Steelers Notebook: Kapinos steps in again for injured punter Sepulveda
Hines Ward has trouble getting to his feet after a hit from Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis in the first half Sunday at Heinz Field.
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Punter Daniel Sepulveda has cartilage damage in his right knee and not another injury to the ACL, which was torn last December for the second time in three seasons.
Sepulveda will have surgery to repair the cartilage damage, suffered in practiced Thursday. It is a much less severe injury than one to the ligament and he should be able to recuperate quickly and return to punt in 2012.
There had been speculation that Sepulveda tore his ACL again last week. It was torn in 2006 when he was at Baylor, in 2008 with the Steelers and again last December. Sepulveda tried to punt through the injury but could not and was put on the injured reserve list.
The Steelers were fortunate that Jeremy Kapinos was still available. Not only did he punt reasonably well for them last season after Sepulveda's injury -- he averaged 41.1 yards per punt in the final four regular-season games -- but he had an outstanding training camp with the team this summer. They believed someone would pick him up after his release and while he had several tryouts, he remained unsigned until the Steelers brought him back Saturday.
Like Sepulveda, Kapinos punts with his left leg.
Linebacker LaMarr Woodley (hamstring) missed his first game since Nov. 9, 2008, against the Indianapolis Colts. He had made 53 consecutive starts until Sunday night. Woodley, drafted in the second round in 2007, became a starter in 2008 and this was only the second game he has missed.
Jason Worilds, a second-round draft choice in 2010, made his first start, at left outside linebacker for Woodley.
Inside linebacker James Farrior, 36, missed a second consecutive game. Farrior had not missed a game since Nov. 20, 2005, and started 96 consecutive games at insider linebacker before missing the victory Oct. 30 against the Patriots, including 11 in the postseason covering three Super Bowls.
The Steelers were penalized for delay of game with a little more than two minutes remaining. They were going to attempt a 48-yard field goal, but were forced to punt.
The Ravens took over on their own 8 and drove the length of the field for the winning touchdown. If Shaun Suisham had made the field goal the game would have gone to overtime.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin admitted there was some indecision on the sideline.
"I accept responsibility for that," Tomlin said. "There was some hesitation on my part. I was concerned about that distance.We had some changes in personnel with a new holder [Kapinos]. Under the circumstances, I didn't want to give them the ball on a short field. I sent the group out there a little late."
The Steelers had timeouts left to take use.
Officials have been mandated by the league office to err on the side of caution when administering unnecessary roughness penalties. Players have been frustrated with the consistency of officials, and there was plenty of room for criticism of officials Sunday night.
Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis initiated helmet-to-helmet contact with Hines Ward on a play early in the second quarter. No penalty was called and Ward had to leave the game with a stinger. The Steelers had to settle for a field goal instead of a first-and-goal situation.
Just before halftime, Ryan Clark broke up a pass, but he was flagged for unnecessary roughness. The penalty kept the Ravens' drive alive, and they kicked a field goal as time expired to take a 9-6 lead into halftime.
Tomlin complained to the officials during a timeout and stayed on the field for more discussion with referee Walt Coleman after the players went to the locker room.
Ward was not the only Steelers receiver to leave the game with an injury. Special teams ace and reserve receiver Arnaz Battle left the game in the first quarter with a hamstring injury.
The Steelers finished the contest game with three healthy wide receivers -- Mike Wallace, Jericho Cotchery and Antonio Brown. Emmanuel Sanders did not dress for the game. He missed practice all week because of the death of his mother.
With its victory Sunday against Tennessee, Cincinnati improved to 6-2. The Bengals also started 6-2 in 2009 and had a game with the Steelers the following week. They beat the Steelers, 18-12, to sweep the season series.
The Bengals finished 10-6 and won the AFC North Division in '09. They lost to the Jets in a wild-card game.
The Steelers-Ravens game at Heinz Field was the final one there before the four WPIAL championship games Nov. 26.. The Steelers play at Cincinnati this week and then have their next week off. Pitt plays at Louisville this week and has an off week before playing at West Virginia. The Panthers don't play again at Heinz Field until Dec. 3.
Field conditions for the four high school title games have not been ideal in some previous years, but the grounds crew has almost three weeks to get the field in tip-top shape. After the title high school games, the Steelers will resod the field after the high school games.
Ravens rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith will always remember his game-winning touchdown with 8 seconds left against the Steelers. But he said that wasn't the play that was originally called.
Smith said the original play was a "speed out" which called for him to run a short sideline route and get out of bounds to stop the clock. But that changed when he got to the line of scrimmage.
"He [Steelers cornerback William Gay] was in press coverage," Smith said. "I saw that and was able to run past him. I felt him hold on to me and then I saw the flag. I gave him a little nudge and got open."
Gay was flagged for pass interference on the play.
Smith, who had a couple of drops on the final drive, finished the night with five catches for 71 yards.
As alert as Smith was on the winning score, quarterback Joe Flacco was clueless as to what happened on the play.
Flacco said he saw the flag and assumed they were going to get a chance to score from inside the Steelers' 5-yard line.
"I didn't even know Torrey had caught the pass," Flacco said. "I thought it was just a pass interference penalty.
"I saw guys celebrating as I ran up and saw him [Smith] walking out with the ball, and it was great."
Loquacious Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs got the better of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, when he picked off a pass deep in Ravens territory stopping a Steelers scoring drive.
On the play, Suggs diagnosed, correctly, a wide receiver screen. He ran into the short flat, jumped up, and got the pick.
"Ben was talking to the wide receiver too long," Suggs said about the play.
"I figured if he didn't throw it, oh well, I can still rush from there."
Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff had made 32 consecutive conseutive field goals from 49 yards and in, but he missed a 40-yarder in the first quarter. It was only his third miss from the distance in his previous 47 attempts. Cundiff missed the kick on the open end of the field.
• James Harrison showed no ill effects from the eye injury that kept him out the past four games. Playing for the first time since fracturing his orbital bone against Houston, Harrison had three sacks and a forced fumble. Harrison has 55 sacks for his career and passed Greg Lloyd for fourth-most in franchise history.
• Roethlisberger became the first quarterback in franchise history to throw for 300 yards or more in three consecutive games. It was the 19th 300-yard passing game of his career and his fourth this season.
• Tight end Heath Miller passed Yancey Thigpen for 11th place in franchise history for receiving yards. Miller needs 4 yards to pass Roy Jefferson for 10th place.
• Rashard Mendenhall recorded the 24th rushing touchdown of his career. He tied Willie Parker for fourth-most in franchise history.
In honor of Veterans Day Friday, the Steelers paid tribute to local veterans from every war, including World War II and a Pearl Harbor survivor, in a pregame ceremony.
The Steelers' inactives were quarterback Dennis Dixon, linebackers James Farrior and LaMarr Woodley, offensive linemen Doug Legursky and Jamon Meredith, defensive lineman Chris Hoke and Sanders.
The Ravens' inactives were receivers Lee Evans and Tandon Ross, linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Sergio Kindle, defensive back Chykie Brown, running back Anthony Allen and tight end Kris Wilson.
First Published November 7, 2011 12:17 am