Steelers Notebook: Spaeth to sit out against San Francisco
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Rookie tight end Matt Spaeth (quad contusion) did not practice for the third consecutive day and will not play tomorrow against the San Francisco 49ers at Heinz Field.
Spaeth, who has two touchdown catches in two games as the No. 2 tight end, will be replaced in some short-yardage situations by tackle-eligible Max Starks. Jerame Tuman will move up as the second tight end behind Heath Miller.
Spaeth, a third-round draft choice, is the only player who has been declared out on the team's official injury report.
On the line
The Steelers have rushed for 390 yards in two games, their best two-game start since the 1983 season when they combined for 408 yards in the first two games against Denver and Green Bay.
That is something of a surprise to offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who said the passing game is usually ahead of the running game early in the season.
But Arians said he thinks the running game is ahead of schedule because the Steelers rotated so many offensive linemen in training camp trying to identify the starters. That meant extra playing time for linemen such as right tackle Willie Colon, guard Kendall Simmons and center Sean Mahan.
"We hit an awful lot in training camp, and when you look at the competition we had in the offensive line, we came into the season playing at a higher level and we had guys getting a lot of snaps in the preseason," Arians said.
"About the second week of training camp, I saw us run the ball against our defense, and I said, I think we'll be able to run the football this year because that's a heck of a run defense over there."
The Steelers have four captains this season, two of them for special teams -- linebackers James Harrison and Clint Kriewaldt.
But, when they opened the season in Cleveland, only three players went to midfield for the opening coin toss -- Harrison, linebacker James Farrior (defense) and receiver Hines Ward (offense).
Kriewaldt said the reason he stayed behind is because it was decided the special teams captains would rotate each game.
"James went out in Cleveland because he's from there and played college there," Kriewaldt said.
But, when it came time for the coin toss against the Buffalo Bills, Kriewaldt and Harrison each went to midfield with Farrior and Ward.
"James came running out too and I said, I thought we were supposed to rotate," Kriewaldt said. "He said, 'Heck on it, I'm coming, too.'"
49er from Pitt
When the 49ers signed cornerback Nate Clements from the Buffalo Bills in free agency, making him the highest paid defensive player in NFL history, it cost former Pitt CB Shawntae Spencer his starting job.
Spencer, a second-round pick in 2004, is now the 49ers' third cornerback, but he has one of the team's two interceptions this season.
"He has accepted the challenge," said 49ers coach Mike Nolan. "Last year, he also had an ankle that he had to have fixed in the off-season, so he came back and he wasn't feeling good in training camp and he has missed some time. But he will just keep getting better as he gets healthier as the year goes along."
49er from Penn State
Former Penn State quarterback Michael Robinson, who was converted to running back, has carried just once for 3 yards in two games. Robinson, a fourth-round pick in 2006, carried 38 times for 116 yards and two touchdowns as Frank Gore's backup his rookie season. Mainly, he is a special-teams contributor with the 49ers.
"Right now, he is kind of a jack of a lot of trades," Nolan said. "But Michael is a big part of our team. He is very mentally strong and has great leadership skills. ... He is what you want it to look like, not only in the starter role, but in a back up."
First Published September 22, 2007 12:13 am