Steelers Notebook: August 22
Hines Ward took two steps forward and perhaps one backward yesterday when he practiced for the first time in more than two weeks and quit early because he felt a twinge in his left hamstring.
"It went all right," said Ward. "I still felt something in it. ... I'm still day to day."
Ward, the Steelers' career leader in receptions, missed the first two preseason games after his hamstring was injured Aug. 4 in practice. He has hired some medical people from York, Pa., who spent the weekend working on his hamstring.
"Overall it felt good to be back out here," Ward said. "I got some reps in. Toward the end I started getting fatigued and I just wanted to be cautious about it."
Ward had pointed to yesterday's practice as a target for his return as the Steelers prepare for their third preseason game, Friday in Philadelphia.
"This is an important game for me because it's really our last dress rehearsal," Ward said. "The last preseason game, we probably won't get much playing time so to really get a feel for the game, going against a great team like Philadelphia, this is an important week for me."
Ward, the Super Bowl MVP, has missed just one game in his eight-year career, that coming last season because of a hamstring injury.
Best foot forward
Fans don't have to buy a Powerball ticket to hit the lottery. All they have to do is show up at Saint Vincent College and be lucky enough to get the boot from Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers' quarterback has made a habit of occasionally taking off one or both of his Nike shoes after practice, autographing them and giving them to an unsuspecting fan.
Yesterday, he handed over his right shoe to a boy who met him on the field after practice as part of the Make A Wish Foundation.
"You try to please as many people as you can. Unfortunately, you can't please everybody," Roethlisberger said. "I try to do the best I can to make people happy."
Less than two weeks after his neck surgery, center Chukky Okobi is taking snaps in practice.
Okobi participated in 7 on 7 drills in pads yesterday and then ran in uniform while the team continued with 11 on 11 drills.
"He's probably going to be about a week away from contact," coach Bill Cowher said.
Stepping it up
Cowher ordered his team to wear their full pads for practice yesterday afternoon. Normally, they would wear shells in the first practice after a preseason game.
"We're not where we need to be," said Cowher. "We set too high of standards. We're much better than we performed the other night.
"As I've always said, you can't turn this thing on and off. We have to take it up a notch; that's why we're out in pads two days after the game."
His starters will get much more work Friday in Philadelphia than the three series most of them played Saturday against the Vikings.
"We normally go into the third quarter [in the third preseason game] but we'll see how the first half goes. The line got the whole first half the other day.
"It's getting close. I think our players have to understand the sense of urgency about how we approach these practices and the focus that's needed."
Standing by Staley
Duce Staley managed only 12 yards rushing on five carries against the Vikings, but Cowher said the veteran runner has "been good" and that blocks were missed on two of his carries.
"I thought the last couple weeks he's picked it up in practice. I thought the other day in the game, he didn't do many bad things. He really didn't have much of a chance. We missed a couple of blocks on a couple of his runs.
"I'm encouraged by watching him, particularly this past week. I think he's taken it up a notch, so I'm encouraged."