Guard Kendall Simmons is out for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Stapleton replaced him Monday night. Essex did not dress because they activated only two backup linemen with Starks covering the tackles and Stapleton the guards and center.
Essex was primarily a tackle until this preseason when he reported to training camp in great shape and Tomlin tried him at guard. He played well enough that he could start there Sunday night in Jacksonville.
Tomlin declared Casey Hampton, Willie Parker and Brett Keisel out for Jacksonville. Parker, he said, could return for the game after that, at Cincinnati Oct. 19 following their off week.
"I'm hopeful of that; I'm sure Willie is. It's probably too early to tell at this point. Definitely, he has a shot."
Carey Davis has a sprained ankle that responded well yesterday, but Tomlin said it is too early to determine if he can play Sunday. Davis is the only fullback on the roster; he can play running back, too.
Sean McHugh, listed as a tight end but really an H-back, filled in for Davis when he left with his ankle injury Monday night. McHugh would play fullback if Davis cannot go in Jacksonville.
"That's one of the things that attracted him to us," Tomlin said. "He is a tight end, an on-the-line guy, a move guy, a fullback guy. He has that experience and capability and he will continue to grow in that direction, and, really, not because of the injury, but because that's the way he's been going here since we acquired him."
Special teams rookie Donovan Woods (hamstring) might return to play Sunday.
So too, might special teams player and backup linebacker Andre Frazier. He was carted off the field with what was described as an injury to the spine, but he was fine after the game.
"He looks to be remarkably fine," Tomlin said. "All indications are this guy's got a chance to move on and play this week, providing he passes some tests, which people are pretty confident he will. So, it's really a blessing.
"It's always scary when you see somebody lay flat and they bring a board out. A lot of that probably was for precautionary reasons, but you want to exercise a little caution under those circumstances."
Ahead, 17-13, the Steelers had a first down Monday night on the Baltimore 10 in the fourth quarter. Ben Roethlisberger took the snap just before the play clock ran out and threw a touchdown pass on the right side to Mewelde Moore.
But a whistle sounded. Tomlin had called time out just before the snap, and an official noticed and gave it to him. The Steelers eventually settled for a Jeff Reed 19-yard field goal and a 20-13 lead instead of going in front by 11. Baltimore then tied it to send the game into overtime.
Why did he call the timeout? Tomlin thought the play clock would run out before the snap got off.
"That's one of the many mistakes that I make from time to time," Tomlin acknowledged. "I told my football team this after the game, that I've got to learn to trust our quarterback in terms of managing the game from a play-clock standpoint.
"I want to do it for him. I want to help, just like I want to help my kids. They've got to ride their bike and they're not always going to fall, and that's what happened under that scenario. That play clock went down to 3, 2, 1 second, and I didn't think we'd get the play off and I called the timeout. Unfortunately, after I called the timeout and they gave it to me, it looked like we had a successful play."
First Published October 1, 2008 12:00 am