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Old 12-08-2010, 06:14 AM   #1
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Default Victory comes at cost for Steelers

Victory comes at cost for Steelers
By Kevin Gorman
Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin knows that a date with the Baltimore Ravens usually provides a "laundry list" of injuries in its wake, especially when the AFC North rivals have so much on the line.

Their 13-10 victory Sunday night over the Ravens came with consequences: punter Daniel Sepulveda tore the ACL in his right (plant) leg and will have season-ending surgery Friday; quarterback Ben Roethlisberger required surgery Monday to repair a broken nose; and tight end Heath Miller appears doubtful this week while experiencing post-concussion symptoms.

"We're pleased, of course, with the win," Tomlin said of avenging a 17-14 loss to Baltimore. "It was very necessary. We had to even the score. They had come into our place and won one, so it was good to go and do that at theirs, a significant win to go in a hostile environment and win in December. That's a measure of a good team."

Tomlin expressed confidence Tuesday at his weekly news conference that although Roethlisberger - who is expected to wear a clear shield on his facemask - is going to experience "some level of discomfort," it likely won't sideline him when the Steelers (9-3) host the Cincinnati Bengals (2-10) Sunday in another AFC North contest at Heinz Field.

The Steelers, however, were forced to place Sepulveda on injured reserve and sign former Penn State punter Jeremy Kapinos. The 6-foot-1, 233-pound Kapinos spent four games in 2008 and all of last season with Green Bay. He averaged 44.5 yards on four punts for Indianapolis against Tampa Bay on Nov. 1.

"He's got league experience, he's kicked in games this year, and, of course, he's no stranger to the elements, as we know that that may be a factor for us moving forward," Tomlin said. "We're excited about having him in the fold and moving forward with him as our punter. He represented himself nicely in the workout."

Kapinos found himself in an identical situation in 2008, joining the Packers for the final four games of the season, and averaged 39.2 yards on 17 punts. He averaged 43.8 yards on 66 punts last season, including 15 placed inside the 20-yard line, but also had one blocked.

Kapinos also is a possibility to replace Sepulveda as the holder on placekicks, although Tomlin was adamant that while it was "an element to the equation," he wasn't going to allow it to be a significant one.

"We needed a punter," Tomlin said. "We have some holder candidates on our football team, some guys that have held in NFL football games and are capable - Antwaan Randle El being one of them - so I wasn't going to let holding be the determining factor in terms of selecting the punter. I was more interested in the punting."

One encouraging sign for the Steelers is that tight end Matt Spaeth has been given a "clean bill of health" by team doctors to return to practice after missing two games with a concussion, just in time to replace Miller.

Although the Steelers could be without their third-leading receiver in Miller, who has 33 receptions for 384 yards and a touchdown, Tomlin noted that Spaeth was a Mackey Award winner as college football's top tight end at the University of Minnesota. Tomlin called him a "starter-in-waiting" and said the standards for Spaeth will be "Heath-like."

"He does everything that Heath does, and this won't be his first rodeo by any stretch, in terms of replacing Heath," Tomlin said of Spaeth, who has five catches for 49 yards this season but had successive six-catch games against Indianapolis and San Diego in 2008. "He's done it in stretches before."

Tomlin said he is taking the injury toll seriously.

"If we're going to err," he said, "we're going to err on the side of caution when it comes to players' health."

Lineup shuffle

A look at who the Steelers started along the offensive line, including tight end, at the beginning of the season and who might start at those positions Sunday versus Cincinnati:

LT: Sept. 12 starter Max Starks; Dec. 12 starter Jonathan Scott

LG: Chris Kemoeatu; Chris Kemoeatu

C: Maurkice Pouncey; Maurkice Pouncey

RG: Trai Essex; Ramon Foster

RT: Flozell Adams; Trai Essex

TE: Heath Miller; Matt Spaeth

Kevin Gorman can be reached at kgorman@tribweb.com or 412-320-7812.
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